8 places to laugh in the face of winter

Listen, we know it’s chilly outside. But before you throw in the (frozen) towel and relegate yourself to an inside existence until June, check out these bundle-worthy Chicagoland locales to enjoy this (seemingly endless) season.

North Park Nature Center

Turns out, the place you love to hike when spring fever hits, summer shade beckons and fall leaves are in need of crunching is also the place where winter trails sparkle brighter than Arendelle. The Nature Center–one of Chicago’s best secret/not-so-secret urban retreats–boasts a fun discovery room when you want to cozy up and some lovely (and well-marked!) trails when you don’t.

5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago

(312) 744-5472

Ice skating at Warren Park

Think that skating on the Mag Mile is the only game in town? Think again. Head north to Warren Park to give the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Rink a spin and, while there, (carefully) pat yourself on the back for your frugality. It’s free! Ice skate rentals run you $6, but the ability to enjoy some rink time without the downtown hoards? Priceless.

6601 N. Western Ave., Chicago

(773) 761-8663

Lake Michigan beach stroll

If you’re strong enough to brave chilly lakeshore breezes, then you may just be rewarded with frosty footprints on an empty beach, unparalleled skyline views of downtown (try North Avenue Beach!) and some positively gorgeous vistas across a powerful body of water. Obviously, swimming isn’t recommended this time of year, especially without a lifeguard on duty. (That is obvious, right?)

1600 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

(312) 742-5121

Sledding at Soldier Field

So the Bears didn’t exactly work Soldier Field this season, but that’s no reason you can’t. Renovations a few years back included the construction of a mammoth hill, which is just perfect for sledding. And, since it’s free, you can definitely plan on hitting the slope with the coolest (and chilliest) of your friends.

425 E. McFetridge Drive, Chicago

(312) 235-7000

Horse-drawn carriage ride

Do your kids only see the city lights as they’re whipping by on Lake Shore Drive? Slow your pace and take a step back in time on a horse-drawn carriage ride around downtown Chicago. Imagine: enjoying the bustle without focusing on turn signals or bus schedules! That’s worth the price of admission right there.

806 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

(312) 988-9090

Tubing at Villa Olivia

For those who take their careening downhill a tad more seriously than others, head to the northwest suburbs and take advantage of Villa Olivia’s awesome course, a conveyor belt (aka the Magic Carpet) and two hours of fast-paced fun. Kids under 6 get to share your ride–and your ticket price!

1401 W. Lake St., Bartlett

(630) 289-1000

Snowshoeing at Northerly Island

Scenic Northerly Island is the perfect place to try your hand (or foot) at strapping on some snowshoes and hitting the open fields. Feeling more stationary? Plop down anywhere in the 91-acre peninsula and roll up a snowman, create a snowball arsenal–or make a solid plan to warm up in the field house.

1400 S. Lynn White Drive, Chicago

(312) 745-2910

Waterfall Glen

One of the most scenic parts of Illinois, the geologically impressive Waterfall Glen features more than 2,000 acres of stunning nature, all formed from one gigantic, ancient glacier. Past fun has included nature walks, model airplane events, and all manner of outdoorsy ways to enjoy your own personal Terabithia.

Main entrance on Northgate Road, Darien

(630) 933-7200

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