Chicago's Own Winter Olympics

It’s easy to warm up to winter when you have these fun activities that really bring out the best of the season in Chicago.

A little snow never hurt anyone—in fact, it can be downright fun when you have these activities in Chicago that take advantage of the winter weather in all its glory. Sledding and skating or curling and running, there’s something for everyone.

Curling Rink & Cabin

The Gwen Chicago brings back its curling rink this winter alongside a new curling cabin pop-up bar. Both are located on the fifth floor of the outdoor terrace. Book 30-minute blocks of playing time on the rink and then “curl” up in the cozy cabin, which is decked out like a ski lodge with flannel furnishings and faux furs. A menu of hot food and boozy cocktails round out the amenities. 

Skating Ribbon At Maggie Daley Park

Even the professional Olympic skaters have probably not seen a rink like this before. Maggie Daley Park, a family-friendly spot right near Millennium Park, hosts an “alpine in the city” Skating Ribbon with an action-packed ice course. Twist and turn while taking in the gorgeous  backdrop of the city skyline. When you need a rest, there are places to take a breather and enjoy some hot chocolate. Skate rentals are also available for a fee, though skating is free. All ages are welcome. Hours vary by day.  

Chicago Polar Bear Club Plunge

Going to the beach in the middle of winter might not seem like the best idea but there are those willing to take the plunge with the Chicago Polar Bear Club. Every year in January, flocks of people gather together at Oak Street Beach to rush into the frigid water. But it’s all for a good cause, with attendees taking part in fundraising that helps Midwestern families in need. Held on January 26. 

Northerly Island Polar Adventure Days

It’s a great Alaskan adventure—in the middle of Chicago! On January 26, Chicago Park District’s Northerly Island hosts the annual free event called Polar Adventure Days where families can get up close and personal with exotic live animals, take part in fun winter activities and create nature-inspired crafts. Some of the options include meeting Siberian huskies and wolves, marveling at birds of prey, exploring the terrain while on snowshoes, sipping hot cocoa and enjoying other snacks. 

Sledding At Soldier Field

The Chicago Bears season may be wrapping up, but sledding season is open all winter at Soldier Field where you can find a 35-footvertical drop and plenty of snow (even on dry days) from man-made machines. Free admission. Hit the hills from sun up to 11 pm. 

Winterland At Gallagher Way

The park just outside Wrigley Field is another hallowed sports venue where the family can enjoy the great outdoors during the month of January. Gallagher Way Winterland offers a plethora of activities such as ice skating where the Cubs’ mascot Clark the Cub will make special appearances. Skating lessons are also available. Plus, learn to curl and sign up for a matchup on the rink. “Chimes At Gallagher Way” is a new interactive art installation this year that everyone will marvel at, and there’s winter-themed movies on giant screens all month long. 

Snowshoe Trekking

Chicago’s Northerly Island is a hot spot this winter. In addition to the Polar Adventure Days, the park also hosts a course for snowshoe trekking and cross-country skiing (weather permitting) along a 91-acre urban peninsula.

Selena Fragassi
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