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Brave (or Beat) the Chicago Chill with These Winter Activities
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Brave (or Beat) the Chicago Chill with These Winter Activities

Dec 22nd, 2014

The weather is cold, daylight is growing increasingly sparse, and plenty of Chicagoans are feeling the effects of the weather.

In other words, winter has arrived.

Just because the weather bites doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up in your apartment. At least not until the next polar vortex blasts Chicago, anyway.

Regardless of whether you’re actually up for braving the cold or would rather move from one heated place to another, you can find something that suits you on this list of winter activities in Chicago.

Ice Skate in the Windy City

With the glint of the Cloud Gate sculpture distorting your reflection as you glide by this shiny Windy City icon, Millennium Park is a deservedly popular place to make use of your ice skates. For residents of AMLI 900, AMLI Lofts, and AMLI River North, getting to the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink for a free skating session in front of The Bean is hardly a time investment.

Nearby Lincoln Park Zoo is another popular place to ice skate. Chicago apartment residents who would rather skate indoors can whirl around on the ice at the McFetridge Sports Center, north of downtown Chicago. The Robert Crown Ice Complex in Evanston is a convenient indoor ice skating destination for residents of AMLI Evanston.

Snowshoe at Morton Arboretum

With 1,700 acres of woodland and other naturally preserved area, Morton Arboretum (in Lisle, Ill.) turns into a pristine winter wonderland following a big snowstorm. When four inches of snow or more is present, those interested can snowshoe or cross-country ski the arboretum’s vast grounds. If you’ve never gone snowshoeing, consider it giving a shot as a winter holiday activity. AMLI at Seven Bridges residents, its your turn to be the closest to one of our selected winter activities.

Admire a Holiday Lights Display

Morton Arboretum is also home to Illumination, a 50-acre spectacle of trees decked out with interactive LED lights. Highlights of the event include trees that respond to your voice and touch, innovative projected light displays, and a fitting soundtrack performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Illumination: Tree Lights at the Arboretum runs most nights until January 3, 2015, and tickets can be purchased online, by phone, or in person.

ZooLights, the free interactive lights display that takes over the Lincoln Park Zoo for several weeks each winter, is another popular holiday lights display. This year’s ZooLights is open most evenings between now and January 4, 2015.

Go Sledding

Chicago isn’t known for having prolific downhill skiing and snowboarding slopes, but it’s home to plenty of hills that are perfect for a certain timeless holiday tradition: Sledding. Robert E. James Park, also conveniently situated near AMLI Evanston, is one of the most popular sledding hills in Chicagoland area. Naperville, Glenview, and Chicago’s Caldwell Woods also offer prime sledding and tobogganing terrain. If you want to sled in downtown Chicago, Soldier Field has a 220-feet hill topped with artificial snow by the city’s park district when there isn’t enough present.

Go for a Deluxe Hot Chocolate

Chicago’s winter weather is always a good excuse for those craving a rich serving of steaming hot chocolate to indulge. Just where the best hot chocolate in Chicago is served up is a matter of personal opinion, but Benny’s Chop House, Katherine Anne Confections, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, and Rick Bayless’ XOCO certainly have enough devotees to make their hot cocoas among the city’s favorites.

XOCO, located a block north of AMLI River North, is known for the Mexican hot chocolate it serves up with churros. Benny’s Chop House, also within walking distance of AMLI River North, is known for its adults-only, scotch-hot cocoa concoction. Mindy’s Hot Chocolate and Katherine Anne Confections, both located in the Wicker Park neighborhood, are known for the quality and variety of the hot chocolates they offer.

See a Show

Not because the theaters are warm, but because they are so much warmer than the weather outdoors. Several holiday classics are currently playing in Chicago’s celebrated theaters, and a number of highly-anticipated shows will return to the stage or make their Chicago debuts in the coming months.

If you want some laughs to pull you out of a weather-induced funk, check out one of the most talked-about comedy shows, the 14th Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the nation, and runs from January 8 through 18, 2015. More than 100 sketch comedy troupes are scheduled to perform at Stage 773, located on the north side in Lakeview.

Eat Out During Chicago Restaurant Week

What’s more comforting than warm, tasty food in the winter? If you’re thinking “pretty much nothing,” then treat yourself to a specialty prix fixe menu at one of your favorite restaurants during Chicago Restaurant Week. The event, returning in 2015 for its eighth straight year, runs from January 30 through February 12, 2015. Over the course of two weeks, more than 250 restaurants in Chicago and nearby suburbs offer special menus and offers. Serious foodies who want to make the most of the event can secure a ticket for Chicago Restaurant Week’s official kick-off event, First Bites Bash, at Union Station on January 29, 2015.

Mother Nature may do her best to beat the Windy City down during the winter, but it doesn’t stop Chicagoans from enjoying themselves and making the most of available resources. If your annual dose of “Why do I put myself through these miserable winters?” has arrived, remind yourself how special Chicago is by enjoying one of these winter activities.

What are your favorite winter activities in Chicago? Share them in the comments!

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