The Chicago skyline, stretching across 26 miles of Lake Michigan coast, beckons boaters to its shores. With 10 marinas dotted along the city’s length, each offering gateways to distinct attractions, it’s often hard to choose where to tie up. But for a combination of urban splendor and bucolic charms, it’s hard to beat Diversey Harbor, nestled on an elongated bay just north of the city’s Magnificent Mile.
The marina, with its 720 boat slips and public launching ramps, shares a spot on the harbor near the venerable Diversey Yacht Club, which opened its doors in 1935 and bills itself as “one of the friendliest clubs in the Chicago harbor system.” Here, non-members can get carry-out and participate in the club’s frequent outdoor grill nights. As dusk fades into night, the city lights up to the west, and in the morning, the sun rises over the lake looking east.
“There’s plenty to do here,” says Diversey Harbormaster Mike Vasilevich, listing all that’s within easy proximity. “The Cubs are only a mile from here, we have plenty of beaches and the zoo is just steps away.”
Indeed, Lincoln Park Zoo, among the oldest zoological gardens in the country, as well as one of the few free ones, is just across the road. Covering 49 acres, it houses 200 species of animals and multiple kid-friendly activities. For a different take on zoo life, summer opportunities include Twilight Safari (an after hour’s animal walk), Sleep under the Skyscrapers campouts and Second Saturdays Garden Tours led by the zoo’s horticulture department.
Both the harbor and the zoo are part of Lincoln Park, Chicago’s largest park and the second most visited in the country. Lincoln Park is also the name of the trendy urban neighborhood that edges the west side of the park, known for its wide range of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.
The 1912 Arts and Crafts-style former warming house for ice skaters now is home to North Pond, considered one of the best of the city’s many great eateries. Nestled amidst the park’s lush gardens, its locavore menu is presided over by chef/owner Bruce Sherman, winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef Great Lakes 2012.
Chicago is a blues town, and in Lincoln Park there’s Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. Old Town School of Music embraces song and dance from around the globe, showcasing the talents of both local and touring artists at its World Music Wednesdays.
Chicago city beaches are free and, like the harbors, each unique. Nearby North Beach is known for pick-up volleyball games and international tournaments. For those seeking seclusion, Fullerton Beach, with its giant boulders and beach grill, is often less crowded — though remember this is the third largest city in the U.S. Scuba divers dig the deep waters of Oak Street Beach. The beaches and harbor are connected by the Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile paved pathway designed as an eco-friendly way for bikers and walkers.
Glide past Oak Street and North Avenue Beaches, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Betty Noetbaert Nature Museum and along the perimeter of the zoo on Chicago Segway’s Northern Adventure Tour. Catch a city bus or cab to the museum campus south of the Loop, where the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum are located. Travel down the Chicago River on one of several Chicago Architectural Boat Tours.
For shopping, the big kahuna is Water Tower Place, with 100 shops and restaurants on eight levels on Michigan Avenue, just across the street from the Gothic-style Water Tower. Horse carriage rides are available night and day, and take riders along the lakefront and the avenue.
Diversey Harbor is the spot to see the 2013 Chicago Air and Water Show, the largest free show of its kind in the U.S. Also in August will be the arrival of a fleet of Tall Ships on a journey across the Great Lakes, commemorating the military events of the War of 1812.
At A Glance
2601 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Diversey Harbor is limited to powerboats only due to bridge.
Hours: Public boat launch ramp 5am to 8pm daily; Marina Office Mon-Thurs 9am to 5pm; Friday through Sunday 8am to 6pm.
Credit Cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover
Fuel: Available at Diversey Yacht Club 93 Hi-Octane
Transient Dockage: All 748 slips, including transient docks, are uncovered and can accommodate boats from 25 to 50-feet.
Monitors: 9 and 16 and the switch to/working channel is 69.
Water Depth: 36-inches to 27-feet
Amenities: Diversey Yacht Club has carryout for public plus frequent outdoor grill nights; dining in for members only and reciprocity with other yacht clubs. Ice is available at their store. Parking available for approximately 67 vehicles with trailers.
Services: Dock hands for anyone needing assistance, three lane launch ramp, slips have power and water, boater bathrooms, pump-out stations.
Getting There By Water: Latitude N. 41∞ 55.90´ Longitude W. 87∞ 37.90´
Getting There By Road: If you’re coming from either north or south, follow Chicago’s famed Lake Shore Drive to Exit 47A for Fullerton Avenue.