When visiting Chicago, there are endless attractions to see and things to do. But the possibilities are not limited to architecture tours, museums and performances; in fact, there are some remarkable activities you probably never expected. So when planning your next trip to Chicago, why not add one of these off-beat items to your itinerary.
Take a Trapeze Class
Break from the norm and fly through the air with a class at Trapeze School New York - Chicago, located just off the lakefront path on the south part of Belmont Harbor. Not only will you get a vigorous, heart-pounding experience, but you can also get a completely different view of the city and the lake.
Visitors can sign up for a number of different classes, including flying trapeze, silks and static trapeze. If you're not one for swinging high in the air, you can try a balancing and acrobats class or a tight wire walk. The organization accommodates a wide range of interests and abilities, so no matter what level of thrill seeker you are, there is something for everyone. TSNY allows for groups of all sizes to book classes for anywhere from two to four hours long. (Rates vary, indoor classes are also available, 773-484-8861)
Over in Chicago's near west side, Aloft Loft is a premier space for the aerial and circus arts. The large studio gives you the opportunity to try challenging and fun classes led by experienced trainers. Classes include Trapeze, aerial silks and rope, tight wire, tumbling and acrobatics. Aloft can be booked for groups. (Rates vary. 773-782-6662)
Kayak Down the River
Touring Chicago would not be complete without a visit to the River. While the large ferries and boats are a great way to see the city, there is another aquatic option that gets you in the water and paddling away. There are a number of kayak and paddle rentals that make for an unforgettable experience.
Kayak Chicago is a full service outfitter offering seasonal tours, lessons and rentals on both the lake and river. Wateriders leads you through the currents, giving you the freedom to navigate the river at your own pace. Tours range from Classic Chicago to Fireworks Paddle to Shady Ghosts and Gangsters. Another option is Chicago River Canoe and Kayak, offering guided paddling or individual rentals so you can create your own getaway on the river.
Snowshoe Along the Lake
Snowshoeing is usually associated with mountains and heavily wooded areas, and not so much with cities. But Chicago is an exception.Northerly Island, located next to Museum Campus, is a nature oasis jutting into Lake Michigan. Starting in December, visitors can snowshoe around the island on Saturdays and Sundays. While wandering the prairies and grasslands, look for winter birds, native animals and check out incredible views of the city. Equipment is available to check out for a small fee. (Dates for snowshoeing can be found at chicagoparkdistrict.com) Note: The southern 40-acres of Northerly are under construction and closed to the public.
Take a Water Taxi
As mentioned before, the Chicago River is a major attraction, and plays a vital role in the daily operations of the city. And for many locals, it is a common and convenient transportation option. Feel like a native and take a Water Taxi, the perfect combination of sightseeing and easy transportation. There are stops all along the river, from Chinatown and Museum Campus to Willis Tower and Union Station. Taxis run on a consistent schedule on weekdays, making stops at each port; on weekends, some locations operate as flag stops, so just give the captain a little wave and he or she will sweep by for a pick up. Simple, right? Single ride fares at Chicago Water Taxi start as low as $3 for adults, depending on the length of the trip; all day passes start at $8; and ten rides costs $17.50. Shoreline Sightseeing also offers water taxis, starting as low as $5 for adults, depending on the service route. To learn more, visit chicagowatertaxi.com or shorelinesightseeing.com/watertaxis.
Relax in a Japanese Garden
Chicago has a lot of things going on all the time, from festivals and performances to exhibits and shopping. But sometimes it's nice to escape the crazy excitement of Chicago, and enjoy a peaceful afternoon somewhere completely different. But where is this oasis? Closer than you might think. Just south of downtown in Hyde Park is the Osaka Japanese Garden, which dates back to 1893 and the World's Columbian Exposition. Nestled on Wooded Island in Jackson Park, the Osaka Garden features peaceful lagoons, lush trees and plants, an arching moon bridge and plenty of strolling paths, as well as many ornate Japanese items. While there, be sure to admire the rocks, as many are millions of years old and each is carefully placed.
For those who don't mind venturing a little further, the Chicago Botanic Garden, located in a suburbs just north of the city, also has a serene, beautiful Japanese garden. The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden consists of three islands, with carefully styled plants and meticulously placed stones and Japanese elements. In this stroll garden, it is easy to wander around for hours and get lost in the tranquil landscape. The garden is open year round. (847-835-5440, chicagobotanic.org)