To me, beating the winter blues means leaving the comfort of my couch and doing something other than reading and watching Netflix. Being cozy at home is one of my favorite things but I often feel stagnant during the winter months and long for a reason to get active or at least make it out of the house. Motivation is hard when it’s dark and cold but I often feel so much better once I’ve experienced some human interaction and taken a couple breaths of fresh, albeit cold, air.

Here are 5 things we’ve done so far this year to beat the cold weather:

1. Montrose Harbor

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I’m in love with the view from Montrose Harbor! You can see the entire skyline so well on a clear night. It can get a bit windy down by the water but we bundled up to take some pictures and it was so worth it. If you want to stay warm while still enjoying the landscape the parking spots face the lake so feel free to crank the heat, bring some hot drinks or takeout and chat. FREE!

2. Museums

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I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. There are so many free days for museums this time of year and we’ve really been taking advantage. We did The Field Museum in December and Adler Planetarium as well as The Art Institute last week. We’ve resolved to be tourists in our own city! We also love the Museum of Science and Industry and the Museum of Contemporary Art. These main museums almost always have a couple free days a month and this time of year some of them have free weeks or even months. FREE!

3. Ice skating

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I finally went ice skating in Millenium Park! It’s been on the city bucket list for years. Obviously this one is dependent on the weather but as long as it’s not TOO cold skating around will warm you up anyhow. I loved the view of the skyline at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink and am going to try the curvy “skating ribbon” of the Maggie Daley Ice Rink next. $13 covered the skate rental and change for a locker.

4. BYOB theatre

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(yes, that’s me in a terribly wonderful wig)

As a performer in the city I’ve been to many small theaters to support friends.There isn’t a better combination than a comedy show and a couple of drinks, especially if you’re saving money by bringing your own. I usually end up at Cornservatory because it’s in my neighborhood, a lot of my friends play there and I used to perform there so it’s always familiar and fun. There are, however, a ton of options! Shows usually range anywhere from $5 – $15. Visit Goldstar for discount tickets.

5. Trivia

There are a ton of bars only a few blocks from our house, and all over the city, that do trivia once a week. This is such an easy way to do something fun on a weeknight! Grab a buddy, have a beer and broaden your minds (yes, that’s a professor Trelawney quote). Sometimes there are even theme nights to look forward to like Harry Potter or Sex in the City (yes, I’ve done both of those). Find a spot by looking here, here or here. I’ve had a great time at Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro in Northcenter, at Benchmark in Old Town, and at Mad River in Lakeview. Once you’re in the door it’s up to you how much you spend on food and drink but in my experience this can be done on the cheap.

What are you doing to beat the winter blues? Whether you’re in the city or not I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. Stay warm! Stay motivated!