Indoor Things To Do In Chicago In The Winter

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

It’s winter. There’s wind chill in the Windy City, which means the “feels like” temperature is “can’t feel my toes.” No matter. If you want to have winter fun while keeping warm, here’s a list of 10 great indoor winter activities in Chicago:

Have a Tom and Jerry: Miller’s Pub has been a Loop destination since 1935. Each holiday season (roughly Thanksgiving into early January), it breaks out its version of this classic hot toddy, the Tom and Jerry. Arriving in a simple brown coffee mug, this most traditional of Chicago winter activities — a foamy concoction of brandy, dark rum, sugar, egg white and nutmeg — will have you sinking into one of Miller’s amazingly deep, comfy booths and quickly becoming a local.

Visit Navy Pier: One of Chicago’s top tourist attractions can seem like a summer-only deal, with its giant Ferris wheel, boat rides and stunning lake views. Yet there’s ample indoor space — and indoor parking — not to mention Winter WonderFest, which covers 170,000 square feet of the pier’s Festival Hall with, among other things, indoor rides, giant slides, ice skating and holiday decor. It runs from late November through early January.

See Buddy Guy: The consummate Chicago bluesman presides over a string of gigs each January at his South Loop club, Buddy Guy’s Legends. For his January 2019 residency, he’s playing 16 dates at the club, 700 S. Wabash Ave., between Jan 3 and 27. Tickets to see one of Eric Clapton’s favorite guitar players range from $55 to $70.

Get Tropical: The Lincoln Park Conservatory, a Victorian-era glass house built in the 1890s, has four huge spaces devoted to lush greenery. Opening in 1908 on the West Side, the Garfield Park Conservatory is larger still, with 2 acres of indoor greenhouse space. Both sites offer a wonderful respite from the winter chill amid palms, ferns and many more exotic flora.

Train for Spring Training: Whether you’re a fan of the North Side team or the South Side team — you have to pick one — late January is the time to start gearing up for the season. The 34th edition of Cubs Convention takes place Jan. 18-20 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. Seven years its crosstown rival’s junior, SoxFest will be held Jan. 25-27 at the Hilton Chicago. Both feature players past and present and coaches mingling with fans for autographs, panel discussions and more.

Laugh Out Loud: Nothing warms you up quicker than a good laugh. The Old Town neighborhood is home to two of Chicago’s comedy institutions: The Second City, for improv, and Zanies, for standup. Since Zanies opened in 1978 (The Second City opened in ’59), the competitors have been dishing out laughs half a block apart from each other on Wells Street.

Get Ready to Wait: The Walnut Room was the first restaurant opened in a department store, coming to the seventh floor of Marshall Field’s State Street store in 1905. Now Macy’s, the store still welcomes thousands of visitors each year to dine amid the Walnut Room’s Russian wood paneling and Austrian chandeliers. Each holiday season, with tables surrounding the great Christmas tree, waits to be seated frequently exceed three hours — all the more time to shop.

See ’em: The Art Institute of Chicago is a wonderful place to while away a day. TripAdvisor’s top-ranked American museum four years in a row, it has an envied collection of impressionist paintings and its modern wing is a spectacular 21st century addition. Yet just a few blocks north on Michigan Avenue sits one of Chicago’s newest attractions. The American Writers Museum — named 2017’s best new museum in the world by Fodor’s Travel and the best attraction in Illinois by USA Today readers — seeks to engage the public in celebrating and exploring the influence of American writers.

Go Deep: Eating is always among the top indoor winter activities in Chicago, and deep-dish pizza is THE top eating activity. Almost any time a list of the best Chicago deep-dish pizzas is compiled, Pizzeria Uno, Gino’s East, Pequod’s Pizza and Lou Malnati’s rate a mention. The first two have flagships in River North. Lou Malnati’s has several spots, including Wicker Park and the Gold Coast, and Pequod’s Pizza is in Lincoln Park.

Dream of the Open Road: The Feb. 9-18 Chicago Auto Show is the nation’s largest. First staged in 1901, the show now takes 1 million square feet of exhibition space at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. Concept cars and the latest models from most of the world’s major auto manufacturers will be on display. Tickets are $13 for adults, $7 for seniors and children aged 7 to 12, free for children 6 and under.

So Much More

Remember, 10 items make for just a short list of Chicago winter activities. We haven’t sent you to a Bulls or Blackhawks game; to the fabulous theatre district; or any of dozens of live music spots from Reggie’s Rock Club on the near south side to Metro, Martyr’s and the Aragon Ballroom up north. The point is, Chicago is no place to hibernate.

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