Free Chicago Riverwalk Celebration May 20

Chicago Riverwalk

As if the lakefront wasn't enough to make Chicago completely awesome, the Chicago Riverwalk is amping up the summer fun game. Stretching from Lake Street to Lake Michigan, this public boardwalk is lined with restaurants, cruises, docks, and more. This Saturday, Chicago's DCASE (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events) is hosting a kick-off celebration that highlights how much fun you can expect to have this summer. From puppet parades to pyrotechnics there's a whole day of activities planned.

“Our Chicago Riverwalk celebration offers an extravaganza of music, art, architecture and puppetry,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We invite Chicagoans and visitors to escape the everyday and embrace Chicago from a new vantage point.”

The schedule's below, and all events are free unless otherwise noted.

Don't want to deal with parking near the Chicago Riverwalk? Take a taxi (Download CURB and save $10 w/ code LOCAL10) or a ride-share service. If you're new to ride-sharing service get a $20 credit with Uber and Lyft. (Both credit values are valid at time of press. The ride sharing programs can change them at any time.)

Chicago Riverwalk Summer Kick-Off Celebration – Schedule of Events 

9:00 a.m.    Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady
Join us for a FREE cruise to celebrate the Riverwalk’s grand opening! Check out Chicago’s First Lady Cruises (@cflcruises) and Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (@chiarchitecture) Instagram & Twitter feeds for more information about how to secure tickets. Passengers board at 112 E. Riverwalk South.
10:15 a.m.      Mercury's Canine Cruise
Calling all canines! Canines and their owners are invited to join us for a 90-minute river and lake cruise. Tickets are $35 for adults. Kids under 15 and canines ride FREE! Passengers board at 112 E. Wacker Drive.
10:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:15p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.    Mercury's Urban Adventure Cruise
Relax and unwind on our 90-minute Chicago River and Lake Michigan cruise. You’ll enjoy lively narration and stories of Chicago's rich history. Tickets are $35 for adults.
“Kids ride free” offer available at box office only. Passengers board at 112 E. Wacker Drive.
10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.    Chicago Architecture Foundation Riverwalk West Walking Tours
Enjoy a free hour-long walk along the Riverwalk stretching from Lake Michigan to Lake Street. Meet at the Vietnam War Memorial at State Street and Wabash Avenue.
10 a.m.–3 p.m.    Riverwalk Paddle   
Hop in a kayak and paddle through Chicago’s river canyon! Kids and parents are free. Meet at Urban Kayaks location between the Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive bridges.
11 a.m.–1 p.m.    Dance of the Bridges and Boats      
See the annual bridge lifts and the parade of boats traveling under Chicago’s iconic movable bridges between Lake Street and Lake Shore Drive. Times for the bridge lifts are subject to change.
11 a.m.–9 p.m.    Downtown Docks
Find discounted transient dockage for the Chicago Riverwalk during the kick-off event at 27 W. Riverwalk South.
Noon and 2 p.m.    March of the Fish
Watch or join The Art Side Out Studio and Mask Shop’s Parade Club march along the Riverwalk with their large fish puppets and spectacle pieces joined by the King College Prep Marching Band! The noon parade starts at Columbus Drive and goes to Lake Street, and at 2 p.m. the parade will start at Lake Street and proceed back to Columbus Drive.
Noon–3 p.m.    Bridge Lift Viewings at McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum
View the Michigan Avenue bridge lift from inside the tower located at 99 E. Riverwalk. Times for the bridge lifts are subject to change.
Noon–4 p.m.    Chicago Park District Fishing at the Jetty  
Chicago’s Fish’N’ Kids will teach children and adults of all ages to fish for free, including supplies and instruction. The fishing jetty is located at Franklin and Wells Streets along the Riverwalk.
Noon–4 p.m.    Classic Boat Rendezvous at The Water Plaza       
View a fleet of classic and antique boats sponsored by the Chicago Yachting Association while enjoying live music by the Chicago folk collective Old Lazarus' Harp. Boats will be located between Wells and LaSalle Streets.
Noon–8 p.m.    Music at Island Party Hut Tiki Bar
Enjoy cool island jams, reggae, soca, punta, Afrobeat, Latin vibes and more! Todd Donnelly performs from noon to 4 p.m. and Corey Bless from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Island Party Hut located at 355 E. Riverwalk South.
Noon–8 p.m.    Frost Gelato 
Celebrate the opening of the Chicago Riverwalk with discounted gelato at 27 W. Riverwalk South.
Noon–8 p.m.    City Winery Riverwalk
Relax with live music by Lucky Dutch & DJ Jevon Jackson at 11 Riverwalk.
1 p.m. and 2 p.m.    Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Enjoy a chamber ensemble comprised of members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform as part of the Riverwalk kick-off celebration, performing at 1p.m. between Lake Street and Franklin Street, and 2 p.m. near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 
2–5 p.m.    O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe
Celebrate at O’Brien’s with a special appearance by the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band and a session of jigs and ballads from Ireland at 45 E. Riverwalk South.
5–6 p.m.    Dragon Boat Exhibition Race                      
Watch an exciting dragon boat exhibition race along the Riverwalk. Boats will be docked for viewing to learn more about this historic Chinese tradition.
6:30–8 p.m.    Traveling Music Cruise
Enjoy Beats y Bateria, a Chicago-based world music band, as they travel on Island Party Hut’s tiki boat, stopping along the Riverwalk for music performances. The fun begins at Island Party Hut’s dock and will travel up the river between Lake Street and Franklin Street with a final stop at the River Theatre between LaSalle Street and Clark Street for the grand finale display of pyrotechnic waterfalls from the bridges. Begins at 355 E. Riverwalk South.
8 p.m.      Pyrotechnic Waterfall Display                     
Delight in the one-minute grand finale display of pyrotechnic waterfalls at the River Theatre off of the west side of the Clark Street bridge and the east side of LaSalle Street bridge.

Make a staycation out of it! Find downtown Chicago hotels*.

The Local Tourist's picture
About Theresa

Theresa  Goodrich is the founder and publisher of The Local Tourist and author of "Two Lane Gems," an uplifting and slightly humorous tale of her 6,479.5-mile cross-country road trip. It's .

Add new comment