If you’re looking to take a break in a winter wonderland, look no further than the Windy City. Chicago in winter is just this. From December to the end of March, the temperature drops dramatically, hovering between -6 and 7-degrees, and the chance of seeing snow is highly likely. But Chicago is built to entertain even in these conditions. There’s plenty of indoor attractions and outdoor activities, don’t let a little snow hold you back.

Here’s a roundup of the things to do in Chicago in winter:

Go ice-skating outdoors

If you fancy a day working on your pirouettes, why not take to the ice in an outdoor rink. The atmosphere is festive and the backdrop magical. There’s the very famous McCormick Tribune Ice Rink inside the Millennium Park, where not only is admission free, but lessons on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday are too. Or the Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon, a quarter-mile scenic circuit with the city’s skyline as your backdrop. And Brookfield Zoo rink is great for the little ones. You can spend the morning visiting orang-utans, monkeys, gorillas and gibbons, then the afternoon throwing shapes around the ice. Wherever you decide to skate this winter in Chicago, be sure to check out nearby cafes to cosy up with a hot chocolate after.

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For McCormick Tribune Ice Rink & Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon:
The Big Loop – Red Route, Stop: Maggie Daley Park

Get festive the German way

Christkindlmarket brings a little European charm to Chicago in winter. The city’s largest open-air Christmas festival is inspired by the 16th century market in Germany, one of the very first of its kind. It’s a holiday village in downtown Chicago, perfect for families to enjoy some festive cheer. Forget the Magnificent Mile, head to Christkindlmarket for your Christmas shopping. There’s hand-blown ornaments, classic German goods, toys for all ages, wooden handicrafts, and so much more. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness some crafters at work, then can purchase their goods there on the spot. And you absolutely have to sample the assortment of sweet and savoury goods on offer on your rounds. There’s sausages, potato pancakes and Strudel, washed down with traditional hot spiced wine or German beer.

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The Big Loop – Red Route, Stop: The Loop & State St.

Light up the night

A highlight of Chicago in winter is the Lincoln Park ZooLights Festival, free to enter, hosted every year for 35 nights between the end of November and the beginning of January. A holiday tradition in this city, Lincoln Park Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland with more than 2.5 million lights and hundreds of displays. But that’s not all, there’s also visits from Santa, ice sculptors, Christmas carollers and festive activities to get involved in. And for a few nights of the festival, ZooLights Family Nights offer something extra special. Free rides are laid on, like the Endangered Species Carousel and the Lionel Train Adventure, and kids eat free at Park Place Café too. A great thing to do in Chicago in winter with all the family.  

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Indoor attractions

The Windy City is packed with attractions that are no doubt already on your bucket list. And Chicago in winter is the best time to enjoy the one’s set indoors. There’s Skydeck Chicago, an observatory that sits 1,353 feet high in the iconic Willis Tower building, offering a birds-eye view of the city that’s second to none. 360 Chicago combines breath-taking views with sky-high thrills on its unique TILT ride experience. You’ll stand 30 degrees over the Magnificent Mile and will feel like you’re floating over Chicago. And the Chicago Architecture Center, home to the history of Chicago’s architectural wonders. You’ll learn about the city’s soaring skyscrapers, historic homes, glamorous hotels and spectacular churches. There’s a miniature and intricate model city, to people-sized scale models of famous buildings from Chicago and around the world. There really is plenty of things to do in chicago in winter.

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Skydeck Chicago Tickets
The Big Loop – Red Route, Stop: Skydeck Chicago & Willis Tower

360 Chicago Tickets
The Big Loop – Red Route, Stop: 360 Chicago

Chicago Architecture Center Tickets
The Big Loop – Red Route, Stop: Chicago Riverwalk

Winter in Chicago is a magical time, and hopefully sounding like a good idea right about now. That’s all the inspiration needed to book your trip and discover this city that has the perfect mix of impressive architecture, festive cheer and family-friendly events. You don’t need to look any further for a holiday destination that has something for everyone. And if you need help filling the rest of your time in Chicago, check out our list of the Top 10 Things to do, or for more idea's of where to visit next, check out our guide to the Best Places Visit in Winter