The holidays are over, the novelty of the first snow has worn off, and the realization that we have a long winter ahead is finally setting in. You know when it’s so cold that, upon stepping outside, the wintry wind immediately brings tears to your eyes that then freeze to icicles before they reach the middle of your cheek? Or when your toes or so cold you worry you may trip and be buried under the snow, not to be discovered until the first thaw?
Welcome to February in Chicago! My first Midwest winter was two years ago and, this being my third trip around the sun here, I feel like I am now a winter veteran. I have seen some things and am forever changed. Until I was advised by the National Weather Service that it was unsafe to be outside for longer than six minutes because the windchill is -35 degrees, I did not know cold. I thought I did, but I did not.
It’s easy to feel like the winter will go on forever, that facing you is an endless torrent of dark evenings and freezing commutes. So, you must get creative! Here are my top 10 favorite indoor activities for when it is simply too cold to go outside:
1) Start that book you’ve been meaning to read for months
My absolute favorite thing to do in the winter is read. But, if you’re anything like me, I always have a stack of books lined up that go almost completely untouched in the warmer months. Winter is the perfect time to start working through them! There’s nothing better than snuggling up with a hot cup of tea and a new book. Settle in!
2) Pick up a craft or hobby
What better time to start crafting than when you’re stuck inside all day? There are countless crafts and hobbies out there to try, from the mundane to the strange. Last winter, I took up painting. This winter, who knows?
3) Visit museums and galleries
True, you will have to technically leave the house for this one, but just the short time it takes for you to hop out of your car and run in the door. Many cities schedule periods of time where entry into various museums are free or at reduced cost – and most will do this in the winter time. Chicago, for example, does Chicago Museum Week every January, where you can visit top museums like the Art Institute Chicago or the Field Museum at a discounted admission. There’s nothing better than spending a snowy Sunday with Sue the enormous T-rex.
4) Hit up some new restaurants!
It’s only natural to want to eat all of the things when it’s cold outside, and winter food can be the best kind of food! Check out the new Ramen in town or hit up that new pub down the street. Or, better yet, see when your city’s Restaurant Week is happening. They’re usually in the wintertime and are a great opportunity to try some new fancy restaurants at a portion of the cost.
5) Binge something on Netflix
We all do it – there’s no shame in it! With the millions (literally, millions) of TV shows and movies out there, there’s no end to the amount of hours you could spend in front of the TV this winter. Obviously, you’ll want to stop before you brain turns to absolute mush, but if there’s nothing going on that day, go for it! Sink into a season or two of Shameless or Sons of Anarchy – guilt-free.
6) Try something new in the kitchen
If my favorite thing to do in the winter is read, my second favorite is to cook. Trying out a new recipe on a cold winter evening can be as warming as a summer day. Plus, you get to eat it afterwards!
7) Work somewhere outside of your house
One of the worst things about winter is cabin fever. If you work from home or do some side-hustle work after hours, look outside your living room next time. Hit up the new café or maybe even check out a co-working space.
8) Write something. Write anything!
One thing that winter really lends itself to is some good old introspection. It’s the perfect time to start that journal or maybe some sort of creative writing project you’ve been thinking about starting.
9) Join a gym or take up an indoor sport
You’ll probably need something to counteract all of the Restaurant Week-touring and yummy new recipes you’ve concocted, right? A lot of gyms offer “new year discounts” in the winter to attract customers. See if any near you do the same! Also, there are tons of indoor rec leagues you can join in on- from soccer to bocce ball.
Perhaps the most worthwhile thing you can do during the winter is to volunteer your time. Check out Idealist.org or UnitedWay.org to find an opportunity near you.