If you enjoy traveling by boat and you’re an architectural fiend, there’s no better way to see Chicago than by one of the city’s many architectural river boat tours. These boat tours take advantage of the multitude of skyscrapers lining the Chicago River downtown from the Main Stem to the North and South Branches. River cruises allow a relaxing vantage with trained guides to help put the locks, bridges, and skyscrapers in the proper historical and architectural perspective.
Once you’re onboard, look up! Along the way, you’re going to view some fairly amazing and historic buildings- potentially as many as 40 to 50 in all. They could include the Willis Tower (AKA Sears Tower), Wrigley Building on the South Branch, or the Old Main Post Office. Some tours can provide specialty or private cruises with bands, bars, and comfort food available. As with any boat tour, remember that your guide is a terrific and trained resource for information, so ask questions. Your guide may describe the Great Chicago Fire, the architects who rebuilt the city, and influences that helped shape the unique Chicago School design. Bridges you will see include the DuSable connecting the Tribune Tower to the New East Side, the Kinzie Street railroad bridge, or the lovely Wabash Avenue Bridge near Marina City
A few travel tips to consider: when choosing a tour, find out where the boat docks and be there in advance so you don’t get left behind. Tour operators may operate from multiple docks throughout the city. While onboard, mind any instructions from the crew and consider wearing clothing appropriate to the weather. Cruises tend to run from April to October, but are subject to change depending upon the weather. Travel times usually run from one hour to 90 minutes, but some cruises can be booked for as many as three hours.
- Tall Ship Windy: Return to the exciting sailing days of yore by exploring the shore by tall ship accompanied by fireworks or concerts.
- Chicago Line Cruises: This cruise offers fun with cocktails, jazz, architecture, and glimpses of the Windy City’s past.
- Odyssey Cruises: If you enjoy plated meals, dance, or are shopping for a wedding on the water, this Chicago cruise service has it all.
- Seadog Cruises: If you are you up for a full 360 degree spin or a speedy race up and down the shoreline, look no further.
- Shoreline Sightseeing: With more cruise ships than their competitors, this service offers narrated river and lake voyages with architecture and fireworks highlights.
- Wendella Sightseeing: This longest-lived cruise operator offers well-informed narrated tours, private events, and cruises featuring beer and BBQ or wine and cheese.
- Chicago Architecture Center: With a strong focus on architecture, this river cruise can combine travel with a visit to the Chicago Architecture Center.