Those looking for a unique historical overview of Chicago’s history might want to check out the architecture boat rides offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. During this 90 minute excursion that covers all three branches of the Chicago River (North, South, Main), volunteer docents point out more than 50 buildings that dot the Chicago River. Among the buildings profiled include the Willis Tower (still known by many as the former Sears Tower), Navy Pier, Tribune Tower, Merchandise Mart, Lyric Opera, Wrigley Building, 333 W. Wacker, and Marina City. Of particular interest are the art deco works of art that define the Chicago skyline. As the tour progresses, one can see how the city recovered from the Great Fire into becoming an international city in less than a hundred year time span.
On a sunny day, head on deck for an open-air experience. The seats tend to fill up, so try to get line a bit early especially if you are traveling with a party so ensure that you can get a seat off to the side as those seats offer the best viewing opportunities. Should the weather turn a bit nippy, the climate-controlled indoor seating will ensure one can still have an enjoyable experience taking in the sites. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic hot and cold beverages and snacks can be purchased on board.
Cruises depart at the Riverside Gardens at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive. While boats are not ADA accessible, the staff can make accommodations for people with wheelchairs and others who need assistance boarding. Motorized scooters cannot be taken on board tough a standard wheelchair can be loaned gratis if need be. Those with limited mobility, who need to take advantage of boarding early should check in with the uniformed staff when they arrive. Also, luggage and strollers cannot be brought on board the boat, and there is no secure storage for these items.
Those traveling by car can get discounted parking at the lot located at 111 E. Wacker Drive (just east of Michigan Ave.) provided one’s parking ticket gets validated at the Chicago’s First Lady dock ticket window.
Tickets cost $32.00 per person. There are no discounts for students or seniors, though one can get discounts for children under 3 years old. Purchase tickets online, in person at 224 South Michigan Avenue, or at Chicago’s First Lady ticket window. Tours will take place rain or shine.
History buffs who want to continue their exploration of the neighborhoods of Chicago can book one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s walking or bus tours, as well as their lectures, conferences and other educational offerings.