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Best Boat Tour In Chicago

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

World’s Best Skyline!! | Chicago Boat Tour

This Chicago Boat Tour is for those interested in exploring Chicagos architecture and history. The Chicago Architecture River Cruise is a great way to learn about the citys most famous buildings while enjoying the sights from the comfort of a boat. And you will also get insider info about the history that each building holds.

Several companies offer these cruises, so you can select the one that best fits your needs. Most cruises last for about an hour and a half and include a tour guide who will provide commentary about the buildings youll see along the way.

The experience of sailing down the peaceful Chicago river, all the while enjoying some of the citys most iconic landmarks, is truly spectacular.

Seadogs Lakefront Speedboat Tour

If youre looking to have some moderate thrills as you do your sightseeing, and you dont mind the wind in your hair, we recommend Seadog.

Race through the water as you hear about the Windy Citys most famous landmarks along the shoreline.

Light and humorous, reviewers have a hard time knowing if they like the speed or the speeches more!

Beware: We see a pattern in the reviews of guests who are unhappy with the will call ticket option due to long lines.

We recommend buying E-tickets in advance, which saves you from the long line and can help ensure you get a great seat by showing up about 20 minutes in advance.

Duration: 30 Minutes


Depart from South Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave. . Look for the red & white ticket booth just across from the Ferris Wheel.


The deals provided by this company are a bit different from what you’ll find with other services, but at least you’ll be able to save some money.

  • 15% off tickets if you bring your dog for the ride.
  • Special group rates offered for Skydeck Chicago.
  • Children 2 and under are free.

Book Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours And See The Top Attractions Architecture And Landmarks In The Windy City

Highlights include: Scenic & Historic Architecture Beautiful Parks Skyscrapers Chicagos Lakefront Museum Campus: Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium & Adler Planetarium Sports Stadiums: Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field & Wrigley Field Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, Hyde Park, Woodlawn & River North Plus many more historical sites! A 90-minute Architecture River Cruise aboard Chicago Line Cruises.

Chicago Tours

See the Chicagos top attractions and landmarks.

Due to COVID-19, this tour is not operating at the moment.

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Top Chicago Architecture Bus Tours

One of the best ways to see Chicago is to take a bus tour. There are several services that will drive you around the most architecturally significant areas of the city.

As you travel around Chi-town by bus, a tour guide will point out historically important buildings and tell you the story of their construction.

These architecture tours may be better for anyone visiting during the winter because they wont require you to be outside for very long, if at all.

Due to the fact that great and interesting architecture is everywhere, just about every bus tour in the city is at least partially an architecture tour.

If youre going on a trip with your family, it may be a better idea to consider one of these general excursions over an experience devoted to learning about how this city was built.

Below are some of the more notable.

Be sure to read our post which compares the best Chicago bus tours.

Chicago: Land And River South Side Tour

15 Best Chicago Boat Tours

If you want to get to know as many parts of Chicago as possible, a cruise along the river is a fantastic way to see loads of the citys landmarks in one go. The audio commentary will certainly teach you a lot.

In addition to the delightful boat tour, this combo deal also includes a walking tour, which takes you around Grant Park, the Adler Planetarium, and the amazing Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

With so many sides to the city to see, this tour around Chicagos South Side is fantastic for all that it has to offer and is well worth checking out.

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Lake Michigan Speedboat Ride

Going high speed means youll waltz around the banks of Lake Michigan as the winds of the Windy City zoom on by.

Yessir, theres hardly a wasted moment to be found on this sped-up tour of the Downtown and its various little corners.

Your jaunt begins on Navy Pier, with a modern speedboat that leaves its wake in the water. A montage of Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, and the beaches of the Near North Side all unfolds over the next 30 minutes or so.

And in the meantime? You just sit back, relax, and enjoy the adrenaline rush!

Family Fun Urban Adventure River And Lake Cruise

Chicagos history is brought to life with fun narration on the 1.5-hour Family Fun Urban Adventure River and Lake Cruise.

You will start the cruise near the historic DuSable Bridge before moving down the river between looming skyscrapers.

Then you will pass through the Chicago Lock and onto Lake Michigan.

From the lake, you will glimpse the Navy Pier, the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, and the Museum Campus.

Beverages such as soda, wine, and beer are sold onboard.

This boat cruise is one of the best tours in Chicago to check out on your trip.

