Your Family Guide to the Chicago Riverwalk

Here are the best things to do with kids when visiting the Riverwalk.

The Chicago Riverwalk has gone through so many amazing changes over the past few years and now, it has become a beloved attraction in the city’s downtown area. Stretching for 1.25 miles along the Chicago River, the stroller-friendly path offers public art displays, quick bites, water fun and so much more for your entire family.

Note: You can find ADA-compliant ramps providing access on the east side of State Street, west side of Clark Street and west side of Franklin Street. 

Play

The Water Plaza

Looking to cool down after walking around under the sun? The Water Plaza, one of the themed spaces on the Riverwalk, offers a free splash pad for families. This splash pad is elevated and gated away from the river edge, so your kids can roam free and you can take a seat while watching them. It’s located between LaSalle and Wells Avenues bridges.

Urban Kayaks

If your family is up for an adventure, take a challenge and kayak down the Chicago River. Urban Kayaks offers a “Riverwalk Intro Paddle” perfect for families who never tried kayaking before. Parents can ride with kids under 15 in a tandem (two-person) kayak. Experienced kayakers can try out special tours like the “Ultimate Fireworks Outing” and the “Art on the Mart Twilight Paddle” for some sweet views. You can find their station at 435 E. Riverwalk South.

Extraordinary Playscapes

Created by Design Museum Foundation, kids will have a blast to climb on the colorful structures and parents can take a seat to enjoy the water views. The playground is located near Urban Kayaks.

The Riverbank

What we love about the Chicago Riverwalk is the growing number of public art displays. On the farther end of the Riverwalk, check out the Black Tiberinus by the School of Art Institute Chicago alum, Robert Burnier. The yellow installation is hard to miss on the Riverwalk and while you’re there, take a seat on one of the brightly-colored lawn chairs.

Between Franklin St. and Lake St. bridges

Eat

Photo credit: The Northman Beer & Cider Garden

The Northman Beer & Cider Garden

Chicago’s first cider bar has made a name for its self in North Center and now you can enjoy a traditional European beer garden on the river. With plenty of drink options available for parents, don’t hesitate to take a seat at their picnic tables with the kids as well. Their food menu hosts plenty of family-friendly options from artisanal hot dogs and sausages to soft pretzels and sandwiches. There’s also cornhole available if the kids want to play. The location is at 233 E. Riverwalk South.

Sweet Home Gelato

Head over to Sweet Home Gelato when it’s time for a dessert break. Conveniently located right next to the splash pad in The Water Plaza, the gelato spot offers special treats like root beer floats, milkshakes and sundaes. The location is at 151-155 W. Riverwalk South.

Beat Kitchen on the Riverwalk

This Roscoe Village restaurant next to the Bridgehouse museum offers drinks and delicious food with kid-friendly options like pizzas and mac ‘n’ cheese. 

Explore

Photo credit: Art ontheMart/Joshua Brott, Obscura Digital

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

With all the bridge houses located along the Chicago River, there’s actually one where you can explore inside! The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum is certainly worth the visit if you want to take a closer look of massive bridge gears, learn more about the Chicago River and see some nice views from a historic bridge house.

Chicago Water Taxi

We know that there are a lot of boat tours to choose from on the Chicago River, but if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option — the Chicago Water Taxi is where to go. You can get an all-day pass for $10 and ride around downtown as many times as you want (or take it all the way to Chinatown!). The location is at 105 W. Riverwalk South.

Art on theMART

See incredible digital art projections on The Merchandise Mart. The program begins approximately 15 minutes after sunset and this year, you can enjoy Art on theMart every single day. Tip: Try to find a seat at The Jetty (located from Wells to Franklin), an area with small piers and floating wetland gardens, which is the best spot to see the projections from the Riverwalk.


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