Embrace the cold
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness”? said John Steinbeck. Bundle up and get outside.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St. (312-742-2000)
The zoo strings holiday lights throughout its space, creating a festive, dazzling display. They get plenty of mileage out of the setup, too, with a variety of events that are both family-friendly and fit for the older crowds, including a light maze, light shows, ice-sculpture carving, arts and crafts and, of course, spiced wines and frosty brew. 4:30 to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 23, and from Dec. 26 to Jan. 7. Free entry; food and drink available at extra cost. lpzoo.org
The City of Chicago offers multiple ways to get your skate on, including the McKinley Ice Rink (2210 W. Pershing Road 312-747-5992), Midway Ice Rink (1130 Midway Plaisance North 312-745-2470) and McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.). Admission is free, but you can rent skates for $7 at most rinks and perfect your triple axel before spring. Visit chicagoparkdistrict.com for the full list of rinks and more information.
1410 S. Museum Campus Drive
Go to Soldier Field for football, or completely ignore the Bears and do some sledding, instead. North of the field, you’ll find a 35-foot-tall hill perfect for a smooth ride down as you get a view of the lakefront. The hill is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. depending on weather conditions.
Dan Ryan Woods
87th Street and Western Avenue 800-870-3666
Give night sledding a try on this hill, which is open late (10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily) thanks to lighting. Call ahead before you go to make sure the hill is open for business.
SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
Four Lakes Snowsports
5750 Lakeside Drive, Lisle (630-964-2550)
This suburban spot may not be Aspen, but it offers five different trails for snowboarding and skiing, plus ski and snowboard lessons, themed days with special discounts and holiday activities. When you’re tired and hungry, head to BaseCamp Pub and Eatery at the bottom of the hill for food and libations. The location is also pretty convenient — take the Metra BNSF line to the Lisle stop (1000 Front St.), or travel by car via the Eisenhower or Stevenson expressways. Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. from Dec. 26 to Jan. 7., 12 a.m.-noon Dec. 29, then 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Jan. 8 through the rest of the season. Rates: $28 for daily slope ticket, $80 for 3-time flex pass, $20/$38 for ski or snowboard rental, $10 daily helmet rental. See website for special prices and discounts.
1401 W. Lake St., Bartlett (630-289-1000)
Head to northwest ’burb Bartlett for skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing now through March 4, weather permitting. Villa Olivia’s Snow Sport School provides both private and semi-private lessons and a variety of runs for beginners through expert-level winter sports enthusiasts. The Ski Cafe is open for basic snacks like pizza, burgers, hot dogs and hot chocolate, and there’s also a full bar on-site. Ski and snowboard hours: 5-9:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Snow tube: 5-9:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Ski/Snowboard rates: $30+ for slope ticket, $27+ for equipment rental. Snow tubing rates: 17+ for 2 hours, including tube. Visit villaolivia.com for more information.
If you want to get out of your apartment but don’t want to turn into an icicle in the process, here are some of your best bets for indoor activities.
MUSEUMS WITH ADMISSION CHARGE
1300 S. Lake Shore Drive (312-922-7827)
Open 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
General admission: $12 adult, $8 child, Basic pass: $24.95
You have until Jan. 8 to fly yourself to the moon — or stand in it’s shadow, anyway — at Adler’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit, where you’ll learn about historical eclipse chasers and check out a special collection of scientific instruments. If geeky flicks are your thing, hit up the planetarium’s “Reel Science” film series, which features a movie screening and discussion with Adler scientists and other guests. The winter lineup includes “Arrival”(Jan. 12) “Wall-E” (Feb. 9) and “Demolition Man” (March 8). Tickets: $15 at adlerplanetarium.org.
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave. (312-443-3600)
Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m on Thursday
Admission: $25 general admission, $20 for Chicago residents, $22 for Illinois residents. Free admission for Illinois residents Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.
With current exhibitions on their way out and new exhibitions to come this winter, the Art Institute is a great option, even if it’s a familiar destination. “The Medieval World at Our Fingertips” (opens Jan. 27) features a collection of medieval manuscripts from the Middle Ages, and Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh’s “I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous” (opens Feb. 8) tells the stories of those impacted by humanitarian crises in the Middle East and Syria.
Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St. (312-642-4600)
General admission: $16, free for children 12 and under.
