Located on the south bank of the Chicago River, the award-winning, pedestrian-friendly Chicago Riverwalk stretches 1.25 miles from Lake Michigan to Lake Street. Along the way you’ll discover intimate coves, breezy cafes, wineries and bars, public art, monuments, museums, and a boatload of excursions on the water.
Explore all the things to do and see on the Chicago Riverwalk:
- Food and drink on the Chicago Riverwalk
- Chicago River boat tours
- Kayak the Chicago River
- Museums near the Riverwalk
- Public art along the Riverwalk
- Getting to the Chicago Riverwalk
Food and drink on the Chicago Riverwalk
Savor fine wines on a bustling patio, sip a tropical cocktail under a tiki hut, and enjoy locally made ciders in a spacious beer garden — and all with views of the Chicago River.
There are a variety of excellent waterfront restaurants and bars on the Chicago Riverwalk. One popular spot is City Winery‘s Riverwalk wine garden. Enjoy a glass of their signature wines on tap, a cheese plate, and a spot on their patio overlooking the iconic Marina Towers. In the winter, reserve one of their heated domes to feel like you’re in a giant snow globe.
Tiny Tapp serves beer, cocktails, and casual bites, Island Party Hut brings the tropical vibes, The Northman Beer & Cider Garden offers Chicago-made ciders, and the Community Marketplace features women- and minority-owned vendors from all over the city.
There are so many food and drink options on the Riverwalk. Take a stroll and check them all out.
Chicago River boat tours
You can’t visit the Chicago Riverwalk without getting out on the water. Generally running May through October, take your pick from a variety of river cruise options.
Choose an elegant dinner cruise aboard a glass-enclosed vessel or hop onto an informative architecture cruise from Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady; Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline, Shoreline Sightseeing, or Wendella Sightseeing to learn the fascinating history behind the city’s soaring riverfront skyscrapers.
A few more unique boat tour options include Island Party Hut Charters, Chicago Cycleboats, and the eco-conscious Chicago Electric Boat Company. Explore all Chicago boat tours to find the one for you.
Kayak the Chicago River
The Chicago Riverwalk is an excellent starting point to explore the city via kayak. Head to Urban Kayaks, where you can rent a solo or tandem kayak, paddle down the Chicago River, and admire the surrounding architecture from a one-o-f-a-kind vantage point. They also offer guided kayak tours of the Riverwalk’s skyscraper canyon, including historic, sunset, and fireworks tours.
Explore more: Keep your heart racing with these outdoor adventures in Chicago, from rock climbing to paddleboarding.
Museums near the Riverwalk
The Chicago Architecture Center is located just off the Chicago Riverwalk at One Illinois Center, a building designed by modernist genius Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The CAC is a gateway to discovering Chicago’s architectural legacy. The center offers over 85 docent-led tours, as well as exciting interactive exhibits, including the engaging Skyscraper Gallery and Building Tall exhibit.
The five-story McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum celebrates Chicago’s famed moveable bridges and gives you the opportunity to peek inside a historic landmark bridgehouse. At river level, you can view the massive gears that move Chicago’s famous bridges up and down. As you ascend, you’ll learn all about the Chicago River. Once at the very top, you’ll be treated to magnificent 360-degree views of the city. You can also take tower tours, view the moveable bridges in action during a bridge lift, and sign up for other special tours.
Public art along the Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk is an urban canvas where you’ll see permanent and rotating public art by some of today’s leading artists, from eye-catching sculptures to colorful murals.
Art on theMART is the Riverwalk’s artistic crown jewel. It’s the largest digital art projection in the world, covering over 2.5 acres of theMART’s river-facing façade and featuring works by acclaimed local and international artists. Catch the free show nightly from April through December.
If you’re looking for a tranquil spot for a timeout from the bustling city, stop by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Plaza. It’s one of the largest memorials in the nation outside of Washington, D.C.
Getting to the Chicago Riverwalk
There are tons of ‘L’ stops near the Chicago Riverwalk: Brown, Purple, Red, Orange, Pink, and Green lines will all get you within walking distance. The CTA bus is also a convenient way to get there. Check out the CTA Quick Trip Planner for the quickest route to the Chicago Riverwalk.
Both Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center are short walks to Lake Street, the western end of the Chicago Riverwalk. Walk east to the Lake Street stairway down to the Chicago Riverwalk. Find Metra maps and schedules.
For a picturesque trip, board a Chicago Water Taxi stop between Ogilvie and the Riverwalk. Plan your trip by water taxi.