Famed for the bold design of its buildings, one of the most unique ways to discover Chicago’s distinctive skyline is while cruising along the river that runs through the city.
Punctuated by imposing skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, the 110-storey Willis Tower and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, along with historic cultural venues including the Art Institute of Chicago, there are few places in the US with quite the architectural heritage and diversity as the Windy City. One of the best ways to see it for yourself is aboard a riverboat architecture tour – and here are 5 that won’t hit you too hard in the pocket.
1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise
This sightseeing tour invites visitors to view all of Chicago’s architectural highlights from the finest seat in the house: the river. Over the course of the tour, you’ll be entertained by the expert guides as they explain the 130-year history behind the city skyline. Notable landmarks and places of interest you’ll pass include the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, Merchandise Mart, and the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building. A full-service on-board bar serves local beer and spirits, plus snacks. Passengers can choose their vantage point from either the outside deck-top or indoor seating. From $42 per person.
45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise
If you’re visiting Chicago with kids and aren’t sure they are up to a full-length river tour, then this truncated version could be for you. The 45-minute tour has been specially designed with families in mind, with the narration offering fun stories and facts about the various landmarks you pass along the way and what makes the city’s architecture so fascinating. Open-air decks allow passengers to feel the cooling river breeze and see the city from multiple vantage points. Back inside, there’ll also be the chance to relax on board with locally-sourced food and drinks from the full-service bar. From $27 per person.
Chicago River Tiki Bar Cruise from Chicago Riverwalk
Combine a Chicago architecture cruise with some Polynesian drinking culture on this 1.15-hour tour. Aboard a floating tiki bar of the kind made famous in Polynesia, passengers can soak up all the city’s architectural sights with a drink in hand. Your captain also enhances the atmosphere with island tunes as you enjoy your leisurely sail. During the trip, the experienced and knowledgeable captain will regale you with historical facts and stories about the passing landmarks and bascule bridges. Guests can select from several cruise times to suit their schedule. From $30 per person.
75-Minute Architecture Cruise by Speedboat
See Chicago’s architectural highlights with the wind in your hair on this thrilling 75-minute speedboat cruise. Aboard a state-of-the-art vessel, you’ll speed along the lakefront of Lake Michigan and down the Chicago River, getting up close to architectural gems like the Tribune Tower and Willis Tower, passing through the historic Chicago Locks and sailing under the famous bridges of the river. As you go, you’ll slow down at various points to hear about the fascinating history of the many structures that make Chicago’s skyline one of the most iconic in the world. From $59 per person.
Chicago Sunset Cruise
There’s something particularly captivating about Chicago’s skyline at sunset and this 1.5-hour cruise gives you the chance to see it yourself from the water. Departing early evening, you’ll hop aboard your open-top vessel in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, and cruise along the Chicago River, where your guide will point out some of the city’s most renowned architectural landmarks. Then, you’ll watch the skyscrapers light up in the distance as you continue to Lake Michigan with the sun descending gently over the horizon. As you return, you can marvel at the city’s skyline as it’s illuminated after dark. From $42 per person.