Chicago Riverwalk: A Guide to Getting Around

Chicago Riverwalk: A Guide to Getting Around
Chicago Riverwalk. Photo: Armando L. Sanchez, Chicago Tribune

Slow, but sure, progress is being made along Chicago’s newest blockbuster project—the six block (or six room) $100 million Chicago Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk has been a vision for Chicago since the 1990s when the East-West Wacker Drive reconstruction began.

When completed the “walk” will run from Lake Michigan on the east to the Lake St. Bridge on the west. On Memorial Day weekend, room one called The Cove, running from Clark to Dearborn and room two, The Marina Plaza, running from Dearborn to State Street opened to the public. A third room, The River Theater, will open later this month.

Riverwalkmap1

When I hit the Riverwalk on a coolish rainy day last week, runners were already making good use of the jogging/walking/bike trail which, when completed, will be 11/4-miles extending from Lake Michigan to the Lake Street Bridge.

Unlike, Maggie Daley and Millennium Parks, dogs are allowed on the Riverwalk. There will most likely be some dog friendly spots where you can stop to eat on the way including Cyrano’s Bistro and Wine Bar that allows dogs at the outdoor tables.

Chicago Riverwalk offers many spots to sit and take in the views. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Chicago Riverwalk offers many spots to sit and take in the views. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The physical structure including the granite and bricked paths, the canopied mirrored ceilings under the bridges, the benches and tiered seating along with existing restaurants are all in place. However, it won’t be until mid-June or later that the highly anticipated  new occupants including City Winery Riverwalk will move into their spaces.

Workers are busy trying to put the finishing touches on the City Winery Riverwalk scheduled for a mid-June opening. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Workers are busy trying to put the finishing touches on the City Winery Riverwalk scheduled for a mid-June opening. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The City Winery Riverwalk, located on The Marina Plaza, on the south bank of the Chicago River between Dearborn and State Street, promises the romance of wine country with its warm wood decor featuring actual wine barrels. Outside offers a 3,000+ -square-foot outdoor wine garden where locals and visitors can wine and dine while catching the action along the river.

Arrive at many Riverwalk establishments by boat. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Visitors can arrive via the water at many Riverwalk establishments. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Marina Plaza (between Dearborn and State) offers a unique touch-and-go area for private boaters to dock along the river’s edge.

A variety of music, lectures and performances are on tap for this summer including:  City Winery’s line-up of live music and performances; the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) weekly music series (schedule, TBA); a nine-week free lecture series by Friends of the Chicago River, Mondays (June 1 – July 27) about the state of the river and its future at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum; plus performances on the, soon to be completed, River Theater Room that will take place both on the Riverwalk as well as on barges along the river.

The entire Riverwalk is scheduled for completion in 2016 with work continuing on these three rooms:

  • The Swimming Hole/The Water Plaza (LaSalle to Wells); plans include a water feature such as a zero-depth fountain.
  • The Jetty (Wells to Franklin) will be the place for learning about the ecology of the river. It will include floating gardens and piers for fishing.
  • The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake) will feature an iconic bridge entry to the Riverwalk from Upper Wacker down to the Riverwalk level.  It will be surrounded by floating gardens and landscaping.

The City recently confirmed this list of tenants for the Riverwalk:

O'Briens, one of the existing river front restaurants, is a great spot to grab a bite. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

O’Briens, one of the long-time river front restaurants, is a great spot to grab a bite. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Marina Plaza, State to Dearborn

  • City Winery, 11 West Riverwalk South- State Street side
  • Downtown Docks, offering transient docking for motorized recreational boats, allowing them access to the amenities on the Riverwalk, 27 West Riverwalk South- Dearborn side

The Cove, Dearborn to Clark

  • Flanders Belguim Beer and Fries, 55 West Riverwalk South- Dearborn side
  • Urban Kayaks, 71 West Riverwalk South- Clark Street side

Riverwalkkayakers

The River Theater, Clark to LaSalle

  • Wendella Water Taxi, 105 West Riverwalk South

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