Packed with amazing architecture that goes some way to telling the fascinating story of the city’s long history, Chicago can be explored on a number of city tours.
One of America’s great metropolises, getting to know Chicago can be something of a daunting task owning to its size and scale. But while many opt to brave it and explore the city independently, there are also a wide choice of organised tours available, often including an expert guide for company. To help inspire you, we’ve picked out 5 of the best Chicago city tours that also have the benefit of not hitting you too hard in the pocket.
Hop-on Hop-off Open-Top Sightseeing Tour
Hop-on hop-off bus tours are a great way of seeing lots of a city in a short period of time, allowing you to jump on and off buses at designated stops at your leisure. Available in tickets that give you 24 or 48 hours, Big Bus’s hop-on hop-off tours in Chicago take place aboard double-decker buses, with knowledgeable guides serving as hosts. The route goes from the Magnificent Mile, over the Michigan Avenue Bridge and deep into the city. Stops include Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, Wrigley Building and Chicago Architecture Center. Audio guides are included in both English and Spanish, with ear buds provided. There’s also a downloadable app that lets you track where the bus is at any given time and shares other useful city information. From $45 per person.
Magnificent Mile Walking Tour
Chicago’s premier commercial district, the Magnificent Mile is compact enough to explore on foot. This 1.5-hour walking tour takes you all across the area, which has burgeoned from its time as a humble warehouse district into a hive of bustling 21st century activity. Accompanied by an expert guide, you’ll learn about the Magnificent Mile’s evolution while admiring the wide range of architectural styles ,including Parisian, Gothic, Neoclassical, Art Deco, Mid-20th Century Modern, and 21st-Century Contemporary, that can be found here. The tour price also includes admission to the Galleries of the Chicago Architecture Center. From $30 per person.
Chicago City Minibus Tour
A more intimate alternative to a hop-on-hop off tour is this small-group minibus tour which runs for two hours and takes in a number of the city’s major landmarks such as the Museum Campus, Buckingham Fountain, the Magnificent Mile, and Millennium Park. Ideal for those keen to avoid long walks or the hassle of navigating public transport, you’ll get to enjoy great views from your bus’s large windows. Your driver and guide will know where to find all the best vistas, and there are plenty of photo stops and chances to stretch your legs along the way, too. Tours are limited to 10 people. Hotel pick-up is also included from most downtown hotels. From $47 per person.
Self-Guided Audio Walking Tour
The cheapest way you can discover Chicago as part of a tour is by purchasing a self-guided audio walking tour package, which includes a downloadable app that functions as your personal guide. Taking you on a 3-plus mile route, you can cover all the city essentials in around 2-3 hours, or longer if you want to take it slowly or split your trip over more than one morning or afternoon. As well as navigating you around the city, the audio guide will also regale you with fascinating tales and facts about the landmarks you pass and Chicago as a whole. The tour starts at the Chicago Architecture Center and finishes along the banks of the Chicago River. From $17 per person.
Ultimate City Bike Tour
If you like the idea of seeing Chicago with the wind in your hair, this 3-hour guided bike tour could be for you. Starting at Bobby’s Bike Hike just next door to Chicago’s famous Navy Pier, you’ll follow your guide along the waterfront as you take in views of the city skyline and enjoy the breeze as you cycle along flat and easy-to-traverse bike paths. Circle the Buckingham Fountain while you learn the history of the city’s public art, parks and museums, and stop to take some snaps of the Windy City. The tour price includes your bike hire and safety helmet. From $55 per person.