The Chicago Riverwalk

#10 in Best Things To Do in Chicago
The Chicago Riverwalk picture
Jumping Rocks/Getty Images

Key Info

Downtown Chicago

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Parks and Gardens, Free Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
4.2scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

When the weather warms up in Chicago, there are few better places to enjoy the outdoors than the Chicago Riverwalk. The 1.25-mile pedestrian walkway on the south bank of the Chicago River is the perfect place to take a walk and observe the city skyline. Plus, there are numerous activity options to enjoy directly on the water, such as a boat tour or kayaking. If you prefer dry land, explore the public gardens and art displays or grab a meal at a popular restaurant or bar overlooking the Chicago River. And if you want to learn more about the river's unique history, check out the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, which celebrates the city's famous movable bridges. Boat tours, many of which sail the Chicago River, are another way to learn about the city's waterways.

Recent guests said walking the Riverwalk is a nice way to view the city, but they did not recommend visiting during the frigid winter. The urban park is free to access, and it is open daily from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. If you can, visit during St. Patrick's Day weekend, when the entire river is dyed green. Just keep in mind that there are a few ongoing construction projects causing the closure of some parts of the Riverwalk (you can check this website for updates on construction). The public walkway is located downtown, following the south bank of the river from North State Street and stretching east to North Lake Shore Drive; it features several access points. There are a few parking lots and L stations near the attraction.

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More Best Things To Do in Chicago

Millennium Park1 of 20
Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain2 of 20
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Millennium Park

A first-time visit to Chicago isn't complete without a stop at Millennium Park. Situated in the Loop just north of the Art Institute of Chicago, this 24.5-acre space is used to showcase cutting-edge art, architecture and landscaping; it also acts as a backdrop for concerts and festivals. Most visitors come to Millennium Park to see the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, better known as "The Bean." Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain features two 50-foot towers that face each other at opposite ends of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers' LED screens project the faces of 1,000 different Chicago residents, which are perfectly aligned with spouts so that it appears they are spitting water on passersby. Cloud Gate – created by British artist Anish Kapoor – is a 110-ton bean-shaped sculpture forged from stainless steel. The Bean's elliptical shape reflects the Chicago skyline.

There are plenty of other reasons to visit Millennium Park: You can see a concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, stroll through the Lurie Garden or the Boeing Galleries (where contemporary sculpture is displayed outdoors), or sign up for a Segway tour at the McDonald's Cycle Center.

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