Explore The Chicago River With Urban Kayaks
If youre ready to ditch the captain and explore the water on your own, then its time to grab a paddle at Urban Kayaks. Youll go through a brief training session before you hit the water, but youre free to paddle the river or lake at your own pace. Or join in a guided tour to catch the sunset, fireworks, or historic highlights. Rentals are available at the Chicago Riverwalk or Monroe Harbor.
Your Guide To Chicago Lake And River Cruises
One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the water. The city is home to two stunning waterfronts the Chicago River and Lake Michigan and each offers plenty of cruise options. Admire the skyline on a lakefront cruise, learn about the citys iconic architecture on a Chicago River cruise, enjoy dinner and dancing aboard an all-glass vessel, sip cocktails on a tiki-themed boat, paddle your own kayak the options are truly endless. Heres your guide to Chicago lake and river cruises, boat tours, dinner cruises, and beyond.
Chicago Architecture Walking Tours
Whether you want to save some money or youd prefer to get some exercise on your trip, you might want to consider a walking tour of Chicagos architecture.
Stroll by some of the most notable buildings in the city and learn all about the history of their construction.
There are both free and paid walking tours in Chi-town, and most of them are very highly rated.
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Top Chicago Architecture Bus Tours
One of the best ways to see Chicago is to take a bus tour. There are several services that will drive you around the most architecturally significant areas of the city.
As you travel around Chi-town by bus, a tour guide will point out historically important buildings and tell you the story of their construction.
These architecture tours may be better for anyone visiting during the winter because they wont require you to be outside for very long, if at all.
Due to the fact that great and interesting architecture is everywhere, just about every bus tour in the city is at least partially an architecture tour.
If youre going on a trip with your family, it may be a better idea to consider one of these general excursions over an experience devoted to learning about how this city was built.
Below are some of the more notable.
Be sure to read our post which compares the best Chicago bus tours.
River & Lake Architectural Cruise
Put yourself in the hands of a bona fide Chicagoan who knows the ins and outs of this awesome metropolis, all by opting for a whirlwind tour of Windy City construction. There is oodles to get through in just 75 minutes. Tales of post-war building booms, Art Deco influences, the erstwhile military locks, and the iconic metalwork of the DuSable Bridge from 1920 all begin to flow. Meanwhile, camera lenses will point to the skies, as symbolic structures like the Willis Tower drift on by. Theres also instant ticket delivery, and you can show your admission on a smartphone.
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Chicago Architecture Boat Tour
And while you can see Chicago’s architecture from many vantage points on foot, by bike, or even from above inside the Willis and Hancock towersthe best way to admire it is definitely from the water.
If you’re headed to Chicago this spring or summer, be sure to book a ticket on one of the city’s popular architecture cruises on the Chicago River. Popularized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, these tours are the absolute BEST way to really get to know Chicago’s unique architecture.
There are several ways to learn more about architecture and design in Chicago, including tours on foot, on bike, and even on segway. But my favorite option is definitely their boat tour.
A couple different companies offer architecture boat tours on the Chicago River. The Chicago Architecture Foundation began these tours decades ago, and offer up 90-minute tours that are led by volunteer tour guides known as docents.
Most tours will cover all three branches of the Chicago River, sailing you past 40+ of the city’s most iconic buildings, from the Wrigley Building to the John Hancock Building to Willis Tower. Onboard guides narrate the tour, covering not just architectural styles but also how Chicago as a whole has transformed over the past 100 years.
Even if you’re not an architecture nerd like me, a Chicago River tour is a must-do.
Best Chicago Architecture Tour Companies
Some tourists prefer to know about the architecture tour operator before booking their trip.
They have heard orread positive reviews about a tour operator and want to book their tour.
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Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip
A forest of skyscrapers looms high overhead as you hop on a modern cruiser and take the waters of the Chicago River. As you gaze skywards, youll be able to make out some of the most iconic landmarks of the Windy City. Theres the soaring clock tower of the Wrigley Building, oozing elegant Colonial Revival styles. Theres the gleaming glass outline of the Trump International Hotel. And theres the striking duo that makes up Marina City. Your jaunt is rendered extra relaxing on account of a barcoded ticket. Thats delivered online and lets you skip the box office queues.
Best Chicago Boat Tours
A beautiful city full of architectural masterpieces and towering skyscrapers, Chicago is a fantastic place to visit, with a wealth of things to see and do. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, water features prominently in the city and the delightful Chicago River runs through its many neighborhoods. As such, a boat tour is a brilliant way to see as much of Chicago as possible. The views from Lake Michigan really need to be seen to be believed, such is the beauty on show.
