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Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

Chicago Is Synonymous With Famous Architects And Iconic Architecture

Chicagos First Lady Cruises: Architecture Foundation River Cruise

Chicago is also an architectural mecca. Its the birthplace of the skyscraper, boasting over 1,300 high-rises, nearly fifty of which stand taller than 600 feet. This dynamic cityscape represents architectural styles ranging from Beaux Art and Art Deco to Mid-20th Century Modern and Contemporary.

Over the years, innovative architects, such as Daniel Burnham, Bertrand Goldberg, Harry Weese, William LeBaron Jenney and Mies van der Rohe, helped determine the fabric and design of the town.

Crane Your Neck For The Willis And Marvel At Riverside And River Point

Impossible to miss is Willis Tower , the tallest building in Chicago and the second tallest in the country.

At a height of 1,451 feet, this icon was once the tallest building in the world. Its bundled-tube construction was considered groundbreaking in 1974 when it was first introduced by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The firm also designed Trump International Hotel and Tower, currently the second-tallest building in the city.

Newer construction projects such as 150 N. Riverside and River Point are also attracting much attention. The former seems to defy the laws of physics. Designed by Goettsch Partners, it features a 54-story tower lodged into a narrow site that is constrained by the river on one side and rail tracks on the other. This feat of engineering is twenty times taller than its base is wide.

River Point is located where the main stem of the river meets its two branches. The ultramodern structure sits behind rail tracks hidden in a tunnel on top of which is a public park. The arched cutouts of the building reflect its shape and the curves of the banks around it.

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How Much Does The Chicago Architecture Boat Tour Cost

Since the tours are seasonal, you can sit outside on the boats upper deck, or in the enclosed areas on cold or rainy days. Regardless of the weather, its important to buy tickets in advance. This is a popular tour that sells out quickly. Tickets are $47 for daytime cruises, and $51 for the 7:30 p.m. twilight cruises. Add $5 more to buy the combination ticket that includes admission to the Chicago Architecture Center, which showcases the history and future of the citys architecture.

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

1.5 Hours
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.

*Continue your exploration with a visit to the CAC! Combo tickets include admission to the Center for just $5 . Admission is valid up to 7 days before or after your cruise.

Learn what’s new on the River Cruise.

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise  Tour Review

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.

Duration: 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.

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Architecture Foundation Center Cruise

The architecture Foundation river cruise was fantastic. An amazing volunteer tour guide who was passionate and so knowledgeable. The stories and details about the stunning buildings made the whole experience meaningful and enjoyable.


In general, the river is a pleasant place to walk and sit . However, there are lotss of places to sit and watch. There are places to eat and drink or just to admire the skyline. The river itself is an interesting colour which make for exceellent photos!

The river has a walkway, kayak rentals, ferry boats and some really great places to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer out in the sun. Good restaurants along the river walk too!

This is a must to do go on the Chicago Riverwalk to explore downtown Chicago Skylines and bridges and restaurant.

We really enjoyed this tour, it was a lovely sunny afternoon with perfect weather. Our guide kept us entertained, gave us lots of history lessons and how many of the sites on the tour are tied into the citys heritage. Chicago is very beautiful and it was a great way to learn about the city. Highly recommend doing this tour led by a great crew.

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Chicago Architecture Tour: A Nod To International Styles

As you cruise down the river, youll notice that many of the citys buildings feature international styles of architecture. You can basically take these structures and put them anywhere in the world and theyll fit right in.

The Wrigley Building, for example, is made up of two buildings with white terra cotta tiles that look like they were inspired by the European Renaissance. It also has a clock tower modeled after the Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain.

Wrigley began as a laundry detergent company, and in each container of detergent it sold, a free package of gum was included. The gum became so popular that the company decided to do away with the detergent and sell gum instead.

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Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour

With building highlights like the Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, and Marina City, Shoreline Sightseeing will take passengers past more than 40 landmarks that have defined Chicago as the beautiful and iconic gem that it is today. The cruise will visit all three branches of the Chicago River for breathtaking views of and detailed stories about the citys most famous landmarks.

