A visit to Lake Michigan should be on every itinerary for folks visiting Chicago, even in the non summer months.
There is a 18 mile path that runs along the lakefront, from Hollywood to 71st Street, it's not the whole length of the city but it covers a really good portion of the lakefront. It's utilized by bicyclists, walkers, joggers, in line skaters, people walking their dogs. There are several areas that get very congested so my favorite stretch for biking starts at McCormick Place and heads south down to the South Shore Cultural Center where it ends.
The most heavily congested area of the trail is from Navy Pier north to North Avenue beach, north or south of there is much less crowded and easier to actually ride your bicycle. You will also find quite a few people between Navy Pier and the museum campus area so it's always a good idea to slow it down so you don't flatten an unsuspecting tourist, especially near the museums (Shedd, Adler and Field). In the downtown area there are separate trails for bikers and pedestrians but over the years the markings have worn off the sidewalk and the only people who know that are the locals that have been using it for years.
Check here for info on bike rentals, guided and self guided tours from Navy Pier and several other spots
The conservatory and gardens of Lincoln Park are a nice escape from the noise and traffic of downtown and are free for the rambling. Greenery and exotic florals abound in all shapes and colors inside the glassed-in greenhouse, and seasonal varieties bloom in the lily pool, Grandma's and Great Gardens. Fun for all ages to combine with nearby Lincoln Park Zoo: bring a picnic!
Extra tip: the lily pool is rumored to be an especially nice spot for quiet reflection, peaceful noshing (please take your trash with you!) or a lil' smooch with your sweetie.
Strolling alone the lakeshore is just one of those things you absolutely have to do on your Chicago visit, even in the winter, and especially when it's clear out. In the summer, on a good day, the lake is full of boats, people are out biking and laying in the sun, and it's a very beach-like atmosphere.
There is a trail that runs much of the length of the lake. Most of it has a separated bike lane and pedestrian lane, except for the bridge over the Chicago River, where bikes have to move past pedestrians.
Lake Michigan is huge. It feels more like a sea, and is bigger than many seas too. On its own it would be the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world, at nearly 60,000 square kilometers. Combined with Lake Huron, which it is geographically a part of, it makes for the biggest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Michigan itself is bigger in area than Croatia, Denmark or the Netherlands.
Another big city on Lake Michigan is Milwaukee.
The Air Show was in town during one of my first weeks in Chicago. I had never gone to an airshow before and didn't plan on going to this one - until I realized that you really can't avoid it. Most of the planes and helicopters fly over Lake Michigan so there are a lot places to get a view of it. Then there are the Blue Angels. They stay off shore most of time but every once in a while one will break away and fly around the city and in between the Sears and Hancock Towers. I was very impressed. It's quite a sight (and sound). It usually comes around mid-late August.
PS: Forget about parking near the lake if you have a car. Take public transportation into the city.
PSS: The link will take you to the City's site that lists all the festivals in Chicago during the summer.
Lake Michigan or what the locals would say as LAKEFRONT, provides some spectacular views of Chicago Skline area and provides lots of activites like sailing, water taxis, early dinner cruises and night cruises plus tons of other activites. Hence a visit to chicago must entail some activities in lake michigan like do the water taxis or do the river and lake cruise or visit the navy pier area to shop or dine or just hang around and savor the breeze of lake michigan or at the huge lincoln park to stroll or walk or do the beaches or take a speed boat and or jetski or at the area around the Shed Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium for the magnificent and sweeping views and I did almost all of that.
The Lincoln Park area of Chicago is both a community and a huge park, actually the park proper is larger than the community that it ecompasses 5 districts. the community area is anchored by the Lincoln Park Zoo and DePaul University and lies north west of chicago. The neighborhood contains large number of upscale national retailers, boutiques, bookstores, restaurants and coffee shops. There are also many bars and clubs in the area, especially along Lincoln Avenue between Wrightwood and Webster and also Lincoln Park Community is one of the wealthiest and most expensive communities in which to live.
The trail runs 20 miles along Lake Michigan. It;s open use for people walking, jogging and biking. It offers great views of the city and the lake. Along the way there is access to many beaches, museums, Navy Pier and Lincoln Park.
