What: Chicago Riverwalk Season Celebration
When: Monday, May 13 – Sunday, May 18, 2019
Where: Chicago Riverwalk between Lake Street and Lake Shore Drive
What better place to kick off summer in Chicago then at our award-winning Riverwalk? The pedestrian-only pathway will be hosting a week-long celebration to mark the beginning of the season from May 13 – 18. Highlights include a lantern procession, live music, free walking tours, a fireworks display and more.
In recent years, the Chicago Riverwalk has transformed into a humming hub for art, dining, and recreation in the heart of downtown. Visitors and locals alike flock to the river’s banks all year long for waterfront dining, original public art, boating and kayaking, and much more.
Here’s a preview of the celebration schedule:
Monday, May 13
New public art: All season long
Check out the unveiling of the Riverwalk's newest public art. This latest addition was created by Ebony G. Patterson, a multimedia artist known for work layering flowers, glitter, lace, and beads. Her series of five intricate and colorful banners will be displayed along the Riverwalk just east of the Michigan Avenue Bridge.
You’ll also notice the vibrant pieces by Robert Burnier, which will remain throughout the 2019 season. These colorful, colossal works were specifically commissioned for the western Confluence section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Franklin and Lake Streets. Made of steel, mesh, and rope, the massive structures are visible from Upper Wacker and the river level.
Theatre performances: 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
In honor of the Year of Chicago Theatre, the opening celebration will feature performances by local theatre groups. You’ll be able to catch these outdoor shows on the western part of the Chicago Riverwalk from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Lantern procession: 7:45 p.m.
As the sun begins to set, the glowing lantern procession will begin. Led by LUMA8, the same group that spearheads the popular Arts in the Dark parade each fall, the Riverwalk Lantern Procession will be an homage to Broadway in Chicago. Spectacular lanterns will illuminate iconic elements of classic shows, like Hamilton, Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and Aladdin.
Tip: Can’t make it on Monday? Catch the lantern procession throughout the season as part of the Second Tuesdays at the Chicago Riverwalk.
Art on theMART: 8:15pm
Art on theMART, the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, will debut new work on Monday, May 13. The two-hour light display will illuminate the massive, river-facing facade of theMART and can be viewed from the Riverwalk and Wacker Drive.
During the opening celebration, you’ll be able to catch the latest installment of the multi-part projection piece by John Boesche in honor of the Year of Chicago Theatre. You’ll also see a new commission that uses data gathered from musical compositions by famed Chicago-based jazz musicians to create a real-time audio and visual experience. For the special May 13 presentation, speakers will be placed in the Jetty and Confluence areas to provide music synced up to the projections.
Fireworks display from theMART: 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 14
Second Tuesdays on the Chicago Riverwalk
Come out to the Chicago Riverwalk to experience the inaugural evening of the Second Tuesdays program. Expect live entertainment, discounts, and special programming from vendors including Tiny Tapp and Café, Chicago Brewhouse, City Winery, O’Brien’s Restaurant, and Island Party Hut.
Upcoming second Tuesdays in June, July, and August will also feature the Arts in the Dark Lantern Processions on the Riverwalk featuring local theatre companies in honor of the Year of Chicago Theatre. Processions start at 8:30 p.m. just east of Columbus Street and move west to the Confluence area between Franklin and Lake Streets.
Architecture storytelling: 4 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Join expert docents from Chicago Architecture Center as they share their favorite stories about the fascinating history of the Chicago River and its transformation from a commerce crossroads to recreation hotspot. Meet at the Riverwalk at Lake Street and Wacker Drive. Online reservations are required for a $3 fee.
Thursday, May 16 – Sunday, May 19
Free walking tours: 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Head to the Riverwalk for free one hour walking tours with a knowledgeable local guide. Your Chicago Greeter will give you an insider’s look at history, architecture, and life along the Riverwalk. Meet a Greeter at the Plaza in front of the Bridgehouse Museum at Michigan Avenue and the Riverwalk.
Friday, May 17
Fishing: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
The Chicago Park District will share a preview of their popular Fishing at the Jetty event. Kids of all ages can learn about the local ecosystem and the importance of the river through hands-on fishing activities. Now in its third year, the Chicago Park District’s free public programming will expand to three days this season (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) from June 27 to August 17.
Saturday, May 18
Architecture walking tours: Hourly from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Enjoy free mini-walking tours led by an expert Chicago Architecture Center docent. Meet at the Vietnam War Memorial at State Street and Wabash Avenue to explore the riverwalk and learn about its history and design. Online reservations are required for a $3 fee.
WWII memorial dedication
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, more than two dozen submarines traveled through the Chicago River on their way to aid the war effort in the Pacific. This new memorial, developed by a group of Navy veterans, will commemorate the event at the east end of the Riverwalk. The time for the ceremony will be announced at a later date.