A walker takes in Chicago's fall color
Ian Packham

Chicago in November

Visit Chicago in November and you’ll discover a city preparing itself for the depths of winter but not quite done with fall. Temperatures are generally healthy enough to allow you to still spend plenty of time outdoors, where it’s usually possible to see the last of the fall color or the first flurries of snow.

As the days get shorter towards the end of November, there’s also the start of the Christmas festivities to look forward to as well as the celebrations around Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Wondering how cold Chicago is in November and what there is to do? We’ve brought together all the top tips so you need to look nowhere else.

Enjoy the end of the fall color

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Chicago weather in November sees average daily temperatures rise to 50°F, equivalent to a cool spring day. Whilst you’ll want to wrap up warm, do so properly and just eight days of rain will mean you can get out amidst the city’s green spaces to take in the final days of reds, oranges and gold with the turning of its leaves.

Should you choose, you could traverse Chicago’s shores on Lake Michigan without ever leaving parkland. A popular pick with those looking to get into the saddle of the city’s rental bicycles – but welcoming to walkers, joggers and skateboarders too – the Lakeshore Trail covers 18.5 miles.

Starting at Edgewater Beach in the northern suburbs, it then runs south past many of the city’s top attractions. The first is the free-to-visit Lincoln Park Zoo, whose residents include great apes, big cats, a burr oak older than the city and the Lionel Train Adventure and Endangered Species Carousel rides.

Further south lie other major things to do in Chicago in November including the magnificent Field Museum. As one of the largest natural history museums around, it is simply stuffed full of stuffed animals, cultural artifacts from across the globe and the famous skeleton of Sue the T-Rex – one of the most complete and best-preserved examples yet discovered.

A short way across the state border, alternative vistas can be sought out at Indiana Dunes National Park. Situated close to the southernmost point of Lake Michigan, the park’s impressive dunes offer a wealth of walking trails, albeit without the fall color.

Kick off the festive season

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Thanksgiving focusses very strongly on Chicago’s downtown areas. Taking place on the grid of streets which form immediately south of the fork in the Chicago River, the annual Thanksgiving Parade is a family-friendly affair which sees State Street taken over by giant helium balloons, dance troops and marching bands.

Thanksgiving is also closely associated with the Black Friday sales. Still on State Street, there are a great number of smaller stores, whilst the Magnificent Mile boasts higher end boutiques, department stores including Marshalls and Nordstrom and several shopping malls.

If you prefer the artisan touch, look no further than the Chirstkindlmarket that appears in front of Daley Plaza’s 50-foot tall steel Picasso sculpture towards the middle of the month. Its German-style wooden chalet-like stalls are awash with beautiful ornaments, jewelry and tasty treats.

Alternatively, you might want to try your hand at another winter staple – ice skating. The city’s largest outdoor rink is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink that sits beneath the gaze of Anish Kapoor’s Bean, although the Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon provides an attraction that’s a little more unusual, with a track winding through the tree cover twice the length of a lap around the Bean’s rink.

Savor the views

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With such a long list of things to do in Chicago in November you shouldn’t forget to stop for a moment or two and take in the windy city in all its glory. One way to do this would be to give your feet a rest by opting for the Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing bus instead. Taking in sights you might otherwise miss, it also connects up many of Chicago’s top attractions, including the Willis (Sears) Tower.

Entering the history books as the world’s tallest building from its topping out ceremony in 1974 until 1998, it continues to host the highest observation tower in the United States – the Skydeck. From its 103rd floor vantage, visitors are able to take in no less than four states whilst feeling the building move in the wind at almost 1400 feet up.

Giving the Willis Tower a good run for its money is 360 CHICAGO at 875 North Michigan Avenue. Although its views come from nine stories below the Skydeck, its wrap-around glass windows still have extraordinary panoramas over the city.

Get better acquainted with the city’s art

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Art lovers don’t need to look far in Chicago in November to get a fill of their passion. For one, the city has a huge array of public artworks. As well as the giant sculpture by Picasso in Daley Plaza and Anish Kapoor’s Bean, Chicago also has outdoor works by Joan Miro, Marc Chagall and Magdalena Abakanowicz.

The immense Merchandise Mart building comes to life with the world’s largest video installation, projected annually onto the side of the structure from September through November. There’s also an impressive array of murals covering the ends of buildings throughout the city. West Town Street has developed into a mile-long open-air gallery, with other works including the mural of local photographer Vivian Maier in Wicker Park and an unforgettably bright 100 foot image of American singer-songwriter Muddy Waters on North State Street.

The pick of the galleries includes the Art Institute of Chicago. One of the largest museums of its kind, the 300,000 objects in its permanent collection spans the genres, ranging from native American textiles to contemporary photography.

Making the most of Chicago in November

With so much to see and do in Chicago in November you won’t want to waste a second. Skip the lines and save big on admission to many of the city’s top attractions with Go City. Then the only thing left to do is have an incredible time in one of America’s greatest destinations!

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