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How to brave the brutal winter like a real Chicagoan

City resources to skillfully handle the cold season

An aerial view of Chicago in the snow. The water surrounding Chicago is ice. Shutterstock

If you’ve endured at least one season of Chicago’s dangerous cold, then you know you can never be too prepared.

We’ve put together a list of tips, resources and ways to help others to brave the cold. From Midwest winter novice to weathered veteran—this list might help make the cold a little more tolerable.

Don’t hibernate in your apartment all winter

After living in Chicago, it’s inevitable that you become more tolerant of the cold (although it might be because you’ve learned how to layer up). Even in extreme cold, the city is still active. The Park District field houses are open with winter programming, and now libraries have longer hours. There are plenty of outdoor skating rinks that you can use to explore new parks. The Maggie Daley Park skating ribbon is a great place to admire the city’s architecture, too. Plus, if you really need a dose of heat and humidity the Garfield Park Conservatory is open 365 days a year.

Keep your apartment warm

If the heat goes out, the building’s landlord is responsible for fixing it quickly. The Heat Ordinance requires residences to be kept at a minimum of 68 degrees during the day at 66 degrees at night. Get familiar with tenant rights and make sure your landlord is following the law. Anyone without heat can make a complaint through 311 and for vulnerable folks there are warming centers across the city.

Know where the snow plows are headed

Has your block been cleared yet? Wondering when it’ll happen? Use the city’s tracker during major snow events, or watch on the ClearStreets map. As for sidewalks, city code requires homeowners and residents to shovel a path as soon as possible.

Get familiar with city services

New to using 311? We’ve developed a guide on the requests residents can make, which include planting trees in the parkway, repairing potholes, and reporting issues with heat.

In the winter, residents can ask city workers to remove ice and snow from the streets or even get a neighbor’s dibs set up removed (yep, residents can file a dibs complaint). If you haven’t witnessed a Chicago dibs season yet, its when neighbors shovel out a parking space and call “dibs” by leaving lawn chairs, cones, or crates in the spot.

Use the Pedway’s underground tunnels

On particularly cold, windy, or slushy days—stay undercover as long as possible in the Pedway. The system of tunnels and bridges connects to L stations and more than 50 buildings in the Loop encompassing 40 blocks. Plus, there’s a free art gallery with a series of rotating installations and works.

Don’t forget about the parking ban

From December 1 to April 1, the city institutes an overnight parking ban on certain major streets. The confusing restrictions can trip up drivers or visitors at first. The rules also kick in if there’s 2 inches or more of snow on the ground at any date. Breaking this rule will mean a $150 towing fee, $60 ticket, and a storage fee of $20 per day.

If that does happen, search for your towed car on the Chicago Police department’s website (however, private towing companies that haven’t made a report yet won’t show up).

Get updates on city emergencies

NotifyChicago is a city alert system that will send out texts or emails for major street closures, traffic events, and dangerous weather in your ZIP code. It could come in handy when trying to avoid gridlock from a late night Blackhawks game at the United Center or getting an advance warning of snow storms headed your way.