Health + Fitness

The Lake Effect: 6 Amazing Water Adventures on Lake Michigan

Fireworks over downtown Chicago and Navy Pier (Photo: Kunal Mehta/

Not everyone is aware of it, but Chicago’s nickname is “The Third Coast.” That’s how much we locals love our oh-so-great lake, aka Lake Michigan. While the blue views are incredible — from the 18 miles of trail and 26 miles of beaches that line the lake, they’re even better when you’re on — or in — the water! Here are six of Chicago’s most fun water adventures. (Note: If you plan on diving in, you might want to pack a wetsuit. Even during summer months, the water is pretty chilly!)

Fireworks tour. Throughout the summer, Navy Pier’s fireworks fill the skies over Lake Michigan every Wednesday and Saturday night, and best place to see the sparkly pyrotechnics is on the water. On Shoreline Sightseeing’s 60-minute Lake Fireworks Tours, your family will get a front-row view of the show. Want more? The 90-minute Architecture Fireworks Tour shares info about Chicago’s history and its beautiful buildings.

Flyboard. Ever wanted to feel like a superhero? Strap on a jetpack — called a “flyboard” — and away you go! Leap, soar and plan on getting very wet as you zip through the waves. Flyboards are available from Chicago Water Sport Rentals; the rental includes instruction, a life vest, wet suit and a helmet.

Standup paddleboard. SUPs bring together the best of both worlds: gorgeous lake views and staying dry (well, hopefully). Chicago SUP offers rentals, lessons and excursions. For a dose of Zen, book an SUP yoga class at sunrise or sunset throughout the summer.

Windsurf. Ready to learn how to rig and de-rig? Find out what that means at Northwestern Sailing, where you can take classes or private lessons, and learn to surf like the wind. Kids camps are also available, so bring the whole brood!

Kayak. Explore the skyline from your own water roost, as you kayak Lake Michigan. The experts at Kayak Chicago will give you a brief orientation and safety lesson before guiding your group past beaches and harbors, towards downtown. What better way to gaze at Chicago’s stunning architecture?

Speed boat. Like the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair? Take that sensation to the extreme on a Seadog Cruise. The Extreme Thrill Ride whooshes along at 45 mph, surprising you with 360-degree turns. Listen to high-energy music and learn fun facts about Chicago as you go.