Beat the Blues: What to Do In Chicago This Winter

By Laura Bowen ‘16

Chicago winters can feel never-ending but the city is full of fun things to do year-round.

Laura Bowen '16

Laura Bowen '16

Winter Festivals: Chicago is known for its summertime festivals, but the city has several great winter festivals as well. The Sauced Holiday Night Market on December 15th at the Logan Square Emporium Arcade is an event where you can do your holiday shopping from local vendors, sample local foods, and drink craft beer. Christkindlmarket runs from November 20th to December 24th in Daley Plaza and sells authentic German food and products such as cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, strudel, potato pancakes, and locally infamous boot-shaped ceramic beer mugs (back by popular demand, believe it or not). The One of a Kind Show, which runs from December 3rd-6th at the Merchandise Mart, is a great place to pick up last-minute gifts, with 600+ artists selling handmade creations, from jewelry to gourmet food to furniture.  Bring a sturdy shopping tote to haul your loot home, because you are guaranteed to find unique items for everyone on your list.

Cozy Drink Spots: Although the weather may be frightful outside, there are plenty of warm and welcoming places to grab a drink. The Bar at the Peninsula and Drumbar feature large fireplaces, while the Gage has a secret “Library” room, an underground hideaway decorated with bookshelves. Cindy’s, the recently opened restaurant at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, offers three flavors of Holiday Hot Chocolate, spiked with spirits and ingredients such as Nutella and raspberry marshmallows. For a unique cocktail, try the “Winter in Salzburg” at Bohemian House, an off-menu drink that is made tableside and features cognac, St. Germaine, and rosemary-infused apple cider.  Bohemian House was just awarded a coveted “Bib Gourmand” from Michelin, so get there now before it gets too crowded.

Chicago skyline in the winter

Chicago skyline in the winter

Indoor Entertainment: During the holiday season, the CTA offers a trackable Holiday Train and a Holiday Bus that is decked out in holiday decorations, with Santa and his elves on board for photo opportunities and free candy canes. When the holidays are over, there is still plenty to do indoors. Head to the United Center to watch the Bulls or Blackhawks play throughout the winter or to a local sports bar to see the Bears play (unless you are lucky enough to snag tickets!). On December 13th, the Art Institute will unveil its latest permanent exhibition, “The New Contemporary,” which features pieces from modern artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, many of which were recently donated to the museum as part of one of the largest single gifts in the museum’s history. For a more unusual exhibit, try the Museum of Contemporary Art, which will feature a collection of objects from furniture to Tupperware, whose design was influenced by the Pop Art Movement (show runs from December 19th – March 27th).

Outdoor Entertainment: Chicago gets a bad rap for not having enough outdoor activities, particularly in the winter. However, with the right outerwear and some creativity, there are plenty of reasons to head outside (except maybe during the Polar Vortex). With the opening of the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, there are now two ice skating rinks (the other at Millennium Park) that are within walking distance of MPP and will be open throughout the winter. Head a bit farther north for Zoolights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, a free, fun experience that runs through January 3rd and features musical light shows, animals, and photos with Santa. Throughout the winter, the Lakefront Path is cleared consistently to allow runners and bikers to use it year-round -- and in the winter there is the added advantage of significantly fewer people.

Laura is a proud survivor of 26 Chicago winters