Winter Water Wonderland, by boat

Coffee along the Chicago River
Coffee along the Chicago River. (Jacqueline Lumley/MEDILL)


Even though the temperatures are dropping, Chicago’s water taxi service is in full swing. These 5 gems along the Chicago River await you.


By Jacqueline Lumley
Medill Reports

FRiver Logo
or the first time in almost a decade, the city of Chicago will extend river taxi service past Thanksgiving through mid-December in 2017. For less than $10, you can purchase a day pass and ride from the Loop to Chinatown and beyond, taking in Chicago’s storied architecture along the way. That makes now the perfect time to welcome winter with Medill Report’s guide to a full day of snowy riverboat rides and delicious food.

Morning: Coffee at The French Market
Start your day with some fresh brew from Chicago’s French Market. Located in the Ogilvie Train Station, this market hosts space for more than 30 artisan food vendors, with choices ranging from high-end charcuterie to fresh-baked croissants to ice cream. It’s the perfect spot for a grab-and-go breakfast before embarking on your riverboat adventure.
Route: Turn right after exiting Ogilvie Train Station and head toward the river down Washington Avenue. Walk down the staircase and wait for the 10 a.m. water taxi at the Ogilvie/Union (West Loop) stop. You can purchase your ticket on board or ahead of time online.

Late Morning: Explore Chicago buildings from the 1800’s.
Hop off at the Michigan Avenue stop and head north down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Beyond high-end shops and upmarket restaurants, Michigan Avenue also boasts the landmark location of two buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can get there by taking a 20-minute walk or 5-minute cab ride over to the intersection of Michigan and Pearson avenues to see both structures, which are free and open to the public. The Old Water Tower now acts as an art gallery with rotating exhibits, and the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station will take you back in time, it’s still intact!
Route: Hop on at the Michigan Avenue stop and get off at Chinatown. Walk under the enchanting Chinatown Gate toward a delicious collection of hand-stretched noodles and Chinese flat bread.

Afternoon: Lunch in Chinatown at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
Chicago’s Chinatown plays host to traditional cuisine and specialty markets. At Little Sheep, Mongolian chefs whip up simmering noodle bowls at the table. A visual and aromatic experience, hot pots are filled with spiced broth steamed with an assortment of fresh ingredients like handmade noodles, fresh-seasoned meats, herbs, spices and more. Try the house-made half & half soup paired with a sesame pancake for a meal that you’ll be talking about for weeks.
Route: Hop on at the Chinatown stop and exit at the LaSalle (River North) stop. Walk up the stairs to Ghirardelli on your left.

Late Afternoon: Warm up with hot chocolate from Ghirardelli
Domenico Ghirardelli has been whipping up delicious Italian chocolate since the early 1880’s. Famous for chocolate squares, Ghirardelli has expanded across the world and is very well known for landmark properties, many of which have been declared historic sites. “We have a classic hot chocolate, a new peppermint hot chocolate for the holidays and our snazziest is the sea salt caramel hot chocolate,” said Enrique Garcia, a chocolatier at Ghirardelli on the river. Take pleasure in a piping hot cup of cocoa while overlooking Michigan Avenue before heading to your next destination.
Route: Hop on at the LaSalle (River North) stop and ride 15 minutes to North Avenue. Turn right onto North and then take another immediate right onto Kingsbury Street before walking five minutes to iO Theatre.

Early Evening: Comedy Show at iO Chicago
The Chicago Comedy scene boasts success stories of comedians like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, both who got their careers rolling in Chicago. iO Chicago is an improv theater and workshop space that entertains an audience with multiple shows a night. “We have a few shows that are holiday-inspired,” said a box office team member. Be warned, she said, “We give a base rating of PG-13 for all of our shows, things can get a little lewd.” Laugh a little and start the night off with a drink from the iO bar, where comedians are known to hang around both before and after each show.
Route: Hop on at the North Ave stop and get off at the LaSalle (River North) stop. Walk west, less than 5 minutes to The Kitchen on the river.

Evening: Farm to Table Dining at The Kitchen
Kimbal Musk, brother to tech-entrepreneur Elon Musk, wanted to bring real food back to the table. Sourcing fresh ingredients from local farms, he opened The Kitchen in Boulder, Colo., in 2004 and expanded to Chicago in 2010. In 2012, The Kitchen Community built 26 gardens in Colorado, 16 in Chicago and 12 more around the United States. The casual-chic restaurant offers a beautiful assortment of specialty dining with booth seating and perfect mood lighting to take in panoramic river views. Top it all off with a glass of pinot from the Kitchen’s extensive wine list and say cheers to a day well spent!

Photo at top: Coffee along the Chicago River. (Jacqueline Lumley/MEDILL)