101 Things to do in Winter presented by The Park District of Highland Park

The Park District of Highland Park is the sponsor of our 101 Things to do in Winter guide. Find more than 101 things to do at their parks, classes and seasonal activities.

Winter, it sometimes feels like it takes up more than a fair share of our year. However, it doesn’t have to mean the end of fun and hibernation, we’re not bears! There is plenty to do in Lake County, both indoors and outdoors, to keep both you and the kids entertained all winter long.  Embrace winter this year, and it won’t seem so long, maybe, at least it will be more fun!

things to do in winter

101 Things to do in Winter

Items are listed in no particular order. Please (with extra fine candy sugar on top) click the link and check all listings before heading out. Little Lake County is not responsible for changes or cancellations.

Sledding– it will snow again, you can count on that. So pick up some sleds and head to one of the many local sledding hills in Lake County.

Ice Skating – another winter sport that’s great for creating memories. Find an outdoor rink near you, if it stays cold long enough, or…

Ice Skate inside the Mall – yep, inside, in shorts, though it’s not required. The Skate Room has ice free skating everyday the mall is open.

Hot Chocolate Trail – create your own with our favorites or make your own DIY chocolate to take on a trail with you and….

Hike one LCFPD trails – the forest preserves don’t close in the winter. Find ones that are opened, some even with solar lights, at the LCFPD website.

Roller Skate – no big bangs needed. Relieve your childhood and introduce your kids to some classic fun. Try Bella’s Skate on Grand or Xtreme Wheels .

Visit a Museum – we have lots of options both locally and in Chicago or Milwaukee. Many will have free days in the new year.

Paint a Picture – grab a canvas at a local art store and have fun!

Bounce – the kids are bouncing all over the house anyway, let them do it somewhere safe and fun!

See a Movie – skip the megaplex and head to one of Lake County’s small movie theaters. Many offer more reasonable pricing or special discount days – and they still have the latest movies!

Go on a Culinary Adventure – grab our Passport to Flavor and some of our fun printables to encourage your children to try some new global cuisines.

Bowl – through a strike , try for a turkey, or just roll out the bumpers and have a grand old time. Try Pinstripes or one of these local bowling alleys.

Snowshoe – remember I said embrace winter? Try something new and snowshoe. River Trail in Northbrook offers rentals and events.

Visit McHenry County.

Celebrate at a Winter Festival– most of these are totally dependent on weather and having snow.  Try WinterFest at Volo Bog for one that is not 100% dependent on there being snow.

Watch the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. 

Surprise the kids and build a family size fort.

Mail a hug to someone who needs it.

Dance – throw on your favorite tunes and dance around the house.

See a Show – Lake County has a thriving Children’s Theatre Community.

Go Swimminginside of course!

It’s always summer in the Greenhouses- visit the Chicago Botanic Gardens greenhouses. Go on a scavenger hunt or visit on a Monday for storytime.

Visit a new to you Library – we have so many real cool libraries, venture outside of your neighborhood.

Be a Ninja – let the kids express their inner Ninja at Ultimate Ninjas or play as a family at their Friday Night Family Ninja nights.

things to do in winter

WinterFest at Centennial Arena – Celebrate winter at this FREE family event on Saturday, January 12, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.! Enjoy indoor ice skating and open gymnastics time. Don’t know how to skate? Our skating instructors offer free group lessons. Food is available for purchase. Special costumed friends will meet and greet your little ones. Centennial Ice Arena is located at 3100 Trail Way, Highland Park, IL. For more information call 847. 432.4790.

Visit a Bog -it’s an interesting natural adventure and the only one in Illinois!

Art & Coffee-visit Daiy’s Artish Cafe and enjoy fresh coffee and some local art. She frequently host musical storytimes and other kid-friendly events.

Bake – it’s winter! No better time to try all those recipes you’ve been pinning.

Shop – give your kids $5 and set them loose at a dollar store and let them cherish whatever crazy things they pick out.

How about a YES day – really shock your kids and have a yes day! You want to go the library? YES! You want spaghetti tacos? YES!

Speaking of Pinterest – let your kids pick out a project and actually do it.

Have a Board Game Night – these are some of our favorite.

Volunteer – Loralie does it at Feed my Starving Children with kids over age 6.

Visit the Raupp Museum in Buffalo Grove for a Winter Walk-in or Museum Minis.

Indoor Playgrounds – of course there is the mall and some fast food restaurants, but also The Treehouse and Yu Kids Island.

Choo Choo – food deliver can be fun at one of these Train Themed restaurants.

Be a Spy – visit the Safehouse (Chicago or Milwaukee) and pretend your 007 on a mission to rescue the Queen (or you know, entertain kids).

Sky Dive – not from a plane, inside at iFly! Several of our writers have gone and loved it.

Visit a restaurant that’s older than your kids – these tried and true Lake County restaurants fit the bill (for most of you with young kids!)

Go to a Jousting Event – happening nightly at Medieval Times.

Visit Chicago – we have lots of ideasor if you prefer an entire itinerary (with map) and the whole day will only cost you $20.

Breakfast for Dinner – because winter needs waffles.

and chicken – Mike’s Donuts & Chicken to be exact.

and Hot Dogs – specifically Vienna Beef Factory Store. Basically we get through winter by making eating fun.

Visit a Winter Farmers Market because you still need veggies.

Ride a Train – Hop on the Milwaukee North Metra Line and visit these five kid-friendly stops.

