Summertime water fun on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River

Nothing says Chicago quite like summer on the water. Chicagoans define ourselves by our relationship with the water. The blue stripes on our beloved city flag represent the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. If you’ve ever noticed the ‘Y’ formation of the Chicago Public Library logo, and formerly of CTA bus tokens, it’s a nod to the branches of the Chicago River.

Grab your sunscreen, because with summer months coming and going as fast as they do, we have to make the most of it our fleeting time on the water!

Chicago’s Original Architecture Tour by Wendella Boats

Perfect for the entire family, you don’t want to miss the Wendella Original Architecture Tour. This 75-minute trip along the Chicago River is smooth enough for a pregnant cousin, a rambunctious toddler and Grandpa. Choose between the shaded lower level or the sunbathed top level. The tour guide will share some pretty interesting details about Chicago’s most iconic buildings, which will, in turn, make you a better tour guide when relatives come to visit.

Seadog Chicago Tours

For the adventure seekers in the family, you’ll want to ride a Seadog. These sleek speed boats are a staple on Lake Michigan, Architecture Tours start in March while the adventure rides begin in late May.

Boarding at Navy Pier, you’ll see some people wearing ponchos and some returning soaking wet. The boat will speed you passed some of our most beloved landmarks including Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park and Museum Campus.    

Chicago Rowing Foundation

Yes, even full body workouts are available. Join the team at Chicago Rowing Foundation to learn the Olympic sport of rowing. Summer camp is available for students entering sixth grade, while the year-long program is for seventh grade and higher. This is an amazing full body workout for any parent looking for a new routine or some time to bond with your teens. 

Chicago Water Sports Rentals

If peace and serenity are more your speed, then you’ll want to head south to Chicago Water Sports Rentals. From 31st Harbor you can rent kayaks and paddleboards to move at a calm pace. They even offer Paddleboard Yoga for an added level of tranquility.

If you are seeking the thrill of the throttle, they also rent jet skis. And an additional benefit to heading just a bit south is the competitive pricing.

Chicago Sailboat Charters

Looking for tranquility with minimum exertion? A charter is what your family needs. The team at Chicago Sailboat Charters can accommodate parties from 2 to 36 on vessels varying from sailboats to speed boats, plus the newly added “Big Boat.” Charters are typically 3-4 hours, and are available for swim trips, fireworks viewings and the ever coveted Air and Water Show viewing.  

Island Party Boat


The perfect place for a bachelorette luau or a pre-concert party! The professional party planners at Island Party Boat take care of all the details so you and your friends can take a day off for fun in the sun. You can charter a day cruise, a night cruise or buy tickets for some fun on the Floating Tiki Bar. Some of the charter vessels are even BYOB/F! If you want everything taken care of, you may want a Sunday Bottomless Mimosa cruise. The options are plenty if you’re looking to party on the water.  

Odyssey Cruises

Glitz and glamour more your scene? Slip on a sequined dress and some strappy sandals for dinner and dancing on Odyssey Cruises. Departing from Navy Pier, you’ll feel like a million bucks as you sashay along the pier heading to your dock. Lunch and brunch tours are also available, if you want less dancing and more dining. The staff know how to create a full sensory experience by pairing the finest cuisine with views of the magnificent skyline. Your feet might hurt afterward, but it’ll be worth it.  

Whether you’re looking to learn a new sport, harness your chi or just sit back and relax the waterways in Chicago have plenty to offer. And let’s be honest with ourselves, summer is the reason we stay in this city, so make the most of it.

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