Are you ready for winter? Chicago is! Whether you're hoping for snow-filled getaways or warm indoor escapes, this Chicago winter guide has all the essentials. So don't countdown until spring, celebrate the season now.
Here are a few things on our Chicago winter wish list:
A snow-filled selfie with #thebean
Beeline it to Millennium Park the moment you see snow on the radar for your meet-and-greet with "The Bean", the famous sculpture known formally as Cloud Gate.
A skating rink... or two!
Chicago's downtown "Winter Campus" offers a 2-for-1 deal for those who want to lace up: the classic oval ice rink in Millennium Park and the twisting-and-turning skating ribbon at adjacent Maggie Dalely Park.
A frozen lake... for the most incredible panoramas
The best thing about the bone-chilling weather? When Lake Michigan freezes up and makes for the most epic outdoor skyline images out there. See example above from Museum Campus, though we recommend exploring the lakefront for views from both north and south of the downtown Loop.
A cozy fireplace to warm up to
Three to try: The cocktail-focused Gold Coast speakeasy lounge Drumbar, River North restaurant Tortoise Supper Club with its sophisticated supper-club scene and live jazz music, or the perfect morning/noon/night option The Drawing Room at Chicago Athletic Association where three historic hearths offer warmth whether you have a coffee, cocktail or laptop at hand.
A big, hot bowl of soup
From the Pozole Rojo (braised pork shoulder in a guajillo chile broth loaded with cilantro, avocado and all the necessary toppings) at Dove's Luncheonette to the bubbly French Onion Soup at Mon Ami Gabi to the Egg Drop Soup at Chinatown favorite MingHin Cuisine — the soup scene is surely covered. The best new option this winter? Chicken and Kale soup from The Dearborn, a delicious blend of the illustrious Italian wedding soup and a classic chicken noodle.
A big-ticket theater show
Take a seat for Broadway in Chicago mega-hits like Hamilton, The Bodyguard and Disney's Aladdin; bring the kids to see the debut of The Station, the new home to Chicago Children's Theatre; see the latest mainstage show from The Second City; or plan your trip during Chicago Theatre Week (February 9-19, 2017) for over 100+ shows priced at only $15/$30.
Museums big enough to get lost in
Get lost for the day and pay no mind to what the weather is at one of Chicago's 60+ museums. This season, explore art through the ages with exhibits on tattoos, French posters and ancient Chinese hand-scrolls. Or for more hands-on action, get busy building with LEGO® at Brick by Brick or dive into a giant Chicago-style hot dog at Chicago History Museum.
An outdoor adventure with skyline views
Try snowshoes as a slower-paced alternative to ice skates! Traverse Northerly Island and meet outdoor animals on Polar Adventure Days (February 25, 2017) or explore the downtown peninsula on weekends with Snowtrekking and Family Prairie Prowls.
A mug of handcrafted hot cocoa to heat back up
Settle into some rich, hot chocolate at Chicago's best spots: the appropriately-named Mindy's HotChocolate in Bucktown, paired with churros at XOCO or a Mag Mile classic Ghirardelli.
A rooftop escape with views shielded from the cold
Think full size snow globe! Look out from within a rooftop bar like J. Parker, I|O Godfrey or Roof at theWit, which take the party year-round with retractable glass roofs that showcase the snowfall.
A tropical fern-filled escape
Garfield Park Conservatory is a perennial winter favorite with balmy temps that beckon. Lincoln Park Conservatory is your other option. Bonus: both are FREE!
A tiki concoction to conjure up warm vibes
Slip into a tropical mentality with sips from the underground hideaway (follow the tiki torch lamps in the alley) known as Three Dots and a Dash. Other good bets? The Broken Shaker, at the hip hostel Freehand, and Lost Lake in Logan Square. If tiki isn't necessarily your thing, take your pick among these 13 trendy cocktail spots or take a sip of these Chicago-inspired cocktails.
A heaping helping of mac n' cheese
Try the Pitmaster version with Pig Powder Rub at Chicago Q, throw in some decadent lobster chunks at GT Fish & Oyster, or have it all with the Multiple Choice Mac & Cheese at Public House. Chicago's best comfort foods goes beyond cheesy goodness too... go the fried chicken route or give a pot pie a try.
A play date with some outdoor enthusiasts
Meet Siku, the 1,000-lb polar bear that just became the first resident of the Walter Family Arctic Tundra, one of several new habitats at Lincoln Park Zoo — which also includes the Regenstein Macaque Forest, home to the snow-loving monkeys native to Japan, and the Pritzker Penguin Cove, which has a heated deck and temperature-controlled pool for its colony of endangered African penguins.
A shopping spree filled with end-of-season sales
Spend an hour, an afternoon, or the whole day (!) shopping The Magnificent Mile, where you can duck into 460+ stores within this whopping retail district. Plan your route from one end to the other with this Michigan Avenue map & guide — the compact layout means you won't spend very long outdoors during your bargain hunting.
What's on your winter wish list? Share your favorite seasonal snaps and winter sightseeing stops with @choosechicago on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.