The following content is created in consultation with Advocate Health Care. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Chicago’s editorial staff. To learn more about Advocate Health Care, visit advocatehealth.com.
The Chicago Marathon isn’t just a race, it’s a 26.2 mile celebration of the human spirit. And as any Chicagoan knows, spectators line the route in show of support, pulling out all the stops to make the day a memorable one.
But with everything from block parties to cheerleaders, the best craft beers to pop up cheering stations replete with snacks and video screens, how do you pick what to do and where to watch?
Luckily, we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you, curating a list of the best ways to take in the race and support your runners.
-- Kick off Marathon weekend early at the Abbot Health & Fitness Expo, which opens Friday morning at 9 a.m. and runs all weekend. Located in McCormick Place, the free expo will feature 180 vendors and exhibitors offering the latest in running gear and tech. It will also feature a prize wheel and photo area courtesy of Advocate Health Care — making this spot the perfect place to mingle with runners and wish them good luck
-- On race day itself, the party gets going at mile 8, when runners hit Boystown for the most memorable water station of the route. Expect a raucous good time, replete with drag queen cheerleaders, pom poms, chaps, wedding dresses and plenty of Lady GaGa jams. After you’ve watched the runners, reward yourself at DryHop Brewers, home to some excellent IPAs and pale ales, both of which pair perfectly with some bacon poutine.
-- Got kids? Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo at mile 6, where you’ll catch runners zooming past. Once you’ve cheered for friends and strangers alike (or until the kids get antsy), head inside for an afternoon of a different sort — one full of exotic birds, reptiles and mammals like monkeys, lions and camels.
-- Mile 11 is also a great place to take in the action thanks to Advocate’s Cheer Station, located on the corner of North Avenue and Wells Street. Enjoy free snacks, thundersticks and a digital screen broadcasting custom good luck videos.
-- When it comes to spectating areas, it doesn’t get much more lively than mile 19 in Pilsen, where you can expect locals to flex their Latin American heritage with colorful garb and even puppets. Hungry? Hit Dusek’s Board & Beer on 18th Street for cocktails and a Michelin-starred brunch. Or grab a pastry and some caffeine at La Catrina Cafe and keep moving!
-- Of course everyone wants to congratulate their runner for the Olympic effort. Advocate’s Tent makes for an easy (and comfy) rendezvous point at the finish. Enjoy a Sunday Funday with snacks, games and comfy chairs.
Click here to learn more about Advocate Health Care.