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Fun & Festive Ways to Make the Most of Winter in Chicagoland

With winter weather right around the corner, it’s time to get ready to enjoy more time at home — and out of our area’s legendary cold temperatures. This year, spending more time at home during the winter means finding fun, new ways to stay festive and make the most of the season. 

Looking for a little inspiration as we head for the coziest months of the year? Here are a few festive, fun, and fulfilling ways to enjoy winter in Chicagoland all season long:

Try Something New for the Holidays

Many holiday traditions will look different this year. To make the most of this unusual time, why not try something totally new? You may discover something you can add to your future holiday celebrations — and at the very least, you’ll have a great new story to tell when we can safely and comfortably gather together again.

Instead of cooking for a crowd this year, why not order in? Skip the work — and the clean-up — by ordering a feast from a local favorite. Many restaurants in Chicago and in the suburbs are offering prepared multi-course holiday meals. By taking advantage of these great, ready-made meals, you’ll be freeing up time and energy and supporting local restaurants during a difficult time. To whet your appetite, check out Choose Chicago’s list of holiday carryout specials, or explore options near you with Dining at a Distance.

Try a virtual festival or holiday celebration. Downtown Chicago’s Christkindlmarket usually draws thousands of visitors over the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, to avoid potential issues with COVID-19, the city and the market’s organizers decided to take the event online. You can virtually shop the stalls and get your holiday gifts from Germany, Austria, and businesses from throughout the Midwest.

See what your favorite museum is offering. This winter, you can visit the Museum of Science & Industry’s Holidays of Light exhibit to learn about holiday traditions from around the world, or get a masterclass in art history at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Monet and Chicago. If you’re planning to visit a museum or gallery, be sure to purchase tickets early as admission is limited to maintain social distancing guidelines. Be sure to also look for virtual and online exhibits you and your loved ones can enjoy from home! 

Find a new way to give back. This winter is a great time to support a new organization or rediscover a charity that’s close to your heart — whether you give time, chip in some money, or donate household items that could go to a good cause. 

Make Time for Outdoor Activities

You’ve heard of hygge, the Danish idea of “cozy contentment” — but have you heard of friluftsliv? A recent National Geographic article highlights the Norweigan concept of spending time outdoors, no matter the weather — suggesting that it could even be the key to making it through the winter. Looking to safely and comfortably make the most of the great outdoors this season?

Find a nature trail or park near you. Walking, jogging, and biking not only invigorate you, but give you a chance to have thoughtful, meaningful conversations with your family. Look for a new path or tree-lined trail that you’ve never taken before. If you do take the same route, try to look for something new you never noticed before each time. You could also travel around your neighborhood to enjoy the holiday light displays, turn your socially distanced outing into a neighborhood architecture tour, or even make your excursion into a scavenger hunt for all ages. 

Enjoy holiday lights at a distance.  A beloved Chicagoland tradition, ZooLights is returning in 2020 as a ticketed event. The City of Chicago’s Christmas tree will be lit up in Millennium Park once again this year, as will neighborhood trees throughout the region. Morton Arboretum has also set up a drive-through lights display for 2020, Illumination: Tree Lights.

Feel like a kid again in the snow. When the snowflakes fall it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy the wonders of nature. Build a good old fashioned snowman, have a good-natured snowball fight, or make some pretty snow angels. For an adventure, several ice skating options are also scheduled to remain open in 2020, including the area’s famous skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. 

Look for Crafts And Activities to Do At Home

If being out in the cold doesn’t sound fun for you, there is plenty to do inside. Use this winter to get creative and test your artistic skills with some festive holiday crafts:

Bring the beauty of nature inside. Make winter foliage wreaths or fun centerpieces using bits of nature. Poke around your neighborhood and look for sticks and pinecones. You could even find supplies for indoor crafts from your own yard. Bushes with berries on them or evergreen branches are great options. Use twine and hot glue to keep pieces together and form the decorations of your dreams.

Host a virtual “sip & paint” with friends and family. You’ve got your Zoom room all set up — so why not use it for something fun and new? Pick a famous painting, order your supplies, and paint your masterpieces together with your loved ones, all online. Then, swap paintings or give your painting to someone you love as a gift. This is also a great way to support a local art store near you. 

Get cozy and warm. Knit a blanket, crochet a scarf, stuff a pillow, handcraft your own candle — any project that leaves you with something warm and comforting to enjoy at the end! 

Try Some New Holiday Recipes 

Many holiday traditions center around food. Eating is a very important part of celebrating the season together. This year, consider trying your hand at some new recipes alongside your comforting seasonal favorites:

Take a virtual cooking class. With most grocery stores offering either delivery services or convenient, curbside pickup, you can easily choose a class and prepare by ordering the ingredients in advance. A quick search for online cooking classes in Chicago will return many classes from prominent Chicago area chefs, so you can learn from the best!

Make healthy swaps. Try making some healthy versions of your favorite recipes by swapping in vegetarian options, or finding alternative ingredients that you might never have used before. 

Make your Chicagoland favorites at home. Have a craving for deep dish, Italian beef, or pizza puffs? Check out our guide for making your Chicago-style favorites, right in your home kitchen. 

Brew a warm and tasty beverage. Look up recipes for local favorites like hot cider or gluhwein. You could also make some hot chocolate stirrers for those extra cold nights when you just want to cozy up with something warm. This is a great activity for kids and adults. You can find recipes in your favorite magazines or on Pinterest

Make the Most of Your Home this Winter

No matter the season, your home is where your best memories happen. It’s the place you enjoy Chicago’s hot summers and hunker down through the cold winters. We understand, because Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.

Looking for new ideas to make the most of your space during fall and winter? Curious about what steps you can take to get your home ready to sell in the months ahead? Whatever your real estate goals may be this season, we get you — and we’re here to help make things easier, at every step of the way.