Snow, sleet, cold ... is Chicago really worth a winter visit? For those willing to brave the elements, the answer is yes. Summer's street fests and boat tours may be packed away for the season, but winter visitors are awarded with fewer crowds and some hot hotel deals. Here are four ways to enjoy Chicago in the cold:
- Music: Escape frigid temps by ducking into one of Chicago's legendary music joints. The Green Mill and Kingston Mines are can't-misses for live jazz and blues music. If your taste falls more in line with the indie set, you'll feel right at home at intimate concert halls like the Metro, Park West, Lincoln Hall or Schubas. Lastly, check out the schedule at The Hideout, which hosts up-and-coming rock bands and is aptly named for its hidden-away location on the city's west side.
- Restaurants: Chicago's restaurant scene is an eclectic collection of casual gastropubs, nationally ranked fine dining and even some "Top Chef"-helmed eateries. The much-hyped Eataly opened its first Chicago location this month, bringing the city two floors of specialty pasta, cheeses and wine, as well as a mouthwatering Nutella bar. Head to the West Loop neighborhood to check out the ever-changing "Restaurant Row" (a French liquor bar, an upscale diner and an Asian noodle spot are just a few of the options), or stay downtown to try out one of the deep dish pizza spots. Not sure where to start? Check out these specially negotiated restaurant deals.
- Museums: Chicago has an impressive collection of museums and artifacts -- from the 65-million-year-old T-rex at the Field Museum to well-known works from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali at the Art Institute's 264,000-foot Modern Wing. Illinois residents can snag free days in January and February (check out individual museum websites to find out when). Those who aren't from the Land of Lincoln should pick up a CityPass, which includes admission to up to five must-see sights for nearly half off.
- Indoor markets: Once you've hit up the stores on Michigan Avenue, peruse the indoor markets for unique artisan wares. Local produce and baked goods can be found at the downtown French Market (open every day but Sunday) or at the popular Green City farmer's market, which moves indoors every other Saturday January-April. Sundays bring trendsetter to Dose Market, where you'll find an eclectic marketplace filled with vintage clothing, homemade spirits and fashion-forward accessories.
--Ashley Hamilton is a deal expert based in Chicago. Travelzoo has over 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.