The best 5 Chicago architecture boat tours


From the Two-Flats and Graystones of the suburbs to the skyscrapers and sacred buildings of The Loop, Chicago’s hotch-potch of architectural styles can be enjoyed on a number of city boat tours.

(Photo: GetYourGuide / Courtesy Wendella Tours & Cruises)

The vast organism of rivers and canals that run through Chicago serve as a striking vantage point from which to marvel at the city’s land-based attractions. By joining a themed boat tour, visitors have the chance to learn all about the city’s rich architectural history as you cruise past some of its most notable buildings and structures. Here are 5 of the best Chicago architecture boat tours currently available.

1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

Navigate all three branches of the Chicago River on this engaging tour through the heart of the city. During the trip, you’ll have the choice of sitting on the outside deck-top or indoors as your expert guide regales you with stories and information about Chicago’s long architectural heritage and how it has evolved down the years. Among the prestigious buildings you’ll pass will be the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the art deco Merchandise Mart, and mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building. Pick up refreshments and snacks on-board at the full-service cash bar. From $40 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

2-Hour Premier Chicago River Architectural Lunch Cruise

(Photo: Viator / Courtesy Entertainment Cruises)

Marvel at some of the city’s most notable architectural landmarks and tuck into a hearty 3-course lunch on this Chicago River boat tour. Aboard the “Odyssey” luxury vessel, you’ll traverse the river while listening to onboard narration that will leave you well versed on Chicago’s architectural legacy. During the tour, you’ll be served a lunch that includes a salad, a main course and a dessert. The tour price includes lunch and teas/coffees, while alcoholic drinks are at your own cost. From $107 per person.

Book at Viator

45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture Cruise

If you’ve got kids old enough to appreciate architecture but whose attention-span is perhaps still limited, this tour could be for you. During the trip, you’ll cruise down the Chicago River, from Lakeshore Drive to the Willis Tower, along the South branch before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk, as the family-friendly live commentary recounts how the city’s architecture became so distinctive and unique. Guests can also relax on board with locally sourced food and drinks from the full-service cash bar. From $25 per person.

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Chicago Sunset Cruise

(Photo: Viator / Courtesy Wendella Boats)

Chicago’s topography is visually stunning at any time of day, but never more so than at sunset. This magical cruise offers a chance to enjoy Chicago’s architectural wonders at this very time of day, when the city’s bright lights contrast against the dimming sky. Your guide will point out architectural highlights as your boat navigates the Chicago river, continuing along to Lake Michigan where you’ll get to enjoy the serene and tranquil waters as the sun sets behind the city. From $40 per person.

Book at Viator

75-Minute Architecture Cruise by Speedboat

Soak up panoramic views of the Chicago skyline, on this adrenaline-fuelling speedboat cruise through the city. Departing from the former Navy training centre of Navy Pier on the shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll cruise through the locks and along the Chicago River, all the way to the famous Willis Tower. On your nimble, open-air vessel you’ll get up-close to some of Chicago’s most famous buildings while taking in amazing views and an entertaining narration as part of the ride. From $58 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

By Paul Joseph