I recently took the best Chicago Architecture Boat Tour with the First Lady Cruises. It was such a great way for a first-timer to see the riverwalk through Chicago!
When I first arrived in Chicago a few days before this, I was already in awe of all the different styles of buildings. So many old, historic buildings right beside modern structures.
I spent my first 2 days in Chicago as part of a work trip, but kept finding myself stopping to snap pictures of all the buildings! So when a couple people on Instagram recommended that I look into the Architecture Boat Tour, I actualy listened to them!
Which, honestly, is a pretty big deal! Normally, when I’m traveling solo, I don’t really do these sorts of things. I’ll walk around and see the sights and try some of the hot food items that city is known for, but that’s about the extent of it. I don’t really go on big adventures by myself or even purchase tickets for things like this.
So the fact that I not only sought this out all on my own, but actually followed through is kind of a big stinkin’ deal for me!
Chicago Architecture Boat Tour
The tour guides leading the boat tours are actually volunteers with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. They’re a wealth of knowledge about not only the architects who designed some of Chicago’s iconic buildings, but also the history behind the buildings themselves.
For example, the building below was probably one of my least favorite in terms of appearance, but I loved the story behind it!
The architect purposefully designed the building without any right angles because they aren’t found in nature! There are little tidbits like that that I would never think about on my own, but I loved hearing the tour guides inside stories!
She also said that the above building was supposed to be a city within a city. It features its own daycare, its own grocery store and more so that it’s residents would never really have to leave. Such a cool concept and something I never would have thought about if I had just passed this building on my own!
But that’s how nearly every building we passed on the architecture river cruise was. So many behind-the-scenes stories for all of them!
The Merchandise Mart was probably the most massive building we saw. It covers 2 city blocks and was originally a distribution center for Marshall Field & Company.
These twin towers are referred to as Marina City and caught my attention the very first day I landed in Chicago!
They resemble honeycombs and house residences, restaurants, shops and more. What I noticed, though, was the parking garage area of them! I’m sure it feels completely safe when you’re inside and parking, but from the street it looks like you could drive right off the edge!
The next building made you do a doubletake when you looked at how narrow its base is! Because it had the river on one side and the rail tracks on the other, it was restricted on how wide it’s base could be. The building is actually 20 times taller than its base is wide!
The boat tour was also a great chance to see more of the Chicago Riverwalk!
I also didn’t realize there were spots to rent kayaks until it was pointed out on the river cruise!
Just such a relaxing way to spend a morning seeing some of the sights and learning about the history behind Chicago!
How and Where to Buy Tickets to the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour
I chose Chicago’s First Lady for my cruise since it is the first official architecture cruise and the one that benefits the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
If you’re like me and are being spontaneous, just head down toward the riverfront. At the corner of Michigan Avenue Bridge and Wacker Drive, you’ll see a blue awning that leads down the stairs to their ticket counter and dock. Just follow the blue awnings!
I arrived about 45 minutes before the time of my cruise departure and was able to purchase my ticket and find a shaded spot to sit. About 20-25 minutes before the departure time, I headed toward the queue to get in line.
I was glad I started lining up when I did because the line quickly filled in behind me! It’s amazing how fast that can happen!
I knew I wanted a seat along the side of the boat so I could grab some pictures, but I wasn’t sure which side would be best. I ended up sitting with the side of the boat on my left, and I loved it! Honestly, though, most of the spots we went, we ended up turning around and heading back in the opposite direction so the people sitting on the right probably thought they had perfect seats as well!
I sat on the upper deck where we had metal seats that were more comfortable than they originally looked!
I do recommend bringing a hat or visor and putting sunscreen on before you board. I was there on a gorgeous day in mid-May, but the sun was definitely scorching and I noticed some sunburn when I returned to my hotel later that day. Sunglasses are a must (that sun can be brutal reflecting off of the water and glass buildings!).
There is a bar on board that accepts cash, VISA or Mastercard. There are also restrooms on-board for those that need them! The boat tour itself took a little less than 1.5 hours and the ticket was $44. There are also options for a twilight cruise that costs a little bit more. Well worth the price and there’s a reason this attraction has such high ratings!
I wasn’t there during a busy season and was only looking for 1 ticket, so I didn’t have any problem purchasing it the morning of my cruise.
I do, however, recommend buying your tickets ahead of time because they can sell out! The time of year you’re there, the number of people in your group and more can all contribute to you possibly losing out on the cruise time you’re hoping for.
To purchase your tickets ahead of time and see more information regarding this boat tour, click HERE and grab them now! It’s very helpful in planning out the rest of your day in Chicago to know exactly what time your cruise will be!
Items Needed for the Chicago Architecture Boat Cruise
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