It's also a great time for theater.
In winter, you also might score tickets for the hottest show in the country, "The Book of Mormon," if you are flexible with your dates or seeking a single seat on weekends. The musical at the Bank of America Theatre has been extended through Sept. 8.
When I arrived in Chicago in late January, I heard grumbling from hotel clerks and even transit workers about all the new price hikes around town. Some affect residents, but most of the increases seem meanly aimed at tourists. For example:
The cost of a day pass often used by tourists to ride buses and the L is now $10, a 74 percent hike over the old price of $5.75. You now need to ride at least five times in one day to make the pass worthwhile, because individual trips are $2.25. Prices for seven-day and 30-day passes also went up Jan. 14.
It's now $5 to take public transit from O'Hare airport to downtown, up from $2.25.
Art Institute of Chicago tickets for out-of-state visitors are now $23 (they were $18). Museum of Science and Industry tickets for out-of-state visitors are $18 (they were $16). And there are no more free days for out-of-state visitors to any Illinois museum -- those were dropped 18 months ago.
It's now $6.50 per hour to park in the Loop, the highest city parking meter rate in the nation. Parking near downtown is now $4 an hour, and neighborhood parking is $2 an hour. Parking prices rose Jan. 1.
The toll for the Chicago Skyway is now $4, up 50 cents.
So how can a simple visitor from out of state still enjoy Chicago?
Come now. If you have two or fewer people, don't bring a car to Chicago -- the parking alone costs more than mass transit or taxis, about $45 to $55 a day, even if you self-park. Take the train or a bus. Stay with a relative or friend. Seek out small neighborhood restaurants.
Save your money for the few things that really matter to you -- the symphony, a play, a museum, a great jazz club, a Chicago pizza, an American Girl doll with her very own hot-air balloon, or just a hot cup of cocoa while looking out at a bustling Magnificent Mile.