Chicago, suburbs offer plenty of cold-weather fun

The Millennium Park ice skating rink, which was scheduled to open last week but had its opening postponed because of above-average temperatures, opens for it's 10th season on Friday. The rink is scheduled to remain open through Sunday, March 13, 2011, weather permitting. (Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)
MARIANNE MATHER / FOR THE COURIER NEWS Elgin resident Alex Rios spent the windy day after Christmas ice fishing on the Fox River in Elgin.  Rios said he 'caught a couple walleye' but nothing else was biting.  12/26/99

In Chicago, we don’t let snow and cold keep us down. We strap on our big boy long johns and snow pants and power through until spring.

From outdoor winter festivals to cross-country skiing, there’s plenty to do this time of year. Most forest preserves and park districts offer outlets for every kind of winter activity you can imagine.

So cash that check Grandma gave you for Christmas and get ready to have winter fun.



Polar Adventure Days: 12-4 p.m. Jan. 25 and Feb. 22, Northerly Island, 1400 S. Linn White Drive, Chicago. Free, $3 parking. (312) 742-7529;

Snow Days Chicago: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 8; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 9. Gateway Park at Navy Pier. (312) 744-3315;

Wonders of Winter: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 1 at Mayslake Forest Preserve in Oak Brook. Free. Call (630) 933-7248;

Groundhog Daze: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 1-2 at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle. (630) 968-0074;

Naperville Winter Ale Fest: 12-4 p.m. Feb. 22, Frontier Park, Route 59 and 95th St., Naperville. Tickets, $45;



Camp Sagawau in Lemont, operated by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, has a two-and-a-half-mile loop that’s mostly prairie plus more challenging terrain with steep hills. Rent equipment for $15 and take a lesson for $20, equipment rental and lesson combo is $30. Call (630) 257-2045 or visit

The Fox Valley Park District offer miles of free trails with minimal road crossings; including the Fox River Trail in North Aurora; the Virgil Gilman Trail, the Waubonsie Lake Trail or at the Stuart Sports Complex/Jericho Lake. Visit

Nearly 130 miles of challenging and fun cross-country skiing trails await cross-country skiers of all levels in the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Cross-country skiing is also permitted on equestrian trails at Lakewood and Raven Glen forest preserves. Call (847) 968-3235 or visit



Fish ‘n’ Freeze Ice Fishing Derby Feb. 1 at Blackhawk Pond, 1479 Blackhawk Circle, South Elgin. Call (847) 622-0003 or visit $3/$5.

Hampshire South Forest Preserve in Hampshire, on Lake Patterson within Aurora’s Oakhurst Forest Preserve and on the two ponds within Paul Wolff Campground in Elgin. Visit

22 lakes and sloughs within the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Call (708) 771-1335 or visit

Banana Lake, Sterling Lake and at Independence Grove’s south bay. Call (847) 968-3235 or visit

Classes are offered by the DuPage Forest Preserve District. Dates include Jan. 18, Feb. 2, 15 and 16. Call (630) 933-7248 or visit



McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink (Millennium Park): 201 E. Randolph, (312) 744-3316, Free to skate, $10 skate rental. Open through March 9, weather permitting. Visit website for hours and special events.

Chicago Park District rinks: The skating season runs through Feb. 23 at most rinks, weather permitting. Skate rentals costs $6; adult admission costs $3. Check the web site for hours, special events and rink locations. (312) 742-7529;

CityGate Winter Skate: A free outdoor rink is open to the community at the CityGate Centre, located at I-88 and Route 59, in Naperville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and there is no skate rental on site. For ice conditions, call the Hotel Arista at (630) 579-4100 or visit

Forest Preserve District of Cook County: Ice skating is allowed on six lakes in the county’s forest preserve system; call (708) 771-1335 or visit

Flick Park Ice Rink: 600 Glenview Road, Glenview. (847) 724-3337. Free outdoor ice rink and sledding hill. Lighted for nighttime activity; close at 10 p.m.

