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.
Chicago First Lady Cruises
Experience the official Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady, voted the #1 Boat Tour in North America by USA Today readers and the only cruise led by the Chicago Architecture Centers expertly trained volunteer docents. The 90-minute cruise reveals fascinating stories behind Chicagos majestic buildings in a way no other tour can. Each boat features open-air upper decks, interior climate-controlled salons and a fully stocked bar.
Cruising daily April November. Tickets available at dockside box office or in advance at ticketmaster.com/rivercruise. Private evening charters also available for groups of 2-250, please inquire.
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.
Don’t Miss: Freedom Boat Club Johns Pass
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.
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.
You May Like: Is Boat Insurance Required In Alabama
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.
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!
RELATED: A Couples Weekend Getaway to Chicago
Don’t Miss: Is Banana Boat Sunscreen Cruelty Free
Seadog River And Lake Architectural Tour
While Seadog is most well known in the city for their thrill rides , they also offer an architecture tour that combines lake views with your river cruise for an inclusive look at Chicagos skyline innovation and design.
Experienced Seadog patrons encourage you to arrive early with a pre-purchased e-ticket so that you are first in line to sit in the front half of the boat.
Remember to bring sunscreen, and always take the complimentary water offered!
Duration: 75+ minutes
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.
Don’t Miss: How To Get Mildew Off Boat Seats
Speed Across Lake Michigan On Seadog Boat Tours
Are you up for a thrill? Race across Lake Michigan on SeaDog Cruises, featuring 30 minutes of high speeds and exhilarating twists and turns. Come prepared to get splashed.
SeaDog also offers lakefront speedboat tours and a river/lake architecture tour, featuring views of Chicagos iconic Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, Museum Campus, and more.
Shoreline Architecture Firework Tour
Get all of the information on a daytime architecture tour, with an added grand finale: seeing fireworks on the lake!
Whether you depart from Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue, youll tour the main and south branch of the Chicago River before traveling out onto the Great Lake for the best view of the weekly fireworks display.
Pro tip: Dont forget your camera! Even though it is nighttime, the lights of the city offer perfect photo opportunities. Youll have your postcard-worthy photo in no time!
Depart from one of two locations:
- Navy Pier Entrance, Polk Bros Park. GPS: 600 E Grand Ave
- Michigan Avenue Bridge . GPS: 401 Michigan Ave
WENDELLA SUNSET CRUISE
In addition to their architectural cruises, this company also offers an outing at sunset which allows you to enjoy excellent views of the city skyline.
This is intended to be a romantic cruise, so there won’t be a lot of historic details about the city provided, but you will have the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a cold beer.
Since this is a sunset tour, you might not get to see Chicago after dark, but depending on the time of year, it’s definitely a possibility.
Duration: 90 minutes
TIP: It’s worth noting that this company offers specialty fireworks and holiday cruises to celebrate important events.
If you’re visiting during the 4th of July or Christmas, check to see what holiday cruises they are currently offering.
Recommended Reading: Is Boat Insurance Required In Washington State
Chicago Architecture Foundation Bus Tour
In addition to their boat tour, CAF also provides an extensive architecture bus tour.
Clocking in at over 3 hours in length, you can rest assured that you will learn a lot about Chicago while on this adventure.
Over the course of this excursion, youll cover more than 30 miles of architectural history in the windy city.
If youre looking for a more educational experience, this is probably your best bet.
- $37 CAF members
Tour Length: 3 ½ hours
Availability: This tour is typically available at least once a week. Check their tour calendar for more information.
Chicago Sailboat And Kayak Tours
When it comes to rest and relaxation, few boat tours are going to be as inviting as a sailboat. What better place to sail than the Windy City?
Enjoy the sights and sounds as you drift around the Chicago River in comfort.
There are 4 types of discounts available on sailing and kayak adventures in the Chicago area:
- Tourist Pass
- Discount Sites
- Coupon Code
Without question, youll get the best possible deal on this service by using a tourist pass. That said, you may also find a similarly excellent deal on a discount site.
If you can’t find what you want here, we recommend checking these discount sites to find a service that fits your expectations.
Don’t Miss: Who Owns Freedom Boat Club
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.
The 7 Best Chicago Architecture Boat Tours Of 2021
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the bestproducts youcan learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
- Best Year-Round: Chicago River Architecture Cruise Buy Tickets at Viator“Learn about world-famous architects, including Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn and the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill firm.”
- Best Night Tour: Chicago Fireworks Architecture Cruise Buy Tickets at Viator“Take in the magical fireworks show while learning about the architecture from the perfect vantage point..”
- Best Boat Combo: Architecture Cruise and Speedboat Tour Buy Tickets at Viator“The tour departs from the Navy Pier, so allow some time to explore the shops and sights.”
- Best Land and Water: Chicago City Tour with Optional River Cruise Buy Tickets at Viator“Learn about the role the river has played in the citys development and how it structures the skyline..”
- Best Extended Tour: Chicago River Architectural Tour Buy Tickets at Viator“Arrive early to grab a seat on the upper deck because the trip is very popular and the boat can fill up.”
