According to legendary author Norman Mailer, Chicago is the “last great American city”, and the millions of tourists that visit the city each year might very well agree with him. However, the climate of the Windy City is something to be reckoned with. Located on the southwest coast of Lake Michigan, the weather of Chicago can be unpredictable to say the least. Spring and Fall can often display two or three seasons in a single day, bitterly cold with snow flurries in the morning to warm, sunny afternoons. Winter temperatures regularly drop below 0F (-17C) and massive amounts of snow are not uncommon. However, at other points in the winter, the weather can be quite pleasant or brisk. Summers can be sweltering in Chicago, with 100F (37C) days and very little rain, promptly followed by severe summer storms. The climate is considered “humid continental”, but that description may as well say, “Pack for anything, because there are no guarantees for Chicago weather.”
Summer in Chicago is a mix of sizzling heat and nearly constant sun, but with the huge amount of relaxing outdoor activities as well as air-conditioned attractions, summer is consistently the busiest tourism season of the year.
The average mean temperature for the Chicago summer season is an overnight low of 18.5C (65F) and a daytime high of 27.5C (81.5F).
There are countless things to do in Chicago in every season, but a visit to the city in the summer would be empty without some of these classic Chicagoan activities. Lay out for an afternoon on one of Chicago’s beaches, like North Avenue Beach or Montrose Beach, where you can also play in a friendly pick-up game of volleyball or Frisbee. While you’re on the water, take a bike ride or a job along the beautiful coastline, through the downtown area, which gives you one of the best views of the city from within. Summer in Chicago also heats up with music festivals and cultural celebrations. The Taste of Chicago regularly brings over a million visitors to the massive outdoor food festival in Grant Park, usually around the 4th of July Weekend. Also, in August, The Air and Water Show regularly entertains over 2 million visitors each year, and is the largest and oldest free show like it in the country. The legendary Chicago Blues Festival fills up a weekend in June each year, and draws fans of blues music from all over the country. A newer attraction that draws tourists and locals alike is the Gay Pride Parade at the end of June, which is quite a party on the North Side, and all are welcome to participate and enjoy the festivities. For the book lovers, one of the biggest Book Fairs in the country occurs in early June with the Printers Row Lit Fest in the South Loop neighborhood. Chicago sports are known the world over, and the Chicago Cubs, although not big winners, are perennial favorites, and a trip to one of baseball’s meccas, Wrigley Field, is a must for any sport fan who want to catch a game in Chicago.
The autumnal months are an unpredictable mix of rain and sun, warm and cold, as the Chicago weather continues its’ twists and turns through these three months. Pack and umbrella and sunglasses every day, and make sure to dress in layers, just in case.
The average mean temperature for autumn in Chicago is an overnight low of 7.5C (45.5F) climbing to a daytime high of 17C (63F).
Chicago in autumn is considered by many locals to be the most beautiful time in the city. The huge summer crowds have dwindled, and the long list of events, festivals, and fun does not diminish, neither for locals or tourists. Autumn in Chicago is a wonderful time to walk through the various neighborhoods of the downtown area, and enjoying the crisp bite of fall. Make your way to the city’s most iconic building, Willis Tower (formally The Sears Tower) that held the title of tallest building in the world until 1997. The Hancock Tower is also a Chicago classic, and enjoy the stunning view of the entire city from it’s exclusive 95th Floor restaurant, if you can get a reservation! For those of you eager to experience some of Chicago’s musical culture, enjoy Jazz Fest in Grant Park in September, a huge annual tradition in the city. Labor Day, on September 5th, is always a big event, because it is the last day that Chicago beaches are open until spring. Expect huge crowds and an “end-of-summer” spectacle at all the Chicago beaches. The Chicago Marathon happens in October for those tourists who want to keep their health up after all the Chicago food they’ve eaten. Don’t miss trying a “Chicago-style” hot dog and the famous deep-dish pizza the city is known for. For sports fans who miss the end of the Chicago baseball season, catch one of the opening games of the Chicago Bears season, and see the beautiful, modern stadium, Soldier Field, on the south end of the downtown area.
When winter in Chicago arrives, locals know to bundle up and prepare for the worst. The city regularly receives heavy snowfalls, powerful winds, and bitterly cold, dry weather. The tall buildings can make the whipping wind quite uncomfortable unless you are properly dressed and packed for your wintertime journey to the “Windy City”.
The average mean temperature of Chicago’s winter is an overnight low of -6C (20.5F) and daytime highs reaching up to 1C (34.2F).
If you choose to brave the cold of winter to visit Chicago, it truly is a lovely time to come. The holiday spirit is overwhelming in the city, and the events don’t slow down, even with the weather. It is essential that you walk down the city’s Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue if you come before the holidays, as it is one of the most spectacular displays of holiday lights anywhere in the country. Winter in Chicago means a trip to Navy Pier, a holiday favorite of many locals, which holds its’ Winter Wonderfest, an exciting day out for adults and children in the many complexes, restaurants, and shops of the Pier, while the ability to move indoors between many of the different events is always a bonus when avoiding the bitter winds off Lake Michigan. Lincoln Park’s annual Zoo Lights is another fun way to experience the holiday cheer in one of the city’s iconic spots where you can see all the animals on exhibit among the fun and elaborate Christmas decorations. Millenium Park, the newly built entertainment and leisure venue on Chicago’s waterfront also boasts a large ice skating rink, right in the shadow of the architectural anomaly, the Chicago Bean, another must-see spot in the downtown area. However, due to the cold, most people stick to indoor activities, so the city’s many museums fill up with culture-hungry visitors. The top ones not to miss are the Museum of Science and Industry, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Adler Planetarium. Also, warm up your bones with a hearty dinner at one of the city’s dozens of 5-star, nationally renowned restaurants, and hundreds of less prestigious (but still delicious) eateries. For a special holiday experience, take the family to Lawry’s Steakhouse for carolers, prime rib, and a rustic, formal dinner in the heart of the city.
The weather is still unpredictable during spring in Chicago, and although some days can be balmy and warm, the next might have unexpected rain showers, thunderstorms, or even light flurries. The spring is beautiful, but just like in the autumn, visitors to the city need to be ready for anything.
The average mean temperature of Chicago in the springtime is 5C (41F) warming up to a daytime high of 15C (59F).
When the snow melts, and the spring blossoms start to reappear, the parks, streets, and beachfront avenues start to fill back up with eager Chicago tourists. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the biggest and highest attended parades of the year, occurring on the Saturday before the holiday each year. Make your choice between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox for the home opener of the baseball season, a very big deal in a city split so cleanly in two. The famous Buckingham Fountain on Chicago’s lakefront begins its’ majestic displays in April. Spring in Chicago is also a wonderful time to walk through the gardens and architectural displays of Millennium Park, or to take a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural tour of the city’s surrounding areas, if you are a fan or world-class design. The warm weather and hint of summer get many tourist’s feet itching, so walk the streets of downtown Chicago and get lost, or go on a treasure hunt for the many sculptures scattered throughout the city, including massive installments by Picasso, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, and Marc Chagall. The Ravinia Park season opens in the spring, so spend an evening listening to live music, performance, or watching Movies in the Park at this classic Chicago destination. For those who want to do some shopping, lose yourself for hours in the designer-laden Michigan Avenue right off the beachfront. Although the museums are most popular in the winter, the spring is a wonderful time to experience the Shedd Aquarium, with some shows taking place both outdoors and indoors. Lastly, for those tourists who need some sort of sports event in their trip, grab some tickets for a Chicago Bulls basketball game, one of the most well-known professional sporting teams in the world.
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