5 Active Ways to Experience Chicago in the Summer

Despite its bad rap during the winter, Chicago is a fantastic place all year round, but to be fair, the city really comes alive in the summer months when days are warmer and longer and the list of outdoor activities in Chicago is never ending. In the summer, the Windy City begs to be explored in outdoorsy ways and inspires Chicagoans and visitors alike to be more active.

For those who enjoy exercise and like to do things slightly off the beaten path, here are five unique outdoor activities in Chicago. They don’t require high fitness levels; you can dial up or down the intensity based on your personal preferences; and, most importantly, are all fun and memorable family adventures.

5 Fun Outdoor Activities in Chicago

1. Enjoy Yoga at Millennium Park
To feel the pulse of the city in addition to your own, skip the hotel gym and head to Millennium  Park for a fun outdoor workout. During the summer months, the City of Chicago sponsors Summer Workouts on the Great Lawn of the Pritzker Pavilion, which take place every Saturday morning as well as certain weekdays. Find your zen with yoga, get stronger with Pilates or rock it out with Zumba. The choice is yours.

Best part: All the workouts are FREE and the famous Bean sculpture is steps away if you want to take a post workout selfie.

Outdoor activities in Chicago - Millennium Park workouts
Outdoor yoga and other FREE workouts at Millennium Park are some of the fun outdoor activities in Chicago this summer.

2. Take a Walk along the Chicago River
Spanning from Michigan Avenue to Franklin street, the Chicago Riverwalk is a relatively recent addition to the south bank of the Chicago River. It’s a great place for a fitness walk or a gentle morning jog before the area gets too crowded. Later in the day, come back for an al fresco lunch or an ice cream break. You can also enjoy a music performance, an art exhibition or simply people and boat watching.

Best part: You are in the heart of the city, steps from everything.

Outdoor activities in Chicago - Chicago Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk is a great place for a power walk in the heart of the city.

3. Run or Bike Along the Lake Front
Runners can’t resist heading to the shoreline of Lake Michigan to start their day with a morning run along the water. For a fun family workout any time of the day, rent a quad bicycle at Navy Pier and head north. Choose your own pace and make as many stops you would like to snap a few scenic pictures, enjoy fish tacos at Oak Street Beach or take a well-deserved rest on the grassy area by Fullerton Avenue if you make it that far.

Best part: Miles and miles of great running and biking paths lead both north and south of the city for those who like to go for distance.

Outdoor activities in Chicago - Biking along the North Avenue Beach
Exploring the lake front in a quad bicycle is one of the fun and active things to do in Chicago.

4. Stand up and Paddle at North Avenue Beach
When you are visiting Chicago in the summer, it would be a shame not to experience at least one of the city’s beautiful beaches, some of which are just steps from downtown. North Avenue Beach, known for its wide sandy strip, boat shaped restaurant, family-friendly swim areas and fun events all summer long, is one of the local favorites.

For a unique Chicago experience, try stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), a hybrid of surfing and kayaking with Chicago SUP. If you’ve never tried it before, don’t worry; the company offers beginner classes taught by friendly staff who will have you standing up and enjoying Lake Michigan in no time.

Best part: Enjoy a full body workout with spectacular views of the city including Navy Pier and the Hancock Tower.

Outdoor activities in Chicago - SUP on North Avenue Beach
Head to North Avenue Beach for another one of the fun outdoor activities in Chicago. Try stand-up paddle boarding, no prior experience required and fun guaranteed.

5. Tour the City in a Kayak
Adventurous types will like touring the city in a kayak for an added dash of adrenaline. The Architectural Tour by Kayak Chicago takes you down the Chicago River and teaches you a thing or two about the city’s colorful history and buildings as you paddle past many recognizable landmarks and bridges, skillfully dodging large tour boats and busy river traffic.

Want to kick it up another notch? The Fireworks Paddle tour will let you experience a striking evening cityscape ending with a spectacular firework show at Navy Pier.

Best part: You’ll get a unique and exhilarating river-level perspective of the city.
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5 Outdoor activities in Chicago | Active things to do in Chicago with kids | Things to do outside in Chicago

Know Before You Go

  • Chicago’s nickname is “The Windy City.”
  • Make sure to visit Millennium Park so that you can see the world-famous Bean!
  • Avoid visiting in the winter if you aren’t a fan of cold weather! The weather warms up around May.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Vera H. Are you interested in traveling to Chicago? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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