How to Survive a Winter in Chicago


Midwest winters are known for their wind, rain and sub–zero chills. As the region’s biggest city, Chicago has been nicknamed the “Windy City” precisely for having some of the coldest, harshest winters of any U.S. metropolis. Nonetheless, even in the toughest of winters, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Chicago, as long as you know how to weather the storms.

Weather-Proof Your House or Apartment

Nearly four decades have passed since Jimmy Carter advised Americans to turn down their heaters and wear sweaters in order to save on energy. Today, as conservation becomes an even more pressing concern, those words from the 39th president ring more true than ever. However, dressing warmly for the winter is just part of what it takes to beat the cold. You also need to proof your living quarters for maximum insulation. The following tips will help you save on your heating costs during Chi–town’s colder months:

  • Place strips of foam or plastic along the edges of each door to the outside of your home or apartment, as well as around all the windows. Strips can be found at most hardware stores.
  • Also get window insulation kits and blow dry the transparent sheets into place along the window frames.
  • Get a pre–programmable thermostat from your gas company. Peoples Gas — Chicago’s main provider — offers these for free to customers upon request. For times when you’re at home, set the thermostat in the upper 60s. When you’re away, set it in the lower 60s.


Keep Your Dogs Warm

The shivers of winter affect more than just people here in the Windy City. Dogs can also suffer when the temperatures drop too low for comfort. Here are some things you can do to ensure that your four–legged friend is as bundled up as you are before heading out into the wind, snow and sleet:

  • Fit your dog with a water–resistant coat that’s snug yet flexible enough for the little fellow to move around in.
  • Place paw covers on your canine’s feet to protect the dog from snow, ice and salt on the street. This is especially important if your dog is a puppy.
  • Keep your dog’s leg hairs shortly trimmed during cold months. Hairs that hang over the paws can get drenched with water and quickly freeze during walks in the winter cold.
  • Like humans, dogs are not acclimated to severely cold climates and are therefore vulnerable to frostbite. If your dog gets the shivers during an outing, head back inside immediately.

Prepare Your Vehicle

A car can have trouble starting up and handling commutes if it’s not properly equipped for the freezing cold temperatures and icy, salty roads of wintertime. As suggested by the DMV, the following steps should be undertaken with your vehicle to ensure it weathers the cold months well:

  • Check the coolant level for optimal performance. For anti–corrosion protection, the coolant reservoir should contain 60 percent antifreeze and 40 percent water.
  • Inspect the battery for signs of erosion along the cables. Cracks are likelier to form during winter months, which are typically more challenging to battery performance.
  • Snow tires are essential during white seasons, whether the snow and sleet covers all of greater Chicago or only the parts that comprise a portion of your regular commutes.
  • In extreme cold, trouble can arise with the car doors, such as in cases where the locks freeze and fail to unlock or cause the key to break. In order to avoid such problems, speak with your mechanic about de–icing the vehicle in advance of prolonged cold spells.


Map Out Public Transit

Thanks to mobile technology, it’s easier than ever to navigate the Chicago Transit Authority. With the following apps, you can get virtually anywhere around the Windy City, even in during the frostiest months.

  • Moovit: A mass–transit planner app that pinpoints the nearest stops and keeps you current on arrival and departure schedules. Works with Android and iOS units.
  • Roll with Me: An app designed for wheelchair-bound Chicagoans. By entering in your current whereabouts and intended destination, the app will inform you of the nearest and soonest rides with handicapped access.
  • CycleFinder: Users of Chi–town’s bike-sharing network, Divvy, can use this app to locate the nearest docking points when making two-wheel commutes to and from work, school and the supermarket.

Take Extra Precautions While Cycling

Providing you and your bike are adequately equipped, cycling can be just as safe during winter as any other time of year. When Chicago is at its coldest and windiest, the following steps can make two-wheel commutes a breeze.

  • Equip your bike with fenders. This will minimize the amount of water that gets kicked up at you, and it will also spare the wheel parts from accumulating rust-causing water exposure.
  • Put on a windbreaker, face mask and gloves before heading out on your bike. This will guard your body, face and hands from harsh, opposing winds while riding.
  • Sign up for the Divvy bike share program. This will allow you the option of busing back home on days where the weather gets too severe to cycle back.
  • Stick to streets where the snow and sleet have been plowed away. The ClearStreets app can help you keep track of these routes.

Maintain a Social Life

When the weather gets cold, so do a lot of social contacts. During the season where everyone is 1) spending time with relatives for the holidays and 2) staying indoors to avoid the chills, fewer people manage to make time for friends during winter months. The reasons for this are largely down to logistics. Simply put, most people find it too cold to get out and go anywhere unless it’s an obligation, such as work or grocery shopping. Nonetheless, there are plenty of fun things to do around Chicago at all times of the year, even when you don’t want to brave the outdoors. The following museums and galleries are among the many local establishments that offer free attractions year-round, providing ample quality time among friends and family.


