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Winter is truly an endurance sport. Once the holiday sprint ends, there comes the marathon that is January and February…and March…and OK, sometimes even into April. Break up the long cold stretch with some winter sports that are actually fun. We’ve picked five of our favorite outdoor activities (one of them is free) to get you and the family out of the house.


ice skating chicago winter family activities

Ice-Skating at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (Free to Skate; $12 for Skate Rental)

The city has a bunch of outdoor rinks, but this one has the best views of the Chicago skyline and a slew of special programming. On the weekends, arrive an hour before the rink opens to take advantage of free lessons. You’ll also need to check out noodle hockey, because that’s a thing.

201 E. Randolph St.; 312-742-1168 or

rei outdoor school chicago winter family activities

Cross-Country Skiing with REI Outdoor School ($50 for Members; $70 for Non-Members)

In this two-hour class, which includes skis and boots, kids 13 and up learn classic ski technique. Parents can learn, too, but may get distracted by the setting: The snowy backdrop of Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course and Chicago’s lakefront makes for the perfect photo op.

3600 N. Recreation Dr.; 312-951-6020 or

snowshoeing chicago winter family activities

Snowshoeing at Northerly Island (Free to Snowshoe; $5 for Snowshoe Rental)

Saturdays and Sundays, Northerly Island Park rents snowshoes for two-hour increments. In the same time span, you could watch Frozen for the umpteenth time, but why not enact your own epic wintry journey? As you navigate the island’s 91 acres of trees, prairie grasses and strolling paths, you just might wish for an actual eternal winter.

1521 S. Linn White Dr.; 312-745-2910 or

sledding at cricket hill chicago winter family activities

Sledding at Cricket Hill (Free)

Sledding is one sport that requires no skill, just gravity. Grab your toboggan, inner tube, hell, even your garbage can lid, and head to this gentle incline tucked between Montrose Beach and Lake Shore Drive for hours of free fun.

Chicago Lakefront between Montrose Avenue and Wilson Drive

scavenger hunt chicago winter family activities

Scavenger Hunt at Morton Arboretum ($14 Admission for Adults; $9 for Kids)

This isn’t just a scavenger hunt; it’s a gnome hunt. Grab a map and set off into the arboretum’s nine miles of hiking trails, which include a four-acre children’s garden and hedge maze. First one to spot a gnome gets out of dish duty.

4100 IL-53 in Lisle; 630-968-0074 or

RELATED: 7 Places You Can Ski and Snowboard Outside Chicago

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