Open 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.Monday through Saturday, noon–5 p.m. Sunday
In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the museum and research center host several tours, lectures and events each month. “Vivian Maier’s Chicago,” a photographic collection documenting Chicago neighborhoods in the ’60s and ’70s, runs through Dec. 31, so you still have a few days left to catch it. While you’re there, be sure to check out “Race: Are We So Different?” a traveling exhibition that opened in November and examines the concept of race from three perspectives — history, science and everyday life.
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Place (773-947-0600)
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for Chicago residents, free admission on Tuesdays
This South Side museum dedicated to black history, culture and art is busy in the winter, with Kwanzaa celebrations and an artist talk in December, a documentary screening about Chicago playwright Lorraine Hansberry in January and dozens of performances in honor of Black History Month in February. Visit the website’s event page for more information and tickets.
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive (312-922-9410)
Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Christmas, last admission at 4 p.m.
Tickets: $22+ (basic pass)
2018 Free days for Illinois residents: Jan. 3, 4, 15, 27, 28; Feb. 1-28
Sue the T. rex might not be permanently leaving the museum, but “Jurassic World: The Exhibition” — perfect for both history and movie lovers — closes Jan. 7. The museum stays open late on select days (Dec. 21-31, Jan. 1-7, $25) to give visitors an extra chance to hang with the dinosaurs, so there’s really no reason to miss the dinos before they bid Chicago farewell.
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Ave. (312-280-2660)
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday and Friday
Admission: $15, Illinois residents free on Tuesdays
The MCA offers a variety of exhibitions for perusal, fare from new restaurant Marisol and even free entertainment. Mykele Deville and Jeffrey Michael Austin of the Growing Concerns Poetry Collective will blend spoken word with music at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22 with the help of content from Chicago artist Edra Soto’s “Open 24 Hours” installation, which is open through Feb. 25.
Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive (773-684-1414)
Open 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, see website for exceptions
Adults: $16 online, $18 on-site, $15 Chicago residents on-site — admission includes access to most permanent exhibits
Free days for Illinois residents: January 8–11, 15–18, 22–25, 29–31; February 1, 5–8, 12–15, 20–22, 26–27; March 14
Even if you spent an entire day at MSI, you might not get around to seeing all the exhibits and tours the museum has to offer. It’s last call for Brick by Brick ($9, runs through Jan. 7), which features giant Lego versions of the Roman Colosseum, Golden Gate Bridge, Great Pyramid of Giza and more. You also don’t want to miss a chance to interact with the bots of Robot Revolution ($12), which closes Feb. 4. If you’re in the mood to keep the holiday spirit going, “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” (included with admission) are open through Jan. 6. Tickets: msichicago.org/visit/tickets
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St. (312-744-6630)
Open Monday–Friday, 10am–7pm, Saturday–Sunday, 10am–5pm, Closed on Christmas
The Center’s stained-glass domes are iconic, and there’s even more to see and do for free at this Chicago landmark. If you have an hour to spare in the morning or early afternoon, pop into Preston Bradley Hall for a variety of musical performances courtesy of the Young People’s Concerts. The Axiom Brass Quintet (Thursday, Jan. 18), Pangaea Jazz Quintet (Thursday, Feb. 15) and South Shore Opera Quartet (Thursday, March 15) are all on the winter roster. Shows take place at 10:30 a.m. and noon.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave. (312-746-5100)
Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday
Free, but suggested donation
When winter gets really rough, we all start dreaming of tropical escapes. If a beach vacation isn’t in the budget, head to the Conservatory’s Palm House to bask in the glow of palm trees and other tropical greenery, or swing by the Desert House to experience plants from Asia, Africa and the Americas — all in one place. “Fire and Ice,” a holiday flower show, showcases poinsettias and other “flaming” plants through Jan. 7.
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th St. (312-738-1503)
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
This Pilsen favorite is home to thousands of Mexican textiles, folk art, prints, drawings and more. Get a taste of Chicago’s Mexican history at “Placemaking & Landmarks - The Creation of Mexican Spaces in la Dieciocho,” an exhibit that tells the story of how Mexicans formed a distinctive community in the neighborhood. Runs through April 29.
Smart Museum of Art
5550 S. Greenwood Ave. (773-702-0200)
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-Sunday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday
Museum hopping can get pricey, but the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art is free. Take a peek at the Sculpture Garden, then head inside to warm up and view “The History of Perception,” an upcoming exhibition that “explores the historically contingent ways that human beings have understood their bodily sensations and made them intelligible from one body to another.” These new works will be on display from Jan. 9 to April 22.