  • DePaul Art Museum in Lincoln Park, 935 W. Fullerton Ave: With 15,000 square feet of space, DePaul houses artwork from various time periods and genres, along with presentations, lectures and special events. Artists who have recently been featured at the museum include old masters such as Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya and Rembrandt, as well as classic photographers such as Eugéne Atget and Berenice Abbott.
  • Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University, 18 S. Michigan Ave: As the Windy City’s leading space for politically themed photography, Gage features exhibits that tackle many of today’s most pressing social issues, including poverty, inner-city violence, immigration and LGBT rights. Many renowned photographers have featured at the gallery, including Edmund Clark, Milton Rogovin and Eugene Richards. Additionally, Gage features educational lectures and talks by the people behind the lens.
  • Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S. Michigan Ave: Since its inception at Columbia College during bicentennial year, 1976, the museum has functioned in association with painters and photographers, as well as institutions and community groups both domestically and abroad.
    As such, the museum has pulled together some of the greatest exhibits of art and technology from a multitude of sources. Furthermore, the museum holds lectures and offers educational opportunities for students, researchers, teachers and general audiences who take interest in contemporary art and photography.
  • National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street: Since 1982, this museum has served as the foremost exhibiting space for Mexican and Latino artwork in the Chicago area. Situated in Harrison Park, it’s the only museum of its kind that holds the honor of American Alliance of Museums accreditation. With its mission to present Mexican culture as one free of borders, the museum features a permanent display of artwork spanning five periods of Mexican history.
  • The Whistler in Logan Square, 2421 N. Milwaukee Ave: From the outside, viewers are treated to a new installation of art in the front window each month. Inside, visitors can take in the sounds of live, local bands and DJ spins while kicking back on wood benches and sipping cocktails and tequila, all at no cover charge.

Keep Your Spirits High

In the winter months, feelings of depression are common among people from all walks of life, especially when cabin fever takes hold as communities lie in the grips of severe weather. While it’s nothing major in most cases, factors such as reduced sunlight, shorter days, overcast skies and limited activity can all be taxing on the human spirit over spans of three or four months. Since these feelings are generally subclinical, they can usually be overcome with the following activities:

    • Cardiovascular exercise: Whenever you’re bored and down, one of the most effective ways to boost energy, increase blood circulation, and put spare time to good use is through repetitions on exercise equipment. Even though people typically work out less during colder months, you should never let the winter blues break any workout goal you’ve set for yourself, especially if you have a gym membership or a cardio machine at home.
    • Weight lifting: People typically resolve to undertake workout regimens late in the spring, the idea being to tone up in preparation for summer trips to the coast. Instead of making your workout goals a springtime plan, get your start ahead of the curve, such as during the coldest months of the year when the gyms are less crowded.
    • Light therapy: One of the leading causes of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is lack of sunlight. Light therapy is one of the most effective ways to combat the symptoms of SAD. A light therapy lamp can help raise your energy, boost your serotonin and melatonin levels, reduce carb cravings, and curb afternoon fatigue and sleep deprivation disorder.
    • Meditation: People are always concerned about something. Even if you’ve crossed off all of your obligations for the day, chances are you’re already thinking about tomorrow’s list of to-do’s. Sometimes even your hobbies can be stressful, simply because you have to take time to make time for them. For all these reasons and more, there are times when you need to put everything aside, forget about your cares, and simply meditate.


Stay Healthy

When so much energy is spent trying to stay warm and manage commutes through hostile weather, it’s often difficult to keep up your physical and dietary health. The following steps can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, even when you’re buried under layers due to freezing temperatures and stuck at home due to hazardous road conditions.

      • If you normally run five miles per day, keep up the pace throughout the winter, unless the weather is too cold or hazardous. If the weather poses moderate challenges, try running four or even two miles per day. Remember, even smaller amounts of exercise count.
      • Eat a balanced diet complete with plenty of vegetables. No matter what you choose to have as a main course, the addition of vegetables can add nutrition to all sorts of meals.
      • Sign up for some kind of athletic competition, such as a spring race, that requires your time and practice during the winter months.
      • Take vitamin D supplements. This helps to compensate for the lack of natural exposure to D compounds the human body is exposed to throughout the rest of the year via sunlight. Foods rich in life-extending, bone-strengthening D compounds include carrots, broccoli, papaya, apricot, avocado, cheese and bell peppers.
      • If you lack either a gym membership or on-site workout facility at your apartment complex, browse the online marketplaces for cheap, athletic boot camps and open-door classes at nearby fitness centers. Gym deals that beat the prices of annual memberships can often be found on sites such as LivingSocial and Groupon.


Use the Pedway

Downtown Chicago boasts a special feature that isn’t found in most other major cities: an underground network of tunnels that spans more than 40 blocks and connects at least 50 buildings. In the Pedway, you can browse block after block of shops and businesses while avoiding noisy streetcars, lengthy stop signs, rush hour traffic and the winter rain and cold.

