BY LAND AND BY LAKE
STEP GOAL: 10,000+
INTENSITY LEVEL: MODERATE
DISTANCE: ~7.5 MILES
I used to always look forward to taking those double decker bus tours to get to know a new city…until I realized how much more you can see and do when you simply walk around. (I will say you can still learn a lot on those tours, but since many cities are making walking maps, tours, and trails easily accessible, it’s worth it to start seeking those out, too.)
And bonus, you know you’ll get to explore and get in some exercise, which is so fitstylish :)
On my last trip to Chicago, I took a self-guided walking tour, signed up for a paddle boarding tour on the lake, and a walking food tour (more details on that last one in the next Chicago post!)
Here’s how it went…
Getting there on foot
To get to the paddle boarding start location was a little over 2.5 miles from my hotel, which was in the McCormick Place convention center area. Now, to me, that’s a solid walk, but definitely doable. I did debate if I should grab a Lyft, since in my case, I had a little less than an hour to get there; which meant, this was not going to be a leisurely walk, I’d have to book it.
When I realized that I could take the Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile long shared path for biking, walking, running, etc. along the lake, I decided to give it a go.
Walking the Lakefront Trail
My walk began by crossing the train tracks, which was as magnificent a view as the one I was about to get once I got to the lake.
The first major site was Soldier Field. In a city of architectural prowess and masterpieces, it seems a lot of Chicagoans I met were not major fans of this stadium, calling it the spaceship or UFO and not in a complimentary way. As a tourist and a novice when it comes to architecture, I thought the combination of the neoclassical style with that crazy modern top, was kind of cool.
While the signage is pretty good along the trail, I was a little confused about which way to go from here; went with gut instinct (ok, a peek at my google map. Haha.) and just kept following the sidewalk.
Don't get distracted...
The trail leads up to a collection of museums, part of Museum Campus, which is made up of the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field. And right along the trail, is the Shedd Aquarium. As I walked by, they had these huge eye-catching sculptures out front. (Sculptures made from plastic collected on the beach. A beautiful sad reminder of what we’re doing to our oceans and bodies of water!)
But time was a-ticking, so I had to keep moving.
Blue or green?
This is where you’re let out right along the lake. And I mean right along the lake. You can easily dip your toes right in. (So, parents if you have young, very energetic children, you’re going to want to keep them close. And if you’re taking that selfie, make sure you know how close you are to the edge!) But wow…is it a great view! From here you feel the expanse of the lake with its peaceful, dark blue water on your right and the bustling city life with that towering skyline on your left. I loved it.
What’s nice about this section of the trail is that you have the choice to stay close to the water or use a parallel trail that is slightly removed from the water’s edge. This path provides some shade with its green tree-lined paths and modern art pieces to entice along the way.
Fun fact…I learned that the Buckingham Fountain, which you pass along the trail, is often associated with the start of Route 66!
The trail led me to the Columbia Yacht Club, which was where my guided tour started. I signed up for a tour with Urban Kayaks to explore the lake on a paddle board! It turns out our route was actually along the same path I had just walked!
But the views from the water are worth it. This area of the lake is also fairly peaceful, so while I’m a total paddle boarding novice, I was able to get on my feet pretty quickly. My guide, Andy, was patient and full of interesting information. We got to do quite bit of chatting, since I was the only one who signed up for the tour! (Major props for a policy that hosts the tour no matter how many people are signed up.)
Ending with a bang
I walked back to the hotel after the tour and was hungry for dinner. I had a few recommendations for restaurants in Chinatown, which turned out be to within walking distance! Just about a mile or so from the hotel. I rallied and headed out for food. You know when you get to Chinatown because, well, there's a big sign; but it feels like literally everything in the area is actually in Chinese. Thankfully, the place where I picked up food had English translations for everything and the food was worth the walk.
This was a day full of walking. So, it's no surprise that I surpassed my 10,000 step goal (although my official step count didn’t include my paddle boarding, since my tracker was on my phone on the shore. Sigh.)
I was pretty tired out by the time I got back to my hotel room, but I stayed up just long enough to see the fireworks over Navy Pier from the air-conditioned comfort of my hotel room!
My Step Count: ~17,084 steps
From the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place walk to the Lakefront Trail.
Kayak and Paddle Board tours with Urban Kayaks.
Walk back to hotel and head to Chinatown for dinner.
Step It Up!
Here are a few fun ways to add a challenge or some more steps to your itinerary:
- Continue along the Lakefront Trail to explore Navy Pier.
- Run or rent a city bike along the Lakefront Trail.
- Add in the kayak or paddle board excursion.
SHARING IS CARING! I'D LOVE TO HEAR FEEDBACK FROM YOU, COMMENT BELOW.