The bitter Chicago cold and wind from the lakefront can be intimidating. Growing up in the Chicago area, I know how brutal those winds can be. Chicago winters can be so cold that many people completely avoid visiting this beautiful city during the winter months. While I do enjoy Chicago’s wonderful summers, today I’m giving you 5 reasons to brave the Chicago winter weather instead of running away to the Bahamas.
1. Ice Skating
The brand new Maggie Daley Park just opened, which is now home to a fun ice skating ribbon with the Chicago skyline in the backdrop. I will warn that it can get very crowded here, so come prepared! Having your own skates is ideal, so if at all possible try and snag a pair from a used sporting goods store. It’s free to skate, but it costs $12 to rent skates plus up to an hour and a half’s worth of your time waiting in line for rentals… probably longer than you will actually skate. Not a skater? You get some beautiful views of the sunset from the Maggie Daley Park and it’s always fun to people watch with the crowds of people skating on the ice!
Another option for an outdoor Chicago ice skating rink with beautiful views of the city is Millennium Park. You’ll likely still have quite the wait here for rentals, so your best bet for each of these rinks if you don’t have your own skates is to arrive early to try and beat most of the rush. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views while gliding along the fresh outdoor ice.
2. Holiday Lights and Decorations
The Chicago winters may be cold, but the holiday lights and decorations will warm you up as they transform the city into a magical place during the winter. The decorations throughout the city and the way the parks and streets light up with the holiday spirit every winter is sure to get you in the mood for winter festivities!
Marshall Field’s Macy’s on State Street
Every year since the early 1980s, the large display windows around the outside of the Marshall Field and Company building on State Street were decorated in detail by a talented team of artists, carpenters, painters, engineers, costume designers, and more. As the inventors of the department store, window displays took on a new twist around Christmas-time that told a new story every year. In 2006, Macy’s took over when they bought out Marshall Field’s, but they still continued this holiday tradition and renamed it “Macy’s on State Street”. This year’s theme for 2014 is “The Journey of a Christmas Wish” and follows a young girl’s wish list as she travels to Macy’s. The stories weaved together by each window along State Street never fail to transport visitors to a dreamy winter wonderland!
To top off your stay, you can also visit the Walnut Room on the 4th floor which remains a holiday tradition for many Chicagoans. This iconic destination opened in 1907, when Mrs. Hering, an employee of Marshall Field’s who worked in the women’s hats department, brought homemade pot pies in to work so her clients would not be hungry while they were shopping. You can still enjoy a traditional pot pie today made with Mrs. Hering’s original recipe, and feel free to enjoy all 9 floors of the store while you’re there! If you visit from November through early January, you will be able to enjoy your meal in the presence of the famous 45-foot Grace Tree.
4. Live Performances
There are so many options in Chicago when it comes to entertainment. If you’re really looking to escape from the cold for a few hours, check out what shows are running when you are in the area. If you visit Chicago in December, going to the ballet to see the Nutcracker is a must! You can also take a look at Broadway in Chicago as they always have a variety of musicals and plays running throughout the year. With hundreds of theaters and venues throughout the city, there certainly isn’t a shortage of live performances to attend!
Celebrate German culture in Chicago and check out Christkindlmarket, Chicago’s largest open-air market. With common German food, drinks, and items, a variety of entertainment, and plenty of visitors from all over the world, this German inspired tradition is a free must see attraction!
Now that you’ve experienced the best of what Chicago has to offer in the winters, you are free to escape to the tropical destination of your choice. Bearing through the bitter cold, I’d say you’ve earned it!