Linking Metra’s Millennium Station, the CTA’s State Street and Dearborn Street stations, and many other points along the city commute, the Pedway houses numerous stores and eateries throughout its seemingly never-ending concourse, which spans over five miles under Chicago’s business district.

Adjust Your Daily Habits

When outside temperatures get too cold for comfort, the minutes you burn could leave you freezing. Therefore, the outings you’d normally do on whim should be examined and measured at the start of any day where the forecast calls for rain, snow, heavy winds or record–low temperatures. The following are among the foremost things to bear in mind:

      • Do all of your supply shopping in bulk before strong weather hits. If the five–day forecast calls for snowy, hazardous conditions, take inventory of your household essentials — light bulbs, toilet paper, soap, deodorant, batteries, canned goods, coffee, etc. — and stock up now on anything you’ll need to tide you through the housebound days ahead. When it’s -15 degrees outside, few things can be more inconvenient than having to dash to the supermarket just for hand soap.
      • Don’t wear metal–framed glasses in sub–zero temperatures. They’ll freeze up quickly and make your face even colder. Likewise, don’t wear metal earrings or accessories when braving extremely cold weather.
      • Don’t leave home with your hair still wet. In freezing temperatures, your hair is more liable to turn to icicles than to dry naturally.


Travel to a Warm Destination

The Windy City chills don’t extend to all parts of the world between November and February. Down in the Southern Hemisphere, the hottest time of year actually falls during the holiday season. With Christmas out of the way but months of cold ahead, the timing could be perfect for a week–long trip to a country that’s all sun and bikinis in the month of January.

If you’ve ever dreamed of taking a trip to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Brazil or Argentina, the first two months of the year could be the perfect time to book a flight and accommodations for you and a loved one. An escape from the Midwest chills could be the ultimate way of giving yourself a belated Christmas gift.


Dress Warmly to Beat the Cold

When weather gets extreme, you can’t be too vain. Whether it’s a makeup-melting heat wave or a hairdo-destroying windstorm, Mother Nature is seldom friendly to the fashion minded. Therefore, the best route to take when dressing for cold, severe weather is one of practicality. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be frumpy, just that it’s best to wear plenty of thick, warm layers.

For the upper half of the body, the following layers can arm you with the best possible defense against freezing temperatures and wind chill during those minutes when you need to be outside in sub–zero weather:

      • One long–sleeved, thermal underwear top and/or snug turtleneck top
      • Two wool sweaters, preferably with plenty of give at the underarms
      • A fully buttoned, double-breasted trench coat or fully zipped leather jacket
      • Wool gloves, a wraparound scarf and a stocking cap

From the waist on down, the following items can help you beat the odds of a cold day:

      • Men: Long johns under Levis 501s with two/three layers of socks, plus a pair of strong boots or shoes with traction, such as Doc Martens. If it’s super cold outside, you could even opt for two layers of jeans, such as a snug, straight–legged pair under a looser pair.
      • Women: Cotton tights under skinny jeans, along with knee-high boots or slouch socks and ankle boots. If you’re braving the cold for a dressy occasion, wear two layers of pantyhose with your skirt or dress.

Get Food Delivered to Your Home or Apartment

When it’s too cold to cook, be thankful that you live in a city that’s large enough to offer a full array of delivery options. In Chicago, you can order food from a wide variety of restaurants that offer everything from Vietnamese or Thai to Indian or Italian. Best of all, you can have these types of meals delivered to your door without going through the trouble of trekking through the wind, rain, snow and sleet just to get the food to your table.


Many of today’s restaurants have adopted to the needs of modern–day consumers by offering the following options:

      • The ability to order on the Internet, where you simply browse a restaurant’s website, select the food you want, place your order, submit your address and wait for delivery.
      • Apps for ordering food via smartphones or pads — you simply browse a restaurant’s app on your Android or iOS device and place your order with a few simple prompts.

Order Pizza Online from Giordano’s

When it’s cold outside, few things are more fun than pizza by the fireplace. Whether you’re in the company of family, friends, coworkers or roommates, order-in pizza is one of the most delicious ways to keep your taste buds fulfilled. All around Chicago, Giordano’s offers pizza delivery from 16 different downtown locations. If you’re feeling hungry for a deep-dish, thin crust, or extra–thin crust pizza, check out our menu and order delivery online options and do one of the following:

        • Order online: Whether you crave the Super Veggie, Cheese + 2, or Meat & More Meat, you can order any pizza you want through our website. We’ll deliver it hot and ready to serve at your doorstep!
        • Order by phone: Does Fresh Spinach stir your appetite, or is the Chicago Classic more up your alley? Either way, make your selection from our online menu and dial in your order the old-fashioned way.


With so many tasty ingredients to choose from, your party deserves to have a Giordano’s delivery straight at your door today.