The Chicago River, Chicago
One thing i really liked about central city of Chicago is the river. The greeniest I've ever seen. I had a good view of it from our hotel window. Lots of opportunites getting on a boat and ride down it.
After reading about different tours, we decided to go with Chicago Architecture Foundation 1.5 hours river cruise on Saturday.
I can`t say I loved it. First of all, with 77 buildings to mention and only 1.5 hours to do so, our tour guide (volunteer docent from Chicago Architecture Foundation) had to point and speak really fast using a lot of names, dates, architecture terms.. When I tried to follow her, my head started to spin and the joy of slow floating on the river was lost.
So I stopped listening and started to just randomly look at the buildings we were passing.. She did mention some interesting facts but most of the time it was just: 'This building was built in xxxx, by Xxxx, in xxxx style...'
- Dress a bit warmer, cause there is a pretty cold wind blowing and at the end of the tour many people were freezing.
- Unless you have a hearing problem, do not sit down next to the speakers (they are located on both sides of the boat, attached to the handrails and very close to people), because they are loud.
- Bring sunglasses - on a sunny day it`s not possible to look up at buildings without them.
PRICE: $28 per person on weekends and holidays but there are additional charges if you buy your tickets online via ticketmaster: convenience charge ($5.75 per ticket), order processing fee ($3.75 per order) and tax. Also, you may pay $2.50 and print out your tickets or choose a free Will Call and pick them up at the place.
Ended up paying $72 for two people.
I enjoyed my 90-minute boat ride so much, that I also made an album on my cruise. By all means read what I have below and my pictures here. Then click on the link below to take you to that album. I have one album on the cruise in general and another on the locks. They both have links to bring you back here!
The boat ride sailed through the river and then entered Lake Michigan. The travelogue album pictures are taken on the lake. I really enjoyed the 90-minute ride. It really shows the city from a new perspective. We enjoyed travelling through the river and the lake and the locks between them.
Everything was nice, even the guide was a pleasure. Ofcourse, with each section we are limited with space for pictures and commentary, that is why I use the above links for more.
Click here to return to my Chicago Homepage.
Yeah, one more boat tour tip which, since Chicago's built on water is quite natural. See America's largest building on a boat tour. You get some really good views of the building, different views too. You really are looking up at the tower when you see it from the Chicago River.
Day or night, Chicago's majestic skyline and beautiful buildings are all waiting for you - especially on a boat tour. A "must do" when in Chicago.
This view of the river is looking west towards the area known as River North [near the Merchandise Mart].
The best way to see the river is from a boat -- I'd recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation tours.
Chicago River made Chicago Famous! it is one of the boundaries of the famous Chicago Loop and a river tour of the different bridges and architectural Landmarks of Chicago is a must for visitors coupled with a lake michigan tour. Chicago is also very much defined by water, with the Chicago River flowing straight through the heart of the city and into Lake Michigan. The course of the river also makes it a sightseeing route, with river cruises enabling visitors to take in some of the city's sights from the vantage point of a smooth boat ride and many tour companies offer a 90 minute to a 2 hour river cruise coupled with a lake michigan cruise both during day time and night time.
Every St. Patrick's Day (or weekend in proximity), the Plumbers Union, Local 130 works a miracle by turning the Chicago River a splendid Irish Green. The technique remains a secret, but thousands will turn out along the St. Patrick's Parade route to see it happen. We caught a glimpse from our tour bus - the photo may be blurry, but you can definitely see it is GREEN!
The Chicago River winds its way through the heart of the city before entering Lake Michigan. There are numerous boat trips that you can take on it. I went on the Chicago Architecture Federation River Cruise. This boat trip with a commentary gave you a close up view of the cities buildings from a different angle. Walking along the riverside also gives you spectacular views of the city and many photo opportunities.
If you have the time then spend a couple of hours taking a tour of the Chicago river and the Lake... You can take the tour boats from either the Navy Pier or from underneath the bridge at Michigan Ave and Wacker... literally in the middle of the city ... right next to the Wrigley building !!! Can't miss them from late spring to late summer... I have taken several companies but it seems that Wendella boat tours have the best prices and tours.. $ 23 per person. Check there websites for times....
We enjoyed the boat tour along the river that also went out on Lake Michigan. The trip is about an hour and a half. The cost is $24 per adult. You get some great photo ops of the city.
