chicago water

Splash into some great water in Chicago this summer

Published on June 21, 2022

Thanks to its system of rivers and lakes, the Chicago area is a water-lover’s paradise during the summer. Whether you enjoy being active on the water or prefer to sit back and enjoy the view, there’s plenty of activities to do. We’ve gathered some great options for you.

Paddles ready

All along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, numerous companies rent out kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and jet skis, with most offering more than one option. Depending on which is closest, you can choose from Wateriders, Chicago SUP, Urban Kayaks, Chicago Water Sport Rentals, Jet Ski Chicago and Chicago River Canoe & Kayak.

Of those, Wateriders and Urban Kayaks have created guided tours, which range from learning about Chicago’s history and architecture to watching the fireworks at Navy Pier to simply enjoying the sunset while on the water. In addition to a launch at North Center’s Clark Park, Chicago River Canoe & Kayak also has locations in Elk Grove Village, Orland Park, Winnetka, and Willow Springs.

Elsewhere in the suburbs, Palatine’s Twin Lakes Golf Course & Recreation Area has paddleboards and kayaks for rent, with kayak lessons available at the beginner and intermediate levels. In Palos Heights, Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens has canoe and kayak rentals on its 10-acre lake.

Located on the North Shore, Skokie Lagoons offers 242 acres of tranquil waters surrounded by lush greenery. Rentals are available at the Tower Road entrance, where the boat launch allows people to bring their own rowboats, sailboats and boats with electric trolling motors. You can also find kayaks, paddle boats and swan boats available for rent at Lake Park Marina in Des Plaines.

chicago water

Whitewater rapids

More adventurous types may want to head out to Yorkville, where the Marge Cline Whitewater Course can be found at Bicentennial Riverfront Park. The park and course along the Fox River are open to all and visitors can bring their own kayaks and canoes. Others can rent those as well as tubes at the nearby Yak Shack.

Take a splash at a waterpark

Thrill-seekers can also check out one of the many water parks in the Chicago area, including Splash Country (Aurora), Coral Cove (Carol Stream), White Water Canyon (Tinley Park), Paradise Bay (Lombard), Atcher Island (Schaumburg), Mystic Waters (Des Plaines) and Oasis (Niles).

Chicago Cycleboats is perfect for groups of friends who want to get some exercise while also doing some quality drinking.  With a paddlewheel powered by the feet of up to 26 passengers seated around a table equipped with bicycle pedals, the cycleboat spends either 90 or 120 minutes on the Chicago River. The cruise is BYOB, and all guests receive a souvenir cup. Give Chicago Cycleboats a spin.

Take a spin on the river… and stay dry

For people that want to stay dry but still be close to water, Chicago’s Riverwalk is a 1.25-mile path through the heart of the city. Along the way, you can eat or drink at one of seven concessions, visit the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum and, at night, take in Art on the MART.

chicago water

Day cruises provide an opportunity to spend time on the water while other people do the work. Chicago Fireboat Tours, City Experiences, Wendella Tours & Cruises, Chicago Architecture Foundation and Shoreline Sightseeing all have numerous boat tours that depart from either the riverfront or lakefront. The Paddlewheel Riverboats at St. Charles’ Pottawatomie Park offer a 45-minute trip along the Fox River that explores the history of the area.

Before embarking on any of these adventures, be sure to check their websites for the most up-to-date information regarding hours of operation and safety procedures.  

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