How to Spend a Day on the Chicago Riverwalk

Play, Eat and Drink on the Chicago Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk has become one of the popular attractions in Chicago to play, eat and drink right on the Chicago River. It was developed under the leadership and vision of Mayor Emanuel to transform the Chicago River front into fun playground for locals and tourists.

Chicago Riverwalk hours of operation

The Chicago Riverwalk stretches from the Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street, approximately 1.25 mile long pedestrian stretch, featuring many things to do, eat and drink. It is free and open to public from morning 6 am to 11 pm at night.

Getting to the Chicago Riverwalk

By Car – The Chicago Riverwalk Parking:

Personally I do not recommend to drive to downtown Chicago, but if you really have to drive then you can park at many parking garages near the Chicago Riverwalk. Metered parking stalls are available on lowest level of Wacker Drive between Stetson and Field Drive, but I do not recommend this parking option.

You will be spending few hours on the Chicago Riverwalk, so you will end up spending too much money compared to private parking garage. Plus, you may not find a parking spot.

By Train to the Chicago Riverwalk:


In my opinion, CTA is the best way to get to the Chicago Riverwalk. You can utilize one of the CTA “L” train line to get to Clark/Lake station and take stairs down to the Chicago Riverwalk.


Metra trains stop at Union Station and Oglivie Transportation Center. Both Metra stations are short walk to Lake Street. Head towards Lake Street and take stairway down on the east side to get to the Chicago Riverwalk.

Chicago Watertaxi Chicago Riverwalk

By Chicago Water Taxi to the Chicago Riverwalk:

You can always consider Chicago Water Taxi to travel through downtown Chicago to get to certain locations within the loop. The Chicago Riverwalk is one of the stops for the Chicago Water Taxi. Hop on Chicago Water Taxi to get to the Chicago Riverwalk, located at the Southwest corner of the Clark Street Bridge at the corner of Clark Street and Wacker Drive.

Chicago Riverwalk Map:

The Chicago Riverwalk Map

What to do on the Chicago Riverwalk


The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

Start your day at The McCormick Bidgehouse & Chicago River Museum to learn about the historic bridgehouse and the history of movable bridge.

Start at the river level to explore gears of Chicago’s movable bridge. The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum features 360 degree views of the Chicago city and river from the top of the Bridgehouse.

Admission to the museum is free for Friends of the Chicago River Members. Non-members will have to pay $6 for general admission except Sundays.

If you like movable bridges then I recommend to consider Bridge lift viewing for additional fee. Chicago Bridge’s open 40 times a year on scheduled time between April and November. You must call museum at (312) 977-0227 in advance for reservation. In my opinion, families with kids can take advantage of Bridge lift viewing for learning experience.

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum is open from May 18th through November 3rd.
The Museum operation hours detail is as below during the season.

Friday-Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The museum is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Guided Tower tours are available only on Fridays and Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. beginning in June.

Visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

Stop along the river walk and give thanks to all who defended our country. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial is right by the Chicago Riverwalk. This memorial is made to honor more than 2900 Illinois soldiers who fought in Vietname.

Vietname Veteran’s Memorial is located at 35 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601-2314

Enjoy Nature

I recommend to stroll along the Chicago River and enjoy the floating gardens made between Franklin to Lake Street. One of the best experience to play in nature by the river on the Chicago Riverwalk. Fishing is permitted with valid fishing license!

If you are into fishing then make sure to carry valid fishing license as you will be asked to provide the proof of license.

Sail on the Chicago River

You are right on the Chicago River, in my opinion, you must consider one of the water tours to explore the Chicago River and city’s history. Following are few of popular boat tours on the river and Lake Michigan for your reference. You will never go wrong with one of these boat tours in Chicago.

Chicago Architecture Cruise First Lady
Photo Courtesy: First Lady Cruiseline

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

Hop on the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady. This cruise departs from the Chicago Riverwalk at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive (southeast corner of the DuSable/Michigan Avenue Bridge).

I recommend First Lady as it is the only cruise partnered with the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC). Plus, this tour has received the certificate of excellence on TripAdvisor.

First Lady vessel features a full service bar aboard for guests’ entertainment. Sip on drinks, relax and enjoy 90-minutes long guided architecture tour, learning about the history of Chicago’s famous buildings.

I recommend to reserve your spot on cruise in advance, especially during summer season, as tickets get sold out for the entire day. You do not want to miss your opportunity to explore Chicago’s Architecture on the highly voted cruise.

Drink & Sail: Wine & Cheese Cruise or Beer & BBQ Cruise

Wendella Cruise Company offers two drink and sail cruises that include Wine & Cheese Cruise and Beer & BBQ Cruise on selected days between June and September.

