The weather’s not so frightful

OK, so it’s cold outside. That doesn’t mean we have to spend the next couple of months cooped up in the house with the kids. There’s still lots to do in Chicago and the suburbs if you’re willing to bundle up and brave the weather.

One of my family’s favorite things to do in the frosty weather is head to the zoo—in Brookfield or Lincoln Park. It’s never crowded. Cold-weather animals, like polar bears, are out and about and there are lots of inside areas where you can warm up.

Also, local nature centers offer kids the chance to burn off some energy as they hike along snow-covered paths. When you’ve had enough of the cold air, you can head inside to learn more about local animals or the tracks you may have seen in the snow. Check out our Finding Nature section for details about nearby zoos and nature centers and their winter offerings.

You can also try out some winter sports like sledding, skiing and snowshoeing. We’ve added listings in the Sports section for local areas where you can plan a skiing trip. Some of the nature centers rent snowshoes and cross country skis so you can try the sport with your family without breaking the bank. Or dig out your ice skates and head to Millennium Park for some exercise.

In November and December, experience outdoor holiday magic by visiting the holiday walks offered in many suburbs. Geneva’s Christmas Walk includes visits with Santa and refreshments. In Westmont, a local park becomes a fairyland of decorated trees and elaborate holiday displays with a holiday parade and visits with Santa during the annual Holly Days Winter Festival.

Don’t forget Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade—be prepared for crowds and dress warmly since you’ll likely be standing in one spot for a while. Check out the"Fairs and Festivals” section on page 21 for more events during the chilly winter months.

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