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Things To Do On The Chicago Riverwalk

a shot from the chicago river facing the Chicago riverwalk

Did you know that once upon a time the Chicago River was a murky shipping channel with an infamous smell? Well, that’s certainly not the case anymore with the Riverwalk being one of the standout attractions in the Windy City. The Riverwalk runs along the Chicago River on Wacker Drive from Franklin Street to Lake Shore Drive and we have decided to take a look at some of the best things to do along the route. 

Explore Art

The Riverwalk is included in the Public Art Program and therefore is home to a variety of works that make your journey along the river even more interesting. There are temporary exhibits popping up from March to December while Art on the Mart is a permanent feature that is said to be the largest video projection in the world so be sure to make time for that visual arts treat. Other permanent art structures include the Vietnam Veterans Fountain memorial and iconic architecture such as the Marina City aka ”twin corn cobs” buildings.

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum is also situated on the Riverwalk where you can find out about the creativity and planning behind what makes the Chicago Riverwalk such a favorite today. If you head to the top of the museum then you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the city.  Be sure to check out their events page for dates of when they do the famous lift viewing. There, you’ll also find details of how to book your ticket, which gives you the chance to observe the ingenuity of how the city’s world-famous moveable bridges work on certain dates.  

Eat & Drink

With its range of bars, cafes and restaurants, the Riverwalk offers a lovely setting any time of day or night for a gathering, meeting or date. If it is a meaty meal you’re after then be sure to check out Carson’s Ribs, a Chicago favorite since 1977 who offers hearty BBQ dishes and freshly homemade family recipes. 

Another option for dining includes The Palm Chicago that has an impressive range of options on its menu including Italian dishes, prime-aged steaks, burgers, salads and seafood including Nova Scotia lobsters. The restaurant prides itself on its friendly customer service and vibrant artistic decor. 

If you prefer to just grab a drink and soak up the riverside vibes then head to The Winery. This spot is hard to miss, the domes outside are a striking sight while the quirky wine-on-tap service gives this place a distinctive feel. Meanwhile, for a taste of German-style locally brewed beer, you should head to Chicago Brewhouse where you can watch the world float by on the river while enjoying the food menu that has both German and Chicago-inspired options. 

Another outdoor option by the Riverside is the Community Marketplace where you can really sample the diversity of fare that the Windy City has to offer. Small businesses owned by minorities and women present their food and drink specialities. A highlight for many is Chiya Chai that, as the name suggests, has plenty of chai options for your tasting pleasure. You can also purchase Indian food and British-style pies.

For those with a sweet tooth, Sweet Home Gelato comes highly recommended. They promise to transport you to Italy through the quality of their gelato and it doesn’t disappoint. 

There are six flavors to choose from and you decide whether you want to devour your gelato in a cup, waffle cone or float. Chicago Riverwalk food doesn’t get much tastier or sweeter! 

Enjoy Nature

As you’re in an urban setting, nature may not necessarily be at the forefront of your mind but it is accessible – birding in Chicago is on the up! Birding is an increasingly popular activity across the country and there are mallards, ring-billed and herring gulls, rock pigeons, American robins, European starlings, and Peregrine falcons to look out for among others here in Chicago. The Jetty: Floating Gardens, is one of the many coves along the Riverwalk and is one of the best spots to birdwatch and spot other nature highlights. 

The Jetty: Floating Gardens is also an increasingly popular spot for fishing in Chicago. Here you can catch fish ranging from bass and carp, but it is bluegills and gobies that are most commonly seen on the end of a hook here. Fishing is free, but you need an Illinois fishing license and your own equipment to cast your line.

So, as you can see, there is plenty to see and do along the famous route all year round, so be sure to check out local listings for Chicago Riverwalk events including live music. Entry is free and it is open daily to visitors from 6 am to 11 pm, but check with individual vendors for their opening times. 

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