DOWNTOWN — More than 400 people, part of a grassroots group whose motto is "Walk with Us," are headed on a free walking tour of Chicago's "Top 10 Bridges" Saturday. Check out the social media posts from the "In Real Life" participants.
"There are 18 movable bridges Downtown, but these are my favorites and they are all within walking distance. Our walk will be slow and distracted by bridge openings and sailboat crossings," said Tom Besore, organizer of Windy City Explorers.
Scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the guided walking tour — free and open to the public — will coincide with a spring boat run, when sailboats travel down the Chicago River, headed to harbors along Lake Michigan.
"We'll stand next to the bridges as they open to see the power and to appreciate the engineering that made it possible," Besore said.
After the two-mile walk, which will be at a leisurely pace, the group plans to head to Cityscape Bar, 350 West Mart Center Dr.
Located on the 15th floor of the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, the 1 p.m. lunch at Cityscape, organized by DNAinfo Chicago, will include beer or wine (as well as soda and iced tea), pizza, and an antipasto platter with soft and hard cheese, cured meats, vegetables and bread.
Tickets to the post-walk group lunch are $20 and can be bought here.
In addition to offering terrific views of the south, north and east-west branches of the Chicago River, Cityscape Bar overlooks Wolf Point, a Y-shaped intersection or fork in the river that Besore said is "a spot critical to Chicago history," where Indians and fur traders first gathered.
With three residential, commercial and hotel towers planned for Wolf Point, Besore said that by the same time next year, there will be skyscrapers on Wolf Point, which would obstruct the view of the river from the Cityscape bar.
Saturday's walk is also special because it will mark the five-year anniversary of the Windy City Explorers, which began with a small tour of the bridges attended by a dozen walkers on May 17, 2009.
Today, the group has grown to more than 3,000 people, representing folks of all ages from the city and suburbs along with tourists, Besore said.
The crowds have become so large that Besore and co-organizer Joe Steffan use a public address system so everyone can hear the tour, which covers a route that smartphone users can click on to see where the group is if they are running late.
Besore said he is expecting Saturday's walk to be the largest this season. A kickoff walk in April in Wicker Park drew 174 people and included a DNA-IRL pre-party with free doughnuts from Stan's Donuts and Glazed and Infused.
Though 404 people are registered to attend the walk as of Monday, Besore said the turnout is "usually about half" due to the fact Meetup.com is free and members can sometimes be "free and easy" with their RSVPs.
Some of the bridges that will be included on the tour are the Michigan Avenue Bridge, which is officially named The DuSable bridge, honoring Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the first non-native settler of Chicago.
Walkers will also enjoy learning about The Wabash Street Bridge, home to Chicago's Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, the LaSalle Street Bridge, site of the Eastland Disaster of 1915, and the Wells Street Bridge, one of Chicago's most photographed sites where the "L" crosses the Chicago River.
Besore works as a real estate agent and has a masters degree in city planning, which he applies to his passion for learning about the city's neighborhoods and how they developed.
"I just love to bring people together; the fact people keep coming back and it keeps growing is a testament to the need and desire for fun, healthy and inexpensive ways to get out and enjoy our city," he said.
For more information on the Windy City Explorers and to RSVP for the free walk, visit the group on Meetup.com.
Tickets for the anniversary party and post-walk lunch can be bought here. The party at Cityscape requires a minimum of 20 people to reserve the group discount; ticket holders will be issued a full refund if the party is canceled.