The tour guide points out many of the buildings in the skyline and tells a bit about them.
Wendella Boats offers a narrated tour of architecture along the Chicago River. You will learn a lot about the historical significance about each building, big and small, and realize how much amazing history Chicago has. There is also a combined river and Lake Michigan tour, where the boat has to go through a lock to enter Lake Michigan. There you can get a breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline. The architecture tour is 60 minutes, and the river/lake tour is 90 minutes. Tickets can be bought on site.
2 for 1 or discount coupons for Monday-Thursday or Friday can be found at the Chicago Office of Tourism website
I can think of nothing nicer on a hot summer day than being out on the water. If you are into photography, you might consider one of the earlier cruises if you are venturing on the Lake so the sun will be behind you when you are trying to capture that perfect shot of the Chicago skyline.
Some people will tell you that the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Architectural River Cruise (see tip above) is the ONLY boat trip you should take it Chicago and while I thought it had the best narration for architecture buffs, if you just want a ride on the River or the Lake, the other options are just fine. I've been on the Mercury's River Exploration cruise that goes once a day at 3:30 and travels as far south as Chinatown (a few factual inacccuracies, not as much emphasis on architecture) and two Wendella river/lake cruises one of which encountered bad weather and the other where someone suffering from heat stroke cut it short.
We also tried the Spirit of Chicago's dinner cruise and thought it was overpriced as the food was just average and drinks were not included. If you are just interested in the view, eat before/after you get on a boat and do one of the ones without food.
My SIL loved the Windy, a tall ship sailboat, that was reasonably priced at $25 with no food or drink. I think she took the evening starlight cruise and was able to see the fireworks from Navy Pier (I think every Wed and Sat night, Memorial Day-Labor Day).
The attached website has a nice overview of all of the cruise options in Chicago
There are several companies in addition to the Chicago Architecture Foundation (Wendella, Mercury and Sea Dog are a few others) that offer tours on the Chicago River, I have tried two others (Mercury and Wendella) and I think the CAF has the best narration if architecture is one of your passions. If you are just looking for a nice boat ride and a little bit of Chicago history, you'll find better deals on some of the others during the week. Cruises are either on Chicago's First Lady or Chicago's Little Lady.
The guide from the Architecture Foundation provided a lot of information on the architectural signifigance of the buildings along the river, interesting even for someone who lives in Chicago.
**Updated for 2009 **Tickets are $28 (M-F) or $32 (Sat-Sun, holidays). The cruise lasts for 1 1/2 hours and travels the River south to River City, north to past the East Bank Club and out almost to Lake Michigan. The season runs from May 2-November 22, 2009, although there is some covered seating much of it is outdoors and that is where the best view is from so they don't run it in Chicago's brutally cold winter.
In my opinion, it's best to do a cruise just of the Chicago River or just of Lake Michigan. In order to do both on the same cruise, you have to go through the locks between the lake and river which can take 10 or so minutes each direction.
See my next tip for other options on seeing Chicago by boat
Chicago is known for it's bold architecture; the most famous being the early "skyscrapers" that grew up after the Great Chicago Fire.
Most examples of this early, innovative movement can be found along the Chicago River.
Following Michigan Avenue, south, one invariably falls upon these scenes of the river and the Wrigley Building, the new Trump Tower, et al.
You'll be able to enjoy the great, towering monoliths, but will have little reason to stick around. Sadly, there is not(yet) a cafe culture waterside.
We made a quick visit to Chicago last November 2008 and took the advice of another VT member to do the Chicago River tour for a quick overview of Chicago. Being a little late in the season, Wendella was running only 2 daily tours by then. After paying the $23/person ticket, we boarded the boat at the southwest corner of the Michigan Avenue bridge. The hardy ones braved the chilly weather on the open upper deck while others stayed below. First the boat went towards Lake Michigan and the tour guide started describing the main features immediately on the left (Wrigley Building, Chicago Tribune and the Navy Pier). The guide explained that the Chicago River and Lake Michigan are not on the same water level so the boat entered a lock where the water was either lowered or raised. From Lake Michigan, we were treated to a great view of the Chicago skyline with the Sears Tower very prominent on the south side and the John Hancock on the opposite north side. After the lake, the boat entered the lock again for the trip back to the Chicago river where it goes inland to the side of Wacker where you can literally look straight up at the Sears Tower. Certainly a very informative and quick look at Chicago if you don't have much time.