3 Downtown Chicago Running Routes

Posted by on Nov 22, 2015 | 0 comments

3 Amazing Chicago Running Routes

I spent some quality time in the Windy City this fall, which I am certainly not complaining about Whenever I go to Chicago, it’s like visiting an old friend. We pick up right where we left off. I grew up visiting Chi-town a lot because my uncle has a condo there, so it’s no big thing to do settle in and do those non-touristy things like ride the L, pick up a few things at Jewell (the grocery store down the street), grab a bite to eat or head out for a run.

Speaking of running. Downtown Chicago is one of my favorite places to hit the pavement. Two of my college roommates and I had a girls weekend in mid-October, and then I headed back just a couple weeks ago for the BlogHer Food conference. I’ve had quite a few opportunities run the town lately, and I took advantage.

I’ve put in many miles over the years in the city’s “front yard,” also known as Grant Park, which runs along the shore of Lake Michigan and is home to a few slightly famous attractions, such as The Bean, Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago. Ring a bell? Thought so.

Hint: If you want some alone time staring into the shiny Giant Bean, peel yourself out of bed and run my Grant Park Scenic Loop route between about 5 and 6 a.m. No tourists in sight. Just saying.

The Bean, Chicago

That easy 3.8-mile scenic jaunt also goes right by the Art Institute, through Millennium Park, over the BP Pedestrian bridge, past Buckingham Fountain, along the lake and over to the Museum Campus, home to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.

Grant Park Scenic Loop

The best view of the Chicago skyline is from the steps or trail between the Shedd and the Adler. Just trust me. That’s why I call this next route the Million Dollar Museum Campus 5K+. I’ve run it all times of the day, and, every time, I have to stop and take it all in. You’ll hardly even notice you’re running you get so wrapped up in this view. For anyone who tends to get bored easily when running (points at myself), this one’s for you.

Chicago skyline from Adler Planetarium

Oh Chicago, you show-off, you.

Million Dollar Museum Campus 5K+

Ironically, I start and end both of those loops at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan Avenue, at the foot of Agora; tall iron sculptures of legs and feet. The Polish artwork is supposed to depict how people act in a large group. While it sounds rather odd, I recommend stepping in and seeing what it’s all about.

For the record: I often combine both of the above routes into one longer one, but I broke them up into two more bite-sized legs here because sometimes it’s nice to just have ideas for a quick 5K.

BP  Pedestrian Parkway Chicago

So, put it all together and what do you get? The 11.5-mile Downtown Chicago Grand Tour. If you want to see the best of Chicago on foot, this, in my humble opinion, is the way to do it.  I did this run on an abnormally warm November evening. It was one of those times when it felt tragic to stay in my hotel room. I honestly didn’t even realize how long I had run until I got back- it was just that nice out.

Downtown Chicago Grand Tour Running Route

I love running on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, which stretches 18.5-miles along Lake Michigan. It cuts through Grant Park but also goes much further in each direction. There’s something about running beside water that just makes me zone out, too. If it’s a nice day, sailboats dot the water.

Sailboats on Lake Michigan, Chicago

As part of this on-foot excursion, set out on the Lakefront Trail down to the Museum Campus, out into the lake and around the Adler, then  all the way back past the marinas to Navy Pier. Then, cross over to the city’s “Second Riverfront,” the Chicago Riverwalk, on the south bank of the Chicago River, right in the heart of the city. It’s kind of fun to feel like a peewee running below the towering buildings.

Chicago Riverwalk

Confession: I always build a few photo breaks into my Chicago runs. Because, memories?

Moral of this story? Don’t leave for Chicago without packing running shoes. I don’t think I ever leave for a trip without packing running shoes. Even if I have to sit on my suitcase to make them fit- which is often because I also like to bring a few other pairs of shoes- they are always in there. Plus, a good run will make indulging in (a second slice of) deep dish pizza all the better, right?

Happy trails.    

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