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The Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition - Things to Do in Illinois on Winter

10 Things To Add To Your Illinois Winter Bucket List (2024)

Winters in Illinois are long. They go all the way from November through April, most of which is typically snowfall and harsh breeze. Even though the Prairie State is known for its summers, the craze for winters here is no exception. While the grounds are layered with fluffy and fresh snow, Illinois does not go into hibernation. Instead, the fun and abundance of winter activities come to the scene, keeping the aura warm and lighted all the while.

Winter vacations in Illinois are guaranteed to match the equally impressive fun as of the summer vacations. It may not be the most celebrated winter destination in the U.S. However, the ones who look upon the mid-west totally adore Illinois winters. If you are visiting Illinois during winters the very first time, you can hit up for the classic and top-rated. However, if you have experienced the basics before, some hidden and unexpected fun is waiting for you.

10 Things To Add To Your Illinois Winter Bucket List

So, are you ready to plan up your Illinois winter vacation?

1. Try Polar Plunge in Chicago If You Are Brave Enough

At the top of your Illinois winter bucket list, it definitely has to be the Polar Plunge in Chicago. A Polar Plunge is basically an annual event organized every year in the month of January. It is when hundreds and thousands of brave hearts gather to take a high-noon dip in the waters of Lake Michigan. The event directly benefits the Special Olympics athletes through donations and fundraisings. You can be a local or an Illinois visitor to be a part of this game. However, dipping in freezing water in the month of January is actually an extremely daring task. The event is followed by warming foods & beverages nearby.

2. Be a Part Of The Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition In Rockford

If you think snow sculpting is a child’s play, try being a part of the Snow Sculpting Competition in Rockford. Happening for 35 years, the snow sculpting event organizes annually, at the end of January. Whether you are a renowned artist or a hobbyist, anyone can become a part of this event for free. Every year hundreds of sculptors from around the State and Nation come visit Rockford to showcase their skills. The ones who win are further eligible for the following year’s national competition. Winners are granted awards and even price money sometimes. If not for being a part of the competition, you can come here to enjoy yourself as an audience.

3. Trek Across The Morton Arboretum In Lisle

Another unmissable experience to add to your Illinois winter bucket list is the Morton Arboretum trek. Even if you have already explored the Morton Arboretum in summers, a winter hike here is a must. Trekking through the stillness and tranquillity of the forest is a far wonderful experience than anything. Once the grounds here accumulate 4 inches of snow, enthusiasts can pick up their snow shows and begin the adventure. You can also rent the gears from Morton Arboretum’s Visitor Centre and move forward. Because you are in search of experience and beauty, do not forget to take your camera along.

4. Book Tours With Herman Brothers And Go Ice Fishing

If you want to try some ice fishing, you must definitely head towards Central Illinois. There are several places in central Illinois where winters are filled with anglers. However, if you are new to this art, then you can even book ice fishing tours with Herman Brothers. They will take you across exclusive ice fishing lakes in Central Illinois. The journey goes through Knox, Peoria, Fulton, and Tazewell counties. Not only that, but experts from Herman Brother will also teach you the basics, as well as some great moves. Anyone who is a fishing enthusiast can go for this wonderful adventure.

5. Celebrate and Spot American Bald Eagles Up Close And Personal

Spotting American Bald Eagles is one of the most popular things to do when in Illinois during winters. Why winters? Because it is the time when these huge birds hunt for fish in the Illinois River. There are several reachable spots where you can spot bald eagles up close and personal. You can take the Starved Rock Lodge’s Eagle Trolley Tours for a laid-back viewing experience. Or Eagle Watch and Trail Walk at the St. Louis Zoo. You can also visit the Pere Marquette Lodge and attend their Bald Eagle festival. Not only do they show up great birds, but the locally made food and wine are divine too. All of these events are organized during the last week of January. For exact dates, you can visit the official websites.

6. Visit the Snowstar Winter Park in Andalusia

Snowstar Winter is a family-friendly ski park and a must-visit place in Illinois during winters. It features a small ski area with 15 downhill trails, a terrain park, and several tubing lanes. Tourists and locals who are looking for snowboarding, tubing, or skiing experience can head towards Snowstar park. While rates are quite reasonable here, the fun and adventure quotient never actually goes down. Apart from adventure opportunities, they also have a ski patrol, a welcome center, and multiple dining options. The Park experience 30 to 40 inches of regular snowfall during Winter. You can even enjoy the snow sip-line tour here, with the longest zip line going all over 1300 feet.

7. Attend the Chicago Restaurant Week

While winters are about to end, Illinois calls you for its most popular event, the Chicago Restaurant Week. It is basically an annual citywide event and one of the largest culinary festivals in the world. The event goes for nearly 10 days or longer featuring special tasting menus at hundreds of Chicago restaurants. Every participating restaurant, café, or eating location offers unlimited pre-fixed buffets at reasonable prices from $25 to $55. Eating here includes in-room dining, takeout, and home delivery. Food enthusiasts, food bloggers, and critics from around the state make sure to attend the event. If you are looking to go on an eating spree without spending much, you must definitely visit the Chicago Restaurant Week.

8. Immerse Into The Light Festival in Northbrook Court

Every year during winter weekends (from mid-November to mid-January), Northbrook court organizes one of the biggest light events. Locals and tourists are invited to drive through the North Shore’s largest drive-thru world of Christmas lights. Guests have to drive through sparkling candy canes, glowing snowmen, dazzling archways, and other illumination installations. Though one cannot walk through these lanes, and only vehicle guests are allowed. For easy access, enter through the southwest side of the Northbrook Court mall.

9. Chop Up Your Christmas Tree This Winter

How do you usually get your Christmas tree? From stores right. But did you ever thought of chopping your own real-time Christmas tree? Interesting, isn’t it? Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm in Harvard, Illinois, allows guests to come and cut down their own Christmas tree. And believe us, this is something you definitely must add to your Illinois winter bucket list. Visitors can choose from 9 different varieties of tree saplings and can hop on for wagon rides. On weekends you will find Santa to surprise you on your way. No matter how alien it sounds, it is one of the finest winter experiences in Illinois.

10. And At The End, Celebrate Christmas In Illinois

Last but one of the greatest draws of winters is the ‘Christmas Celebration.’ Illinois is a Midwestern state that celebrates Christmas with full enthusiasm and glory. The ones in Chicago can visit Millenium Park and Witness the Big Tree. Or visit the Christkindlmarket and eat some German specialties. Or, if you happen to be in Elburn during the festivity, do not miss Larsen’s Light Show. It is basically a house decorated with incredible lighting and an incredible presentation. You may have seen it in pictures before, but there is no comparison while seeing it in person.

St. Charles is another gorgeous historic downtown to soak in the festive vibes. From free horse-drawn carriage rides to parades and kicked-off Santa appearances, everything here is a delight.

TIP: Unlike winters in the other U.S. States, the ones in Illinois are quite unpredictable. Although it is obviously chilling and freezing, the temperature can get harsher in the state. Make sure you pack well enough to combat the Illinois winter, specifically if it is snowing.

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