March in Chicago: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

How Much Wind Can You Expect in the Windy City?

River Dyed Green in Chicago

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March is a great time to visit the Windy City, well ahead of the summer crowds and festival season. With winter chills starting to subside, it is the time when locals stop hibernating and start venturing out again. 

Aside from the weather, what else motivates most people to pack their social calendars again is the coming of St. Patrick's Day. While the holiday falls on March 17th, it is celebrated in Chicago for approximately two weeks, beginning with the famous dyeing of the Chicago River to - what else - emerald green each year.

With two parades, the Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade and South Side St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the celebration of patron saint of Ireland is incredibly popular, so you should be aware that it can result in inflated hotel, airfare, and area prices, as well as major crowding all over the city, and especially downtown.

There are a number of Chicago bars that light up with the luck of the Irish during March in celebration of the holiday. Also, runners will delight in participating in Bank of America's Shamrock Shuffle, held on March 22 this year.

If you plan on skipping the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, however, there are several other notable events that occur in Chicago this month, including the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show, the Geneva Film Festival, and the Good Food Festival. It is also national noodle month, and there is no shortage of great bowls of ramen in the city.

So, no matter what brings you to Chicago in early spring, here's what you need to know before you go.

Chicago Weather in March

Weather in the Windy City is quite chilly this month, still, so if you plan on spending time outside—and you should—be sure to plan accordingly with warm layers, protection from the sun, and sturdy closed-toed walking shoes.

  • Average High Temperature: 45° F (7° C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 28° F (-2° C)
  • Average Precipitation: 2.7"
  • Average Snowfall: 7.0"

What to Pack

While milder than January and February, the temperatures in March can be downright freezing. Packing warm layers of winter clothing is definitely a must, but you should also bring a few short-sleeved shirts in case of warmer weather. A scarf, hat, gloves, warm winter coat are essential. Checking the daily forecast before your visit is a smart idea as the weather changes quite a bit during this month.

Comfortable walking shoes, or even warm boots, are also required for exploring the city but don't fret if you forget a few essentials as the Chicagoland area shopping malls have everything you need to make your stay pleasant.

March Events in Chicago

Spring in Chicago is popular with locals and tourists alike and the city really opens up with foot traffic and excitement around fun happenings and events.

  • The Geneva Film Festival is popular with indie film buffs. Taking place about an hour inland of Chicago in Geneva, Illinois, the festival screens a wide variety of both short and feature-length independent films from local as well as international filmmakers.
  • Started in 1847 as an exhibition of prized fruits and flowers, the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show is all about inspiring, educating, and motivating the next generation of gardeners, and showcasing the greener side of Chicago.
  • The Midwest’s premier event for local and sustainable food is the Good Food Festival. This annual expo invites farmers, food producers, investors, trade buyers, policy makers, activists, families, and food lovers, and more to join together over three dynamic days and connect with others active in the Good Food community.
  • If you can brave the cold, join over 5,000 fundraisers who wade into the cold waters of Lake Michigan each March to support charity at the Chicago Polar Plunge. Or, you can stay dry and watch from shore.

March Travel Tips

  • If you're planning on traveling any time around St. Patrick's Day, plan ahead as many popular hotels will likely reach capacity.
  • To enjoy great views of the dying of the Chicago River, book a room along the river front.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather, which can still be quite chilly and windy. Plan ahead and plan for the worst.

To learn more about if you want to visit Chicago in March, check out our guide on the best time to visit.

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