Wine lovers can hop on Wendella Wine & Cheese cruise to relax and sip wine paired with cheese while sailing on the river. Visitors will have great time enjoying breathtaking views of Chicago skyline while cruising Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

For those who loves craft beers, do not miss your chance to sail on the Wendella Beer and BBQ cruise to sample different kinds of craft beers from local breweries paired with barbecue bites.

Both of these cruises are schedule to depart on selected dates, I recommend to check schedule and book Wendella cruises in advance before planning your trip to the Chicago Riverwalk.

Chicago Cycleboats Tour

Explore Chicago city’s architecture on adventure activity! Paddle or Sail on Cycleboats to get social with locals and tourist.

In my opinion, this 90 minutes long Chicago cycleboat tour is one of the best things to do on the Chicago Riverwalk. It is BYOB tour, yes you can bring your favorite beer or wine on board.

Urban Kayaks Chicago
Photo Courtesy: Urban Kayaks Chicago Riverwalk


At Chicago Riverwalk, visitors and locals can take advantage of Urban Kayaks tours to enjoy some paddling on the Chicago River. The Urban Kayaks Company offers different kinds of tour from beginner to advance paddlers.

Riverwalk Intro Paddle
If you do not have any experience paddling then enjoy one hour introductory lesson on the Chicago River. The Riverwalk Intro Paddle tour is perfect for families with beginner paddlers who are getting their first taste of kayaking.

Following two Kayaking tours are perfect for experience paddlers.

Historic Chicago Tour
Urban Kayaks’ Historic Chicago Tour is 90-minute guided tour on the Chicago River. Best way to paddle on the Chicago River and learn about the city’s historic locations.

Sunset Tour
This 90-minute guided tour is also popular among locals and visitors. Urban Kayaks’ Sunset Tour is one of the best way to enjoy the sun set while learning about the city’s architecture and historical spots.

Chicago Riverwalk Restaurants & Bars

Lunch Time

Island Party Hut

Indulge in tropical paradise at Island Party Hut & Tiki Bar on the river. I recommend to grab some sweet cocktails paired with casual eats while enjoying live music outdoor. One of the best restaurants on Chicago Riverwalk to relax and enjoy lunch.

Island Party Hut & Tiki Bar is located at 355 East Riverwalk South, Chicago IL 60601 (between LSD and Columbus on the Riverwalk.)

O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe

You may also enjoy lunch outdoor at O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe. At O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe, you can get American style burgers and other dishes. It’s fun to sip on Bloody Mary by water under umbrellas.

O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe is located at 45 E Riverwalk S, Chicago, IL 60601

City Winery Restaurant on the Chicago Riverwalk

Happy Hour Time

Tiny Tapp Riverwalk

Tiny Tapp on Riverwalk is Chicagoan’s favorite happy hour place to hang out by water. After a daylong activities on the Chicago Riverwalk, you may want to relax and enjoy few drinks before dinner.

Tiny Tapp Craft Beer on Riverwalk

Tiny Tapp is one of the best bars on the Chicago Riverwalk serving craft cocktails, craft beers and more. Their happy hour menu includes $3.50 for select draft beers, $5.50 for select house wines and $6.50 for Margarita and Suburban cocktails.

Tiny Tapp is located at 55 W. Riverwalk South, Chicago, IL 60601

Dinner Time

City Winery at the Chicago Riverwalk

Head to City Winery at the Chicago Riverwalk, just 2 minute walk away from Tinny Tapp for dinner.

City Winery at the Chicago Riverwalk is known for their locally sourced but globally inspired wine-focused food menu. Considering the popularity of the restaurant, I recommend to reserve table in advance to avoid long wait time.

City Winery at the Chicago Riverwalk features heated outdoor river dome equipped with a Bluetooth Speaker during fall season. These River Dome you can reserve up to 2.5 hours and are $65 per person which includes a $60 food and drinks minimum spend.

City Winery Restaurant on the Chicago Riverwalk

Sip on house wine and order wine-focused food while watching people and the bloats glide by you. City Winery at the Chicago Riverwalk is located at 11 W Riverwalk South, Chicago, IL 60601

Overall, the Chicago Riverwalk is one of the best things to do in Chicago. You can play, eat and drink all day long right on the river! I would say our Chicago Riverwalk is one of the unique attractions that provides Chicagoans and tourists a way to engage with the city in a unique way.

You may also want to check out top 10 free things to do in Chicago in summer season.

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Hi, I'm Victor Sevale - My goal is to share information on everything I see, do, eat and drink in Chicago. Let me inspire you to explore Chicago more with reviews, photographs, and useful tips from my personal experience.

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