To book: $35-$48 shorelinesightseeing.com

Newhouse Architecture + Design Competition

Travel Guide Chicago, USA – Chicagos First Lady Cruises: Architecture Foundation River Cruise
Exhibit Information

The Newhouse Architecture + Design Competition showcases Chicagoland high school students who present design solutions to real-world problems. Named after late Illinois Senator Richard Newhouse , the annual competition celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022.

This years competition asked students to envision a more youth-friendly Chicago, spotlighting the communities identified in Mayor Lori Lightfoots INVEST South/West initiative. The winning submissions, which are highlighted in this special exhibition, address five elements of youth-friendly cities: safe play spaces, multifunctional landscapes, intergenerational activity, cultural heritage spaces and accessible play areas.

INVEST South/West is Mayor Lightfoots $1.4 billion community development initiative to reverse decades of disinvestment on Chicagos South and West Sides. The initiative focuses on neighborhood projects along commercial corridors that support amenities, local businesses, public spaces and housing.


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    Labor Day On The Mile

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    Chicago Architecture Boat Tour

    A 90-minute history tour on the Chicago River from the comfort of an open-deck boat with views of the Civic Opera House, Wrigley Building, Willis Tower and more.

    Adult tickets start at $49. Tickets for students under 18, Seniors, Military, Veterans, COVID-19 Healthcare Workers, and First Responders are $25.

    For more information click here.

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    What To Know Before Taking The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

    • I strongly recommend the official river cruise from the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center its staffed by volunteer docents, and they will not even take tips
    • Tickets cost between $46-51 plus Ticketmaster fees the tour is 90 minutes. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance, especially in peak tourism time. However
    • Weather makes a huge difference, and Chicagos is quite capricious. The cruise will be canceled if the weather is bad, but likely may still run even if a sudden fog rolls in. Whether to purchase ahead and how far in advance is a bit of a gamble.
    • We went in the dead of summer, and it was nice to get out on the water and get some breeze. Sunscreen is your friend, as well as sunglasses because the sun reflecting off the water and buildings can be brutal.
    • But it can also be cooler out on the water, so think about a jacket if youre going in spring or summer, and bundle up in winter
    • It is open seating and first-come, first-served
    • Theres a bar on the boat that sells a pretty decent selection of drinks and some snacks as well
    • When we visited in July they were requiring masks at all times on board , and social distancing

    There are a lot of pretty pictures in this post and Ill give you some teases of the actual architecture info, but also dont want to spoil you for the tour!

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    Tours · Chicago Architecture Center

    Chicago Architecture Foundation Twilight River Cruise

    Experience the top tour in Chicago and one of the top ten tours in the U.S. according to TripAdvisorusers. The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is a must for out-of-towners and Chicagoans alike. CAF-certified volunteer tour guidescalled docentsinterpret more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. Youll find out how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the worlds largest cities in less than 100 years. In 90 minutes, get the real story on Chicago architecture and its history.

    Directions to Chicagos First Lady boat dock

    See a map here or enter 112 E. Wacker Drive into your GPS.Your CAF river cruise departs from a dock just 8 blocks north of the CAF Shop and Tour Center. Located at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive, a blue awning marks the boat dock entrance stairs that lead down to the river. If you have limited mobility, see these directions for an alternative way to reach the dock.

    Tour Tips

    • Each person must have a ticket, including infants and children.
    • All tours depart rain or shine.
    • Arrive 30 minutes prior to your cruise departure time. Allow extra time for traffic and parking in summer.
    • Cruise guests board 15 minutes before departure time.
    • A full-service bar and snack bar are available onboard.
    • Tickets may not be refunded or exchanged if you miss your boat. Allow extra time.

