In some parts of the country March brings a hint of spring, but not in Chicago, where the forecast calls for a wintry mix of rain and snow for Tuesday and temperatures dipping by week's end to the teens. Yeah, that's fun.
But the Windy City still has plenty to offer, indoors and, yes, outdoors. If you're in Chicago these last weeks of frigid weather, here are some affordable and enjoyable options that will help make the most out of your stay.
In downtown, two popular ice rinks provide a beautiful backdrop of Chicago’s skyline.
Millennium Park's McCormick-Tribune ice rink, 55 N. Michigan Ave., is below the Cloud Gate sculpture and attracts tourists and locals alike.
Just east of Millennium Park, in the new Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St., is a skating option that deviates from the standard ice rink: an ice ribbon that loops for a quarter of a mile. Admission to both rinks is free; skate rentals cost $12.
If you're looking to venture south of downtown, head to Hyde Park for the ice rink in Midway Plaisance, 1130 Midway Plaisance N. This Olympic-sized skating rink is a scenic experience for skaters, with the University of Chicago’s Gothic buildings in the background. Admission to this park is $3, with a $7 combined skate rental and admission price.
Maggie Daley Park
This new recreation center, which opened at the end of last year, is the result of a two-acre renovation project of Grant Park, replacing the former Daley Bicentennial Plaza.
The park features tall slides, obstacle courses for all ages, and of course, the quarter-mile ice skating ribbon. The park is still under construction -- much of it is fenced off until it's completed, expected this spring. Meanwhile, enjoy the slides and jungle gyms.
Chicago Cultural Center
If you prefer to be warm and indoors, the Chicago Culture Center, 78 E. Washington St., is a free way to experience Chicago art and architecture in one package.
The building's exterior is characterized by Greek columns and Roman arches. The interior is decorated with marbles and mosaics throughout its five floors.
The stained-glass Tiffany dome in Preston Bradley Hall on the third floor is said to be the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world.
Architecture aside, the cultural center hosts several art exhibits, music performances, lectures and film screenings throughout the year. A recent exhibition is “Alison Ruttan: If All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail” on the first floor. It explores the effects of wartime destruction through photography and ceramic models.
On the second floor, “Richard Hunt: Sixty Years of Sculpture” showcases 60 sculptural objects from 1954 to 2014. The exhibition, which leads up to Hunt's 80th birthday this year, is meant to celebrate the native Chicagoan's artistic legacy.
National Mexican Museum of Art
If you're in the Pilsen neighborhood just southwest of downtown, take a walk through the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. The museum features a large, vibrant collection of paintings, sculptures and other art.
The permanent exhibition “Nuestras Historias” (“Our Histories” ) is a dynamic collection of works that aim to explore Mexican identity in North America.
Stop by the gift shop -- which is almost an exhibition in and of itself -- for selections of colorful craft work, vivid textiles and a large collection of books in English and Spanish.
Admission is free.
The well-known boat tour conducted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave., doesn’t run in the winter, but for those willing to brave the cold, the foundation’s walking tours are conducted all year and are an inexpensive way to experience the city's vibrant landscape. The foundation's trained volunteers conduct more than 70 tours all throughout Chicago.
Walking tours follow a range of themes, from skyscrapers to historic landmarks to public art installations. Tickets for walking tours start at $15.