Not all who wander are lost, and not all who travel to Chicago are going to have fun at Navy Pier. Nothing against Navy Pier—it’s just the No. 1 tourist attraction in the city. Adventure seekers cannot simply limit themselves to the traditional Windy City guidebook; they require activities with a little more “oomph” and excitement.
The excursions on this list are sure to please adventurous travelers from around the globe—while still offering up a classic taste of good ole Chicago.
Tens of thousands of people have hopped into colorful kayaks for a river tour since Wateriders got started in 1997. It truly is “Good Green Fun” for the whole family; kayakers of all ages are encouraged to join in, and that includes dogs (yes, dogs are allowed). Choose from an assortment of architecture, history, gangster, sunset, or moonlight tours, all guided by experienced and knowledgeable professionals. Tours range from 1.5 to 2 hours, so get your sunscreen out, toss on a lifejacket, and start paddling.
The Trapeze School of New York got started in the Big Apple, and it has since expanded to several additional cities, including Chicago. The school offers classes in flying trapeze, trampoline, and acrobatics, to name a few. The goal for each course is to increase students’ awareness of their bodies, minds, and emotions.
The studio has two locations in Chicago (one indoors, one outdoors). The outdoor location is right on Belmont Harbor next to Lake Michigan, offering up beautiful views of the city skyline. Participants can get a sense of what it feels like to fly through the air—safely!—as a way to improve endurance, strength, and awareness. Trapeze classes are offered during the day and in the evening, which adds flexibility to travelers’ schedules. This adventure is an excellent way to take in the beauty of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail and push yourself physically at the same time.
Rather than taking an Uber or Lyft around downtown Chicago, why not try a boat? The Chicago Water Taxis ferry tourists and commuters along the Chicago River to various stops and stations for work, travel and play. Operated by Wendella Boats, which also offers guided architecture tours along the Chicago River, the Chicago Water Taxis connect riders to seven areas in the city.
On Wednesday and Saturday nights, water taxi riders can sip City Winery’s special Chicago-themed wines as the boat cruises the river and pauses near Navy Pier to take in a stunning fireworks display after sunset. Visitors can decide whether an all-day pass, a 10-ride pass, or a one-way ticket is most appropriate for their particular trip. This mode of transport is also the most exciting way to get to Chinatown, which is a must-visit for anyone seeking adventure in the restaurant department.
This Chinatown staple serves up traditional Chinese cuisine with a modern twist. Snack Planet Corporation offers tons of options, including stir-fried dishes, noodle entrées, cold appetizers, and plates of unusual ingredients. For instance, Snack Planet serves up Bean Sprout Stir Fry with Intestines, Spicy Pig Offal (internal organs), Intestines with Spicy Pickled Cabbage, and Spicy Frog Legs—definitely an adventurous menu. Try a few items or a bunch; the prices are great, making mixing and matching an easy and tempting option.
The restaurant is also said to work well with LaoGanMa, a black bean chili paste indigenous to northern China and often used in the region’s cuisine. So, hop on the water taxi to Chinatown for another wild ride—this time, with food!
Located just outside Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, Maggie Daley Park features tons of activities for people of all ages. The site offers a playground for kids, mini golf, picnic tables, a skating rink, and more. For the adventure seeker, the climbing wall may be of interest.
Managed by Lakeshore Sport & Fitness, the wall has areas for both beginner and expert climbers. Adventurers can choose from bouldering, lead-harness, and top roping, depending on skill level. The wall spans 19,000 square feet (1,765.1 square meters), and at its tallest, it is 40 feet (12.19 meters) high. If you climb or boulder regularly, don’t worry about lugging equipment; everything necessary to climb at Maggie Daley Park is available for rent. While the park is free, climbing the wall is a small extra fee, but totally worth it to get a little adventure into the day.