Christkindlmarket ChicagoI am a big fan of winter in Chicago. The city is rich with tradition for young and old alike, especially over the holidays. My favorite childhood memories include viewing the animated holiday displays in the store windows along State Street, getting my picture taken with Santa Claus at Macy’s (then Marshall Field’s), seeing the Nutcracker Ballet with my grandmother, and visiting the Museum of Science and Industry’s spectacular Christmas around the World and Holiday Lights exhibit. Nowadays, there are even more opportunities to enjoy, like ice skating at Millennium Park or Wrigley Field, perusing Christkindlmarket with a cup of hot spiced wine in hand, and snuggling up in the back of a horse-drawn carriage for a ride along Michigan Avenue.

While you’re enjoying winter in the city, though, don’t forget some of these practical seasonal considerations.

Winter Street Parking Restrictions

Chicago’s Winter Overnight Parking Ban is back in effect. This yearly ban restricts parking between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on 107 miles of Chicago’s most critical streets regardless of snowfall. Those violating the ban risk having their vehicles ticketed and towed, incurring as much as $250 in fines. And don’t think the city isn’t serious about this – 398 cars were towed on the first two nights of December.

While waking up to a sparkling blanket of virgin snow is part of the Chicago winter experience, it can mean trouble for area residents who park on another 500 miles of city streets. If more than two inches of snow falls at any time (day or night) and your car is parked in an affected location, it will be ticketed and relocated.

You can learn which streets are restricted by clicking here. Otherwise, keep a sharp eye out for winter weather restriction signs when parking your car on the street.

Frozen, Inoperable Parking Meters

With the recent drop in temperatures, Chicago’s new computerized parking meter kiosks have been freezing up – literally. Apparently the cold snap caused buttons to jam, rendering the machines unable to accept payment from parkers. The city and LAZ Parking, which manages the parking scheme, claim only 2% of meters have been affected, but The Expired Meter blog claims 60% of the 40 meters they surveyed had frozen components. I myself was recently unable to operate a frozen kiosk on North Clark Street and had to walk a block in freezing temperatures with my four-year-old son to pay for my spot.

Should you happen to park in a space with an inoperable meter, you are advised to contact LAZ and inform them of the problem. If you get ticketed, use the reference number on your ticket to dispute the fine.

Protect your Home

It is important to remember to follow common sense cold weather precautions and protect one of your most valuable assets, your home. This is especially applicable to the growing number of vacant homes that are on the market for rent and for sale. As a Chicago area real estate agent, I have seen a number of homes suffer damage when temperatures fall. During last week’s single-digit chill, we went to check on each of the vacant homes we have on the market. We discovered that one of our clients forgot to put the gas bill into their name after their tenants moved out, prompting the gas company to disconnect service. Their home was dangerously cold inside. Another day or two and the water pipes would have frozen and burst. If your home is vacant, don’t forget to obtain vacant home insurance so you are covered if there is a problem.

Speaking of protecting your home, keep in mind that the holiday season is a time when your home may be more vulnerable to burglary. Last year at this time, I wrote about precautions you can take to protect against this, and my advice still applies.


So relax and enjoy all that Chicago has to offer this winter season, but be aware and be safe.

Photo by yuan2003

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