Growing up going to Chicago every summer I’ve seen a lot of the “sights” (John Hancock, the SEARS Tower, Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Art Institute, Museum of Science and Industry, etc. etc.). On more recent trips my time spent on the “sights” was just walking around the city, exploring different neighborhoods, and seeing the architecture. Michigan Ave especially always brings back nostalgia from my childhood, so I’d walk Miracle Mile almost every time.
My friend was asking about things we should do and suggested going on one of the architecture boat tours. I had to admit despite visiting Chicago upwards of 40+ times in my life I had never been on one. I knew tons about Chicago history and architecture, but the idea of getting it all in one place (and discovering what I didn’t know) intrigued me. I figured I needed to do it at least once and despite me sort of feeling I wasn’t a typical Chicago “tourist,” I was excited to check this off the bucket list.
I’m not sure if there are a lot of differences between the tour companies, but we did the Wendella company (which claims that it’s the “Original Architecture Tour”). We went for the Signature Lake and River cruise. This took us inland on the river through downtown, then back and out to the lake. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and leave the small details for your own tour, but what I especially liked about this tour was the lake section. On the river you get tons of information about Chicago history, plus the specific buildings. However adding the lake tour means that you travel through the locks at the start of the Chicago River (built to avoid polluting Lake Michigan by reversing the flow of the river and sending all the garbage and pollution towards the Mississippi River…), which is a cool experience. You also get some great views of the Chicago skyline when you’re out on the lake.
In total the tour lasted about an hour and a half. I learned a lot more detail about buildings I know well or had noticed before and also picked up some facts here and there related to Chicago history. I would say this is the #1 recommendation in terms of “sights” for those who are new to Chicago or only have some experience. You get a great feel of the city and an excellent vantage point of a lot of its best qualities. I think periodic tours could even be fun for residents. Some of the best shots of Chicago are from the river and lake, so I’m enjoying posting all these pics and re-living my recent visit.
Wendella Signature Lake and River Tour- 400 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL (just below the Wrigley Building and the Michigan Ave Bridge. Note: other Wendella tours depart from a dock near the Trump Tower, so check their website)