Whenever I tell people I’m from Chicago, I get one of two responses: either they pretend to hold a Tommy gun while yelling “Al Capone! The mob!” (okay, that only happened once—but it did happen!); or, they get a piteous look in their eyes and gasp, “But it’s so cold there.”
Yes, it gets cold here. But the thing that I like about Chicago in the cold is that we don’t let it slow us down. Other cities threaten to completely shut down at the slightest dusting of snow; not Chicago. Other cities’ fashion sensibilities frown upon wearing puffy coats and ski masks without a decent ski hill within three hours; not Chicago. Other cities cancel school when they don’t want their youngsters freezing at bus stops; actually, maybe that’s not the worst idea in the world.
So it is with this Chicagoan can-do spirit that I will embrace a seemingly bizarre notion and begin this blog, dedicated almost exclusively to outdoor recreational spaces, in December. Excellent timing, I know.
Throughout this cold season (so yes, basically through May) I will be highlighting some of the possible activities, excitements, and allures of our city’s public spaces. Before I start, though, I just wanted to offer a few tips, hints, and suggestions to remind you how possible it is to stay active even if the mercury in your thermometer isn’t.
5. Go downtown. I know the throngs of people can be hard to deal with, especially while the holidays are in gear, but they're there for a reason. It’s a great time to cruise down Michigan Avenue and State Street to admire the decorations, and later stop at Daley Plaza for some authentic Gluhwein and blown-glass ornaments at Christkindlmarkt. Also remember the ice-skating rink that will linger in Millennium Park well through the winter. The bonus of being downtown is that, even though the nearby lake and skyscrapers create wind tunnels, there is always a coffee shop or a Pedway entrance nearby that you can duck into for warmth.
4. Work out on the lakefront path without feeling like you’re running with the bulls in Pamplona. Once you get going, you can focus more on your exercise and not constantly worry that you’re about to rear-end someone way more into their iPod than the path.
3. Go ice skating. The Chicago Park District has multiple free rinks throughout the city; or, if you’re not up for travelling to a rink, you never have to travel far to find a poorly salted sidewalk.
2. Visit one of the city’s cultural centers. They’re mostly free, warm, and will make you feel all sophisticated and junk.
1. If you miss the greenery, visit one of the city’s conservatories or greenhouses. You may even overheat in these botanical gems, and you’ll still feel like you’re outside. Win-win!
This is by no means a comprehensive list and I’m excited to investigate what else the city has to offer—and to dig up any of the issues or controversies behind these places. Feel free to offer some suggestions of your own and remind us why you love Chicago in the winter!