Known as the Windy City, Chicago is a city packed with things to see and do.  No matter the season, there is always something exciting going on in this magical midwestern city. For one, it’s an architectural gem. Skyscrapers abound. And like any other famous big city, there are a host of museums, parks, restaurants, music venues, and so much more to do in Chicago.

Another highlight in the city is the Chicago Riverwalk, which is a path that runs for 1.25 miles from Lake Street to the lakefront. What was once an industrial area loaded with shipping barges is now a waterfront gem of the city. There are four distinct districts as part of Riverwalk including The Confluence, The Arcade, The Civic, and The Esplanade. “The Chicago River is a treasured natural amenity in the urban canyon of world-famous architecture and the Chicago RiverwaIk allows a close proximity to the waterway,” according to the City of Chicago website.

Do Something Out of the Ordinary on The Chicago Riverwalk

Head over to the Chicago Riverwalk for a day on the water. Rent a kayak through Urban Kayaks. It’s a great way to see the city and there’s a location on the Riverwalk. If you’ve never done kayaking before, no worries – you can enjoy a guided kayak tour no matter your skill level. They even offer a sunset tour!

kayaks on the chicago river

Experience art exhibits along the Riverwalk’s pedestrian trail through the Public Art Program. The art on display is truly Chicago, honoring the city’s history and diversity. Among the work you’ll find is street muralist Don’t Fret’s “The People in Your Neighborhood” and Kate Lynn Lewis’s “The Radiance of Being.” It’s open to the public from 6:00am to 11:00pm and it’s free.

There’s also Art on the Mart, which “is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART,” according to its website. Since it launched in 2018, it has featured moving image work by artists nationally and internationally. You can view the projections free of charge from the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

How about visiting a playscape, a wonderful place to take the kids? Walk on over to Extraordinary Playscapes, which is an exhibition by Design Museum Foundation. It’s a national exhibition and education program “that explores the latest thinking in playground design while presenting how vital free play is to childhood development, thriving communities, and social equity,” according to City of Chicago.

Hit Up a Museum, Check Out Birds, Grab Some Wine

chicago riverwalk

Make time for something a little different by visiting the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, which pays homage to not only the Chicago River but also to its fascinating movable bridges. You’re just in time because the museum reopens on May 13, 2023, after being closed for the winter season. Your visit starts at river level and takes you up five stories while you discover this historic building. You’ll also learn all about the Chicago River, it’s history, and why it is the heartbeat of this great city. It’s at the top where you get spectacular views of the city and the river.

If you’re a birder, or happen to be curious about birds, the Chicago Riverwalk is a perfect place to check out birds and a bit of nature. On the first Friday of every month at 8:00am from July through October, join Audubon Great Lakes on a monthly walk. Birds you are likely to see include Mallards, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, House Sparrows, and many more. It’s perfect for beginners too.

While at the Riverwalk, why not learn all about its stunning architecture? Visit The Chicago Architecture Center and take its 90-minute tour where you’ll find out everything you need to know about the city’s skyscrapers and supertall high rises. There are many architectural tours from which to choose and learn about the great buildings of Chicago. If you love tall buildings, this is the place for you.

city cruises on the chicago river

See Chicago Sights from the Chicago River

Enjoy the city with a two-hour cocktail cruise on the Chicago River. The Sights & Sips Cruise on the Chicago River is where you can revel in the striking views of Chicago’s architecture. It’s a great way to gather your friends and family to escape for an afternoon relaxing on the water. You will enjoy signature cocktails, wine, snacks, passed hors d’oeuvres, and music provided by a live DJ.

seadog on the chicago river

If it’s dinner you prefer, the Premier Plus Dinner Cruise on the Chicago River is a dining experience you don’t want to miss. You’ll spend the evening dining on the Chicago River enjoying picturesque views and dancing to the tunes by a live DJ. The 2.5-hour cruise features a three-course chef-prepared plated menu, creative cocktails, along with distinctive service. Enjoy the attractions from either a climate-controlled interior or the open-air outdoor deck. It’s perfect for two or for a dinner with friends.

