The Chicago Riverwalk is a picturesque boardwalk running by the lifeblood of the city, the Chicago River. Lined with extravagant eateries, fascinating architecture and museums, and beautiful public green spaces, it’s hard to imagine this was once a shipping channel. The area's transformation started back in 2001 but has now become one of Chicago's main attractions.  

    The waterfront is made up of 6 coves, each of which has its own nickname, activities and unique landscapes. To experience what a true city oasis is like, visit The River Theatre block for tree-shaded slopes or meander The Jetty to explore floating wetland gardens. Rent a kayak and explore the river at The Cove before grabbing a drink and a bite at the nightlife hub of The Marina Plaza. Lastly, the Boardwalk offers a convenient walkway with access to Lake Street.

    Chicago Riverwalk - one of the highlights of 10 Free Things to Do in Chicago and 10 Best Things to Do in Chicago (Read all about Chicago here)

    What are the highlights of Chicago Riverwalk?

    Bars and unique restaurants are the stars of the Chicago Riverwalk, with an abundance of options fit for every occasion – from an intimate date night to an epic bachelorette party. For a classy night out with friends, grab a table at City Winery and enjoy local wine while live music sets the mood. Soak up a genuine neighbourhood experience at Tiny Tapp & Café, or slap your clubbing shoes on at the millennial watering hole, Beat Kitchen. Whatever dining route you take, you'll undoubtedly end up at Sweet Home Gelato for a satisfying nightcap.

    Other highlights include the tranquil Floating Gardens which are lined with benches and make an ideal bird-watching spot – yes, Chicago has an incredible amount of unique birds to enjoy. Or, if you prefer exploring the Riverwalk from the water, check out one of the numerous kayak tours or sightseeing cruises – the Architecture Foundation Centre River Cruise is a local favourite.

    What are the popular events along the Chicago Riverwalk?

    Embracing the city’s reputation as the entertainment capital of Illinois, the Chicago Riverwalk plays host to numerous events and activities throughout the year. History buffs will love the Chicago Loop Bridges tour, which provides a unique look into the history of the city's famed bridges. Art enthusiasts cannot miss the Art on theMART display, where curated light shows paired with dramatic music provide a fun family night out from Wednesdays to Sundays.

    However, the granddaddy of all events along the Chicago Riverwalk is the famed St. Patricks Day. Every year, the Chicago River is dyed bright green and the massive area becomes a never-ending party on 17 March.

    What's good to know about the Chicago Riverwalk?

    The Chicago Riverwalk is bookended by Franklin Street to the west and Lake Shore Drive to the east. The 1.25-mile path takes you about 1 hour to stroll the entire length. Numerous train lines service the area, with the two prominent stations being State/Lake and Clark/Lake. This is the easiest and most affordable way to navigate the area. If you decide to drive, there are numerous paid garages and metered spaces available. Even so, the one-way streets are a challenge to navigate.

    The Chicago Riverwalk is free to the public. Note that it closes briefly at 10 am for cleaning. If you want to explore more of the city, the Chicago Water Taxi makes several stops along the waterfront and can take you as far north as North Avenue or south to Chinatown.

    Chicago Riverwalk

    Location: Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago, IL 60601, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 877-300-6746

    Ryan Thomas McNutt | Contributing Writer

    Start planning your trip

    Why book with

    Keep exploring

    Travel alert

    Check COVID-19 restrictions.

    Find out more
    Back to top