Low-Cost, Chicago Area Winter Activities

January 17, 2022

Why do we think of summer as the time to escape and hole up at home all winter long? The cold weather doesn’t mean Midwesterners must sit frozen in place. Considering the stress most everyone has been through, plan to layer up and get outside for a breath of fresh air.

A change of scenery now and then is good for the mind and body, and many pleasant options throughout the region are either low-cost or free.

Head to the Lakefront

The lakefront may sound like more of a summer destination, but it is full of beautiful scenery and fun winter activities, many of them free.

  • Millennium Park. There’s so much going on at Chicago’s world-famous park in the warmer months that this amazing outdoor space can get overlooked the rest of the year. We’re not just talking about the Maggie Daley skating ribbon, although that is certainly fun for children and teenagers. If skating isn’t for you, grab a cup of hot cocoa and take a winter stroll around the grounds. The park grounds extend all the way from Randolph Street to Balbo Avenue and there is a lot to see in between.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory. This mini tropical paradise is the perfect antidote for the winter blues.  You can find yourself instantly transported into a steamy tropical jungle or an arid desert just by stepping foot into the Garfield Park Conservatory. This beautiful greenhouse on the Westside has been bringing the tropics to Chicagoans for well over 100 years, and we never get sick of it. The place is stunning. It’s also free, although there is a $5 suggested donation which gets you a whole lot of winter-blues-beating bang for your buck.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago’s zoo is one of the city’s best attractions in any season and it happens to be free. Comes your cabin fever in the dead of winter. There is a bit of outdoor walking to get between the different animal houses, but you quickly warm back up once inside of each one. The surrounding park also stays relatively white and pristine after it snows, which is a nice break from the normal grey slush that seems to be everywhere else in the city.
  • Free Museum Days. Contact your favorite museum to inquire about free and discounted entry days. Many open for free on certain days or at certain times to the general population.

Plan a Tranquil Visit to the Brookfield Zoo

Not a fan of crowds? The quieter months of January through March are a great time to visit your local zoos. The Brookfield Zoo may be a more convenient destination to Chicago’s south suburban residents. Here’s a list of the buildings at the Brookfield Zoo that are open in winter.

Take a Midwestern Day Trip to a Nearby Destination

Sometimes you need to get out of town and flying to the Caribbean is not an option. If you’ve got wheels and access to your favorite tunes, a simple day trip will transport you briefly to a new environment. Buses and trains are also available throughout the Midwest. Whether you’re in the mood for a stroll in a wintery wonderland or prefer something a bit more civilized, both options are abundant here in the Midwest, starting with these:

  • Indiana Dunes National Park. Hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing – oh my! Imagine the sight of gently rolling wooded dunes covered in a layer of fresh white snow. Visiting the Indiana Dunes in winter is loads of fun for folks of all ages. And it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from Chicago’s south suburbs. You may think of it as a warm-weather destination, and it certainly is. But your family will have more space to explore in the colder months.
  • Wisconsin Brewery and Winery Tours. Like Illinois, Wisconsin boasts many 19th-century historical buildings, some of which were the sites of wineries or breweries over a century ago. The sky is the limit when it comes to tours in Milwaukee alone. The drive is scenic and it isn’t too far – perfect for a day trip on the weekend.
  • Snowmobile Trails. If you’re feeling adventuresome, here are snowmobile trails throughout Illinois for people of all levels.

Don’t Neglect Southern Illinois

If you tend to focus on things happening up north, why not visit southern Illinois? There are scenic landscapes throughout the state, and it may even be a few degrees warmer as you head south. Southern Illinois is home to many parks with unique natural vistas and hiking trails, not to mention cultural sites and even vineyards. Do a bit of digging to see what strikes your fancy.

No matter where you’re headed, a local South Suburban Currency Exchange can help you cash your latest check, make sure your vehicle license and title are up to date, and load up your Ventra card. Visit us online to check out our many other financial services!

A person walking through a snowy landscape.