5 outdoor activities to get you excited for Chicago winter

Winter is around the corner… a dreaded sentence but it doesn’t have to be! Chicago has been combating winter blues and I’ve rounded up five winter activities to keep your spirits high.

Zoo Lights

A Chicago tradition that simply cannot be missed! Normally a free activity located in the Lincoln park Zoo, they are charging $5 to allow for smaller crowds. All ticket sales support the zoo’s world-class animal care, global conservation efforts, and innovative learning programs. 

New this year at ZooLights: sensory-friendly visit times, new lighting concepts on the Main Mall and South Lawn, an enhanced Enchanted Forest experience, and a stunning 18-foot holiday tree at the zoo’s new Pepper Family Wildlife Center, set to open this fall.

Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

Zoo lights caters to all ages. If over 21, make sure to stop by the over-the-top holiday-themed pop-up bar to roast s’mores over a fire pit, sip on festive cocktails and hot drinks, and devour sweet treats of all kinds.

Get your tickets now!

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

For all the graceful and adventurous Chicagoans this is the activity for you! Okay, even if you don’t want to ice skate its worth adding to your bucket list. This year the immersive Van Gogh will be displaying starry night brush strokes across the ice creating beautiful patterns with the skyline illuminated around you. Relax and grab a bite in the Rink Cafe or head over to Cindy’s rooftop and enjoy the views from the comfort of a fire pit and let their cocktails warm your bones.

Book now!

City of Chicago tree lighting

“Chicago’s “official” Christmas tree, the 108th Annual City of Chicago Christmas Tree in Millennium Park, will shine brightly near the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Washington St. from November 19 through January 9. All-virtual in 2020, this year’s Tree Lighting Ceremony presented by Powering Chicago with leadership support from the Millennium Park Foundation will be in-person on Friday, November 19 starting at 6pm (with the actual lighting at approximately 6:30pm). The 2021 event has been expanded and reimagined to provide more space and opportunities for guests to participate — including multiple viewing locations with screens and concessions across the Park and a main stage on the Great Lawn with the traditional Tree Lighting Ceremony followed by fireworks and a special concert from 6:35–7:45pm headlined by singer-songwriter Brian McKnight. This year’s 51-foot Blue Spruce is donated by the Benavides family of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Face masks are strongly encouraged for all Tree Lighting Ceremony guests.” City of Chicago

The Christkindlmarket

“Since 1996, German American Events, LLC, a subsidiary of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest , has hosted the Christkindlmarket Chicago as a free event, featuring international and local vendors with various offerings for all ages. The German-style outdoor market has become so popular that it expanded to other locations in Illinois and Wisconsin. The unique shopping experience, cheerful live entertainment and original food and beverages like the imported mulled wine from Germany, called Glühwein, make the Christkindlmarket a preferred and popular destination.” – Christkindlmarket

Just a few years ago they added a second location to Chicago – Wrigleyville! Located at the Stadium is a full market with ice skating rink.

Learn about all that it has to offer and plan your visit.

Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden

An after-dark, illuminated trail at the Chicago botanic garden. The popular holiday event is back, with a new path and exciting new delights! Hum along to the melodic tunes of the singing trees. Surround yourself in the twinkling glow of the Winter Cathedral, and find new features that shine with all the colors imaginable. Last year the event sold out so grab tickets now and step into a magical nature experience.


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