Chicago, where it's located

Chicago is the largest city of Illinois, and it's located in the American Midwest, along the banks of Lake Michigan. Here, the climate is continental, with cold winters (when there are many periods below freezing) and hot summers. Although the city is located at a middle latitude, in winter it is cold because the North American land mass cools down a lot, and polar air outbreaks are frequent. Given the distance from the sea and the exposure to different types of air masses, temperature changes are frequent.
Here are the average temperatures recorded at the O'Hare International Airport.
Chicago - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-9-7-2491518171260-6
Max (°C)-1281521272928241792
Min (°F)161928394859646354433221
Max (°F)303646597081848275634836

Precipitation amounts to 935 millimeters (37 inches) per year and is well distributed over the seasons, at least in frequency, while in terms of quantity, the winter is the driest season. In winter, and also in spring and autumn, weather fronts pass over the area, while in late spring and summer, when they become less frequent, thunderstorms can form in the afternoon or evening: it is no coincidence that August is the rainiest month. In winter, precipitation mainly occurs in the form of snow. An average of 92 centimeters (36 inches) of snow falls per year; every once in a while, a snowfall can be seen already in October, while in spring, sometimes it can snow even in April. The record belongs to the winter of 1978-79, when a total of 228 cm (90 in) of snow fell. Here is the average precipitation.
Chicago - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)4545658595909512580808055935
Prec.(in)1.81.82.63.33.73.53.74.93.13.13.12.236.8
Days1191112121010108101111124

Winter in Chicago runs from late November to early March and is cold, to the point that the average temperature is reminiscent of Northern European cities. But at least, the days here are not as short as in the Nordic countries.
Snowfall is frequent, so much so that it snows for several days in a month; sometimes, real snowstorms can occur.
Polar cold spells are accompanied by the blizzard, the north wind blowing in gusts and able to heighten the feeling of cold. Particularly cold periods, with minimum temperatures dropping to -20 °C (-4 °F), occur practically every year, and sometimes they can even drop to around -30 °C (-22 °F). For example, the temperature dropped to -32.2 °C (-26 °F) in January 1982, to -32.8 °C (-27 °F) in January 1985, to -29.5 °C (-21 °F) in January 1994, and to -30.6 (-23.1 °F) in January 2019.
Although the temperature remains below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F) even during the day for weeks, sometimes it can exceed freezing also in winter, resulting in melting snow and possible rainfall. Every so often, the phenomenon called "ice storm" (or freezing rain) can also occur, that is, rain falling on frozen ground, freezing everything, roads, trees, light poles, cars etc.

Spring, from mid-March to May, is an unstable season, characterized by different situations and temperature changes: initially cold in March, with snowfalls and frosts still quite frequent, it advances gradually, between the first warm days and the return of cold weather conditions. In early April, it can still snow; on the other hand, during the month the first warm days can occur, with highs around 30 °C (86 °F). In fine weather, a cool (or even cold) breeze in the afternoon blows from the lake, which is felt especially in the eastern districts of the city. In May, it can still be cold at night, especially at the beginning of the month, while on other occasions, it can be hot, with highs above 30 °C (86 °F). In April and May, in the first fine and warm days, the first thunderstorms in the afternoon or in the evening can occur.

Summer, from June to August, is hot, humid and sunny, with some afternoon or evening thunderstorms. There may be some pleasant days, with highs around 25/27 °C (77/81 °F) and cool nights, but also real heat waves, with highs around 35 °C (95 °F) and beyond. In the worst moments, the temperature can reach as high as 40 °C (104 °F), as happened in July 2012.

Autumn, from September to November, is the (relatively) quietest period of year. However, we can not rule out early cold weather periods or the return of warm temperatures, and even waves of bad weather. In early September, the weather is still often characterized by heat and humidity, with sunshine and some afternoon thunderstorms, while later, it becomes milder. In early October, particularly mild days, even warm, can occur, but in the course of the month there may be slight frosts. Between late October and early November, usually after the first night frosts, a mild period, with highs above 20 °C (68 °F), can occur: it's the so-called Indian summer. However, during the month of November it can get cold, with the first snowfalls and intense frosts.

Chicago skyline and lake

The amount of sunshine in Chicago is very good in summer, when there are several sunny days, and it's good in May and September; in the other months, it's not high, especially in November and December, when the sun shows up rarely enough: there are on average 10.2 hours of sunshine per day in July and 3.4 hours in December.
Chicago - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours45679101098643

Near Chicago, Lake Michigan is very cold in winter (and it can partially freeze on colder winters, and fully on the coast), while in summer it is still cool, but becomes almost acceptable for swimming, at least in August, or for those who do not suffer from the cold. However, it depends on the period: after a series of a few hot days in a row, the lake can become more temperate.
Here are the average lake temperatures.
Chicago - Lake temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)43336121921191495
Temp (°F)393737374354667066574841

Best Time


The best period to visit Chicago is the beginning of autumn, from early September to mid-October. You can also choose the spring, from mid-April to late May, but it is a more unstable and windy season. However, in both periods, you may run into a bit of cold at night, or hot temperatures during the day, or some rainy days. Those who can stand the heat can also choose the summer, which has longer days and more hours of sunshine, but also the risk of very hot days. However, the summer can also give acceptable periods (and maybe, cool nights as well).