The Complete Chicago Riverwalk Guide
Remember when even the thought of going near the Chicago River was crazy? What a difference a few years can make. Now it’s the go-to place for people to spend their lunch break and even *gasps* kayak through it. Now that the Riverwalk has been built up and people actually want to go there, we’ve put together a Complete Chicago Riverwalk Guide for you to enjoy.
The mayor first announced the $100 million Riverwalk four years ago, and the massive project has finally reached its full potential. One of the best areas for gathering features a Tiki Bar, rest areas, fishing, and of course, beautiful views of the water & River North. Portions of the walk completed over the past year are separated into different aquatic-themed areas. The Riverwalk now runs all the way from Lake Shore Drive past Franklin to Lake Street.
The completed Chicago Riverwalk has become a great Chicago attraction and a world-class neighborhood asset. It has already begun to provide a dynamic new commercial space and an uninterrupted route from Lake Street to the lake itself for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Where to Hear Live Music
Island Party Hut
Who wants to leave Chicago during the summer? No one. But Island Party Hut makes for the perfect staycation spot. Listen to live island music Thursday through Sunday while sipping a fruity cocktail and playing a game of bags. Soon, you’ll forget Chicago isn’t an island!
Where to Eat
The Northman Beer & Cider Garden
The beer garden is the place to eat on the Riverwalk. The Northman Beer & Cider Garden has everything from soft pretzels to salads to wait for it… Chicago dogs! Visit them between Michigan and Columbus for a bite.
Where to Drink
Visit City Winery for a glass of their wine on tap at their Riverwalk location. Hurry down there! It gets crowded, especially for happy hour. The good news is their heated domes extend the outdoor season through May and will return this fall.
Music Classes to Help Children Develop Intellectually
Sign your toddler or baby up for Wiggleworm music classes at an Old Town School of Folk Music location in Chicago to help them gain basic and advanced music skills.
Where to Get Your Caffeine (or Sugar) Fix
Of course you can also grabs drinks at Tiny Tapp. But during the day Tiny Café is your go-to Riverwalk spot for coffee and lattes. Coffee’s not your thing? You can also stop here for ice cream!
Where to Relax
Head a couple of blocks west to get away from the bigger crowds. Between Wells and Franklin in “The Jetty” section of the Riverwalk, you can enjoy some nature and maybe even some quiet. The floating planters not only bring some greenery to the middle of the city but are also a nod to Chicago’s wetland roots.
Where to Shop Local/Show your Support
New to the Riverwalk this year is the Community Marketplace, showcasing local small businesses. From retail to food vendors, you’ll find them in the “Community Corridor” between Wabash and Michigan.
View the Best Sushi Places in Chicago
Are you looking for the best sushi destinations in Chicago? View a list of our favorite places to visit
Where to Look Forward to
RPM on the Water
It’s always fun to explore and check out all the new spots popping up along the river. This year we have RPM on the Water to look forward to. With pasta, steak, soon seafood, RPM will complete the foodie trifecta in Chicago coming summer 2019.
Aside from all of these amazing attractions—here’s a breakdown of each area:
The Marina (Between State and Dearborn)
- Multiple Restaurants & Vendors
- Upper Dining Terrace
- Built-in Bar along the edge
- Retail Space
- Public Seating
- City Winery
The Cove (Between Dearborn and Clark)
- Kayak Rental Retail Space
- Dock Space
- Human-powered Watercraft Area
- Flanders Belgian Beer & Fries, a Restaurant
The River Theater (Between Clark and LaSalle) Opened in early June 2015
- Access from Upper Wacker to Riverwalk Level
- Wendella Water Taxi Access
The Marina Plaza is one of the larger tourist attraction areas. Here you can eat, shop, grab a drink, or just relax while enjoying the water. The Cove is a bit different, as the focus is primarily on getting out on the River and having fun while cruising around. This is the main area for getting out on and coming back in from the river. Lastly, the River Theater is a passageway from the busy street of Upper Wacker to the peaceful Riverwalk.
Here’s a breakdown of three of the newer areas on the Riverwalk. These are:
The Swimming Hole (Between LaSalle and Wells)
- Primary Recreational Area
- Zero Depth Fountain
The Jetty (Between Wells and Franklin)
- Ecological Area
- Here you can learn about the Chicago River and what makes it tick
- Floating Gardens
- Fishing Piers
The Boardwalk (Between Franklin and Lake)
- Iconic Bridge from Upper Wacker to Riverwalk
- Surrounded by Floating Gardens and Landscaping
The Swimming Hole is a relaxing, tranquil area that visitors use to hang out by the river. It’s similar to the Marina Plaza but without the buzzing store action. The Jetty is focused on aesthetics and education. It holds small exhibits that detail the Chicago River’s ecological aspects, and there are floating gardens held loosely near the walk. The Boardwalk provides access to the Riverwalk from the Westside, echoing the River Theater’s function. This is more like the Jetty in terms of its setup.
The Riverwalk is free and open to the public from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm daily. Many Riverwalk vendors now operate year-round.
Featured Image Credit: Mag Mile