Chicagoans don’t let the cold keep them inside—not when there is so much to do in the Windy City. By the way, Chicago isn’t called the windy city because of the weather. That moniker came courtesy of long-winded politicians.
I asked a lot of Chicago kids their favorite picks for my new Kid’s Guide to Chicago.
Here are 10 of their top picks that are as much fun in January as in June:
1. Get bird's eye view
The views from the top of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and SKYDECK Chicago on top of the Willis Tower are like none other. Here you can step outside in glass boxes that extend out 4.3 feet—1,353 feet in the air. The Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, by the way, is modeled after the world’s first Ferris wheel that was built for Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the World's Fair.
2. Ride the 'L'
Riding the “L” through Chicago’s downtown is a favorite thing to do the Windy City because you can stay warm while taking in many great sites. The "L" is the nickname of Chicago’s public transport system and the downtown is called the Loop because the area is encircled by elevated train tracks.
3. Meet a T-Rex
Get up close and personal with Sue, the world’s most complete T-Rex at the world-famous Field Museum. She’s 13 ft. tall!
4. Explore a German sub
Head to the Museum of Science and Industry where you can explore a U-505 German submarine and feel like what it's like to be in a real coal mine (in a simulator, of course). Kids also shouldn’t miss the Fairy Castle dollhouse, complete with the tiniest Bible ever written.
5. Hit the park
Take a picture with the skyline reflected in the big Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Bean.” In addition to exploring the miles of rolling terrain and extensive lakes, kids can go ice skating here all winter.
6. Take in some art
The Thorne Miniature Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago has furniture tinier than your fingers. You can also see many famous paintings, including American Gothic by Grant Wood and Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. The Art Institute is always free for kids under 14.
7. Go on safari
Visit Africa without leaving Chicago, where you go nose-to-nose with the gorillas and chimps at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Check out baby King, a black rhinoceros, who recently made his public debut, and don't miss the polar bears while you’re there.
8. Experience deep dish heaven
Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza. Did you know that this regional culinary treat was invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943?
9. Shop til you drop
Shop along North Michigan Avenue, known as Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, where kids flock to the American Girl and the LEGO stores. Everyone loves the vertical mall Water Tower Place, and Accent Chicago, at the base of the John Hancock Center is a good bet for everything Chicago.
10. Catch a game
Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando, LA and Chicago. Coming later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.