One of the best ways to see the city of Chicago is from the water. We’re surrounded by it. The Chicago River encircles the Loop while the waters of Lake Michigan lap at our eastern shore. From May to November there are several ways to get on out the waters, for fitness and fun, for drinking and dancing, or for learning more about the city. Here are some of the best options.
Kayaking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan
Get out on the water while you get fit, with a kayak lesson or tour on the Chicago River. Lessons and tours are offered for every skill level and include architectural tours, night tours, stand-up paddle-board lessons, and sunset tours. Most tours and lessons last about 3 hours, with prices ranging form $50-$85. Rentals are available for $15 per hour, or $60 for a full day. Double kayaks are also available.
Architectural River Tours
The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is one of the city’s best sightseeing tours. In addition to seeing the city from another angle on the Chicago River, you’ll learn all about our fascinating history and learn the stories behind each of the beautiful skyscrapers than line the River. Tours are held May through November, cost $32 and last about 90 minutes.
The water taxi isn’t just a neat way to get out on the Chicago River for only a few bucks, it’s also a main form of transportation for many people during the summer months. The water taxi runs from the Michigan Avenue Bridge to Chinatown, with stops at LaSalle/Clark and Madison St. A single ride is $2 (add $2 if you want to go all the way to Chinatown) and an full-day weekday unlimited pass is $4 (add $2 for Chinatown and on weekends).
A Lake cruise is by far the most posh, relaxing way to take in the city skyline away from shore. Shoreline Sightseeing is one of the more popular companies. It offers Lake cruises starting at just $13 per person. Mystic Blue also offers dinner, lunch, brunch, and moonlight cruises that include meals and entertainment on board.
Chicago has the largest municipal harbor in the US and many people choose to keep speedboats, sailboats and yachts here for summer boating. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, you can still get out on a sailboat with a sailing lesson or boat rental. SloopCity Sailing offers private lessons starting at $80 an hour, while Chicago Sailing offers rentals starting at $55 an hour.