Naperville Park District rinks: There are several outdoor skating and hockey rinks run by the park district; visit for locations. Call (630) 883-4242 for conditions.

Fox Valley Park District: A green flag means “go” at the park district’s free outdoor skating locations. New this year are two free rinks (one for hockey, one for skating) at Waubonsie Lake Park on Kautz Road in Aurora. Visit

The Forest Preserve of Kane County also offers ice skating at Oakhurst Forest Preserve on Fifth Avenue east of Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora. Visit

In Libertyville, skate on the lake at Independence Grove or at the man-made rinks at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area and Old School, part of the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Call (847) 968-3235 or visit



Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove: 109th annual Ski Jump Tournament from 12-4 p.m. Jan. 25-26. 100 Ski Hill Road, Fox River Grove; call (847) 639-9718,

Beginning skiers will want to start out on the bunny hill at Villa Olivia in Bartlett. Villa Olivia offers downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing, along with lessons for all levels and rental equipment available. 1401 W. Lake St., Bartlett; (630) 289-1000,

At Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle, you can learn to ski and snowboard. 5790 Forest View Road, Lisle; (630) 963-3422,

Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park and Ski Area offers lessons, Ladies’ Nights, half-pipes and more. 1 Alan Drive, Algonquin; (847) 836-7243,

The Naperville Park District offers one location exclusively for snowboarding: Weigand Riverfront Park, 2436 S. Washington St., Naperville. Call (630) 848-5000 or visit


If there’s no snow to be had, visit Soldier Field, where the Chicago Park District will make man-made snow to coat the 33-foot sledding hill southeast of the stadium at 1410 S. Museum Campus Dr. Call (312) 235-7000 or visit

The famous sledding hill at Swallow Cliff is closed for repairs. Cook County Forest Preserve officials urge sledders to use the hill at Pioneer Woods on 107th Street west of LaGrange Road. Or, check the District’s web site for 10 other hills, with and without lighting. Call (800) 870-3666 or visit

The Fox Valley Park District offers sledding at Waubonsie Lake Park, Lincoln Park and McCullough Park in Aurora.

If you’re a daredevil, check out the big hill on Fifth Avenue, just west of Kautz Road, in the Oakhurst Forest Preserve. Sled hills are located at Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda and Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville. Lights allow for winter fun until 9 p.m. daily.


Snowmobiling is allowed at five designated locations in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Snowmobiles must be registered with both the State of Illinois and the Forest Preserve District (proof of insurance is required). Call (800) 870-3666 or visit

Nearly 24 miles of trails in the Lake County Forest Preserve District are designated for snowmobiling, including an 8-mile portion of the Des Plaines River Trail near the Sedge Meadow Canoe Launch in Wadsworth. Call (847) 367-6640 or visit


If you’ve got your own, most forest preserves will let you traipse the trails to your heart’s content — as long as there is sufficient snow cover. Many preserves and park districts will rent them out to you, like at the Red Oak Nature Center in Batavia. For $5, you can rent a pair of snowshoes and poles included and explore the many hiking trails along the Fox River. 2343 S. River St, Batavia; (630) 897-1808;

Take a Snowshoe Hike from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 9 at Herrick Lake in Wheaton. Hear about the history of snowshoeing and learn how to identify animal tracks. Equipment is provided. Call (630) 933-7248 or visit

You can also cross-country ski or snowshoe at the Morton Arboretum’s 1,700-acre winter wonderland. Kids’ and adults’ cross-country skis and snowshoes are available for rent at the Visitor Center Area when there is four or more inches of snow on the ground. 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle. Call (630) 968-0074 or visit



When three or more inches of snow covers the Mount Hoy in the Blackwell Forest Preserve, take an 800-foot plunge down the hill. Inner tube rentals cost $5 per tube. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends through Feb. 23, plus Jan. 20 and Feb. 17. Located at Butterfield Road, one mile east of Route 59 in Warrenville. Call (630) 871-6422 or visit

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