Kayaking might conjure up white water images and gentle waves on winding lakes but there is a growing urban kayak scene and Chicago plays a significant role in it. Of course, you can kayak on Lake Michigan but that’s so typical. The truly adventurous take to the historic Chicago River, which once flowed into Lake Michigan but was reversed to course toward the Mississippi River basin in the 19th century, forever linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi waterways.
Urban Kayaks supplies a host of tours and rentals for the urban water explorer. The most popular is the Historic Chicago Tour, which glides past the famous Chicago skyline as a guide explains the architecture and current events of the city. The tour runs Monday through Saturday, 10 AM, 12:30 PM, and 3PM for about two hours. The cost is $60 for a single kayak and $110 for a tandem. I’d suggest refined paddling skills for this tour because the river is usually busy with cruise boats and water taxis so you’ll need to quickly negotiate directions as well as be able to gaze at the sights without losing course. During the Summer,you can also try the Navy Pier Fireworks Paddle, which offers excellent views of the fireworks on Wednesdays at 8:45 and Saturdays at 9:15. The 40-50 minute tour is $35 for a single kayak and $50 for a tandem. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 6PM, you can catch the brilliant Chicago night-time skyline during the Sunset Paddle at $60 for a single and $110 for a tandem.
Urban Kayaks is located at 270 East Riverwalk South on lower Wacker Drive. After your kayak excursion, head to the scenic riverwalk cafe, Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt and grab some spicy “wangs and waffles” while gazing at the river you just conquered. Be sure to try the warm pineapple-caramel bread pudding to top it all off.