Oak Street Beach
Oak Street Beach, is one of Chicago's most popular spots to visit, in Spring & Summer season, of course.
The beach is very popular among sunbathers. Sporting fans for in-line skaters, cyclists, running and volleyball practices might also find on Oak Street beach the ground for their amusement. :)
* My Portuguese friends pictured here:
- Pedro Silva.
- Pedro Almeida.
- Marta Pinheiro.
- Mário Ferreira (myself).
- Patricia Churro.
After visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, head over to the Lincoln Park Conservatory for a tour of the beautiful gardens. The Lincoln Park Conservatory is smaller than the better known Garfield Conservatory but is very convenient if you are up in the Lincoln Park area.
The Conservatory, like the zoo, is free. The Conservatory is divided into 4 main sections- the palm house, followed by the fern room, orchid room and the show room which features seasonal displays. At Christmas time, stop by and see the annual Winter Flower and Train Show (early December-early January) which features model trains winding through a minature Chicago.
Open 9-5 daily
If you are looking for somewhere to eat in the area, very close by is Mon Ami Gabi for French bistro fare, North Pond for organic American cuisine or RJ Grunts for burgers, salads and sandwiches. A little further away is Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders or Emilio's Tapas (Fullerton/Clark location).
I just about fell out of my shuttle bus seat, as it passed along the Lake Michigan waterfront on a return journey to my hotel, when I noticed this handsome ship tied up. After checking it out on my computer I was astounded to find it was the Motor Vessel 'Abegweit' - formerly a vehicle/train ferry between my home province of New Brunswick and nearby Prince Edward Island! I had actually taken a voyage on this ship while in my early teens and thought it was a huge liner compared to the flat little river-crossing ferries I had experienced up to that time. I immediately jumped into a taxi and went back for a closer look!
The ship's name means 'cradled on the waves' and was taken from the Canadian Mi'kmaq native word "Epekwit'k" for Prince Edward Island. After it was launched in Quebec in 1946 and placed in service in 1947 for Canadian National Railways, the 372-ft long 7000-ton 'Abegweit' was reported to be the world's most powerful icebreaker thanks to her 8 engines producing 13,500 HP (10 MW) to drive her four propellers - two in the stern and two more up front. Her tough all-welded steel construction, combined with two mechanically-controlled heeling tanks that could rock her from side-to-side as well as the razor sharp 13-ft diameter nickel propellers allowed her to ram, rock and chew her way through any ice in Northumberland Strait. The size of the 'Abegweit' allowed her to take either one complete passenger train of 16 railway cars or 60 automobiles - with a passenger load of 950. The arrival of the 'Abegweit' marked the first time PEI had reliable winter connections to the mainland and also fulfilled the promise made to the Islanders when they joined Canada in 1873!
The 'Abegweit' served with distinction until being retired in 1981 because newer ferries were larger and were of the Ro-Ro design of drive in one end and drive out the other, instead of her now cumbersome stern loading arrangement. Fortunately, the Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago saved the 'Abegweit' from the breakers yard. Because the City of Chicago would not let them build a clubhouse along the Lake Michigan shore when they formed in 1892, they opted instead for a ship as a floating HQ. When their 3rd boat HQ, the 1936-purchased lake steamer 'Florida' was nearing the end of its life, the Club bought the retired 'Abegweit' as a replacement and sailed her up the St. Lawrence River into the Great Lakes! As I walked past the old ship, a couple of resting Canada Geese kept an eye on me so I gave them a wide berth! I thought it was fitting that they should be guarding this old Canadian icon!
If you are in Chicago you cannot miss out on having a walk by the lake. Its simply incredible and one just cannot comprend the sheer size of this "lake" its more likea sea.
We had a walk there in Feb 08 and it was absolutely freezing... it was so cold that the bottle of water I had in my bag started icing up!!! That day was -23C.
But it was a really nice walk. I suggest you walk towards Lakeshore Drive and then onward towards Navy Pier, its not a very far walk and its offers great views, so its highly recommended...