Discovery World Museum – as awesome as Chicago Museums with less traffic and a smaller size for little kids.

Volunteer – at Bernie’s Book Bank children pretty young can get in, my preschooler helped at our event.

Purge – your stuck inside might as well put the kids to work! Have them go through their toys, books and games,  and donate them.

things to do in winter

Nature Discovery Day at Heller Nature Center – Bring the whole family for this FREE day of fun on Saturday, February 2, 10:00 a.m. – Noon! Visit the nature classrooms. Complete a craft to take home, explore the science of nature, go sledding or cross-country skiing, view live animals and enjoy a roasted marshmallow around a crackling campfire. Activities may vary, and some may be weather dependent. Heller Nature Center is located at 2821 Ridge Road, Highland Park, IL. For more information call 847.433.6901.

 Visit Milwaukee for the day, or a weekend.

Go Tubing at Wilmot Mountain.

Explain to your kids that Wilmot is not really a mountain in the literal definition of a mountain.

Take a different train ride. We’ve got five more kid-friendly stops on the Union Pacific North Line.

Learn how maple syrup is made at a Maple Syrup Hike, pancakes not included.

Visit the Jelly Belly Center in Pleasant Prairie.

Declare it Pajama day. Take it up a notch and find a pajama storytime on our calendar, bonus points if mom wears her PJs too.

Find an open gym near you or try a new one and let them run until they willingly take a nap.

Visit Richmond.

While your there get a brat.

Pretend your an Olympian and start training for 2022.

Take up Curling. There are two clubs in Lake County, Exmoor Country Club and The Chicago Curling Club, both hold open times and learning nights.

Jump on a Trampoline you don’t have to build or give up your backyard for. Try Rockin’ Jump in Buffalo Grove.

Ski Jump don’t do it, watch it! Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove has been hosting tournaments and training Olympians since 1905. This years big event is January 26 and 27.

Go on a Dessert Walk, because Winter.

Light a Candle – close your eyes and imagine your someplace tropical.

Let the kids make dinner.

Have Pizza as a back up.

Find Dinosaurs in Lake County.

or find dinosaurs in Kenosha.

I bet you could find dinosaurs in Chicago too.

Go out to eat for no reason (the reason is actually that Kids Eat Free)

Ride a Horse. Try Pferde Farm, Braiarhill Farm or Creekside Farm.

Escape. No you can’t escape winter, but you can explore an escape room.

Leave the kids at home and take a cooking class

dunn mueum libertyville
Dunn Museum, Libertyville

Get a babysitter and go on a date night, they can be done  without breaking the bank.

It’s never too cold for a milkshake.

Let the kids do the grocery shopping. You have to do it anyway, might as well make it fun. Try Meijer or Aldi.

Give each kid a roll of quarters and go to an arcade.
Try Family Fun Center in Waukegan.

Check out a Museum Adventure Pass and visit someplace new to you.

Try ArtWauk it happens monthly in Waukegan’s Arts District with different venues and offers.

Enjoy a model railroad every month at Fremont Library (generally the second Saturday)

Look at the Stars – bundle up and look at the stars at an Astronomy Night. Ryerson Center hosts the Skokie Valley Astronomers on the second Friday of the month and Volo Bog has a monthly astronomy night on the 3rd Friday of the month.

Challenge another family to WhirlyBall

Enjoy a concert and history with the Early Music Series at Byron Colby Barn, bonus the kids are free.

Learn to knit, some of these shops will teach you.

Tumble. Or at least pretend you can do gymnastics, many of these locations have open gyms to try it out.

Build a Snowman.

Go rock climbing. Try FunTopia or First Ascent.

Take care of yourself mama and get a mammogram. (this is really a reminder for me since I forgot last year).

Visit the Racine Zoo. Even if it’s colder it’s smaller and more manageable for little people than the bigger Chicago area zoos.

Visit the giant fish tank at Bass Pro Shop. Fish feedings happen every Friday at 1:00 p.m.

Learn to Draw. Here are a few places your kids can take art classes.

Throw an un-birthday party

Visit the Wildlife Discovery Center – a FREE gem in Lake Forest.

Deliver Cookies to your local police or fire station.

Learn to play an instrument. Try Knight Music School for lessons.

Throw a Super Bowl Party to cheer on the Chicago Bears! Also for the snacks.

Join a gym that has great childcare.  You don’t have to work out, sit in the sauna and enjoy the quiet while your kids play.

Sign-up for a kids Home Depot Workshop. Maybe they will learn enough skills to help refinish your basement.  Or just have some free fun.

You read this whole list so you’re clearly crazy. Use that crazy for good and take the Polar Plunge.


Nestled along Lake Michigan, the Park District of Highland Park has a mystique all its own just waiting to be discovered. Explore our historic parks and national award-winning Lake Michigan beaches. What other place produces Olympic athletes and its own honey, let alone thousands of programs and events to knock your socks off?

camping on the beach
Camping on Rosewood Beach

Whether you are interested in discovering nature on our beaches or woods, trying a new sport or fitness program, testing your creativity with an arts class …or just having fun at one of our world class events, there is no reason to wait. Start your Adventure Today!

park district of highland park

Park District of Highland Park
636 Ridge Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035 | (847) 831-3810
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Disclosure: The park District of Highland Park is the paid sponsor of our 101 Things to do in winter guide. All thoughts, opinions, and optimism on a Chicago Bears Super Bowl belong to the writer. 

Dance academy of Libertyville
About Melissa Haak 1198 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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