Chicago: It’s Not That Cold (Unless It Is)

posted in: Chicago 15
Chicaaaaaaago. With ice. Image: Wikipedia.


When I am not in my fair city of Chicago and tell someone that I live in the fair city of Chicago, they always say one or more of the following things:

  1. “I love Chicago!”
  2. “Oh, no! But it’s so cold there!”
  3. “Okay.”

It’s interesting just how often folks will say the second thing. About the cold. I mean, Chicago is a city recognized for genius architecture, the best restaurants in the nation, a literary history so rich the streets are practically paved with books. But what do people reference?

The cold.

Sometimes this is tiresome because it’s not that cold in Chicago. I mean, yeah, it’s cold in winter! It’s the Midwest! We’re not on the Equator! We have four, somewhat recognizable seasons! But are we any colder than any other place in the Midwest? I grew up in Iowa and I remember snow drifts that engulfed Mom and Dad’s old Volvo and, I was in junior high, an ice storm that coated the trees so heavily, my sisters and I cowered together in the living room and listened, horrified, as branches all over the neighborhood splintered off their trunks. That was something.

“But the lake!” a person will cry. “Doesn’t the lake make it colder?? And the wind??

To some extent, yes. “Lake effect” weather is actually a thing: Due to the ocean-sized Lake Michigan that makes our entire eastern border, Chicago gets some funky, quick-change weather, sometimes. And … FACT FLASH! The “wind” in our “Windy City” nickname was not coined as a result of some constant weather condition; in fact, the “wind” referred to the hot air of Chicago politicians, as I understand it.

Anyway, we don’t have that windy a city, however we got the name. I was in downtown Minneapolis a few years ago in February and I remember saying very, very, very bad words into my scarf as I made my way from the parking lot to my hotel, battered by a truly malevolent icy wind.

The past few winters haven’t been that cold around here, so I have felt fussy at times with people who bring up the whole, “Chicago is so cold! It’s so cold in Chicago!” thing.


In the past week or so, it’s barely topped 35 degrees. Y’all, it’s so cold. I forgot my gloves the other day when I headed out to school and I said bad words into my scarf again. It’s cold. Winter is getting a little tiresome and I am feeling the need for a green shoot or bud, somewhere.

Look, I can be wrong. I can stand corrected.

In a snow drift.

15 Responses

  1. Marcia Healy
    | Reply


  2. Margaret S
    | Reply

    I get it Mary. When I tell people I’m from Buffalo they all think it’s witty to ask if we still have snow in July! Well you know what? There are several places that get more snow than we do, and we do have 4 seasons! I’d much rather shovel snow than worry about forest fires, mudslides and earthquakes wiping my home out!

  3. Lucile Lapin
    | Reply

    The Midwest does not have forest fires, mud slides, hurricanes, earthquakes, and so on. We even have clean water to drink and air to breath. We should not complain but we do anyway to avoid talking about politics.
    Hope you are well Mary.

    • Judy Forkner
      | Reply

      The water is not so clean in Flint…

  4. Lauren
    | Reply

    I’m Canadian. The entire WORLD responds to that with questions about the cold, and yet it was 42°C with the humidex on my wedding day. AKA I hear ya.

  5. diane
    | Reply

    love reading the positive things about Chicago says this suburban girl….and don’t forget our museums and the Cubs!
    Cheer up…I think Spring is on it’s way!

  6. Julie Meinema
    | Reply

    Ha! Living in not-that-far-away Kalamazoo, MI, I feel your pain! 35 degrees is fine in December, January, February. But at the end of March? It’s time to move on, winter. That wind after church Sunday was COLD. But my tulips, irises, day lilies and lilies of the valley are all poking up like champs. We’ll get through this!

  7. Jeanne
    | Reply

    My son lived in Buffalo for 15 years and people would say the same thing about the cold. I never froze to death there! Somehow he chose an area nearly exempt from the lake effect snow so only rarely had more snow than we have in the Hudson Valley. And yes,it took me awhile to realize that Lake Erie was creating the Cape Cod like perpetual breeze in the summer. I loved Buffalo – he’s moved to the Tampa area so now I have a new area to learn. I’d still prefer Buffalo – I could drive to get there without a lot of planning.

  8. Rachel
    | Reply

    I’m just an hour north of you in WI and i feel your pain!

  9. Kim S
    | Reply

    Not a better city in our country!! Love, love Chi town, but yeah it’s cold and yeah, that wind is brutal. Winter isn’t for sissies, but you can’t truly appreciate the other seasons without it. Having said that, I think winter has not paid attention to the calendar!! I am ready for some SPRING!

  10. Mary Spriet
    | Reply

    You say Chicago, I do say Architecture. I love visiting my son & his family there. As a matter of fact, my 1st grade grandson just did a little speech for his class on Daniel Burnham. An Architect during the White City Fair. We all love the buildings and amazing history! Cold, yes,but being a Michigander we’ve seen it all too.

  11. Grammy Judy
    | Reply

    This year the winter weather has been weird through out the entire nation. In Michigan we always say well it is Michigan weather after all. I think March and April are our worse months, one day a spring teaser and the next day we can have a foot of snow or an ice storm. Think Spring.

  12. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    We are happy to finally be getting some snow &/or rain in Boulder, CO. The flowers are coming up–yay! Such a dry winter–we’re worried about the snow pack–it takes lots of snow in the mountains to fill our reservoirs (& those of the states down stream who get water from the Colorado River)!We don’t want a drought!

  13. Ginny R
    | Reply

    I love Iowa. I am a California transplant. The area I lived in was ungodly hot in the summer (over 120 degrees at times) and it drizzled and was foggy in the winter (we only had 2 seasons). Iowa has 4, count ’em 4 seasons! I love the spring when things start to bud and it is warm enough to be outside. Summer is grand, we love to camp. Fall is beautiful with the leaves changing colors. Last but not least winter – when the snow falls it is so beautiful. Winter makes us appreciate the other 3 seasons PLUS, you get a lot of quilting in!!!! Embrace “your” Chicago.

  14. Colleen
    | Reply

    I am old I am a coastal California girl it is what I know and accept summer like day today 82 degrees F and yes it is too soon to be in the 80’s but we get the weather we get here and wish those snow bound states would send us all that snow melt we need the water to make our ice tea

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