Chicago’s long winters boast a well-deserved reputation for being brutal. It’s true that the wind chill can make a snowman cry but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the frozen beauty of the city. When the temps hit above 35, consider heading out into the icy magic and experience Chicago with these free wintertime activities.
Whether you glide along the iconic Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in the shadow of The Bean or opt for the winding loop at the Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon, ice skating at least once during the Chicago winter season is a must. Take to the ice and absorb Chicago’s striking architecture from a different perspective. Online reservations are required in advance and if you need to rent skates, the fee is $13-$15 depending on the day of the week.
Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Through March 6, weather permitting
1 N. Michigan Ave.
Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon
Through March 13, weather permitting
337 E. Randolph St.
Hang Out With Polar Bears, Penguins, and Snow Monkeys
You don’t need to watch Disney movies to see cute winter critters, take off to the always-free Lincoln Park Zoo, where you can get up close to a thrilling range of wildlife. Sure, elephants, bears, and monkeys are always popular picks but for the Chicago winter season, visit the Walter Family Arctic Tundra and watch polar bears frolic in the snow. Check out penguins and Japanese macaques, also known as snow monkeys.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Open every day, 10 am -5 pm (masks required inside buildings)
2001 N. Clark St.
Stroll Indoor Gardens
Grab a break from the brisk Chicago wind and take in tropical flowers, lush plants, and natural displays at the Lincoln Park and Garfield Park conservatories. Lincoln Park Conservatory is always free and supplies a botanic garden right next to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and oldest conservatories in the country and is filled with thousands of plant species and 10 acres of outdoor gardens.
Lincoln Park Conservatory
Open Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday- Sunday, 10 am -3 pm
Proof of vaccination and masks required for all visitors over five.
2391 N. Stockton Dr.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Open Wednesday 10 am -8 pm and Thursday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm
Proof of vaccination and masks are required for visitors over five.
300 N. Central Park Ave.
Free Timed Entry Tickets (suggested donation)
Take A Wintry Journey Along the Lakefront Trail
Chicago’s lakefront is the beloved crowned jewel of Windy City life and throngs fill the Lakefront Trail, walking, biking, and jogging through Summer, Fall and Spring. But in winter? You’ll only find a smattering of folks enjoying the frozen views. Take advantage of the open spaces and walk a portion of the trail that extends 18 miles through the city. Hike to scenic landmarks like Promontory Point, Northerly Island, and Belmont Harbor for stunning views of the frozen Lake Michigan and the ultimate free Chicago winter activity.
Runs from Ardmore Ave.on The North to 71st St. on the South