Looking for things to do in Chicago in winter? Many local school districts are off until the second week of January, which may be challenging for many families this year. Kids get bored cooped up, and parents have difficulty coming up with Chicago winter activities to entertain them.
We have some great ideas for children’s activities in Arlington Heights and recreational activities in Libertyville, which help structure your kid’s winter break, whether through camps, family outings, or at home. Here are some unique adventures you can do this winter break that only Chicago neighborhoods can offer:
Kid-Friendly Winter Transportation Options in Chicago Region
Public transportation in Chicago is among the best in the world. As long as you know what you’re doing, getting around Chicago in winter without a car is easy, thanks to the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra Commuter Rail, and plentiful taxis.
Here’s what to do in Chicago in winter concerning getting around:
- Taxi: Taxis are fast and convenient, but their fares can be pretty expensive depending on the number of passengers and the gas price.
- Rental car: It’s easy to get around with a rental car, but it’s quite challenging to find a parking spot when doing activities downtown Chicago. Parking cars in parking garages is possible, but the rates are high.
Various apps and websites, including ParkChicago, SpotHero, and ParkWhiz, can alleviate some of that frustration by allowing pre-reservation and pre-payment. However, during the Chicago winter months, you’ll be better off taking public transportation if you don’t have much experience driving in winter - roads will likely be icy, and snowfall will make visibility limited.
- Lyft/Uber: In the winter, Lyft and Uber are much more affordable than taxis in Chicago. You just need to download the app and book a ride.
- Public transportation: The city’s buses and trains are the cheapest and fastest way to get around. They may be elevated or underground, depending on their location.
- Hop On/Hop Off Bus: This is a great way to see the city. You can purchase a day pass to explore Chicago at your own pace, stopping at most major attractions.
Tips for Visiting Chicago in Winter with Kids
Be sure to do the following before embarking on winter activities in Chicago:
- Learn local references: You will hear a few terms frequently while in Chicago, so you should familiarize yourself with them. The Loop is Chicago’s downtown central business district, bordered north and west by the Chicago River. The L is another term for the train.
- Get a Ventra Card: This allows you to pay for train and bus tickets online without waiting in line.
- Check the weather: Chicago has a six-month winter and a short summer, so check the weather forecast before you leave. During the day, the weather changes, and you don’t want to be caught off-guard by a downpour or drop in temperature.
Indoor Activities for Kids During Chicago Area’s Winter Break 2022-23
Winter in Chicago isn’t only meant to be spent indoors. While relaxing at home is nice, you don’t want the kids to get cabin fever. Below are a few indoor activities to keep kits fit:
#1. Have Fun Days Off or Attend Winter Break Camp
Winter break camps near Chicago include obstacle courses, team-building missions, friendly competitions, games, and more. These fun kid places in Chicago allow children to develop themselves and make new friends and memories.
Top Winter Break Camps for Sports Fans
- Hot Ground Gym: indoor obstacle courses and team-building sports programs for 5 to 4 years old's in northern Chicago.
- Chicago Fire Holiday Camps: offers soccer camps on all days off school throughout the year!
Winter Break Camps for the Littles
- My Gym Chicago: the ultimate children’s fitness and developmental activity center.
- First Ascent Avondale: a full-service climbing gym with rope walls, boulder walls, and training boards.
Winter Break Camps for Creative Crafters
- The Witcraft Workshop: grows confident artists, curious thinkers, kind citizens, and active changemakers.
- Bit Space: a youth and teen-only maker program in Chicago’s Lincoln Square.
Winter Break Camps for Science Fanatics
- Noggin Builders: provides STEM education and hands-on experience for kids.
- Kids Science Labs: a leader in science programs, including STEM classes, camps, and preschool programs.
- Codeverse: a multi-award-winning creative online platform where kids (ages 6-13) build apps and games with actual code!
- The Laboratory: a unique, world-recognized kids’ science camp.
Winter Break Camps for Starry-Eyed Kids
- Emerald City Theatre: educational programs for kids from infancy to 13 years old.
- The Actors Gymnasium: train in circus, drama, and movement.
- Second city: study the fundamentals of improvisation through exercises that help to develop strong ensemble and character work.
Winter Break Camps for Animal and Nature Lovers
- Lincoln Park Zoo: offers winter and holiday break camps for school-aged children.
- Brookfield Zoo: an inclusive camp program where ALL children come together to learn, play, and explore together
- Notebaert Nature Museum Winter Camp: offers children ages 4 to 11 the opportunity to join for a few days of wintry fun.
Winter Break Camps for the Foodies
- The Kids’ Table: builds cooking skills and confidence in the kitchen.
- Taste Buds Kitchen: specializes in cooking classes, camps, and classes for kids and families.
#2. Visit Your Local Children’s Museum
The perfect Chicago places to visit in winter are its museums. With so many options available, kids and adults won’t be disappointed. Some of our favorites are the Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum, The Art Institute, the Kohl Children’s Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Navy Pier Children’s Museum. Some museums offer free or discounted admission to Illinois residents with proof of residency on Illinois Resident Discount Days. You can find more information on the museums’ websites.
#3. Take in a Live Theater Performance
You can treat your children to something special on Broadway in Chicago, which has an incredible theater scene. Several great children’s theaters offer cheaper winter Chicago activities and performances, including Emerald City Theatre, The Marriott Theater for Young Audiences, and Chicago Children’s Theatre. All of these attractions are a great day out for kids.
#4. Swim at an Indoor Water Park
Many locals looking for things to do in winter in Chicago will head to Wisconsin Dells to visit one of their numerous indoor water parks. The Water Works, a stand-alone indoor water park in Schaumburg, is also in the greater Chicagoland area.
