Chicago has an extreme climate with very hot summers and bitterly cold winters, its lakeside setting only slightly moderating the temperatures and adding some humidity to the atmosphere. Chicago has distinct seasons, with a short spring, when temperatures are moderate and nights frosty. Summers are hot, sunny and humid, from June to the end of September, with cool evenings when breezes blow in from Lake Michigan. Autumn is a lovely time of year when the air is crisp and cool, with blue skies and sunshine. Winters in Chicago are icy and prone to cold, harsh winds. Snow is common, and it is also very rainy during the winter months.
When to fly to Chicago
Summer is the peak of the festival season in the Chicago area with major events taking place in the parks and neighbourhoods every weekend, in spite of the heat and humidity from the Lake. September can be the most enjoyable and mild month of the year but there's less going on during this period.
January to March is when Chicago is least busy and deals on hotels and cheap flights to Chicago are usually attainable. However, true to its reputation as the “Windy City”, cold temperatures and brisk winds will make you want to stay inside for most of your visit.
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Getting around Chicago
No need to worry about getting around Chicago. There are plenty of ways to get around. Hop on the El, short for elevated train, the city’s subway system, or one of the buses that runs all over the city. For information about fares and routes, check out the website for the Chicago Transit Authority. Traffic is often congested, especially during rush hour, and driving isn’t recommended. Biking is becoming increasingly popular around the city, thanks to the city’s former mayor encouraging residents to ride their bikes as a mode of transportation. With all of Chicago’s lakefront property, biking can be a great way to enjoy the city.
Chicago insider information
- Any shopping in Chicago has to begin on State Street, in the centre of the Loop. The Marshall Field's flagship department store opened in 1852 there. Check out the famed “Magnificent Mile” along Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oak Street for specialty shops and boutiques with designers from Paris, Milan and Manhattan blending with Chicago’s Gold Coast style.
- The Chicago Cultural Centre houses one of the city’s official Visitor Information Centres and offers more than 600 free art programmes annually.
- Along the shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find Chicago's cultural delights including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Goodman Theatre, the Lyric Opera at the Civic Opera House building, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
- Chicago's lakefront is almost exclusively recreational park area from north to south, and features Grant Park, the home of Buckingham Fountain, the Petrillo Bandshell, the Grant Park Symphony (where free concerts are presented throughout the summer), and Chicago's annual two-week food orgy, the Taste of Chicago, where more than three million people "chow down".
- The beauty of Chicago springs from the tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that claimed 300 lives, left 90,000 Chicagoans homeless and destroyed $200 million worth of property. From this disaster came the opportunity to plan and rebuild the entire city.
- Chicago is also home to the nine time world-championship football team, the Chicago Bears and Wrigley Field, the second-oldest ballpark in the Major League baseball, built in 1914, just behind Boston's Fenway Park, built in 1912.