Best Family Activities for a Wintertime Visit to Chicago

Headed to Chicago this winter? Here are the top activities your family should try while in the city.

Ice Skating in the Park

Likely the most well-known skating spot in Chicago is the Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Open through March, weather permitting, it’s right next to “Cloud Gate” and an easy stop on just about any itinerary. Skating is free, though you do have to pay for skate rentals.

Ice Skating in Chicago © Jim Roberts |

Ice Skating in Chicago © Jim Roberts |

Adjacent, ice skating takes place in Maggie Daley Park, but this isn’t any average rink. A skating ribbon provides the perfect loop to skate at your own pace, while enjoying views of downtown Chicago’s skyline. Admission is also free, with fees for skate and locker rentals.

Head to either rink on a weekday morning or early afternoon to avoid the crowds.

A Sweet Treat

Chicago is home to Nutella’s first official Nutella Cafe on North Michigan Avenue. Opened just last year, the ample menu includes loads of sweet treats your family will love, regardless of age. From croissants to crepes, French toast to paninis, you can stop in for a quick bite or a more filling breakfast or lunch.

Winter at Lincoln Park Zoo

If the frosty air doesn’t deter you, a visit to Lincoln Park Zoo in early January is worth the trip. Zoolights, a seasonal nighttime display, lasts through Jan. 6. The winter series of the zoo’s educational program for toddlers, Leap: Learn, Explore and Play, lasts all winter long, Jan. 12–March 9, and includes opportunities for children to connect with nature through sensory-rich play times. For parents hoping to knock off a few extra holiday pounds, Fitness at the Zoo takes place Feb. 3, and includes group yoga and Pilates classes.

Head Indoors

If the weather’s just too cold for outdoor fun, the many kid-friendly museums around Chicago will happily entertain you. The Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy Pier offers lots of experiences for kids of all ages, and a full calendar of fun events. The Field Museum’s exhibits range from mummies to dinosaurs, with several 3-D experiences as well. At the Museum of Science & Industry, you can still catch “Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition,” a collection of more than 100 works, opening Jan. 14, and the Black Creativity Innovation Studio, which runs Jan. 21–Feb. 24 and offers an exciting space to experiment with new ideas.