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Most Popular Chicago Boat Tours

  • The #1 Booked Experience listed above? Yeah, thats where Shoreline Sightseeings boat tour comes in. They offer a guided boat tour of the Chicago River. Youll hear some of the story, of Chicagos most influential architects as you cruise past their works of art. If you get the Chicago Go Card, a Chicago tourist attraction discount pass, this tour is included.
  • Sea Dog is a pretty well known company when it comes to high speed boat rides, but they do also offer an Chicago architecture tour. If youre looking for something that really gets the adrenaline going, this could be the best boat tour for you.
  • Tall Ship Windy is a sight for sore eyes on the lake with its billowing sails and beautiful aesthetic. You get the old time allure of a pirate ship with modern conveniences to make your experience memorable . Its a great thing to do in Chicago on family vacation. Your kids will love the pirate ship, and you will love the full bar. Hopefully you dont have to say but, why is the rum gone? Get outta here if you dont get the Pirates of the Caribbean reference.

What To Expect From The Chicago Architecture River Cruise

Chicago’s Best Boat Tours: St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats

During the tour, youll learn about over 50 architecturally significant buildings along the waterfront, including buildings by Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and Mies van der Rohe.

The top of the boat is open-air which gives you a great perspective on the citys amazing skyline.

While youre admiring the citys skyline and riverwalk, youll learn about how the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers actually *reversed* the flow of the river to help with public health and sanitation in the early 1900s. To do this, a series of locks were introduced between the river and Lake Michigan.

Now, instead of the river emptying into the lake, fresh clean water flows from Lake Michigan into downtown Chicago.

Youll also hear about one of the worst U.S. maritime disasters in the United States: the 1915 sinking of the SS Eastland on the Chicago River, right between Clark and Lasalle Streets in downtown. 844 people perished during this tragic accident.

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Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

If youre looking for a well-informed tour, you cant get much closer to the source than the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

In partnership with Chicagos First Lady Cruises, they offer a 90-minute guided trip down the Chicago River, providing detailed explanations of the construction and history of over 50 significant buildings.

History buffs, locals, and first-time visitors will love hearing how the Second City rose from the ashes to the major city that it is today from volunteer docents demonstrating enthusiastic knowledge and love for their city.

Many visitors recommend taking the Twilight Tour. For a few extra dollars, you will get to see the buildings lit up.

CAF also offers a special tour just for photographers, with three stops and assistance from volunteers to help you best capture the architectural achievements.

Dauer: 90 minutes

  • Tour Departure Times vary check the calendar here.
  • CAF requires ALL passengers to have a ticket this includes infants and children.
  • Missed tours may not be subject to refunds or exchanges on tickets.
  • Tours take place rain or shine, but there are climate-controlled, covered areas of the boats lower level.
  • Full bar and restrooms available on the boat.
  • Boarding begins 15 minutes prior to departure time, and seating is general admission.

Location: GPS: 112 E. Wacker Drive

Conveniently located along Wacker Drive, look for the blue awning at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue Bridge.

Boat Trips And Tours In Chicago

Chicago boasts one of the most iconic and breathtaking skylines in the USA and a boat tour is the perfect way to take it all in.

Cruise down the wide waterway of the Chicago river and see the dramatic skyscrapers looming above or take to the open water of Lake Michigan and admire the citys beauty from a different vantage point.

Whatever your cruising style, there is a Chicago boat tour for you.

You will find below all you need to know about boat tours, one of the most interesting outdoor activities in Chicago.

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Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady

Tickets start at $51.96 for daytime river cruiseTickets start at $55.74 for evening cruiseVISIT THE CAC FOR JUST $5 EXTRA!Please note, prices are subject to change.
Northeast corner of Michigan Ave. and E. Wacker Dr. Look for the blue awning marking the stairway entrance, 112 E. Wacker Dr.

Chicagos First Lady is committed to taking the proper precautions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its river cruise guests and team, including ensuring that boats are cleaned and sanitized throughout the day and their service. Chicagos First Lady offers restrooms on board each vessel with running water and plenty of soap. Chicagos First Lady continues to follow the recommendations of public health officials and is monitoring the evolving situation.

#1 boat tour in North America according to USA Today Readers’ Choice 2021 Awards! Looking for the ultimate Chicago architecture experience? Buy a combo ticket for the river cruise AND visit the Chicago Architecture Centeryou’ll save $9!

For more than 25 years, the CAC’s expertly trained docent volunteers have led the river cruise, sharing fascinating stories behind more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. Hear how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years. In just 90 minutes, you’ll get the best overview of Chicagos architecture and its history.

