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Eat, drink, play and explore a waterside wine patio, pier fishing, kayaking and more along the Riverwalk’s lush 1.25-mile pedestrian stretch, which runs along the south bank of the Chicago River from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Here’s the lay of the land of the Chicago Riverwalk and things to know before you go.

 

1

It’s made up of six coves or "rooms."

People dining at City Winery on Chicago's Riverwalk

Each has its own nickname, urban landscape and activities:

  • The Marina (State to Dearborn)
    The Marina Plaza connects the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and its new Riverwalk additions to the west. Here, docking boaters and strollers find restaurants, as well as ample seating for enjoying the view of the river.
     
  • The Cove (Dearborn to Clark)
    Stop for a snack or rent a kayak right along the waterfront. 
     
  • The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle)
    This urban oasis, with trees growing from the steps, provides shade and a unique respite for city explorers.
     
  • The Water Plaza (LaSalle to Wells)
    This sunny cove is great for families. Adults can relax around a fountain while little ones romp and roll amid its jubilant sprays.
     
  • The Jetty (Wells to Franklin)
    The Jetty provides an educational component, where visitors can observe fish and learn about river ecology.
     
  • The Riverbank (Franklin to Lake)
    Surrounded by floating gardens, The Riverbank provides stunning views of the confluence of the three branches of the Chicago River.

 

2

It’s a grown-up playground.

It’s ideal for a midday waterside break or a romantic date night stroll. Hit the Island Party Hut Tiki Bar for live island music, grilled eats, and refreshing rum concoctions and margaritas. Book a charter on an Island Party Boat and chill on the upper deck or whoosh down the water slide for a swim in the lake.

 

3

It’s easy to get out on the water.

A Chicago water taxi

The Riverwalk is a hands-on recreational experience. Call on Urban Kayaks for Chicago River kayak tours and rentals. Float on a Chicago Water Taxi as you take in the sights. Book an outing with family-owned Wendella Sightseeing for Chicago’s Original Architecture Tour®. Or sign up for a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises to hear the stories behind the city’s most iconic buildings.

 

4

It makes for a great lunch or happy hour date.

City Winery Chicago at the Riverwalk is a grand spot with six house-made wines on tap and an outdoor wine patio. A new barbecue-focused Riverwalk dining spot, Tiny Hatt, offers free live music on select evenings. Lillie’s Park Grill serves grab-and-go eats for hand-holders to enjoy along benches in The Cove and River Theater sections of the Riverwalk. And Dulce in Horto sells cupcakes, cookies and brownies from a roaming cart.

 

5

It’s a lesson in ecology & smart urban planning

Visit the educational Jetty area to learn about the river’s system of canals and fascinating feats of engineering that brought the city to life. Or, head to the fishing pier and cast a line (with a proper fishing license). Bird-watchers should keep an eye out for mallards, ring-billed and herring gulls, rock pigeons, American robins and European starlings that swoop among the skyscrapers.

The city has been developing the plan for the Riverwalk since the 1990s. The river itself has a long history that is tied directly to the development of Chicago. Stop in to the fascinating McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum for a celebration of the river’s famed movable bridges, and be treated to a panoramic view of the city.

 

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