chicago guide

Get Out on the Chicago River

From boating to the Riverwalk, the Chicago River is a true gem


CITY GUIDE: CHICAGO RIVER |  The Chicago River has played a major role in the city since its inception in 1833. Commercially, the river connects Lake Michigan to points down to the Mississippi River and allows for cargo to flow well beyond Chicago. It runs 156 miles from start to finish and at one point, in the early 1900s, through engineering genius, the river’s flow was reversed to have it run away from Lake Michigan, thus preventing the city’s sewage and garbage from running into the lake, which was the city’s main fresh-water resource.

While the river was deemed too toxic to enter for many years, in the last decade or so, Chicago organizations have worked with the mayor’s office to clean it up, change the perception and have done so with huge success. Today, the Chicago River has become a source of pride for the city with the expansion of the Riverwalk and boaters and kayakers enjoying the river, which is flanked by some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings including Marina City, Merchandise Mart and the Wrigley Building.

When you stay at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, think about taking a quick walk over to the river. You could book an architectural boat tour, rent a kayak, take out a Divvy bike (or borrow one of the Heritage Bicycles from the hotel when you head out – complimentary for guests!) and ride along the Riverwalk or hit one of the many restaurants and bars like O’Brien’s, Tiny Tapp and City Winery for a drink, meal or even a live concert, which happens throughout the summer. And if you’re ever in town for St. Patrick’s Day, head down to the river early to watch it get dyed vibrant Kelly green — a tradition for decades.

However you view the Chicago River, you’ll really want to take it all in. Being on the Riverwalk lets you see the city from a totally new perspective and fall in love with it all over again. It really is a gorgeous part of Chicago.

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