Located on the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago. It extends from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street.
Strolling along Chicago’s beautiful Riverwalk, it’s hard to imagine just how much things have changed. This inviting “second shoreline” was once a shipping channel heavy with the stench of sewage. Now it’s one of Chicago’s star attractions and what you see below is the epitome of today’s presiding power of America
The Chicago River has been many things over the years: an artery for industrial shipping, a handy place to dump sewage, and an ever-present barrier to transportation and development. Once lined with heavy industries, its now a central business district
When you see a photo of the Riverwalk, it’s almost always of this tiered seating area (located between La Salle and Clark Streets), where you’ll find visitors enjoying eat-outs, taking a phone call or gazing at the scenery. There’s plenty of space to spread out, so find a spot and take a moment to relax while boat tours glide through the River in front of you.
In conjunction with the Chicago Department of Transportation, construction of the Riverwalk began in 2001 as an extension of the Wacker Drive reconstruction project. With the rebuilding of Wacker Drive, the street was purposely relocated to allow for development of the walk. The oldest section now called Market, between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue was at first an extension of the lake shore trail with tour boat docks, concessions and stair access. Sections at first required going up to street and bridge level to access the next section, until design plans and funding could be arranged over time.
The place where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River is one of the most iconic urban spaces in the world. The DuSable Bridge is all at once a beautiful work of public art and a great feat of civil engineering. Read more about DuSable Bridge
If you need a cocktail or a cup of coffee, you’ll find both beverages on the menu at Tiny Tapp, a bar and café located in the Cove section of the Riverwalk (between Clark and Dearborn Streets). Grab a beer, order from the small food menu (which features a Chicago-style hot dog) and enjoy your meal at one of the nearby tables. This no doubt, is the place ‘where ideas sing’ (upcoming signage for Apple Store on Michigan Avenue)
Just past Michigan Avenue, you’ll find the ticketing booth and boarding docks for Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, which offers tours of the river. The company’s most popular attraction is the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, which sends guests on a 90-minute trip across the water to learn all about the city’s most famous buildings from a knowledgeable (and sometimes hilarious) docent.
The Riverwalk outpost of City Winery is a condensed but faithful recreation of the Randolph Street restaurant and music venue, stocked with a great wine list and some of the best cuisine you’ll find on the waterfront walkway. Guests can get in line for a table or order drinks and food from a walk-up window, with adjacent first-come, first-served seating. Throughout the summer, occasional live performances provide an opportunity to enjoy a scenic dinner and a show.
Depending on just how early a riser you are, you can also enjoy a spot of fishing at The Jetty (Wells to Franklin, Illinois fishing license required), as well as bird-watching with the National Audubon Society (every first Friday from July through October).
End the evening with a moonlit stroll to see other public artworks on the Riverwalk, including Ellen Lanyon’s Riverwalk Gateway, a 27-foot-long trellised, cast-concrete walkway that links the Riverwalk with the lakefront. It includes 28 ceramic panels that depict the rise of Chicago and the significance of the river to the city. Carolyn Ottmers Allium (between Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive) is also worth a visit. This 10-foot-tall cast aluminum allium flower is one in a series of three sculptures, collectively called Equilibrium, that pay homage to Chicago’s native plants.