- Best Short Tour: Lake Michigan Sightseeing Cruise Buy Tickets at Viator“The 40-minute cruise gives you some fantastic photo opportunities of the city skyline.”
You May Like: Who Makes The Best Jon Boat
Learn About Our Group Discounts And More
Located Downtown for Your Convenience
Looking for a fun way to go sightseeing with your group? We offer discounts on groups of six or more adults , as well as 40% plus discounts for students, seniors, first responders, military & military families, veterans, COVID-19 heroes, and school groups. Did we mention kids aged 3 and under are also free? Our marina is located in the south loop and is right off the expressway with easy parking options making it easy for you to bring your out-of-town visitors out on the water. Additionally, we are the closest dock to McCormick Place, the main convention center in Chicago, making it easy for business travelers to experience Chicagos famous architecture boat cruise. With the best prices in town and one of the longest architecture tours around, you cant go wrong with Tours & Boats!
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 90-minute architecture tours that cover all three branches of the Chicago River, or you can book a private boat tour 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
Read Also: Freedom Boat Club Reservation
Chicago River Boat Architectural Tour
Forming a length of 156 miles when combined, the Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals the characterize the infamous skyline of Chicago today. The river, running through the city, including the city center Chicago Loop, is evident of man made design and infrastructure when completed craftily. In 1887, the river was reversed through civil engineering by taking water from Lake Michigan and discharging it into the Mississippi Watershed. Memorialized today, its a national landmark you have to add to your travel list.
Throughout our signature cruise one of our award-winning Docents will present more than 50 skyscrapers, bascule bridges, and historic sites.
In a world of iconic architecture, only a few images are so instantly recognized they need no subtitle.
Think of the Venetian canals, a Shinto temple, the medieval Cathedral at Chartres, or the unmistakable skyline of Chicago. Each year thousands of architecture lovers travel to the City of Chicago, the birthplace of the skyscraper and thousands book passage aboard our enthralling river tour, widely considered the best 90-minutes spent in Chicago.
Join us for a 90-minute Architectural Tour aboard Chicago Line Cruises. On Saturdays, at 8:30 p.m. we offer a 2 hour Architectural / Fireworks Cruise.
A jaw-dropping excursion through a city that defied all expectations even the laws of gravity.
Book Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours And See The Top Attractions Architecture And Landmarks In The Windy City
Highlights include: Scenic & Historic Architecture Beautiful Parks Skyscrapers Chicagos Lakefront Museum Campus: Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium & Adler Planetarium Sports Stadiums: Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field & Wrigley Field Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, Hyde Park, Woodlawn & River North Plus many more historical sites! A 90-minute Architecture River Cruise aboard Chicago Line Cruises.
See the Chicagos top attractions and landmarks.
Due to COVID-19, this tour is not operating at the moment.
Also Check: How To Remove Dye Stains From Vinyl Boat Seats
Best Chicago Architecture Boat Tours
This list counts the best Chicago boat tours, offering night-time excursions for extra romance next to adrenaline-pumping speed tours.
Oh, Chicago the Windy City. Theres hardly a more astounding city in America. As if to say, move over New York, this one comes with mighty landmarks galore. Among them, the Willis Tower. Once the tallest on the planet, its now a legendary spire on the skyline. Then comes the John Hancock Center with its gleaming, jet-black exterior. Theyre punctuated by the mirror-like tops of the Two Prudential Plaza, the historic locks with equally as historic bridges, and green spaces like Grant Park where fountains babble by statues.
The upshot of all that is Chicago is a doozy for lovers of all things architecture. Whats more, its a town pierced by riverways and hemmed in by the waters of Lake Michigan. Put the two together and viola: Youve got one darn fine medley of boat tours with views of mighty structures.
See It All With Shoreline Sightseeing
One of Chicagos classic cruise options, Shoreline Sightseeing covers all the bases. Their ultra-popular Architecture River Tour takes you on all three branches of the historic Chicago River takes you past dozens of landmark buildings.
They also offer skyline lake tours, plus specialty cruises and holiday events. Hop on a boat at Navy Pier or on Michigan Avenue.
You May Like: Vessel Documentation Search By Hull Number
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
Chicago Architecture River Cruise Provided By Shoreline Sightseeing
- Instant confirmation
- For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.
- See all of Chicago’s architectural masterpieces in a single tour
- Choose from multiple departure times to fit your busy schedule
- Learn about the city’s architectural history through an expert’s live narration
- Prebook this must-do Chicago activity, which frequently sells out
- Make your way to the specified departure place, either the Michigan Avenue riverfront or Navy Pier, in time for your chosen cruise departurelook for the Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Cruises sign. Since youve prepurchased, skip the ticket line and have no worries if this popular Chicago tour sells out.Find a comfortable seat and settle in as your guide, an architecture expert, gives an introduction to Chicago’s architectural history. Pass by more than 40 distinctive buildings, including the 360 Chicago Observation Deck, Willis Tower, Wrigley Building, and the Lyric Opera House, and learn which buildings famous architects Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill designed. You have plenty of photo opportunities. Some cruises include a full bar.Your cruise ends at its starting point.
Recommended Reading: Is Boat Insurance Required In Washington State