Ways to Beat the Heat in Chicago


As cold as the weather in Chicago gets in winter (and I mean brain-freeze, I-don’t-want-to-leave-the-house-until-March, is-that-an-icicle-forming-on-my-eyelash kind of cold), it seems to get equally as over-the-top hot in the summer. Sizzling. Scorching. Skin-melting hot. One-step-outside-and-you-are-sweating kind of hot. Okay, you get it – it’s hot.

So what’s a tourist visiting the city to do to avoid the heat, or at least take a break from it for a while? Here are a few ideas for beating the heat and staying cool in Chicago.

Head indoors

Duh, right? Luckily, while there’s lots to see and do outside in the city, many of Chicago’s best attractions are indoor sights. The many museums are all blissfully air-conditioned, as are the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and John Hancock Building, where you can look down from above at all those sweaty little ant-like people below. While shopping may seem like a good idea, be warned that you’ll be battling crowds down the street, dealing with the heat between stores and then trying on (and probably getting sweat on) clothes. Maybe your conscience can live with that. Mine can’t.

When you need a break, or a cold drink, skip the rooftop decks and outdoor dining and grab a seat in an air-conditioned restaurant or bar. A scorching day is also a good time to check out one of the city’s best spas, where you can often hang out for a few hours post-treatment to relax in a climate-controlled environment.

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Get wet

Especially if you are traveling with little ones, one of the best ways to cool down is to play in the water. Pause from your sightseeing to swing by the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park or the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Stand in the cold spray or splash in the puddles and instantly feel your temperature drop a few degrees. Another great option is the beach – Chicago has 26 miles of shoreline and 15 swimmable beaches in the city limits.

Get on the water

The temperature always seems lower when you are on a boat. Take an architectural river cruise, try a lunch or dinner cruise on the lake, kayak on the river, or just spend a few bucks for a river on the water taxi. Just being near the water seems to help, and the cooling breeze you get from the deck of boat doesn’t hurt either.

Take tour

On the hottest days, walking through the streets of Chicago sightseeing can seem like trekking through the Sahara desert. Get off your feet and into an air-conditioned vehicle with the open-topped, double-decked bus tour, or the Chicago Film Tour. Segway tours and bike tours are also available and help you cover more ground than by walking, with less effort. If you’re traveling on a budget, just hop on the el, which is air-conditioned (usually – it’s been known to break at the worst moments!) for an elevated tour of the city.

Photos by Kymberly Janisch, d1villano