Pedal your way across the waterSam Helleron August 7, 2021 at 11:00 am

Paige Vogenthaler and Bill Hinderman have been on many strolls through Humboldt Park and passed by the swan-shaped boats floating on the lagoon.

“We walked around this area many times and said we are going to do it one of these times,” Hinderman said.

They were finally able to take a ride in the swan boats in July as pandemic restrictions eased.

Vogenthaler said it was a relaxing outing on a warm summer day, and they look forward to doing it again.

Couples or families can take a swan-shaped pedal boat — or paddle boat, as some places call them — for a quiet trip around the Humboldt Park Lagoon. Wheel Fun Rentals has 15 boats available for $11 an hour for adults and $6 an hour for children. The boats can fit up to four riders, with pedals for each rider.

It is the perfect activity for families looking for a relaxing weekend activity, manager Nick Lee said.

“It is for whoever is looking for a fun activity to do outside and not [be] stuck in their home,” Lee said.

People rent swan paddle boats in the Humboldt Park Lagoon on the West Side, Tuesday afternoon, July 27, 2021.
Couples or families can rent a swan-themed pedal boat at Humboldt Park.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In Des Plaines, the Lake Park Marina also offers pedal boat rental. The marina added swan-shaped boats this year, although it also rents paddle boats without any theming, said Brian Panek, superintendent of revenue facilities for the Des Plaines Park District.

The swan boats cost $24 an hour, while the normal paddle boats cost $21 an hour. The swan boats hold up to five people and allow for customers to pedal through Lake Opeka.

“The kids like [the swan boat] a lot more than just [a] plain boat,” He said. “They have paid for themselves already in half a year.”

Even though the marina is near O’Hare Airport, the lake remains tranquil and peaceful in the paddle boats, he said. Lake Park Marina also offers sailboat and kayak rentals.

Chicago Cycleboats offers its own version of pedal boats that cater more toward bachelor and bachelorette parties, manager Brady Ruel said.

This spin on a pedal-powered boat allows for groups of up to 26 fully vaccinated passengers to take a boat on the Chicago River and bring along whatever food and drinks they like. Each person sits at a table but instead of barstools, there are bike seats and pedals beneath them to propel the boat.

“People get to just play their music and have drinks while pedaling down the river,” Ruel said. “It’s just a different, active way for people to explore the city.”

Even though music will be blasting and drinks served, don’t underestimate the workout involved, he said.

Patrons do not have to pedal the full two hours; each boat is equipped with a small motor that can take over if needed. There is also a point where the boat will stop in front of the Chicago Skyline so that people in the group can take photos.

The Cycleboats are an opportunity to admire the architecture along the Chicago River, although those who want to focus solely on the workout are free to, Ruel said.

“Occasionally we will have a group that pedals the entire time. One time we had a group that was just SoulCycle instructors, and they were really into it,” Ruel said.

While the average customer tends to be 21 and up, Cycleboats are open to all ages, Ruel said.

Chicago Cycleboat rentals start at $550. It also offers nighttime firework boat rides on Wednesdays and Saturdays, where the boats will pedal to the end of the river and watch the Navy Pier fireworks.

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