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Lake Michigan comprises Chicago’s eastern border, and the gleaming blue lake offers city dwellers and visitors a chance to break out the sailboat or surfboard and soak up the sun. And there’s much more to do on the lake than hit the waves. From a walking and biking trails to cultural institutions offering stunning views of the skyline, lakeside Chicago offers up a whole range of activities and attractions.
Lakefront Trail, Chicago
The Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile-long path that stretches right along the edge of Lake Michigan. Starting at Hollywood Avenue on the north side and running to 71st Street on the South Side, bicyclers and walkers can hop on the path at any point and take in views of the waves and city skyline. Parts of the trail curve along the sandy beaches, others cut through parks and gardens, and there are volleyball courts and baseball diamonds for sporty types to get out and play.
Adler Planetarium, Chicago
The Adler Planetarium, which is annually voted the “Best View of Chicago's Skyline” by the American Institute of Architects, is located on a spit of land that juts out into the Lake. In addition to exhibits about the history of astronomy and the solar system, the Planetarium has a new live show, Cosmic Wonder, which explores modern mysteries of the universe. Every third Thursday, the Adler hosts Adler After Dark, an event geared toward hip young professionals that includes cocktails and after-hours access to exhibits. Plus, the Doane Observatory, the largest publicly accessible telescope in the Midwest, will be open for visitors to gaze up at the stars.
Adler Planetarium, 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
With the Chicago Children’s Museum, an IMAX theater, and a 150-foot ferris wheel, most of the activities on Navy Pier are geared toward the little ones. But you don’t have to be a kid to have fun on the pier – take a stroll along its 3,300-foot long length before heading to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which performs plays by the Bard year-round. This summer, the theater will also be staging free performances of The Comedy of Errors in the city’s parks.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 East Grand Avenue, Chicago
Chicago has 26 miles of public beaches, including the family-friendly Oak Street Beach, which is located in Streeterville and offers a skyline view and volleyball nets. Lincoln Park’s buzzing North Avenue Beach has a beach house designed like an ocean liner with upper decks and portholes perfect for people watching or gazing out at the lake.
Oak Street Beach, 1000 North Lake Shore Drive / North Avenue Beach, 1600 North Lake Shore Drive
Northerly Island, Chicago
Northerly Island, a 91-acre peninsula just south of the Adler Planetarium, offers quiet activities for nature lovers, including walking paths and fishing. Even though there’s a view of Chicago’s skyscrapers, the island’s natural beauty and prairie grasses provide an escape from the heat and intensity of the city.
Northerly Island, 1521 S. Linn White Drive, Chicago
Header photo: Lakefront Trail, Chicago © Bernt Rostad
What are your favourite things to do on or by the water in Chicago? What shouldn't a first time visitor miss? Share your knowledge below.
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About the author: AmyCavanaughAmy Cavanaugh
Amy Cavanaugh (http://www.amycavanaugh.com/) writes about food and drink, travel, and culture from her home base of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @AmyCavanaugh