Free things to do around Chicago this winter

January 6, 2011 5:53:19 AM PST
Winter in Chicago doesn't mean you have to stay inside. There are plenty of things to do, and some of them are free.

Here are tips from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. More ideas are at

Snow Days Chicago is a free three-day winter festival featuring a national snow sculpting competition, dog sled demonstrations, a snowboard rail jam and kids activities. The event is held from January 28 through January 30. This year, it's at Navy Pier (Gateway Park).

    Museums' Free Days in January:
  • The Art Institute of Chicago - Free weekdays in January and Thursday evenings throughout the year.
  • Museum of Science and Industry - Free Weekdays in January and Tuesdays in February
  • Shedd Aquarium - Free on January:10, 11 and 16-25, and every Monday and Tuesday in February.
  • Chicago History Museum - Every Monday.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art - Every Tuesday.
  • Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - Every Thursday.

Some of these museums are even free year around! Through March 31, 2011, John Hancock Center will host Skating in the Sky with the world's highest skating rink. Located in the Observatory on the 94th floor, skaters can take in awe-inspiring views of the city and beyond while twirling on a surface made of synthetic ice.

    Winter theater highlights:
  • "Wicked," through January 23, 2011
  • "Les Miserables," February 2 - February 27
  • Chicago Shakespeare Theater's "Funk It Up About Nothin'," January 21 - February 13
  • Starting January 18: "9-5 the Musical!," Bank of America Theater

If you're interested in checking out a play but also want to save a little money, there's a great program offered by the League of Chicago Theaters. Hot Tix sells half-price theatre tickets, online and at two outlet locations (on Randolph Street and in the Water Works Visitor Information Center on North Michigan Ave.)