Sometimes people may think that architecture is something you experience from the outside, where you can see building as a whole. But being indoors is a big part of understanding architecture, and luckily it is much warner, too! While an architectural boat cruise or a walking tour from the sidewalk can be lovely experiences, with the winter cold they certainly become less desirable or even possible. Though architecture boat tours shut down during the winter months, the adventurous visitor to Chicago can comfortably experience Chicago architecture during the wintertime.
1. Indoor Architectural Sites and Museums
Some people may think that Chicago should not be visited in winter, but so many major attractions are indoors and give an excellent perspective of Chicago architecture. Go to the top of the Willis Tower and its Skydeck, or try 360 Chicago's TILT at the top of the John Hancock Observatory. Either massive skyscraper shares incredible panoramic vistas. Because the humidity in the air bends and reflects the light in a different way when it is very cold, the light can be fantastic on super cold but sunny days. If you go up these landmark skyscrapers on an extreme winter day, you may get a sort of HD version of a view of the famous Chicago skyline.
2. An Interior Architecture Tour
While most tour companies take visitors just to look at the outside of buildings, some know that a deeper perspective of architecture comes from stepping indoors. The volunteer docents of the Chicago Architecture Foundation take people into lobbies on their "Pedway West: Warm Walk, Cool Architecture" tour, and you can also view their awesome model of Chicago architecture and other exhibits inside the Santa Fe Building where the organization is located. Chicago Detours offers a Loop Interior Architecture Tour, which beyond showing the Pedway System reveals beautiful indoor spaces of both historic and contemporary architecture. Also their Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour steps outside minimally and instead pops into remarkable works of architecture as well as the down-home Billy Goat Tavern.
3. The Pedway System (pictured at top)
While not necessarily an attraction, you could have a couple hours of fun trying to navigate our somewhat confusing system of passages. The Pedway itself is not necessarily confusing, but rather it's just an unusual situation to navigate without really seeing streets and outdoor landmarks. This Pedway Map can help you figure out how to access these passages, which are underground, street level and above ground. In addition to most of them being comfortably heated, they link some major architectural attractions of downtown, such as the Cultural Center, Macy's, and the Thompson Center.