United States

Chicago: Downtown & Central

A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Places to Run in central Chicago

Flickr: Juan Carlos Martin

Chicago, Illinois — known for its art, architecture, and food — is also a top running city. Our guide to the best places to run in Chicago is defined by the city’s setting on Lake Michigan and the 18-mile long Lakefront Trail. This path has it all: views of the lake and the spectacular Chicago skyline, beaches, major parks, and a breathtaking loop around Museum Campus. Nearly all the major hotels in Chicago’s downtown core are within a mile of the Lakefront Trail. Other important runs in the  downtown core include the majestic paths of Lincoln Park and Grant Park, and the Hyde Park area, featuring Jackson Park, Washington Park, and the University of Chicago. There is great running on the north shore, and some wonderful residential suburbs.

We have also mapped out some routes along bike paths and the ‘Forest Preserves’ near O’Hare Airport, and in suburbs such as Schaumberg, Hoffman Estates, and Arlington Heights. See our Chicago suburbs guide for even more!

Great Runs – Chicago Suburbs Guide

Video Tour: A 21 Minute ‘Run’ of Chicago Highlights

Editor's Picks

Some of our favorite runs in Chicago: Downtown & Central

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  • All Routes
  • Iconic Routes
  • Weather & Climate
  • Where To Stay
  • Stores & Group Runs
  • Events

Chicago has a climate of extremes. Cold, dry winters and warm to hot summers. Winter can be cold and icy, with harsh winds. Dress appropriately. Summer can be hot and humid.



If you can, try to stay downtown. There is a great selection of hotels, at all levels of affordability, within a few blocks of the Lakefront Trail. The best areas of downtown to stay, which are walkable and feature good access to stores and restaurants, public transportation, and good running are: The Magnificent Mile area; the Loop (central business district); and the Gold Coast (smaller selection). Below are hotels and running areas near the airport


Running Stores

There are a good number of running and athletic stores within proximity of the key routes.

  • Road Runner Sports. Locations in Chicago (North Kingsbury St.), Willamette, Kildeer, and Naperville.
  • The Runner’s Edge. Libertyville. Group runs Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
  • Finish Line. Heart of Michigan Ave./Magnificent Mile. Another location near Millennium Park.
  • Fleet Feet. Seven locations around Chicago, South Loop, North Lakeview, Deerfield, Lincoln Square, Old Town, Oak Park, and Elmhurst.

Run Clubs and Group Runs

Runners Edge. Group Runs Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
Fleet Feet. South Loop location has runs Monday & Thursday @ 6:30 p.m.
Nike Chicago. Numerous stores in the area with multiple group runs each week.

Chicago Area Runners Association. Very vibrant local running organization. Numerous group runs each week, various locations.

City Running Tours. Themed group runs for a fee. Customizable and small group runs.

Get the guide to the best races in this area from our friends at RaceRaves! You can sort by highest rating, date (i.e. ‘upcoming’), or race name.

Browse RaceRaves in Chicago: Downtown & Central