A Pedal + Paddle Green Tour of Chicago


A spin through the Lakefront and South Loop, sure to impress eco-minded residents and guests


Start your adventure at Roosevelt and Michigan, the southwest corner of Grant Park, home to one of the largest green roofs in the world. Also known as Chicago’s front yard, Grant Park enables residents and visitors to enjoy the treasured lakefront and significant park space in the heart of Chicago. As you head to the Divvy bikes station near the well-loved skate park that anchors this corner, note the playful pavement markings, encouraging activity and safety on the pedestrian and bike path. Divvy, the second largest bike-share system in the county, is a fun, affordable, and convenient means to explore Chicago in an active, well-paced way. So check out a bike and hop on! 

This “city in a garden” boasts hundreds of parks, covering more than 8,000 acres

Take your Divvy eastbound, over ‘Mount Roosevelt’, a nickname given to this mild incline by Chicago Marathon runners, and across Columbus Drive to access the Park District path that takes you under Lakeshore Drive and on to Museum Campus. 

Locate the Lakefront Trail to hug the shoreline that showcases institutional jewels to be explored on another day, such as:  the solar paneled roof of the Shedd Aquarium, the LEED Gold Field Museum, and the 91-acre peninsula, Northerly Island, which offers hiking, fishing, camping and a live music venue with the finest backdrop in the world. It is from this treasured outpost that you can absorb the superb Chicago skyline and the blue horizon of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is enjoyed by Chicagoans for its beauty, its role as a directional anchor (EAST!), and as an invaluable natural resource: one-fifth of the Great Lakes party, the largest freshwater body on Earth.

 Head south on the lakefront and cross over Lakeshore Drive on the 18th Street pedestrian bridge just past Soldier Field. Continue southbound on Calumet until you near the intersection of Cermak. Take a right on pathway in front of the Marriott and pause half a block later at Prairie. Here you find yourself in McCormick Square, a developing cultural district. In front of you is McCormick Place, one of the largest convention centers in the United States. This behemoth is mindful of its footprint, from offsetting 100% of electricity with wind RECs and earning EPA accolades, to the LEED certified West Wing and a hidden apiary that is home to 20,000 honey bees, McCormick Place is an eco leader in the convention center space. If you’re ever offered a tour of these highlights, don’t miss SAVOR…Chicago’s rooftop garden, the midwest’s largest rooftop farm and an urban agriculture training ground that yields 4 tons of fresh produce and herbs annually which are incorporated into its menus.

The playful and nostalgic figures welcoming visitors are the Square’s newest addition – “The Bots”. Designed and manufactured by Chicago-based firms, this giant installation is one of more than 100 pieces of public art on the campus.

Continue down Cermak through Chinatown – carefully admiring this gem of an enclave – to Wentworth where you will turn right, or northbound. At 19th Street take a left and dock your Divvy at the station just under the EL tracks. Here we encourage you to explore the riverfront and one of Chicago’s newest parks, Ping Tom Memorial Park.

The Chicago River, represented by the second blue stripe on the Chicago flag, was a disparaged dumping ground for decades. Today, this waterfront is being reimagined and redesigned. Current revitalization efforts are bringing back pedestrians, plants, birds and aquatic life. If you’re lucky, you may spot a river otter, one of the species making a comeback to call Chicago home. A transformation of vacant land, Ping Tom Memorial Park hosts cultural events and engages residents with its activities and natural beauty. This 17-acre site provides Chinatown residents, long sandwiched between the expressway and river, much needed green space.

Conclude your tour by venturing out onto the water in a kayak rented from the Park District Fieldhouse just north of 18th Street. Before returning downtown via a Chicago Water Taxi, take time to take in the culture and flavors. Eater Chicago recently published a stellar list of options… our faves include #8,10,12,16… at least the tea is green!