5 Must Do Ideas for Your Riverwalk Experience
Most people would raise an eyebrow if you said you were planning to host a Hot Girl Walk in November on Chicago’s picturesque Riverwalk. But not us. We couldn’t wait.
I have spent a good portion of my life exploring outside. I thought it would be an “out of the norm” adventure to plan an urban Hot Girl Walk along the Chicago river front as the cold weather set in. I also love pushing women out of their comfort zones and into new perspectives on experiencing the outdoors so I was determined to find a group of women that would be open minded to some windy, wintertime shenanigans down at the river.
The shops, bars, and restaurants along the riverwalk all shutter for the season as cold, windy weather sets in. Our Roam Your Soul women’s community knew better – the Riverwalk still has a LOT to offer as winter starts. Whether you are on a hot girl walk or walking with friends or showing family around town, here are five ideas to make your walk unforgettable.
1. Learn the stories behind the unique architecture.
In the 1960’s, Bertrand Goldberg dared to create Marina City, two iconically round buildings that were meant to bring work and home life in the city back together on North State Street. The 1960’s were full of science-fiction movies, NASA space exploration, and obsession with technological advancements. Goldberg’s architectural design reminds you of spaceships, The Jetsons, and the 1964 World’s Fair. Don’t just walk by these two towers – you can hang out at the bar, visit a variety of restaurants, or make this place your home.
On the classical end of the architectural spectrum, is the Wrigley Building. If you’ve ever popped a piece of Wrigley’s chewing gum into your mouth, then you are already familiar with William Wrigley, Jr. Already incredibly wealthy, Wrigley experienced the 1893 World Expo Fair hosted in his hometown of Chicago and went to the drawing table with ideas of grandeur from what he saw.
The Wrigley Building was completed in 1924 with six (yes, SIX) different shades of white terracotta on the outside that give the building a sense of getting brighter and brighter as the sun rises and helps it glow in brightness at night.
2. Get to know your history.
Before Christopher Columbus, the American Revolution, or the Civil War, there were wetlands, wildlife, and Native Americans. The Chicago River shoreline originally had a natural sand edge, dunes and marshy lowlands. Prior to the 1770s, the area was primarily inhabited by Native Americans. Did you know that the river originally had a sharp curve with a large sandbar? The river used to turn south at Michigan Avenue but sailors had a hard time navigating in and out of the harbor.
Chicago incorporated in the 1830’s and economic development began with shipping capability expansions and businesses being built along the waterfront. This is also a time when land treaties were broken and battles began between the natives of the land and the new settlers.
In 2021, Artist Andrea Carlson was commissioned to complete an art installation along the riverwalk to help us better understand the history, conflict, and current affairs of the land that is now a developed metropolitan city. There has been a long standing land dispute between the Potawatomi people and the United States government since the 1800’s. Stopping at this gigantic 266 foot long mural reminds us of the long, complicated, and conflictive history we have and our responsibility to learn forward into the future.
3. Connect with Nature.
There are still hints and clues along the riverwalk to what the landscape used to look like alongside beautifully cultivated gardens on the 1.25 mile walk. Engage your five senses (look, smell, taste, hear, touch) by breathing in deeply, drowning out the noise from the city, and focusing your eyes on a tree, bush, or the water. Trace your hands through leaves, dig in the dirt for rocks, listen to the rustle of the grasses where the “re-wilding” of the riverfront has been in progress. Slow down and take the time to recognize that there are over 5,000 plants and over 250 bird species to observe and learn from along the riverwalk.
By spending just 3 minutes breathing deeply, connecting to nature with your five senses, and blocking out noise pollution, your heart rate will shift and your blood flow will increase. If you are feeling really adventurous, take your shoes off and actually “ground” into the earth. The benefits of taking time to observe your environment, appreciate the land that has been cultivated and cared for by people before us for thousands of years, and giving your body a grounding in natural elements has a multitude of health benefits.
4. Smile at the people.
The riverwalk is a popular place to run, walk, bike, and socialize with friends. City life typically moves people at a very fast pace from point A to point B. Remember to look up, slow your step, and observe the people around you. Most people will hurry by without returning the smile. But occasionally, your smile will help someone else smile and will lift your heart rate and appreciation for the experience.
Connecting to others in your community or within your environment is something we tend to forget. We feel self-aware when someone doesn’t return the invite for a hello or we feel embarrassed when someone averts their eyes away to avoid an interaction. I challenge you to push through that discomfort, engage in the community, and smile at a few strangers.
5. Explore Navy Pier.
All the way at the end of the Riverwalk is Navy Pier. This whole pier was renovated back in 1995 and is over a mile of indoor walking, shops, and restaurants. There is a rich history of incredible events and activities for the pier and sightseeing boats, people, and the lighthouses down at this end of the city is a treat. At the very, very end of the pier is a rooftop restaurant and bar with incredible views of the Chicago skyline.
Fun tip for a date night or girls’ night out – Hilton has a boutique hotel at the end of the pier with a second floor restaurant. From a gem and precious stone shop with bracelets and earrings to a pub to watch the latest game to a ride on the ferris wheel, Navy Pier has a ton to offer and is a unique experience for an adventurous afternoon after your walk.
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Roam Your Soul is for women that are seeking more adventure, want more meaning in their daily lives, and crave a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.
With decades of experience in adventure-based transformational learning, behavioral science, leadership, mental health, and wellness, we take a holistic approach to developing unique experiences that help move people into new and deep learning that creates opportunities for transformative change that is long lasting.
Christine is the founder and owner of Roam Your Soul. After 15 years in corporate leadership and advocating for radical care in the workplace, she knew that her passion for building communities and space for people to thrive was needed for women. Christine’s retreats focus on helping women who are confident yet know what they need to work on and for women who want to find deeper meaning in life through adventure and authentic community. She believes that women need a support network, community, and opportunities to be vulnerable to engage in what makes life meaningful.