What is the Chicago Riverwalk?
Good question. This waterfront walkway was constructed in 2001 as a place for the area’s office workers to congregate and smack-talk their bosses without fear of repercussions. It soon broadened its demographic to families and young people looking for a place to relax and stroll around during the day. Over the last decade, numerous eateries, boutiques, and galleries have popped up. After all, when you walk you get hungry, right? And when you eat, you want to shop. You can do both on the Riverwalk.
A Chicago Riverwalk tour can begin at either end of its designated area, which straddles the Chicago River’s south bank and includes some parts of the north bank. There’s plenty to look at and do, so let’s get started.
Where to Eat
Riverwalk Pro Tip: Calories don’t count in Chicago. That means you can safely eat your way through The Windy City without worrying about the high fat content in that deep-dish pizza. Worrying doesn’t burn as many calories as you’d think, and besides, you’re in Chicago! Why not enjoy a meal or a snack on the riverfront?
We like the Riverwalk Café & Bar, which has a variety of food and drink to keep you occupied on your quest. Try the Turkey Pub Crawl, a roasted turkey breast sandwich with white cheddar, pub sauce, and house slaw on a baguette. It’s a proven scientific fact that white cheddar and a baguette are the key to a happy stomach*, so chow down. You might also try Italian delicacies at the Sopraffina Marketcaffe a few blocks west, or Irish pub fare at Lizzie McNeill’s on the east end of the Riverwalk.
What to Do
You can dedicate your Chicago Riverwalk adventure to stuffing your face relentlessly, or you can attempt to be classy and visit some of the cultural offerings along its shores. Cross the historic DuSable Bridge to the north bank of the river and you’ll find Joel Oppenheimer, Inc., an art gallery that specializes in images of the natural world. Looking for something athletic to do besides walking? Rent a kayak if you’re visiting during the warmer months and paddle along the river, out into Lake Michigan. After all, you’ve got to burn off all that tasty deep-dish pizza somehow.
Obligatory Photo Op
You can’t visit Chicago without filling up at least half a memory card worth of pictures. Get the city, the river, and Lake Michigan together for a nautical photo op that will blow away all your social media followers. Chicago’s First Lady boat tour is located on the western side of the Riverwalk, and once you’re there, you can board one of the ships for a sunset cruise your camera will never forget. Some ships have breakfast and dinner cruises, too, so you can keep up your eating streak.
As an added bonus, cross the river to River Esplanade Park. The Centennial Fountain is here—more pictures!—and during summer, a water cannon fires across the river. Seriously, folks, I can’t stress this enough: Bring your cameras. Just make sure you’ve got a waterproof case on them, or be very, very careful.
The Chicago Riverwalk is an outstanding place to spend a few hours or even an entire day. And there’s more to come: A Riverwalk extension is supposed to enlarge the current footprint by an additional six blocks. Let’s hope it has even more eateries.
*Unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case maybe skip the cheese and just wolf down the baguette.
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