To give you an idea of what is available, here are some of the best boat tours that will entertain, astound, and inform you about all that there is to see in Chicago.
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Lake Michigan Speedboat Ride
Going high speed means youll waltz around the banks of Lake Michigan as the winds of the Windy City zoom on by. Yessir, theres hardly a wasted moment to be found on this sped-up tour of the Downtown and its various little corners. Your jaunt begins on Navy Pier, with a modern speedboat that leaves its wake in the water. A montage of Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, and the beaches of the Near North Side all unfolds over the next 30 minutes or so. And in the meantime? You just sit back, relax, and enjoy the adrenaline rush!
Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours
Welcome to Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours! Were proud to present you with an in-depth, expert architectural-based river boat tour that delves into one of the most remarkable American cities today. Known for unique, daring, and historical architectural pursuits, its hard to cover all of the design and building treasures that make up the Windy City today. If youre ready to learning more about the designs, people, and innovations behind these creations, throw on your captains hat and get ready to cruise along the Chicago River and see what architects from around the world travel to see in Chicago.
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Hear From Our Previous Guests
We used to live in Chicago and went back to show the city to our teenage children. The architectural boat tour was a great start to introduce them to the architectural landscape and history of our beloved city. The captain of the boat was a lot of fun and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. I studied the architecture of Chicago in college and she knew her facts.
We had a great informational time on the tour. So many buildings, so little time! Even at 90 minutes the tour seemed to fly by. Our guide, Sean, did a great job keeping the same pace as the boat describing each building in great detail, builders, architects, year, styles, and revisions.
Absolutely terrific river tour of Chicagos architecture. When the other architectural tours were full, we defaulted to this one. HOME RUN! Billy was a wonderful guide. Obviously comfortable in front of a crowd, and his spontaneity kept us entertained throughout.
I have wanted to book this boat tour for years! I had family in town from England as well as out of state so I figured this would be perfect for everyone to see as much as possible with such a big group. It was perfect! We had so much fun!
Want to read more about Chicago?
Check out some of our recent blog posts!
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Chicago Urban Adventure River And Lake Boat Tour
Youll see both of the very different aquatic sides of the Windy City in a single day when riding this Urban Adventure cruise. First up: The Chicago River. That weaves through a pack of cloud-splintering skyscrapers. One moment the Willis Tower looms above you. The next, its the bustling Chicago French Market. All the while, you get to enjoy commentary filled with factoids about the history of construction in the USA. For the grand finale, you burst out onto the waters of Lake Michigan. Looking westwards from there, its possible to see the whole metropolis, sometimes even silhouetted in the water like a mirage.
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Chicago River Architecture Tour
This is a75-minute boat tour best for those who want to understand the citysarchitecture.
You will cruisealong the Chicago River to discover architectural gems among the citysrenowned landmarks.
A local guide shares stories and anecdotes, keeping the atmosphere lively.
The boat passesmore than forty buildings and sails under historic bridges.
The tour is available in English and Spanish.
Adults ticket : 44 USDChild ticket : 22 USD
What You’ll See On A Chicago Architecture River Cruise
If you can hit a sunny, warm day in Chicago, here’s a look at what you can expect to see along your architecture cruise:
Many cruises will end with a short sail out onto Lake Michigan, which really helps you appreciate Chicago’s unique skyline.
Needless to say, this is one of my very favorite things to do in Chicago. Whether it’s your first or fifth time in the Windy City, go on one of these cruises if you haven’t already I guarantee you’ll learn something!
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Discover The Windy City From The Water
Set Sail on a Premier Charter Cruise
Architecture boat tours are one of the best ways to delve into Chicagos history. Youll see the different art styles on the buildings that line the Chicago Rivers shores while expert guides explain how the city was rebuilt after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. We offer that cover all three branches of the Chicago River, or you can book a for your event that covers Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Check out our cruises below to learn more.
Chicagos Best 90-Minute Architecture Boat Tour
Why Tour Chicagos Architecture With Us
We are born-and-raised Chicagoans ourselves, passionate about the community that we know and love. That passion and desire spills into all of our tours, drawing on personal experiences for curating a tour that just cant be duplicated by a book or a movie. We want you to experience everything firsthand. Why tour with us?
- Expertise: All of our tour guides are either architects, architecture students, or architecture historians, making for an in-depth and personally rooted kind of touring experience that covers all of the discreet details.
