Chicago in January

Visiting Chicago in January provides a relaxed feel after the busy holiday season. While some crowds linger through the beginning of January due to extended holiday celebrations, the middle to end of the month brings fewer visitors.

Below you’ll find a guide on everything from Chicago weather to activities to participate in during this month.

Weather

January Temperature | Even in the freezingly cold month of January, the pizza will taste great in Chicago

The Chicago weather in January is chilly, with an average high temperature of 33°F (1°C). Snow is typically present throughout the month, though the expected rain/snow is only five days in January.

Temperatures

Average temperatures throughout the month:

  • January 1: 34°F (average high), 24°F (average low)
  • January 15: 33°F (average high), 23°F (average low)
  • January 31: 33°F (average high), 22°F (average low)

This month, the temperature stays relatively the same each day, with average high temperatures ranging from 32°F – 34°F. Mornings remain chilly while the temperatures reach their max, typically between noon and afternoon. You can expect the temps to drop into the low 20s and sometimes even the teens in the evenings.

Average temperature at certain times (Example: January 10):

  • Morning (9 AM): 26°F (-3°C)
  • Noon (12 PM): 29°F (-1.5°C)
  • Afternoon (3 PM): 31°F (-0.5°C)

It’s best to keep activities to the daytime, if possible, to avoid the lower temperatures that occur during January Chicago Weather. Tip: Our guide with monthly Chicago tips and the best times to visit provides unique insights in case you are planning to visit during any other month.

Snowfall

As the month progresses, the snowfall increases slowly. Early January sees around 2.8″ while the latter part offers approximately 3.5″ of snowfall. Expect to see a minimum of a few inches of snow on the ground during any point in January.

How often does it snow? The most snow in Chicago occurs in February, followed by January. However, while we can promise the coldest temperatures in January, a Chicago winter wonderland with snow blankets won’t happen every time. 

No snow? It’s uncommon, but sometimes very little snow falls during January. No snow is extremely rare. 

Snow removal: Even if there is a winter storm during the month, they usually clear the snow quickly afterward. 

Snow everywhere? It depends on where you are in the city. There are areas with more snow and others with less. When the news reports heavy snowfall in Chicago, they won’t say where exactly. They may report 8 inches of snow in Chicago, but you may find only four at Millenium Park, for example

 

What to Wear

Chicago: Millennium Park in the winter

With the cold weather in January, you will want to wear multiple layers with boots and a thick coat. Additional layers you will want to consider are Long Johns, long-sleeved undershirts, and thick socks.

Morning/Evening

As noted above, mornings and evenings are colder than daytime temps, so you’ll want to wear additional layers during this time. A hat along with gloves and a scarf are highly recommended, especially in the morning and evening. As for the winter coat, the longer the length, the better to keep your legs from getting cold.

Daytime

With slightly higher temperatures during the day, you can potentially leave off the scarf, especially if it is sunny. However, you will still want to wear most of the same layers you would wear in the morning and evening. A thick coat, thick pants like jeans, long underwear, a long sleeve shirt, boots, hat, and gloves should be worn.

What to Wear List
  • Thick winter coat (necessary for walking around the city)
  • Long underwear/long sleeve undershirt
  • Jeans/thick pants
  • Waterproof boots
  • Long, thick socks (or two pairs of thinner socks)
  • Hats, gloves, scarf

Crowds

After the holidays, the city of Chicago is much calmer as most tourists and visitors head home. You can expect the number of people to decrease significantly in Chicago in January.

You’ll find fewer crowds toward the end of January as some December holiday-related events continue into the beginning of the month. Aim to visit after the first week of the month. This will help you avoid as many crowds as possible.

Rates



Booking.com

Hotel rates will generally decrease during January in response to fewer travelers during this month. You’re likely to find deals at well-rated hotels and accommodations that you wouldn’t see during busier months. It’s worth checking into Airbnb as well for current rate deals that may be occurring.

Things to Do

Just because the holiday season has passed does not mean there aren’t ample things to do in the city of Chicago. Below you’ll find a list of free and paid activities to participate in while you visit Chicago.

Sledding
  • When: November through March
  • Where: Warren (Lawrence) Park
  • Price: Free

You may be surprised to find out that there are indeed excellent sledding locations in the city. One of the best locations is Warren (Lawrence) Park which features a large cleared-out area and stairs. Sledding is the perfect family-friendly activity, and this park offers the activity for free – though you’ll need to bring or purchase your sled from a store.

Observation Deck, TILT, and Mob Bus Tour
  • When: Tours available throughout the year
  • Where: 163 East Pearson Street, Chicago, IL 60611
  • Price: $83 per person

If you spend only a few days in Chicago, sign up for the observation deck, TILT, and mob bus tour. You’ll be able to see some of the most famous attractions (observation deck and TILT) while learning about the intriguing history of Chicago. This city is well-known for having a past filled with famous mobsters like Al Capone, which you’ll hear about while riding on the bus.

Tickets and more information can be found here: 360 Observation Deck and TILT with Mob Bus Tour.

Ice Skating in Magie Daly Park
  • When: November – February
  • Where: 337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
  • Price: $16-$22 per person with skate rental (depending on entry day)

Ice skating in Magie Daly Park is another excellent family. The ribbon is the more recent of the two most popular skating locations in downtown Chicago. Double-check the skating direction before heading onto the ice – employees who will guide you before you reach the ice.

Tickets can be purchased online or in person. Keep in mind that tickets purchased at the venue will be more expensive than those purchased beforehand. For more information, take a look here: Magie Daly Park.

Art Institute Tour (Before Opening Hours)
  • When: Year-round
  • Where: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
  • Prices: $101 per person

If you’ve never experienced the Art Institute in Chicago, we highly recommend visiting this location, primarily via tour. You’ll be able to recognize this famous building by the green lions that “guard” the exterior, which is also the meeting point for the tour.

Inside, you’ll be guided through sections of the museum that are filled with paintings, sculptures, and other mediums by the likes of Picasso and Rembrandt. Purchase tickets and find additional details here: Art Institute Tour.

Walking by Lake Michigan
  • When: November through March
  • Where: Lakefront trail off Fullerton Avenue
  • Price: Free

During the winter, walking by the lake is an excellent way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Multiple routes can be taken; however, we’ve found walking near Navy Pier on the beach offers stunning views. Make sure to bundle up to avoid a chill, especially during nighttime walks.

Events

Even though the weather is chilly and there are fewer crowds, there are many events to partake in during January. Here are a few that you can experience. Other available events include a multitude of concerts, shows, and performances.

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
  • When: January 20-30, 2021
  • Where: depends on show chosen
  • Price: $10-$30 per person

This unique performing arts festival occurs each year at the end of January for about twelve days. During this time, multiple performances can be seen daily featuring international artists and puppeteers. Some shows are intended for adults, and some are family-friendly with an array of stories being told.

These puppet performances can be seen around Chicago and are not only performed at one set place. Check ahead for your intended performance to see the exact location and purchase tickets here: Chicago Puppet Fest.

Chicago Winter Whiskey Tasting Tour
  • When: January 29, 2022
  • Where: TBD
  • Price: $55-$100 +$25 for additional whiskey tastings

This annual event is perfect for couples or groups of adults traveling together in late January. All different varieties of whiskey will be available for tasting throughout the day. There is also a buffet with appetizers and small bites, and food for purchase.

Entry times depend on the tier of tickets purchased. More information can be found here: Winter Whiskey Tasting Festival.