Winter is almost here, so you might want to start planning activities for you and your family before cabin fever sets in. While you might have visions of spending quite a bit of money to keep everyone entertained, don’t worry. Bundle up, hit the road and check out the following free winter activities in Chicago for some cold weather fun.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
Step out of the cold and into the Garfield Park Conservatory. Located in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood, the conservatory covers about two acres indoors, giving you and your family plenty of room to walk and learn more about different types of plants. You’ll find plenty of stunning nooks and crannies in the conservatory for you and your family to explore, too. While you’re there, perhaps consider taking your family’s holiday pictures with an eye-catching background like the Fern Room. The conservatory has free admission, but you can give a suggested donation.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Lace up your skates and have fun with your family at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Chicago’s Millennium Park. With the Chicago skyline as your backdrop, you and your family can skate the afternoon or evening away. The ice skating rink is open through March 7, 2015, weather permitting, and skates can be rented for a fee. There are also food vendors both onsite and nearby so you can refuel by purchasing a cup of hot cocoa or a snack. Check out Millennium Park’s website for special holiday hours, too.
Polar Adventure Days
1521 S. Lynn White Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Date: Held Dec. 7, 2014, Jan. 25 and Feb. 22, 2015
Although the temperatures are dropping, you and your family can still have fun outdoors with the Polar Adventure Days at the Chicago Park District’s Northerly Island. Held December 7, 2014, and January 25 and February 22, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m., the event features a dog sledding demonstration, arts and crafts, live music and activities for toddlers. Ever wanted to try snowshoeing? If there’s enough snow, you can rent snowshoes for free during the event. Admission to the event is free, and limited parking is available for $3.
Sledding Hill At Caldwell Woods
Forest Preserves of Cook County
6380 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60646
Grab your sled and head out to Caldwell Woods in Chicago’s northwest side for some sledding. The sledding hill has lighting, too, so you can sled until 9 p.m. Keep in mind that the sledding hills in the Forest Preserves of Cook County are open if the ground is frozen and there’s a good blanket of snow measuring about three inches on the ground; after all, who wants to go sledding in slushy snow? For a full list of what’s allowed on the sledding hill, including the type of sledding equipment, check out the Forest Preserves’ website.
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
Date: Held Nov. 28, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2015
What can be more fun than seeing the animals of the Lincoln Park Zoo at night? ZooLights, a longstanding annual tradition in Chicago, is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on select evenings from November 28, 2014 through January 4, 2015. The free event features plenty of fun activities, including ice carving presentations, holiday crafts you can make and give to your family and friends and musical light shows. Some activities do have a fee, including ice skating at Farm-In-The-Zoo. You can also visit Lincoln Park Zoo during the day for free.
Related: Winter Camping Guide For Chicago
Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.