- Variety: We offer a variety of uniquely different tours that cover everyones individual taste. We offer the Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour that takes you down the famous Chicago River there are several different options such as Architecture, History, Jazz/ Cocktail Cruises and Firework Viewing Tours
- Flexibility: We want you to enjoy your Chicago River Boat touring experience, which is why were happy to talk with you and learn more about how our tours can accommodate you, your party, or your corporate outing. Our tours run daily, with availability always posted on our website here.
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Spirit Of Chicago Sunset Dinner Cruise With Buffet
Nothing says romance like dinner on the water. But you can take that one step further, by making that water Lake Michigan, and the backdrop the twinkling lights of the legendary city of Chicago. Cue this three-hour cruise past the landmarks of Navy Pier and Soldier Field. As you go, youll dine on a sumptuous buffet of all-you-can-eat American favorites. Then the music starts, with a private DJ spinning tunes as you watch the lights and stars come on over the Midwestern skies. Talk about a night to remember
Viator Vip: Willis Tower Skydeck Early Access Trolley City Tour And Chicago Boat Tour
A fully-fledged day out in the Windy City awaits on this VIP combo tour. Things begin early, as you arrive at the soaring Willis Tower. It was once the tallest structure on the planet, but now hosts brave view seekers on its 103rd-floor Skydeck see if youve got the nerve to stand on the glass-bottomed floor there! After that, things roll on to a trolley route around The Loop, to spy out majestic skyscrapers next to heritage architecture like the Rookery Building. Finally, its onto the water down by Navy Pier. A 75-minute cruise ensues, with a dedicated guide spinning tales of great structures and their unique designs.
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Afternoon: Historic Buildings And River Cruises
Have lunch at The Walnut Room, opened at the former Marshall Fields in 1907, Americas first department store restaurant. Today, its located in the flagship Macys on State Street, where it still retains its dark walnut paneling and elegant Austrian chandeliers. The Macys building itself is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After lunch, head to the Chicago Riverwalk and hop on the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicagos First Lady Cruises. Voted one of the top tours in the U.S. by TripAdvisor users, this popular 90-minute cruise is narrated by Chicago Architecture Center-certified docents who point out more than 50 architectural gems along the Chicago River. You can also set sail with Wendella Tours & Cruises or Shoreline Sightseeing Company for amazing views of the river and city skyscrapers.
Our Commitment To Your Touring Experience
We believe that tours should be entertaining, enlightening, informational, and perfectly organized, every single time. A tour shouldnt feel laborious in any way you should feel an effortless inclination to learn more about what we present at your fingertips. With our Chicago architectural tours, thats exactly what we strive to provide, basing each tour from the perspective of an expert with the real-life example in the background.
If youre thinking about booking a tour with us, know that our commitment to flexibility and accessible makes our Chicago Architecture Tours easy and convenient:
- Tours run daily:
- Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour:
- 10 am
- 3 pm *Not Available Friday thru Sunday Summer Months*
- 4 pm
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Chicago Classic Lake Tour: 40
Skip the ticket booth and get down to sightseeing, all by choosing this straight-to-board package. It offers a chance to get out onto the sloshing surface of Lake Michigan. Thats where arguably the most dramatic broadside panoramas of this great American city unfold. See if you can spy out the babbling Buckingham Fountain of Grant Park, or the bulbous dome of the Adler Planetarium, not to mention one skyscraper after another, as you travel. Theres a bar on board for those hard-earned tipples and refreshments, along with a running commentary that delves into the rich history of the Midwest.
Best Night Tour: Chicago Fireworks Architecture Cruise
During the summer months on Wednesday and Saturday nights, The Navy Pier puts on an impressive display of fireworks that illuminate the city skyline. Take in the show while learning about the architecture on the Architecture Fireworks Cruise, a 90-minute narrated boat ride on the Chicago River. During the tour, guides will explain the importance of the balloon-frame construction that changed how homes were built, and how the Great Fire shaped history. The boat passes by 40 iconic buildings, such as the Aon Center, the John Hancock Center, the Willis Tower , the Wrigley Building and the IBM Building.
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Chicago: Land And River South Side Tour
If you want to get to know as many parts of Chicago as possible, a cruise along the river is a fantastic way to see loads of the citys landmarks in one go. The audio commentary will certainly teach you a lot.
In addition to the delightful boat tour, this combo deal also includes a walking tour, which takes you around Grant Park, the Adler Planetarium, and the amazing Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
With so many sides to the city to see, this tour around Chicagos South Side is fantastic for all that it has to offer and is well worth checking out.