The weather in Illinois can vary greatly by season, or even day-to-day. You can expect hot and humid summers, rainy springs, brisk falls, and frigid, snowy winters. If you prepare yourself with adequate clothing and realistic expectations, living in a location with four distinct seasons can be a fulfilling experience.
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The summer season runs from the middle of June to the middle of September. Temperatures average in the high 80s Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and high humidity can make things feel sticky. Light clothing will keep you cool and swimming gear will help you enjoy Chicago’s many beaches and public pools. However, keep a sweater handy as air conditioning is widely used indoors and often very cold.
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From the middle of September to middle of November is the fall season. Temperatures can vary greatly during this time from highs in the 60s Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) to lows in the 40s Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) and dropping to the 30s Fahrenheit (-1 to –2 Celsius) in November. Wearing layers of clothing can help you stay comfortable during this time of changing temperatures and waterproof coats and boots are essential for the rain. Fall is also a great time for outdoor activities, especially in nature, as trees change color before dropping their leaves for winter.
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Winter does not officially begin until December 21 but the cold and snow can show up in Illinois at the beginning of December and stay until the middle of March. Temperatures can stay at 20 Fahrenheit (-7 Celsius) and below for weeks and the wind chill can make it feel much colder. This is the time when clothing really makes a difference in your wellbeing. Find a down-filled, waterproof jacket with a hood and length to the thigh or below to keep your body warm. Hats, gloves, and scarves are a must. Sturdy, waterproof boots will keep your feet dry as snow melts and large slushy puddles form on sidewalks and streets. If you have ever wanted to try winter activities like sledding, skiing, or ice skating, this is the season to do it!
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Around the middle of March to early April, the cold weather begins to let up and spring arrives. This season runs until early June and is characterized by fluctuating conditions. Temperatures range from the low 30s Fahrenheit (-1 to –2 Celsius) to the high 50s and even 60s Fahrenheit (10 to 15 Celsius). You may find that one day you need your heavy winter jacket and the next you are sweating in just a shirt. Then the next day it snows! Rain can be sudden and heavy so those waterproof coats, boots, and umbrellas are still necessary. That said, spring brings a feeling of joy in Illinois as people return to outdoor activities and patio dining.
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One distinct feature of Chicago is its location on the shores of Lake Michigan. The cooling breezes of the lake make Chicago summers a bit milder and winter snow a bit heavier than other cities in Illinois. You will find that local weather reports often share two sets of temperatures with one from the airports more inland, and the other from the Loop which is closer to the Lakeshore. It is good to keep this in mind of you are headed downtown since it is almost always, “cooler by the lake.”