Lakes, the Waterfront, and Boat Tours in Chicago
Chicago offers an array of options for waterfront views and boat trips, whether it's on Lake Michigan, one of the smaller lakes around the city, or on the famous Chicago River. The river offers a number of options for a boat ride or waterfront stroll also, including sailing on a dinner cruise, a dinner cruise with dancing, or a brunch cruise, as well as a number of park areas to enjoy. The Chicago River is a shorter trip, while a cruise on Lake Michigan would be a longer trip, but both are fun ways to spend a day on the water. Or, find a spot on the waterfront in one of the many park areas listed here as well. If you're looking for an area near the water in Chicago, here's the list of the best places to explore.
Ping Tom Memorial Park
Located in Chicago's Chinatown, this park has a pagoda-style pavilion, bamboo gardens, and a playground. The waterfront park spans 17 acres and there are places nearby where you can rent kayaks. The Field House is a recreational area in the park that has a pool with slides and a fitness center. From here you can enjoy great views of the Chicago skyline. Throughout the year there are a number of events held here including Shakespeare in the Park. Runners and walkers will appreciate the trails through the park as well.
300 West 19th Street, Chinatown, Chicago, Illinois, 60616
The Chicago River is an iconic part of the city, and it runs parallel to the lakeshore through the heart of the city. The Riverwalk is along a popular stretch of the river, and it's lined with many great restaurants and some of Chicago's most impressive architecture. You can wander along the Riverwalk, rest at one of the many benches, take in the impressive views or simply people watch.
Loop, Chicago, IL, 60601
The Navy Pier is one of Chicago's most popular tourist attractions. It opened in 1916 as an amusement and entertainment area and today it includes about 50 acres of gardens, parks, restaurants, shops, and concert venues. One of the most iconic parts of the Navy Pier is the 150 foot ferris wheel, which offers breathtaking views over the city and lake. There's also a classic historic carousel in Navy Pier Park. Head hear to pick up a boat tour as well.
600 East Grand Avenue, Streeterville, Chicago, IL
Burnham Park follows the banks of Lake Michigan for six miles from 14th Street to 56th Street. It spans 600 acres and includes the Burnham Harbor, Soldier Field, and McCormick Place. The Lakefront Trail passes through the park as well. Skateboarders will appreciate Burnham Skate Park, but there are also tennis courts, a fishing pier, and several beaches. For kids, there is a playground.
South Loop, Chicago, IL
This is a 600 acre park that sits on the edge of Lake Michigan on the South Side of Chicago. It has a variety of facilities including basketball, tennis courts, and playgrounds. The Osaka Garden is also on the grounds, which is a Japanese style garden that's on an island in the park's east lagoon. There are also several beaches and a running track that visitors can take advantage of.
6401 S Stony Island Ave, South Shore, Chicago, IL, 60637
The Chicago Lakefront Trail is a 18.5-mile long trail that is great for running, walking, biking, and even skateboarding. It runs alone the western shore of Lake Michigan and it's popular with locals, tourists, athletes, and commuters. From the trail you can access the lake at different points and the trail passes by a number of different recreational areas including Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park, and Jackson Park.
Bordering the shore of Lake Michigan to the east, Lakeview is a relaxed neighborhood with a laidback vibe. The area combines East Lakeview, Central Lakeview, Boystown, and Wrigleyville and it offers a number of entertainment options, shopping districts, as well as bars and restaurants that are popular with locals and tourists alike. There are live music venues, theaters, and dance clubs. There are also outdoor activities like the Lakefront Trail, picnic areas, a golf course, and summer street festivals. Boystown is also notable as the first gay neighborhood in the United States to gain official recognition by a city government. You can visit during June to celebrate the annual Pride Parade.
This neighborhood and park area offers a beautiful setting with nicely landscaped gardens, a quaint lily pond, and lakefront green space that has nice views of the city. The Lakefront Trail, the Lincoln Park Trail, Lincoln Park Zoo, North Avenue Beach, and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum are all in the area. There is also plenty of shopping in Lincoln Park with many boutique shops spread among the row houses.
North Avenue Beach
North Avenue Beach is a popular summer destination when it fills with locals playing volleyball and families playing in the sand. Swimming is popular when the water gets warm and there is plenty of water sports equipment available for rent including kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and jet skis. Bands frequently play at the beach house and there's also ice cream and margaritas available.
1601 N. Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL, 60611
Rogers Park is a bit off the main tourist circuit, but it has a number of unique architectural examples, including the Emil Bach House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an impressive theater scene. The neighborhood is diverse, and that's reflected in the restaurants found there. It is also home to the Glenwood Avenue Arts District which has impressive murals, award-winning theaters, and a variety of live music venues. There are also many art galleries in the neighborhood. To the east the neighborhood runs into Lake Michigan's shoreline and there are many nice waterfront views.
South Shore Cultural Center Park
This park was originally built as a country club but today it is a historic landmark that offers a number of classes and programs throughout the year. The park covers 65 acres and includes a golf course, grass fields, a beach, and the South Shore Nature Sanctuary.
7059 S South Shore Dr, South Shore, Chicago, IL, 60649
Streeterville is a popular neighborhood for tourists in Chicago. It's where you'll find the historic Navy Pier, the Museum of Contemporary area, and the Chicago Children's Museum. This family-friendly area sits on the edge of Lake Michigan and offers all kinds of activities for people of all ages. They often show outdoor movies and Navy Pier is filled with amusement rides including the 200 foot Centennial Wheel. There are also a number of boat cruises that leave from the area. Restaurants of all types are nearby, many with kid-friendly menus.
How much do boat tours cost in Chicago?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $25 to $109. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $49. A few of the best options are below.
Where to Stay in Chicago