Chicago Architecture River Boat Cruise

When scanning the Chicago skyline, three buildings tend to stand out as a result of their notoriety and towering status: The Willis Tower (forever the Sears Tower to true Chicagoans), the Trump Tower, and the John Hancock building.  Each equipped with 100-plus stories and spires that reach the heavens, it’s not surprising these buildings tend to steal the show.  However, visitors and even many Chicago residents don’t realize how many other stunning, unique, and historic buildings compose Chicago’s world famous skyline.  This is where river boat tours of Chicago’s buildings and architectural history come in handy.

It is harder to truly observe Chicago’s plethora of magnificent buildings than some might guess.  Think about it: you don’t meander through the streets of Chicago with your head craning skyward.  Nor can you get a particularly good look while driving into the city, unless you want to cause a pile up on the Kennedy.  The river boat tours, which vary in length from 30 to 90 minutes depending on which tour company you choose, allow you to get a great look at the beautifully detailed and structurally diverse buildings, while enjoying the weather (and drinks!) on a leisurely boat cruise.

I took an hour and a half long river boat cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady, hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF).  Aside from viewing and learning about the city’s various styles of architecture (including modernism, post-modernism, art deco, and bozar, if any of you architecture buffs are curious), the tour guide, a knowledge laden and extensively trained docent from the CAF, also gave details about the history of the city. As you’ll learn, historically relevant events and architecture styles tend to go hand in hand.  The Chicago Fire, the Colombian Exposition, and the Great Depression all contributed to the buildings our city has today.

The tour took us up and down the various veins of the river, allowing us the chance to see the buildings in several different neighborhoods, including the Loop, South Loop, and River North.  From old warehouses turned luxury condos to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified green buildings, the tour shows you a little bit of everything.

I saw buildings and structures that I’ve never noticed before, and I’ve lived here my whole life!  Some of the more prominent buildings along the tour included the gargantuan Merchandise Mart, the luxurious Lake Point Tower (former home of Oprah and Sammy Sosa!), and the two circular Marina Tower buildings.  I highly recommend the CAF’s river boat tour.  It’s fun, informative, and even the oldest Chicago resident will learn something new.

Other reliable tour operators to check out include Wendella Tours, Shoreline Sightseeing, and Seadog Cruises.

For more info on the Chicago Architecture Foundation and their tours:

Location: Tours leave from 112 E. Wacker Drive
Phone: 312-922-3432
Website: caf.architecture.org/Page.aspx?pid=698

Brittany Clingen

About Brittany Clingen

Born and raised twenty miles outside Chicago and now residing in Wrigleyville, this life long Cubs fan enjoys running along the lake, taunting Sox fans, reading books, dabbling in screenwriting, and pampering her pug named Pug. On the weekends she frequents a number of popular North side watering holes and tours around the city with friends, welcoming any adventure that might come her way.

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