Many Chicagoans are fitness fanatics – when your city’s signature food is the calorie-laden deep-dish pizza, you kind of have to be if you want to keep the pounds off – so it’s easy to find ways to work some fitness into your visit. If you’re looking for some physical activity in Chicago, here are a few options available in warmer months.*
Running along the Lakefront Path
Chicago’s Lakefront Path runs from south of the city, 18.5 miles north, through several parks, along Lake Michigan, past playgrounds, beaches, volleyball courts, and soccer fields. It provides beautiful views of the city skyline and is shared with walkers, joggers, roller-bladers, and bikers, so the best times for crowd-free running area early morning and late evening, after 8pm.
You can also run safely and easily in many other areas of the city. For help figuring out a route, check out a site like Map My Run. If you prefer to run with a group, find of the schedule of fun runs at shops like Fleet Feet sports, or contact the Chicago branch of the Hash House Harriers (“a drinking club with a running problem”).
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See the city and get some exercise with a bike tour. Tours are available to fit every fitness level and are organized by length of time and areas of interest covered. Most are $39 per person and last 2-3 hours. If you’d rather explore on your own, bike rentals are also available, by the half and full day, ranging from $20-$50.
Kayaking the Chicago River
Get out on the water while you get fit, with a kayak lesson or tour on the Chicago River. Lessons and tours are offered for every skill level and include architectural tours, night tours, stand-up paddle-board lessons, and sunset tours. Most tours and lessons last about 3 hours, with prices ranging form $50-$85. Rentals are available for $15 per hour, or $60 for a full day. Double kayaks are also available.
Swimming in Lake Michigan
There are 15 swimmable beaches on Chicago’s 26 miles of Lakefront, which means you can take your pick of swimming spots. If your goal is to put in some serious laps, head out early to avoid the crowds. Just check ahead for the swimming conditions; occasionally the beaches are closed due to hazardous conditions or high levels of bacteria.
*While you could do some of these activities in the winter, you probably won’t want to unless you’re a hardcore fitness fanatic (and if so, go you!). Otherwise, you can join the rest of the Chicagoans trying in vain to keep off the winter weight gain in one of the city’s many gyms. FFC and Bally’s both have locations downtown and in neighborhoods like Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Lakeview.