The City of Chicago’s Chicago Riverwalk has won dozens of design awards and features breathtaking views of the city, but its popularity among Chicagoans and visitors alike also comes from its delicious restaurants and endless, fun-filled activities on the water. More than a half dozen restaurants, all with outdoor seating and spectacular views, sit along the inviting 1.25-mile promenade, and nearly a dozen organizations provide opportunities for water-based endeavors.
Whether by land or by sea, Riverwalk visitors can enjoy an upcoming Second Tuesday event on August 14 – the third of three Arts in the Dark parades presented by LUMA8 (Light Up My Arts) in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The theme for August is “Chinese Valentine’s Day – the QiXi Festival,” featuring a parade of lanterns along the Chicago Riverwalk beginning at 8:30 p.m. at the Jetty section of the Riverwalk between Franklin and Wells. As part of the day’s events, Chicago Water Taxi will offer a $3 discount on All Day Passes when purchased online using the promo code: RIVERWALK.
Dining options, many of which also offer live musical entertainment, include City Winery Chicago, Frost Gelato, Island Party Hut, The Northman Beer and Cider Garden, O’Brien’s, Tiny Tapp & Cafe and the newly-opened Chicago Brewhouse.
Chicago Brewhouse is the newest addition to the Riverwalk restaurant lineup. The Brewhouse celebrates Chicago-brewed beers and neighborhood food. On Second Tuesdays, ambassadors from Revolution Brewing will host an event at the Brewhouse, offering a chance to learn about the history of beer in Chicago.
City Winery Chicago features a unique wine and dining experience. The restaurant offers wine-influenced cuisine and an expansive selection of top-shelf wines.
Frost Gelato offers authentic Italian gelato and sorbet in dozens of different flavors. All the ingredients and machinery for the gelato are imported from Italy in order to create the authentic taste. Frost Gelato has won multiple awards for its gelato and has been featured on Yahoo Food’s “18 Best Ice Cream Shops in America.”
Island Party Hut is a tiki bar and grill featuring a full-service bar, live music and a beach-themed selection of food. The Island Party Hut is accessible by boat or by land. Patrons are also able to rent party boats accommodating anywhere from two to 90 people for a day of drinks and revelry on the Chicago River.
The Northman Beer and Cider Garden will be Chicago’s first cider bar. Opening later this summer, the pub and bistro will draw influence from the great cider producing regions of the world, including southern England and northern France. The Northman will also serve lunch and dinner in addition to its wide-ranging selection of beer and cider.
O’Brien’s Riverwalk Café is the perfect spot along the Chicago River to relax and enjoy lunch or dinner with a view. The classic Chicago venue features menu favorites including the steak sandwich, half-pound certified Angus Beef® burger, buffalo chicken wings and Cob salad. O’Brien’s also features weekend breakfast, happy hours Monday through Thursday, Jazz Thursdays and live music during the Riverwalk’s Second Tuesday events in the summer.
Tiny Tapp & Cafe features a sumptuous menu of sandwiches and snacks in combination with a variety of ales, IPAs and cocktails to form an ideal combination of food and drink for Riverwalk visitors.
Once visitors are finished savoring their delectable lunch or dinner, they can take to the water to enjoy a tour, kayak down the river, check out the fountain at the Water Plaza or create their own water-based fun.
Chicago Water Taxi is Chicago’s river transportation service, with stops on all three branches of the Chicago River. Chicago Water Taxi offers more than 30 departures and arrivals each day from the Chicago Riverwalk, connecting it with different neighborhoods including the Magnificent Mile, Chinatown, The West Loop, Lincoln Park and more. Chicago Water Taxi also operates the Chicago Riverwalk Fireworks Cruise from the Riverwalk; a 60-minute cruise featuring music, City Winery products and Navy Pier’s spectacular fireworks shows.
Urban Kayaks offers family fun for all ages, with kayak rentals as well as guided tours. Paddling the Chicago River just west of Lake Shore Drive, the guided tours take place nightly at sunset and for biweekly for the fireworks at Navy Pier. Kids under 13 ride free with an adult on Tuesdays in August.
Chicago’s First Lady Cruises is the No. 1 boat tour in the city based on TripAdvisor user reviews. The group partners with the Chicago Architecture Foundation for an all-encompassing tour focusing on the city’s legendary architecture. Highly trained and passionate volunteer tour guides provide a detailed narrative of Chicago’s various architectural styles and the stories of the people who designed and built the city.
Visitors to the Riverwalk looking for a more active tour can check out Chicago Cycleboats. This social, active adventure is a new way for friends, families, tourists and locals to explore the Chicago River on an all-in-one bike ride and boat ride. Riders sit on comfortable bike seats and peddle (or not peddle) at their own pace. The Cycleboat’s backup electric motor allows travelers to BYOB and requires no previous bike riding experience.
Mercury Skyline Cruiseline boat tours delight families of all ages with four unique cruise offerings: Urban Adventure Cruise, Mercury’s Canine Cruise, Chicago By Night and Mercury Fireworks Cruise. The Canine Cruise allows patrons to bring their dogs along for the ride, featuring outdoor seating, water bowls and even a special restroom for the pets on board.
Wendella Sightseeing offers a large selection of tour options along the Chicago River, including holiday specials and food-themed cruises. Wendella offers Chicago’s Original Architecture Tour, Wendella’s Signature Lake & River Tour, Chicago Sunset Cruise, Chicago River Experience and Chicago Fireworks Cruise daily. Additionally, Wendella offers adult-only Wine & Cheese and Beer & BBQ Cruises.
Beyond the guided tours, visitors to the Riverwalk can also rent their own boat from Chicago Electric Boat Company. Those with their own boats can book hourly dockage on the main branch of the Chicago River at Downtown Docks and, with a permit, at the Marina section of the Riverwalk.
About the Chicago Riverwalk
The City of Chicago’s award-winning Chicago Riverwalk, a 1.25-mile promenade through the heart of downtown, has quickly become one of the city’s most popular destinations for art, music, dining and the enjoyment of natural habitats, beloved by Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Riverwalk is managed by the Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management with programming support from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Access to the space is free and open to the public daily from 6 a.m. – 11 p.m. For more information about the Chicago Riverwalk and a complete schedule of events, visit chicagoriverwalk.us — and join the conversation on social media using #ChiRiverwalk.
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