What to Do When It’s Raining in Chicago


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The “Bean” at Millennium Park, Chicago (nice day) March 28, 2016
The "Bean" on a rainy day
The “bean” on a rainy day! March 28, 2012

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Chicagoans live for summer. It’s the one season where we’re thankful for the wind and everything comes alive. Unfortunately, there’s Winter, which can drag on until April to get through first. Then, even if it’s getting warmer, there’s the rain too. Thankfully, there are a few things you can experience in the city that get you out of the cold or wet and can make a non-summer trip here worth it.


There are quite a few worthwhile museums in Chicago, but my favorite is easily The Art Institute of Chicago (although I do teach art so I guess that’s not surprising). The Art Institute is great because it spans a huge range of styles of art. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, and you can keep going back and finding something new. I still haven’t explored every wing yet! Tickets will be up to about $25 a person for general admission, but I’d say it’s worth it. Also ask about educator or student discounts!

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The Art Institute of Chicago

If you’ve checked out most of the big museums in Chicago, I’d suggest The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. If you ever had to take a history or art history course on ancient civilizations, you’ll have fun walking through here. Make friends with the Lamassu! The Oriental Institute is free, but a donation is suggested.

Oriental Institute at University of Chicago
Oriental Institute at University of Chicago

Another great one to walk through is the Chicago Cultural Center. Art exhibits are up on the 4th floor, but the beauty of this building is enough of a reason to visit! Free admission!

Chicago Cultural Center
Ceiling at Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Natural World Experiences

I absolutely loveThe Shedd Aquarium. A truly amazing experience, even if you get the most basic package and hang out for an hour or two. Some of the fish in there are hard to believe they’re real! If you really want to avoid the cold, splurge for the whole package (show and special exhibits included) and spend 4-5 hours there, easily. Tickets can get pricy, so watch out for deals on sites like TravelZoo or Groupon.

Another great option is The Garfield Park Conservatory, which will warm you up and keep you dry. It’s so fun to wander through the greenhouses and various rooms for relaxing or a cool photo shoot! Free (suggested donation).

rainy days in Chicago - Garfield Park Conservatory

rainy days in Chicago - Garfield Park Conservatory

rainy days in Chicago - Garfield Park Conservatory


There’s a reason that movie theaters are busier when it’s rainy, but why not try something different and see a show in Chicago? With Improv at Second City or iO Chicago, or plays at Steppenwolf, plus the “big guys” downtown like Cadillac Palace Theatre and Oriental Theatre, there’s tons of options for any preference and price point.

shakespeare improv - io theater chicago
shakespeare improv – io theater chicago

Food & Drink

What else do you do when you’re stuck inside? I’ve written several posts about places you should check out. Browse below for non-downtown gems!

lula cafe logan square chicago
Lula Cafe – Logan Square, Chicago
Stan's Donuts Chicago
Stan’s Donuts Chicago, Wicker Park

Visited Chicago before in bad weather? What did you do? Other ideas for rainy days anywhere? Please share!

Lydia Jane

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12 thoughts on “What to Do When It’s Raining in Chicago

    1. The art institute is great because there’s always more to see! I haven’t made it to the Field yet…although I think I did visit once as a little girl before I lived here. It’s on my list!


  1. I lived in Chicago for a year and just moved in January and this post is making me miss it! My husband and I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo on a rainy day and it wasn’t so bad. It was damp, but it wasn’t crowded! We never got the chance to visit and of the museums, but we’ll just have to go back.


    1. Yeah sometimes I think the slightly rainy days are the best to explore, as long as you have a raincoat or an umbrella it usually just means there are less people to push through! Hope you can come visit again soon.


  2. I work in a Chicago museum [not on your list ;)] and I often find myself LOVING when I’m at work on a rainy day. It’s not like there is anywhere else I would rather be anyway! On beautiful sunny days on the other hand, I make a point to take a walk along the lake shore and count the hours until I can go home and walk my dog – just to be outside!


    1. There’s plenty of good ones in the city that would be perfect on a rainy (or a sunny) day! I haven’t lived in Chicago long enough to try them all yet, but I’m working through!


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