For a little extra excitement on the water, take the Chicago Seadog River & Lake Architectural Tour, a 75-minute cruise where you’ll enjoy the city’s iconic skyline and get up close to the architecture and landmarks. This lively cruise departs from Navy Pier. It’s fun for the entire family and features live narration. It’s different because it takes you from the lakefront and through the locks all the way to the Willis Tower. You’ll also get a short speedboat ride on the lake. DId you know that you can also package this experience with a trip to a museum? The Morning at the Museum: Art Institute of Chicago Exclusive Guided Tour & Seadog River & Lake Architectural Tour allows you to see the art, the architecture, the river, and everything in-between!

The Chicago Riverfront has too many attractions to mention. As Thrillist recommends, “Come nightfall, hit the Chicago River or Lake Michigan for some memorable jaunts with Chicago City Cruises.” There’s something for everyone in the family. With the warmer months already here, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of everything it has to offer.

FAQs – Chicago Riverwalk Things to Do in 2024

Why should I choose City Cruises for an experience along the Chicago Riverwalk?
City Cruises offers a unique way to experience the Chicago Riverwalk from the water. The cruises provide stunning views of the city’s architecture and landmarks, enhanced by expert commentary and luxurious amenities.

What types of cruises does City Cruises offer along the Chicago Riverwalk in 2024?
City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk includes sightseeing tours, architectural cruises, sunset cruises, and special event cruises, providing a range of experiences to suit different interests.

Can I book a private event with City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk?
Yes, City Cruises offers private event bookings, perfect for special occasions, corporate events, or group gatherings, providing a unique backdrop of the Chicago skyline.

What dining options are available on City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk?
Depending on the cruise, City Cruises may offer a variety of dining options, from light snacks and cocktails to full-course meals, all served as you enjoy the scenic views of the river.

Are City Cruises suitable for all ages?
Yes, City Cruises are suitable for all ages, offering an enjoyable and educational experience for both adults and children.

How long are the cruises offered by City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk?
Cruise lengths vary, typically ranging from one to two hours, offering ample time to enjoy the sights and learn about the city’s history and architecture.

What attractions can I find along the Chicago Riverwalk?
The Chicago Riverwalk offers a variety of attractions including public art installations, beautifully landscaped gardens, interactive fountains, and architecturally significant bridges.

Are there dining options available on the Chicago Riverwalk?
Yes, the Riverwalk features a range of dining options, from casual cafes and food kiosks to upscale restaurants, all offering picturesque views of the Chicago River.

Can I take a guided tour of the Chicago Riverwalk?
Guided tours are available, offering insights into the history and architecture of Chicago. These tours often include walking tours, architectural tours, and even kayaking tours on the river.

Is the Chicago Riverwalk suitable for children and families?
Yes! The Riverwalk is family-friendly, with many activities and spaces designed for children, including playgrounds, splash pads, and open areas for picnics and relaxation.

Are there any shopping opportunities along the Chicago Riverwalk?
While the Riverwalk primarily focuses on dining and leisure, visitors can find shops selling souvenirs, local crafts, and Chicago-themed merchandise.

Is the Chicago Riverwalk accessible year-round?
The Chicago Riverwalk is open year-round, but some businesses and activities may be seasonal, especially water-based activities which are more popular in warmer months.

What’s the best time of day to experience City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk?
The best time of day depends on what you’re looking for. Morning cruises offer a peaceful view of the city waking up, afternoon cruises are great for seeing the Riverwalk in full swing, and sunset or evening cruises provide stunning views of the illuminated skyline.

Do City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk offer educational content?
Yes, many City Cruises along the Chicago Riverwalk feature live narration or audio guides that provide educational content about Chicago’s architectural marvels, history, and the river’s transformation. These insights enrich the cruising experience, making it both fun and informative.

How can I ensure a spot on a City Cruise along the Chicago Riverwalk?
Booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during peak seasons or for popular cruise times like sunset. You can reserve your spot through the City Cruises website or by contacting customer service.

Can I customize my City Cruises experience along the Chicago Riverwalk for a special occasion?
Yes! City Cruises offers customization options for special occasions, including decorations, personalized menus, and even entertainment choices. Their team works with you to make your event memorable, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or engagement celebration.


Original post date: June 1, 2023