How I Learned to Love the Winter in Chicago

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Written by Lila Aryadwita from Indonesia

Winters in Chicago can be fierce and relentless. True to its moniker, “The Windy City” brings cold winters with strong winds and average daily temperatures below 10O C (50O F). Nevertheless, I have come to believe that Chicago is the most beautiful and exciting during the winter. Adding a mesmerizing twinkle to the dark and cold nights, Christmas lights and decorations line the streets of Chicago.  Aside from the holiday charm, you can enjoy winter-specific events and attractions—it’s hard to resist such a warm and joyful experience this city has to offer. Just like me, I’m sure you’ll love:

1.  The festive feeling that starts in the park:

Winter doesn’t begin until the large Christmas tree is raised to light up the center of Millennium Park. The twinkling Christmas lights attract many people to the park, making it one of the most popular places in town. Additionally, you can enjoy ice skating in the outdoor rink in the park while listening to jolly holiday music. The park is one of my go-to places to hang around with my friends and take Instagram-worthy pictures.

2.  Winter-long holiday food fests:

The Christkindlmarket offers an unrivaled winter holiday experience. The free outdoor holiday market opens annually from mid-November to late December. Inspired by winter festivals in Germany, house vendors sell baked goods, handmade gifts, holiday ornaments, toys, meats and Christmas decorations at the Daley Plaza. The vendors come from all over the world—including Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Chicago, bringing in unique international and local antiquities. A Santa house and a small nativity scene are also found in the open-air market. Because the festival is open for a long period of time, my friends and I visit the market often. We love getting hot chocolate served in souvenir mugs and trying a new sweet from different booth every visit. The chocolate-covered treats like pretzels and cakes keep me coming back for more.

3.     Lincoln Park Zoo: Winter Edition. Yes, THE ZOO!

Another fun place to visit is the Lincoln Park Zoo, which has free admission every day of the year. The zoo has a special event during the winter called Zoo Lights, featuring hundreds of twinkling lights for a family-oriented celebration of joy. The event includes musical light shows at the Winter Wonderlawn, cool, live ice-sculpture carvings, and hundreds of themed larger-than-life displays. In addition to the magical, stunning lights, you can visit and play with some of the zoo’s animals.

4.    Walking-distance Christmas:

Lastly, Downtown Chicago, specifically State Street and The Magnificent Mile are just three train stops from UIC’s campus and the perfect places to decompress with your friends and take a break from school. While strolling through the city, you can appreciate the Christmas music that adds to the merry holiday mood. And restaurants lining the streets often serve seasonal specials that you cannot miss.


Yes, Chicago is known for its extreme cold in the winter, but most people forget that Chicago is also known for its unique experience that brings people together. Chicago winters never fail to amaze me and keep me entertained, especially during the frigid nights.


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