As a native Chicagoan, I really enjoy the scenic Chicago Riverwalk especially during the summertime – it offers breathtaking views of the some of the best architecture in the world. It runs along the Chicago River, branching out from Lake Michigan and spanning along East-West Wacker Drive through the middle of the downtown.

Experience a Chicago Architectural Cruise:

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I have always wondered if the architectural sites would be better viewed by boat. So I decided to take the official Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises to see the difference. And the 90-minute boat tour does offer breathtaking and different perspectives of the architecture along the river, giving participants a unique view.

The tours depart from the Southeast Corner of the Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive (plan on arriving 30 minutes in advance especially in the summer). All boats have both indoor and outdoor seating, full service bar and snacks on board.

The boat tours occur in either rain or shine, and the boats even have ponchos on board available for purchase. I took the tour during a torrential downpour and my experience in that the fog and clouds was a one of a kind view of the city architecture. Also, the river tide actually rose which made each bridge crossing quite an adventure. The boat barely cleared the bridges that stretch across the river.

All CAF volunteers are passionate about Chicago history and give a unique perspective on the architecture. Lindy Triggs, the CAF volunteer who served on the boat during my visit, was excellent as Lindy was very interactive with the crowd on board, fielding questions and giving helpful facts.

For meetings and events, there are several different options in boat sizes and venues for architectural tours. The CAF works with event planners in determining the specific logistics for all sorts of group sizes and also has specific partners for event planning. Cocktail parties, evening cruises and fireworks cruises are all one of a kind special events options.

Boat tours run year round. Find more information on the CAF website, including detailed schedules and ticket options.