COVID-Friendly Places in Chicago


Nicole Creamer

An image of a climbing wall at Brooklyn Boulders

The winter months loom in Chicago, and COVID-friendly activities begin to diminish. As relaxing as it is to sit by a fire or a screen while the snow falls, you could also be out exploring or hanging out with friends. In the spirit of winter adventure and discovery, here is a list of some winter activities and places to visit in the Chicagoland area that may not be on your radar yet.


2050 Progress Pkwy Schaumburg, IL & 3211 Odyssey Ct Naperville, IL

Even for those of you who have never golfed before, Topgolf is still a great place to spend a couple of hours. The Schaumburg and Naperville locations have heated, outdoor seating and bays year-round. Topgolf offers food, drinks, and other alcoholic beverages (for those over the age of 21), in addition to dozens of golf game options to choose from. From Angry Birds to a regular 18-hole match, each game offers hours of fun and entertainment. Using high-tech tracking mechanisms, Topgolf’s game technology will automatically calculate your score. Foosball and pool tables are available inside as well. Both Chicagoland locations are family friendly.

Big Marsh

11559 S Stony Island, Chicago, IL

Big Marsh Nature Preserve and Bike Park is a magnificent journey into nature. The park offers a myriad of activities along with a newly constructed, state-of-the-art field house. With mountain biking and dirt-biking, bird watching and picnicking, there are enough activities to entertain people of all ages for hours. You can enjoy a leisure walk along a pond or ride through various bike tracks. Some trails are kid-friendly, while others will challenge even the most advanced riders. There is also a three-mile trail that circles the entire park. New trails and features are constantly being added to the park. Even in the winter, the tracks are maintained and cared for. Big Marsh is also a fabulous place to take photos since it sustains such a diverse array of wildlife. Make sure to check out the exhibition featuring Big Marsh’s history when you visit the fieldhouse!

Morton Arboretum

4100 IL-53 Lisle, IL

While an arboretum may sound boring, the Morton Arboretum’s 1,700 acres offer a wide variety of plants and activities. You can enjoy a peaceful walk along 16 miles of hiking trails or run through hundreds of different types of trees, or even take a nap. The Children’s Garden offers nature playgrounds and climbing structures. During the winter, you can go on a ski tour across the grounds. Or if you feel energized, there are nine miles of paved bike trails, and some winding hills that lead you past enormous sculptures and trees. Make sure to check out the 10-foot-tall hedge maze when you go!

Brooklyn Boulders

2121 N. Clybourn Avenue & 100 S. Morgan Street

Rock-climbing is a challenging sport, mentally and physically, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be accessible to everyone. Brooklyn Boulders is a climbing gym meant for everyone. From climbing upside down, top-roping (climbing 75-foot walls), or bouldering (with no harness), each path is invigorating and gratifying. At Brooklyn Boulders, you can take introductory climbing classes, or relax in the private study rooms if you need a quiet place to eat. Additionally, both Chicago locations recently redid their ventilation systems, which can reduce the concentration of COVID, among other contaminants; it almost feels windy inside! There is also a gym in case you want to keep your feet on the floor while exercising. Bring friends or family and challenge them to climb faster than you. Or make your own route on the adjustable climbing wall. Whatever it is, you’ll leave with a newfound sense of accomplishment.

TimeOut Market

916 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

Are you hungry? At TimeOut Market, there is something for everyone. This food hall houses vendors representing some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Bittersweet has pastries. Soul & Smoke offers classic barbecue. Candlelite has oven-fired pizza. Cleo’s Southern Cuisine makes chicken and waffles as well as hot chicken sandwiches. Shawn Michelle’s has some of the boldest ice cream flavors ever. Arami offers premium sushi that melts on your tongue. TimeOut Market has three fully ventilated floors, plus a roofdeck bar and sidewalk patio, both with heated outdoor seating. Make sure to go with a group so you can try every dish that TimeOut Market has to offer.

Museum of Illusions

25 E Washington Street, Chicago, IL 60602

Imagine walking into an optical illusion. At the Museum of Illusions, there are dozens of lifesize, interactive illusions to explore. With an infinity room, a vortex tunnel, an anti-gravity room, and many other sets, this is no ordinary museum. Other exhibits include smaller illusions and several brain games. You could spend hours here and still not understand how each one works. The museum is photography-friendly, so bring your phones and post your pictures!

The Forge: Lemont Quarries

1001 Main Street, Lemont, IL 60439

The largest adventure park in the U.S., The Forge has the perfect array of summer and winter activities. During the winter, you can play laser tag, go rock climbing, explore the ropes course, solve digital escape rooms, ice skate, zip-line, or mountain bike. Rain, shine, or snow, The Forge is always open.

Garfield Park Conservatory

300 N Central Park Ave, Chicago, IL 60624

Need a break from the cold? Garfield Park Conservatory has some of the hottest and greenest rooms in Chicago. Designed by Jens Jensen, the glass covers over two acres of green space. The conservatory houses over 50 different types of palm trees, a lush fern room, a desert house, and an aroid house. Each room is packed with plants, meaning the air is exceedingly crisp. Windows are always open to control the temperature and air flow. The conservatory is a lovely place to walk through by yourself since it is so peaceful and quiet.