Learn what’s new on the River Cruise.

How Long Does A Boat Trip Last

Sail Away On Chicago

Architectural boat tours in Chicago cruise down the Chicago River and last between 1 to 1.5 hours.

Lake Michigan cruises are a little shorter at around 40 minutes and speed boat cruises on the lake are around half an hour.

Speed boat cruises that travel down the river and onto the lake are just over an hour long.

Dinner cruises last for 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the bountiful buffet and the onboard entertainment.

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Lake Michigan And Chicago River Architecture Cruise By Speedboat

An exhilarating affair, cruising around Chicago on a speedboat is loads of fun and visitors are sure to enjoy their tour around the city.

With a wealth of things to see and do, the tour commentary will point out all the main landmarks. Youll also get tips on what you just have to see when visiting Chicago.

As interesting as it is educational and informative, this lovely cruise will live long in the memory for the spectacular sights on show and the amazing architecture you pass by.

The perfect way to see much of Chicago in one go, this whirlwind tour will take you past many of the citys most incredible sights and historical buildings, with all of their wonderful architectural features.

Wandering around the north and south shores is a great way to spend the day. Your expert guide will bring the city to life as they tell you the stories behind the places you pass.

After you complete the walking tour, its time to take to the river and explore the city by boat. With the skyscrapers towering above you, sailing along is a relaxing experience. You are sure to come away tired but happy with all that you have seen.

Seadog River And Lake Architectural Tour

While Seadog is most well known in the city for their thrill rides , they also offer an architecture tour that combines lake views with your river cruise for an inclusive look at Chicagos skyline innovation and design.

Experienced Seadog patrons encourage you to arrive early with a pre-purchased e-ticket so that you are first in line to sit in the front half of the boat.

Remember to bring sunscreen, and always take the complimentary water offered!

Duration: 75+ minutes

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Best Land And Water: Chicago City Tour With Optional River Cruise

If you prefer a smaller group size, the Chicago City Tour combines sightseeing in an air-conditioned bus that holds 12 people or less with a peaceful boat ride . The tour begins with a narrated, two-hour ride around the city with a chance to get out and explore a few stops, including the 1888 skyscraper called The Rookery, which is known for its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed lobby. Next up is a 75-minute cruise on an open-top boat to delve even deeper into the citys famous architecture and to learn about the role the river has played in the citys development. Transportation from most area hotels is provided but is not round-trip.

The 7 Best Chicago Architecture Boat Tours Of 2021

CHICAGO DOWNTOWN RIVERWALK | Boat tour in Chicago River

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Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Boat Tour In Chicago

The Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise is one of the Chicago boat tours at Navy Pier.

This 40-minute cruise takes you along the lakefront as you listen to narration about the citys history and architecture.

While the narration is not live like many other tours, the recordings are offered in both English and Spanish.

This is one of the best boat tours in Chicago with kids because it is not so long that they get bored.

Bring a camera to capture memories and photos of the skyline!

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Chicago Urban Adventure River And Lake Boat Tour

Youll see both of the very different aquatic sides of the Windy City in a single day when riding this Urban Adventure cruise.

First up: The Chicago River. That weaves through a pack of cloud-splintering skyscrapers. One moment the Willis Tower looms above you.

The next, its the bustling Chicago French Market. All the while, you get to enjoy commentary filled with factoids about the history of construction in the USA.

For the grand finale, you burst out onto the waters of Lake Michigan. Looking westwards from there, its possible to see the whole metropolis, sometimes even silhouetted in the water like a mirage.

The Chicago Water Taxi

Discover Chicagoâs Best Architecture Boat Tours

For a fast and cheap cruise on the River, hopping on a water taxi can be a convenient way to travel for local commuters and travelers.

Many of Chicagos popular attractions can be seen along these routes, and each of the station stops offer fantastic things to do, see, and eat.

NOTE: Due to the pandemic, Chicago Water Taxi is currently only available on Saturdays and Sundays. Cash is no longer accepted and you must purchase tickets with a debit or credit card.

While there are no guides on these boats, the sights are comparable to the ones on any of the sightseeing cruises listed above, and at a huge discount!

Duration: 15 to 30 minutes

Price Options:


There are a few deals available for senior citizens and members of the military. If this describes you, chances are you’ll be able to save a lot of money on tickets.

  • 50% off one-way tickets for Seniors & people w/ Disabilities.
  • Active Duty military w/ ID ride for free.

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