Stretching from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street, the Chicago Riverwalk offers 1.25 miles of pedestrian entertainment. A playground for adults, the Riverwalk features an outdoor wine garden, kayaking, fishing and more along the city’s “Second Lakefront.” Completed in 2016, the Riverwalk today offers a bustling hub of activity—and it keeps on expanding, with plans to add a Community Marketplace in 2019. Today, the park is made up of six cove “rooms,” and there’s even a museum along the way.
Chicago Riverwalk Features
Each cove has its own name and unique landscape. The Marina, from State to Dearborn, connects the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Riverwalk to the west. Here, there are an array of restaurants offers the best views of the river. Boaters can pull right up to the dock, and parents can park their strollers.
The Cove, from Dearborn to Clark, offers kayak rentals and concessions. From Clark to LaSalle, the River Theater features trees growing from its steps, which offer a place to sit and watch the boats go by under a respite of shade.
The Water Plaza, from LaSalle to Wells, is ideal for families with a fountain for kids to cool off in. From Wells to Franklin, the Jetty features educational offerings that teach about local fish and the river’s ecology. For the best views, the neighboring Riverbank (Franklin to Lane) is surrounded by floating gardens.
Between Lake Shore and Columbus on the Riverwalk, Island Party Hut Tiki Bar and Grill offers a year-round escape on the water. In warmer months, seasonal vendors line the walk with plenty of space to nosh and take in the views. Before things heat up, the Domes at City Winery offer clear igloo-like places to relax with a glass of wine in early springs. Here, you can take in the views without the river’s cold breeze.
You can also easily get out on the water from the Riverwalk by booking a party boat or enjoying a sightseeing cruise. Chicago Water Taxi, Wendella Sightseeing, and Chicago’s First Lady Cruises offer an array of options, including the famous Architectural Tour.
Along the way, you’ll observe an array of public art. Riverwalk Gateway is installed beneath lake Shore Drive Bridge, and you can see Allium in 10-foot cast aluminum between Columbus and Lake Shore. Black Tiberinus is crafted from steel, nylon, hardware and streamers to create unique sculptures. There is also an Extraordinary Playscapes exhibition that fuses art and play in a unique playground design for kids.
The Riverwalk is also home to the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, which celebrates the river’s famous moveable bridges. The museum starts at river level and spirals up for five stories, offering panoramic views while learning about the historic bridgehouse. Visitors start at river level to see the original massive gears that powered the bridge, then gradually work their way up while walking through time.
For more riverside strolling, check out the River Esplanade across the river to the north. The landscaped walkway leads to a plaza with the Centennial Fountain and a seasonal water cannon.
Chicago Riverwalk Events
The Riverwalk is home to frequent live music and special events throughout warmer months. City Winery Riverwalk hosts an array of special celebrations, like a Derby Day/Cinco de Mayo weekend to kick off the season. Catch other events like Yoga on the Riverwalk at Tiny Tapp & Cafe, special talks and beer tastings. DJ’d events and live music is frequently offered in the summer, so check out who will be playing during your stay.