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    Best Extended Tour: Chicago River Architectural Tour

    For an extended version of an architecture cruise at a reasonable price, the Chicago River Architectural Tour runs a full 90 minutes and has a bar on board to boot. Entertaining and educational guides narrate the journey as the boat passes more than 50 landmarks and architectural gems, keeping an eye out for gargoyles and icons from the Neoclassical period to the Art Deco era. The tour runs seasonally to avoid the cold winter and departs from the Lofts at River East . Non-alcoholic refreshments and cookies are served, but beer and wine are additional. Viator members recommend arriving early to grab a seat on the upper deck because the trip is very popular and the boat can fill up.

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    Island Party Hut Docks & Charters

    Book a charter aboard Island Party Boats and enjoy the City from the water. Our entire Tiki Boat fleet has upper decks and water slides for swimming in the Lake. We also have 75 minute floating Tiki Bar Cruises that will take you on an Island Party through Chicago. You can also visit us by water and tie up your boat at our transient dock.

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    This Is The Best Chicago River Cruise

    Chicago offers so many boat tours and river cruises that it can be overwhelming to choose just one. When choosing a boat tour that encompasses the best sites that the city has to offer, consider this highly-rated option.

    According to a list compiled by Timeout, the best boat tour in all of Chicago is the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise. This cruise is perfect for travelers and locals with a genuine interest in the history behind building the famous Windy City skyline. The tour also offers riders a discount on tickets into the Chicago Architecture Center. The whole cruise lasts an hour and a half and costs $51.96 before tax per rider. Those looking to embark on this adventure can access the boat at the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive.

    Here is what Timeout had to say about the one-of-a-kind tour:

    “There’s a reason the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s beloved tour has been named the Best Boat Tour in the U.S. The centers official tour goes into detail on more than 50 buildings both on the riverfront and beyond. In doing so, they give a fascinating history of the city and those that built itplus you can easily upgrade your ticket to include entry to just Chicago Architecture Center itself. Its a proper design enthusiasts dream. This one leaves from the Chicago First Lady Cruises dock and lasts around 90 minutes. For a real treat, gather friends for the serene evening cruise for just a few dollars more.”

    Frank Lloyd Wright In Oak Park

    Chicago Scene aboard Chicago’s First Lady on the Chicago River

    Oak Park is home to the worlds largest collection of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. View the exteriors of nearly a dozen of Wrights structures.

    Free for Deco Members and above
    The Frank Lloyd Wright memorial stone at the northeast entrance to Austin Gardens, 199 Forest Ave., Oak Park, IL 60301

    This one-hour walking tour covers nearly a dozen homes on Chicago and Forest avenues and on Elizabeth Court.

    Special thanks to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust for their valuable partnership over the years. Visit www.flwright.org to view interior tours offered by the Trust to complement your CAC Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park tour.

    • Advance reservations required.
    • Your safety is our priority. The itinerary of this tour may be altered in accordance with health and safety policies and considerations.
    • Ticket price includes entrance to the Chicago Architecture Center within 7 days of your tour. View the CACs hours.

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    Ultimate Travel Guide To The Us

    p> Niagara Falls is world-famous for its awe-inspiring size and magnificent beauty. This spectacular natural wonder attracts all kinds of travelers, young and old, from honeymooners to young couples, groups of friends to families. There is a wide choice of hotels at Niagara Falls, including affordable ones for those on a budget. Newlyweds can splurge and stay in one of the many Niagara Falls luxury hotels. And as far as things to do at Niagara Falls, there are activities for the whole family to enjoy.

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    Seadog Cruises Architecture River And Lake Tour

    On the Seadog Chicago Architecture Boat Tour, passengers will board a sleek open-air speedboat and spend 75 minutes cruising around the Chicago Locks and then right up the Chicago River for sweeping views of the citys impressive skyline. On the Chicago River boat tour, youll also cruise past iconic locations like Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain. Theres live, guided narration with bits and bobs about Chicagos history and stories about notable architecture, like the Willis Tower and Lyric Opera, so guests are sure to come away with plenty of historical and architectural information about the storied Windy City. And for some extra fun: this cruise is BYOB!

    To book: $45 seadogcruises.com

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