#5. Go Sledding
One of the best things to do in Chicago in February is sledding on a hill when the weather is not below zero, and there is plenty of snow on the ground. At the nexus of Irving Park and Albany Park is Horner Park. Even though it’s mostly flat, some gradual slopes could be fun for small kids to slide down.
#6. Enjoy Retro Fun
There are several Brunswick bowling alleys throughout the Chicago suburbs and a Lucky Strike bowling alley downtown. Try bocce ball at Pinstripes, a unique bocce, bowling, and dining venue for something different. If you’re looking for winter activities in Chicago for your older children, check out Chicago Escape Rooms.
#7 Try Unique Experiences
In winter, indoor playgrounds are great places to visit in Chicago to escape the solitude of your home and meet other like-minded parents. Skokie’s Exploratorium has a play area, dress-up area, and climbing wall. The Legoland Discovery Center also has several LEGO building areas, a 4-D movie experience, and a couple of rides offering plenty of things to do in Chicago winter.
#8. Try the Local Library
There is a kids’ section in the Sulzer Library that offers books, blocks, LEGOs, and puzzles. Various Chicago winter events programs are available, from toddler crafts to family game nights. There are over 20 computers for kids in this warm and inviting environment to keep them entertained in the house.
#9. Shop Local
Chicago’s German Christkindlmarket offers one of the best family-friendly things in Chicago that’s free of charge. There’s nothing like the smell of roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst, hot spiced wine, festive music, and the glimmer of sparkling ornaments, all in a cozy atmosphere - a visit to the market takes all your senses on a journey! Discover vendor products worldwide, participate in special events, and enjoy a unique shopping experience.
#10. Grab a Bird’s Eye View
The best place to see Chicago is on the 103rd floor of the city’s tallest building. Willis Tower has added the Ledge, which suspends guests 1,353 feet in a glass box that offers the country’s best views. The Palmisano Park in Bridgeport - a former limestone quarry turned peaceful park - offers another south-side skyline.
#11. Enjoy Family-Friendly Dining
Superdawg Drive-In, Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Old Irving Brewing Co., and Honey Butter Fried Chicken - caregivers with kids who want to try something new to eat should try these restaurants. Some have a children’s menu, others are excellent and welcoming or make delightfully good mac ‘n cheese.
Outdoor Activities near Chicago with Kids During Winter Break 2022-23
In Chicago, winter is one of the most magical times of the year. Embrace the season by including these activities in your winter break itinerary. Here’s what to do in Chicago in winter:
#12. Enjoy a Holiday Light Show
Many festive light displays are going on throughout the new year. The Navy Pier is hosting its annual winter event, Light up the Lake. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Visit Santa, enjoy a pop-up holiday bar, sweets of all kinds, and more at one of the best Chicago winter attractions.
#13. Ice Skating Rinks
Get your skates on and head to the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink in Rosemont or the Gallagher Way rink by Wrigley Field for a family skate. Many park districts offer plenty of Chicago winter things to do and have their own indoor and outdoor rinks.
#14. Have Fun in the Snow
Despite Chicago’s lack of mountains, you can easily find one a short drive away. There are a variety of runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels at Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley, only a two-hour drive from the city. Wilmot, 90 minutes away, also has a gigantic tubing hill that offers fun family things to do in Illinois in the winter.
#15. Sporting Events
Chicago is home to the Blackhawks and the Bulls, but there are many other sports teams to keep your children entertained for much less money. You can take your kids to a Chicago Wolves game if they like hockey. Is basketball their favorite sport? What about watching a game at Northwestern or Loyola?
#16. Check out a Festival, Special Event, or Parade
Some fun Chicago things to do in winter: The Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown is one of Chicago’s fun winter festivals featuring lion dancing teams, floats, and marching bands. Other fun winter activities include Chicago’s Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade - one of the largest in the country.
The kids will enjoy the bands and music and see the Chicago River turn green. You can also participate in Chicago’s annual Polar Plunge; participants jump into the cold waters of Lake Michigan to raise money to support local families in need.
#17. Make a Day Out in the City
Wondering what to do in Chicago in February? Why not spend the day in the city? Water Tower Place is home to American Girl and Lego stores, restaurants, and shopping galore. Once your kids have had their food and toys, take them across the street to the Hershey and Ghirardelli stores to sample some sweets.
#18. Go to Parks and Playgrounds
One of the best things to do in Chicago in February is to take the kids to trampoline parks when school is out. Trampoline walls, foam pits, and dodgeball let kids release all their pent-up energy. You can try Xtreme Trampoline Park, Jump America, and Sky High Sports. Even better, if you’re local, buy one for your backyard.
Ideas for Fun at Home
You don’t have to break the bank to keep your kids entertained. Check out these fun activities to do at home over the winter break:
- Camp out in the family room: Move furniture and set up a tent in the middle. After that, gather pillows, blankets, snacks, books, and whatever else you want to do while you are disconnected.
- Build a snowman: Have fun stacking big balls on each other to build a snowman (remember the carrot nose, hat, and stick arms!). Better yet, create a snowman-building competition.
- Have a games night: Get cozy in your jammies and enjoy a game night marathon. Most friends and family enjoy Bingo and Scrabble, which are great games for all ages.
- Plan a scavenger hunt: Creating riddles for the game is half the fun. A scavenger hunt can be educational and fun and get your kids moving around.
Try Our Winter Camp or Weekly Classes!
Our obstacle-course-orientated camps and classes offer kids fresh air, friends, fun, and exercise. They’re a win-win for your family because they keep your children active and alleviate the pressures of you having to come up with things to do in Chicago during winter. Hot Ground Gym’s® winter camps encourage physical development and keep kids moving and entertained. We bet your kid would love to try a free class.