When balmy summer temperatures beckon you outside, pack up your kiddos and head to the Chicago River for a specialized tour with Kayak Chicago. The company runs several unique, water-based tours of the city’s architecture and history, but nothing can match the excitement of a “Fireworks Paddle” that takes a mini-flotilla of kayakers down the Chicago River and out to Navy Pier to watch the city’s twice-weekly summer fireworks displays from the water.
At dusk, you and your brood get outfitted in puffy life jackets and smile for a group photo before getting situated in teetering, two-person kayaks. The sun sets right before your eyes as you push away from land and begin your adventure. Paddle away from Goose Island and toward the main branch of the river, passing under trestle bridges and by the bustling A. Ward Montgomery Park. The fading light bounces off buildings as you pass Trump Tower and get sprayed by Chicago’s famous Centennial Fountain. Your kids almost lose their paddles in the ensuing gigglefest, but manage to hang on. As the sky grows dark, the lights of the city cast a golden glow upon the water. Meanwhile, the lights on your own kayaks help you see where you’re going–and ensure that other boats can see you.
With the kind of flawless teamwork and coordination only a family could achieve, you glide toward the pier just in time for the show. When the first boom hits the air, the skyline is illuminated as glowing orbs of red, green, and blue spiral up and then cascade downward. Everyone turns their faces upward, letting out an “ooooooh” with every gorgeous blast of color.
After you paddle back to shore, you chat briefly with your guide and learn about the company’s other tours and classes. If the kids weren’t still having such fun paddling behind you, they’d be eager to hear about the stand-up paddleboards. That’s OK — you’ll tell them tomorrow.