Surviving the Chicago Winter

surviving chicago winterPhoto Credit

Winter in Chicago is long. And cold. And slushy. We Chicagoans don’t let it get to us, though. There are plenty of winter activities to tide us over until summer, and who can pass up a hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps? We do have a few pointers, though, for those who aren’t used to the Windy City winter. Check out these tips for surviving the season…

Embracing Outdoor Activities

Yes, you heard right. I said outdoor activities. During Chicago winters many of us tend to hibernate for the season in favor of staying warm and dry. But what fun is that? Instead, we suggest getting out and enjoying the seasonal activities that make winter in Chicago so special. Why resent the cold when you can embrace it?

Go ice skating at one of the city’s numerous rinks, grab your toboggan and head for the hills, or fill a thermos with spiked cider and visit Lincoln Park’s Zoo Lights.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Even if you can’t bring yourself to get out into the cold, there are plenty of places to stay warm and enjoy good comfort food and tasty libations. Grab some friends and find a bar with a nice fireplace, like Moody’s in Edgewater or Old Town Social in Lincoln Park.

Lots of restaurants also have specials and discounted menus throughout the winter to keep clientele coming in during the slower, colder winter months. The Signature Room at the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center offers a three-course gourmet lunch for an awesome price of only $20 (served weekdays from 1/3 – 3/31). While you’re up there, you can skate in the sky, too — no earmuffs necessary!

Chicago Restaurant Week 2011 is also slated for February 18-27, so we can all look forward to those prix-fixe deals at great restaurants.

The Lawn Chair “Dibs”

Gone are the days when lawn chairs are used for soaking up sun at the beach. Nope. These trusty folding chairs take on a new job in the winter months — a very clear sign to BACK THE F!#% OFF.

Parking in Chicago during the winter months can become a real hassle, especially when it snows. There’s nothing fun about getting snowed in to your street spot and having to shovel yourself out at 6am in order to get to work on time. That’s why clever Chicagoans have come up with a way to battle the cycle. Shovel your spot out once, and save it ’til the next snow. How, you ask? With a lawn chair, obviously. Yep, city residents will spend hours shoveling the perfect parking spot, so why would they want to give it away? As a show of ownership of territory, we’ll place a lawn chair in the newly cleared spot. Sawhorses, milk crates and card tables also double as territory markers for the season. Though not technically legal, it’s a risk many residents are willing to take.

If you dare to move these placeholders in favor of snagging the perfect parking spot, all we can say is… beware.

The Winter Overnight Parking Ban

Speaking of parking… From December 1st until April 1st the City of Chicago enforces an overnight parking ban on 107 miles of the city’s main arterial roads. Though a huge pain in the butt, the point is to keep the roads clear for plowing and salting in the event of snow. Breaking the rules can be fun, but in this case it’ll cost you — $150 minimum towing fee and a $50 ticket. Best to drive around the block a few more times in search of a safe spot. Just watch out for those lawn chairs! Also beware of the 2″ Snow Ban during winter storms.

Our advice? Always, always read the parking signs carefully no matter where you park. To see a complete list of the streets included in the ban, visit the city’s official site here.

The Chicago Pedway

The pedway is a network of underground tunnels and overhead bridges that will get you from one place to another throughout the Loop without forcing you to trek out into the snowy abyss. The pathways cover over 40 blocks of downtown Chicago and contain stores, restaurants, and art, creating both a functional and aesthetically pleasing way for us all to get around. When the weather is just too darn cold, or snowy, or icy… use the pedway. You’ll be warm, and warm is happy.

For an in-depth map of the pedway, click here. Never even heard of the pedway before? Check out these cool tours by Chicago Elevated to get your bearings and learn about the unique history of these urban passages.

And Now for the Obvious… A Winter Wardrobe

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you’re going to need some sturdy attire to make it through a Chicago winter. Taking the bus, walking to the L, digging your car out of its snow-covered parking spot… no matter what your mode of transportation, you’re going to have to step out of your apartment at least for a trip to grocery store every once in a while, and you’re not going to want to wear those TOMS or your super cute Tory Burch flats. Nope, you’re going to need a pair of certified winter boots, and probably a heavy duty coat to match ’em. Like many city folk, we are big fans of Hunter rainboots with the fleece sock inserts — they’ll do the job, keep your feet warm, and hit you high enough on the knee to combat the splattering slush. As for winter wear, one of our favorite spots is a local midwest outpost called Moosejaw. Not only do they price match anything you can find at REI (or anywhere else for that matter), they are also run by an awesome group of people who have dubbed the company “the most fun outdoor retailer ever.” Yep, they said ever. Uncle Dan’s is another a great local spot to pick up some foul weather garb.

Godspeed, Chicagoans. We’ve made it through the holidays… now comes the hard part. See you in the trenches!


PS. Got your own advice for how to survive a Chicago winter? Let us know about it in the comments!

Jackie Berkery

About Jackie Berkery

With a strong phobia of cubicles and those three little words (“nine to five”), I am thrilled to be working on UPchicago from the comforts of my own couch at three o’clock in the morning. I love to write. I love Chicago. Hello, dream job!

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