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Celebrate the start of Riverwalk season with tours, processions and fireworks

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

The official start of summer is still more than a month away, but it's warm enough for the Chicago Riverwalk to open for business this week. From May 13 through 19, the waterfront attraction will host programming, events and displays that celebrate all of the things that guests can experience when they take a stroll along the Chicago River.

RECOMMENDED: Where to hang out on the Chicago Riverwalk

Tonight (May 13), festivities kick off with a trio of events, including as series of theater performances (presented as part of the Year of Chicago Theater) and a lantern procession honoring Broadway in Chicago, with lanterns inspired by Hamilton, Kinky Boots, The Lion King and more—both events will take place on the Riverwalk between Franklin and Lake Streets from 7 to 8pm. At 8:15pm, Art on theMART will make its Monday evening debut, introducing new work by media designer John Boesche that will now be projected on the side of the Merchandise Mart on a nightly basis. At 8:30pm, the Art on theMART show will be augmented by a fireworks display, which will likely be similar to the shower of sparks that kicked off Riverwalk season in 2017.

Tuesday marks the Chicago Riverwalk's first Second Tuesdays event of the season, which features special programming and discounts at Riverwalk vendors like Tiny Tapp and Café, Chicago Brewhouse, City Winery, O’Brien’s Restaurant and Island Party Hut. The Chicago Architecture Center will present a conversation about the history of the Chicago River, taking place between Lake Street and Wacker Drive (make a $3 reservation to attend).

There's also plenty to do during the rest of the week, including free volunteer-led Riverwalk tours (meeting daily at 11:30am and 1pm in front of the Bridgehouse Museum at Michigan Avenue), a free fishing program for kids (Friday, May 17 from noon to 6pm between Wells and Franklin Streets) and the dedication of a World War II Submarine Memorial (Saturday, May 18 at 11am west of Field Boulevard on the east end of the Riverwalk).

Take a look at the complete list of Chicago Riverwalk Celebration Week events and find an excuse to spend an evening gazing up at the skyline.

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