Chicago Was A Canal Town!
Discover Chicago’s fascinating past as the place where the I&M Canal began. Catch a glimpse into the city’s vibrant cultural and urban history.
Start your tour at the Chicago Bridgehouse Museum
MCCORMICK BRIDGEHOUSE & CHICAGO RIVER MUSEUM
Start your day off with a visit to the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum which celebrates the Chicago River and its world-famous movable bridges. Beginning at river level and spiraling five stories up, the bridgehouse and museum provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore a historic landmark. Visitors can view the massive gears of Chicago’s most famous movable bridge and then journey through time as they discover the story of the Chicago River and I&M Canal.
The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum recommends booking parking in advance through SpotHero, a parking reservation app. Use their code CHICAGO10 for 10% off and to support the Bridgehouse Museum.
The museum is located at 99 Chicago Riverwalk. It’s open seasonally. Visit the Museum’s website for hours, tours and other information.
Continue to the Lake
Located on Lake Michigan, Navy Pier has served many purposes throughout its rich history and currently encompasses more than 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities, making it one of the top leisure destinations in the Midwest.
Navy Pier brings the rich culinary tradition of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods under one roof. From Pilsen to Wrigleyville to Lincoln Square and everywhere in between, the Pier’s dining options offer guests authentic Chicago food in one of the most iconic venues in the city.
If you prefer to drive your own car, there is ample paid parking at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. Check website for hours and other visitor information.
WHERE TO EAT AT & NEAR NAVY PIER
Move on to Canal Origins Park
CANAL ORIGINS PARK
Stroll the nearly 3 acres of Canal Origins Park, an outdoor interpretive site and nature park located where the I&M Canal began in Chicago at the confluence of Bubbly Creek and the south branch of the Chicago River. View 100 concrete-relief sculptures and interpretive panels with historic images, bilingual text and illustrations that illuminate Chicago’s heritage as a canal town. Because of the site’s historic significance, Canal Origins Park was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1996.
Enjoy landscaping features such as native plants, flowers and grasses. Check out the “canal cut” to envision what it would have been like to float down the canal on a canal boat. Other amenities in Canal Origins Park include a fishing station and walkways.
Canal Origins Park, 2701 S. Ashland Ave. Check the Park website for hours and other visitor information.
Head over to Lemont
HERITAGE QUARRIES RECREATION AREA
Enjoy 3 miles of hiking and biking trails looped around spectacular quarry lakes along the Lemont section of the I&M Canal. Four pedestrian bridges provide access to this nearly 100-acre pristine natural area.
During construction of the I&M Canal, fine-grade limestone was discovered here and led to a mining boom that lasted 50 years. After the quarry industry declined, underground springs filled the depressions left behind, creating freshwater lakes, which you can now fish.
Heritage Quarries Recreation Area, Main Street and Talcott Avenue, Lemont, IL 60439. A large parking area is situated at the main entrance to the Heritage Quarries, on the south side of the I&M Canal. Four smaller parking areas are distributed throughout the park and can be accessed from the north side of the canal. There is no cost for parking at these Village of Lemont lots.
Make your way back to Chicago
PULLMAN NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK
Take a quick trip back to the 1880s in this distinctive, time-capsule neighborhood. Marvel at the tumultuous life and remarkable vision of George M. Pullman and his Palace Train Car company at this designated national historic park. Walking tours are offered from 11am to 3pm daily, except for Mondays.
The Visitor Center features exhibits and a video presentation about Pullman, his company and the nation’s first model planned industrial community. Listen as park rangers tell the stories of the immigrants who worked and lived in Pullman, the origins of Chicago’s labor union movement and the development of the Pullman Company.
The Visitor Center for the Pullman National Historic Park, 11141 S. Cottage Grove Ave, which offers free parking. Go to the Monument’s website for hours, tours and other visitor information.
Finish your tour in Bronzeville
Catch intriguing glimpses into Chicago’s cultural and urban past in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood, known in the early 20th century as the Black Metropolis. During the “Great Migration,” thousands of African-Americans came here to escape the oppression of the South in search of jobs and a better life. Amid newly opened coffee shops and restaurants, you’ll find spectacular displays of Victorian era architecture along with some of Chicago’s most celebrated public art works.
Bronzeville’s 20th century resurgence, which rivaled the Harlem Renaissance, is responsible for tremendous cultural and social advances. Pulitzer Prize recipient Gwendolyn Brooks, civil rights activist Ida B. Wells and legendary musician Louis Armstrong were responsible for the area’s development and subsequent cultural crusade, which included advances in civil rights, jazz, blues and gospel music.
Near the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, 411 E. 35th St., Chicago, IL 60653. Check the Center’s Facebook page for more details.
You can also find out about the revitalized neighborhood’s attractions, architecture, history, and more by going to the Choose Chicago website page on Bronzeville or the Black Metropolis Commission’s website.