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Kayak Chicago
Photograph: Dave Olson

Where to rent kayaks in Chicago

Want to paddle along the river or lake? We've tracked down the best spots for kayak rentals in Chicago.

By Zach Long
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If you want to relax on (or near) the water, you can hop onboard a Chicago boat tour or dig into a meal at a waterfront restaurant in Chicago. But if you want to get some exercise while you admire the views from the Chicago River or Lake Michigan, you should pick up a paddle and rent a kayak in Chicago. Businesses along the river and the lakefront will send you floating throughout the city, whether you want to head out solo or join a group tour led by an experienced guide. Don't worry if you're a novice—you'll get a quick lesson and plenty of tips before you leave the dock on your rental kayak in Chicago.

Currently, every business on this list is requiring that customers reserve kayaks online, so don't expect to walk up and rent a boat for the afternoon. If you have any other questions, be sure to call ahead.

Where to rent kayaks in Chicago

kayak Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy Kayak Chicago

Kayak Chicago

Sports and fitness Kayaking & canoeing River North

After a few quick lessons covering how to balance and steer your kayak, you'll be able to push off from this dock near the north end of Goose Island and start exploring the Chicago River. Kayak Chicago charges an hourly rate (prorated to the quarter hour after the first hour), so you're able to stay on the water as long as you like—or you can pay a flat fee to rent a kayak for an entire day. Tours are also available and are on the lengthier side (about three hours), with guided excursions that highlight Chicago architecture or simply allow you to navigate the river at night.

kayaks on the Chicago River
Photograph: Zach Long

Urban Kayaks Riverwalk

Sports and fitness Kayaking & canoeing Loop

Take in the sights while paddling along the Chicago River by renting a kayak or embarking on a tour from this Riverwalk business. Urban Kayaks Riverwalk offers a variety of excursions, including tours that focus on the history of the city, a sunset jaunt and a short paddle for first-timers. You can also rent a kayak and traverse the river on your own, as long as you're able to pass a basic skills assessment. Make a reservation online and show up ready to make use of your upper body strength.

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Chicago skyline
Photograph: Shutterstock

Urban Kayaks Lakefront

Sports and fitness Kayaking & canoeing Downtown

If you're looking for an easy way to get out on the lake, head to the south end of the Columbia Yacht Club at Monroe Harbor and find Urban Kayak's lakefront outpost. You'll be able to rent a kayak, a tandem kayak or a paddleboard by the hour while enjoying the relatively calm waters of Lake Michigan. With beaches closed, Urban Kayak is currently the only rental company with access to the lake.

Wateriders Kayak
Photograph: Mike Anzaldi

Wateriders

Sports and fitness Kayaking & canoeing River North

Launching from beneath the Kinzie Street Bridge in front of the East Bank Club, Wateriders is one of the originators of Chicago River kayak tours—the local company has been leading paddlers out onto the water since 1997. Conveniently located near the confluence of the river, you can rent a boat and explore the Main Stem, the North Branch or the South Branch. Guests can book a guided tour (architecture and moonlight paddles are popular options) or take out a kayak on their own for a minimum of two hours. You don't need to be an experienced paddler—all rentals and tours are accompanied by free in-the-water lessons to get you up to speed.

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Metropolitan Brewing
Photograph: Dave Thompson

Wateriders Northwest

Sports and fitness Kayaking & canoeing Avondale

If you want to explore the North Branch of the Chicago River without having to paddle all the way back to the Loop, consider renting a boat from Waterider Northwest. Based out of the Rockwell on the River facility (also home to Metropolitan Brewing and Metropolis Coffee Co.), Waterider's North Side outpost rents out single or double kayaks and also offers private tours. If you're willing to pay a little extra, you can take a kayak on a one-way trip to Waterider's dock beneath the Kinzie Street Bridge.

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