My husband and I recently spent a weekend in Chicago. Since we were only there for a couple of days we wanted to find an easy way to get a feel for the city and see as much as possible in a short time. I did some research and ran across the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise.
I loved the idea of a Chicago river cruise, but the architecture aspect of the cruise didn’t excite me at first. Honestly it seemed like it would be a total bore. However, the Trip Advisor reviews were great so we decided to try it out. I’m glad we did.
So, let’s get to it! Here’s my full review of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise on Chicago’s First Lady Cruises.
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Taking a Chicago river cruise is a great way to get a feel for the city. There are many options available, but we chose the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s cruise because of their awesome TripAdvisor reviews.
This 90 minute tour starts by taking you through the North and South branches of the river. Then it finishes up on the main branch of the river out to the entrance of Lake Michigan. There is indoor and outdoor seating available as well as a bar. If you happen to take this tour on a chilly day like I did, try the Hot Spiced Cider with rum…it will warm your soul.
Tours are offered at different times throughout the day. Departure times vary based on the season so check the website for specific times.
Pro Tip: Sit on the left side of the boat. Most of the tour focuses on the left side buildings. You will be able to see from anywhere, but the left side is best.
Chicago Architecture Foundation
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a nonprofit “dedicated to inspiring people to discover why design matters.” Each cruise is led by a Chicago Architecture Foundation docent. These docents, who receive hundreds of hours of training, all volunteer their time out of a genuine love of Chicago, and it shows.
Our guide, Mary Jo, definitely knew her stuff, and her passion for Chicago and its history and architecture showed. The other thing I loved about the fact that this cruise is guided by docents is that they don’t accept tips! (Hallelujah! I am so sick of being expected to tip EVERYONE.)
Where To Stay in Chicago: Park Hyatt Chicago Review
What To Do In Chicago: Chicago Activities
This cruise leaves from the Chicago Riverwalk at Michigan Ave and Wacker drive. Tickets are available online and they recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time. But, here’s the catch that I didn’t love…if you purchase tickets online, it’s through Ticketmaster (barf) and you have to pay the ridiculous Ticketmaster fees. Because of that, we opted to buy our tickets at the door and had no problem with our desired time slot being available.
We went on a sunny, but cold Sunday afternoon. Our cruise was fairly full so I can see that they could get sold out during popular times like summer weekends. So, unless you really have zero flexibility, I would suggest just buying your tickets at the door to save some money.
While this cruise isn’t cheap, I thought it was worth it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Tickets are $43.53 each without taxes. If purchased online through Ticketmaster, the cost is $52.98, but at the door, the cost of the ticket is $46.
Overall, I really enjoyed this cruise and would recommend it if you are in the Chicago area. If you are traveling with kids, check out some these great family activities in Chicago. And don’t forget to check out the Park Hyatt Chicago for a fantastic hotel option!
Have you ever taken a Chicago River Cruise…what did you think?
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