Summer gets its cue from the Chicago Riverwalk Kick-Off Celebration

Chicago’s Riverwalk is a gem among gems, whether you prefer your warm weather fun to be active or of the “seated with a fancy drink” variety. And if you’ve yet to experience how incredibly great this beautiful (and surprisingly hidden) section of town is, then you’re in for a treat of the Is It Summer Yet variety.

On Saturday, May 20, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is kicking off the summer and showcasing what programming along the Riverwalk will be–all the way through October 2017.

A pedestrian waterfront that spans nine city blocks from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street, the 1.25 mile Riverwalk is home to shops, bistros, live music venues and unparalleled views of the Chicago skyline. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and DCASE have designated 2017 the Year of Public Art and the Summer Kick-off Celebration is a pretty grand excuse to get downtown to see what’s going on.

Dig boats? At 9 a.m. the Chicago Architecture Foundation is offering free river cruises aboard Chicago’s First Lady, which is a must-do for tourists and residents alike. (They’re also offering free, one-hour long walking tours along the Riverwalk.) If you’ve got your pup in tow, you won’t want to miss Mercury’s Canine Cruise, which provides a 90-minute river and lake tour. (Tickets are $35 for adults, but kids under 15 and man’s best friends ride free.) If kayaking is more your speed, you’ll definitely want to meet at Urban Kayaks for the chance to hop into a kayak and paddle through Chicago’s river canyon; kids and their parents are absolutely free.

More highlights of the event-packed day include Chicago’s Fish ‘N Kids teaching folks how to fish (including all supplies and instruction for free), gawking at the annual Dance of the Bridge and Boats (watching the bridges lift and the parade of boats cheerfully regain access to the lake), and the historic–and supremely cool–Dragon Boat Race.

Look for fantastic deals on all manner of treats, and you won’t want to miss chamber ensemble performances at 1 and 2 p.m. by members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Culture and gelato really do go exceptionally well together.)

And if you can stick it out to the end of the day, the short yet impressive grand finale pyrotechnic waterfall display (at the River Theatre) will inspire you to make all sorts of marvelous summertime plans.

For example, spending as much time as humanly possible down on the Chicago Riverwalk.

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