Week on the Water: Family Fun

August 19, 2011 5:09:05 AM PDT
There's no doubt the Chicago lakefront is a magnificent treasure, whether you're taking in a fabulous sunrise, or feeling a cool lake breeze. But there are many things you can do in the water, and the Chicago Park District can show you how!

It's one thing to look out over the lakefront and see all the beautiful sailboats. It's quite another to actually be sailing one! If you've ever dreamed of learning how to sail, but thought it would be too complicated or expensive, the Chicago Park District begs to differ.

"They learn everything they need to know to wail their own boat; they learn how to rig it, they learn how to launch it, they learn how to sail upwind and downwind, put her away, they learn safety and rules of the road," said Joseph Harris, manager of sailing, Chicago Park District.

The park district offers both youth and adult classes at Burnham and Montrose harbors, at affordable rates, compared to private lessons - and everybody is welcome!

"We have courses for people with physical disabilities. That's a big part of our program, we get about 1,000 going through that every year," Harris said.

If you're looking for something a little less rigorous, why not try your hand at fishing? Don't have the equipment? Don't need to!

"We supply the rods, reels, bait and instructors. We have 17 different fishing locations and there's never a charge for what we do!" said Bob Long of the Chicago Park District fishing program.

And it's all free, from family programs to individual lessons to groups of kids.

"And we'll make sure, if you bring me 100 kids, 98 of 100 are going to catch a fish" Long said. "Ten percent of the water holds 90 percent of the fish over the course of the season. Once you know where those 10 percent spots are, you just go to them."

Our lake is home to quite a few species of aquatic life, including perch, blue gill, large and small mouthed bass, carp, salmon and trout. If you think you don't have the patience to sit still and be quiet in order to catch something, think again.

"It's not necessary to be quiet. The fish don't know what you are, you could be a tree branch falling, you could be a deer stepping in the lake, and they get used to sounds that they're not used to. Many fish are curious. That tap, tap, tapping over their head, they're gonna come over and take a look," said Long.

If you really want to relax on the lake, let someone else do all the work, and learn a little more about our gorgeous skyline, how about an sightseeing cruise?

Shoreline's one-hour architecture cruise covers all three branches of the Chicago River while giving some insight to dozens of Chicago landmarks. Take the merchandise building, for example. When it opened in 1931, at 4.2 million square feet, it was the largest office building in the world, eventually surpassed by the Pentagon.

Up until a few years ago, the mart had its own zip code. You'll see a variety of styles, from art deco to the prairie style of the Reed Murdock building, to the modern waves of Jeanne Gang's Aqua Tower. This award-winning skyscraper is the tallest in the world to have a woman as lead architect.

You'll see the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, the Willis Tower, and a popular building without a name.

"311 S. Wacker is the one that looks a lot like a White Castle hamburger restaurant, and I've always seen that from a distance growing up, and I love hearing the lore behind that building that perhaps it was meant to look like an engagement ring on the top," said Caitlan Harrington, Shoreline docent and tour guide.

"It was fantastic. It was almost information overload, so much coming at you," tourist Rodger Knight.

No doubt, there's a lot to take in, and I can't think of a more beautiful way to it, than along our precious lakefront!