Founded in 1966 under the name Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) has been actively helping people to appreciate and discover why design matters. Because Chicago is known around the world for its iconic architecture, it’s an incredible place to not only see the buildings but to hear the stories that are behind them!
Whether visiting elegant hotels, impressive skyscrapers or Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, CAC has more than 85 tours to choose from. Depending on the tours chosen, guests can get a large, macro-view of the city, or they can dig deeper into the details of just a few particular places.
Visitors may spend just an hour on a walking tour, or they may choose to take in the entire city in one go. Even locals who know a great deal about the city can learn a great deal and enjoy a CAC tour.
Types of Chicago Architecture Center Tours
With more than 85 tours to choose from, Chicago Architecture Center tours have something for everyone, including:
- River Boat Cruises give a calm view of the city’s unique buildings from the water, while perched upon Chicago’s First Lady. Vessels are equipped with restrooms, full-service bars, open upper decks, and climate controlled lower cabins.
- Walking Tours take in the sights and sounds of the Windy City, focusing on architecture in areas of the city such as downtown, Ft. Sheridan, Chinatown, or Grant Park.
- Bus Tours allow tourists to cover a large amount of ground in a significant amount of time without running out of energy, including architectural tours, church tours, historic neighborhoods and more.
- “L” Train/Walking Tours with hop-on, hop-off access allows tours to cover more area in less time, including sights such as the North Side or downtown.
- Bike Tours cover more ground than walking tours but still allow visitors to get some exercise.
What You’ll See on a Chicago Architecture Center Tour
Some of the most iconic sights visitors will take in on their CAC tours may include:
- Willis (Sears) Tower, Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the John Hancock Center, the NBC Tower and a variety of other skyscrapers
- Notable buildings such as the Old Dearborn Bank, the Chicago Motor Club and the Page Brothers Building
- Architectural landmarks of Michigan Avenue and State street and other parts of the city
- Historic neighborhoods such as Beverly, Evanston, Astor Street or Dearborn Street
- Chicago murals and their influence on community
- Cemeteries such as Bohemian National, Rosehill Cemetery, Graceland Cemetery or Calvary Cemetery
Chicago Architecture Center Tours Services
Walking, biking, L-train, bus, and even boat tours are available through the CAC. While CAC offers a myriad of public tours, they also make private tours available upon request for groups with approximately 6 people. Private tours may be based on current offerings or created to meet specific interests. School field trips may also be accommodated.
Chicago Architecture Center Tours Timing
Chicago Architecture Center’s tours are in full swing during the spring and summer months of the year. In partnership with Chicago’s First Lady boat cruises, river tours typically begin in mid-April and end in mid-November. Walking tours and L-train tours are often scheduled year-round, rain or shine (or wind or snow).
Chicago Architecture Center Tours Considerations
Answers to some of the questions you might be asking about CAC tours:
- CAC’s tours begin at many different locations, so be sure to check this out ahead of time and leave plenty of time to get there and park.
- For tours that begin at the CAC building, several parking garages are available nearby and can be found through Spot Hero.
- CAC’s tour buses are equipped to accommodate wheelchairs but requests should be made at least 48 hours in advance by phone or email.
- CAC’s boat tours are not wheelchair accessible, but standard wheelchairs may be made available to passengers who need them once on board.
- No luggage or strollers are allowed on boat tours for security restrictions.
- Chicago’s First Lady Cruises have a cash bar serving a range of beverages and snacks.
- Tours through CAC depart rain or shine. Visitors should be sure to dress appropriately for the weather.
- No refunds or exchanges are available for tickets.
- Service animals are allowed on CAC tours, but pets are not.
- Some tours may be available in French.
- Ask about discounts for US military personnel with proper identification.
Book Chicago Architecture Center Tours
Tickets for CAC’s walking, biking, bus and L-train tours should be purchased in advance online. Tours often sell out in high season. Booking is easy online. Online bookings show weekly availability including tour times as well as revealing tours that are already sold out. Pay for your tour in advance with a credit card and receive an email with all of the information you need about where and when tours meet as well as what to expect.