Find Fun on the Water in Illinois
At the south end of the Magnificent Mile, the iconic Chicago River passes serenely under the Michigan Avenue bridge. While the river is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, it's also a great place to get your feet wet with one of the best summer activities in Illinois: enjoying life along the water.
Along the shore of the Chicago River is a pedestrian walkway known as the Chicago Riverwalk. Recent expansions have transformed the Riverwalk into a quarter-mile aquatic retreat in the heart of downtown. Some sights along the Riverwalk show off the best of Chicago history, such as the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. Others introduce you to Chicago's vibrant dining scene, with plenty of trendy options like Cyrano’s Café on the Riverwalk or City Winery.
If you'd rather cruise the river than walk along it, you can rent a kayak to paddle under the bridges instead. Hop aboard one of a multitude of boat tours to learn about architecture or (on Wednesday and Saturday evenings) venture past the locks to catch the fireworks popping over the lake.
But the Chicago River is just one of the city's many ways to relax along the water. The city proudly boasts a full 28 miles of lakefront shoreline, most of it reserved for public use, which means pristine beaches with plenty of room for everyone to relax in the sun.
When the time comes for a city escape, consider exploring one of the many oases throughout the rest of Illinois. To the southeast lies a perfectly balanced beauty of nature and industry in the Calumet Region, home to fishing, boating, and more. Further west, the charming river towns and dramatic bluffs along the Great River Road show off the waterfront attractions of the mighty Mississippi River.
Water Parks in Northern Illinois
Just a short drive north of the city, Lake County beckons with two unique water parks to help you cool off on a hot day. Six Flags Great America & Hurricane Harbor is open for the season with one ticket offering access to both sides of the popular park, while the brand new Great Wolf Lodge unites high-end family accommodations with unlimited access to its 80,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor water park.
Dining on Lake Michigan
If you prefer a little sand with your meal, Chicago’s beaches are equipped with a variety of lakefront drinking and dining options that are easily accessible from the stunning Lakefront Trail. Each of these delicious stops offers impeccable views of Lake Michigan and open-air opportunities for the summer months.
Water Sports in Illinois
Illinois offers plenty of opportunities to get on the water in Chicago and beyond. Kayak through canyons of skyscrapers on the Chicago River, practice your wakeboarding in Rockford, or take a relaxing float down the river with rafting in Oglesby. Whatever your aquatic taste, you’ll find it in Illinois.