Chicago River Cruise with architectural tour of the skyline of Chicago
Travel Guides

Chicago River Cruise

Last fall I had the opportunity to take an Architecture Tour aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and I am so excited to share my experience with you because this weekend their 2015 season launches and this is one tour you don’t want to miss!  My mom and I took the cruise on an unseasonably warm late October afternoon and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience!

Chicago River Cruise architecture tour
The tour around the Architectural Capitol of the United States is led by a very knowledgable volunteer docent and although it included a LOT of historical and architectural information, it was presented in an engaging manner which made it quite enjoyable.  Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world from 1850-1900 when it went from just 30,000 people in 1850 to 1.7 million people in 1900!  This time period, and the years that followed, led to quite a building boom during which buildings were built so fast buildings held on to the title of “Tallest Building in Chicago” for as little as six weeks!

Chicago River Cruise with architectural tour of the skyline of Chicago

Our tour took us along the Chicago River which has 57 bridges (37 of them are movable) and is lined with building after building of architectural significance.  The famous Clock Tower used to be the headquarters for the Chicago Cubs and is modeled after a building in Seville and features a 22-foot diameter clock.  The Montgomery Ward building was the largest building in the world when it was originally built and has now been converted to an office building anchored by GroupOn.  The Merchandise Mart is enormous and has 5,500 windows and houses a retail hall of fame.

Enjoy a few pictures from our tour and I don’t think I can say enough good things about this tour and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Chicago from April-November!  I’d love to hear, what is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?

Chicago River Cruise with Clock Tour former headquarters of the Chicago Cubs
Chicago River Cruise architecture

Chicago River Cruise architecture tour

Disclaimer: In exchange for my honest review of this venue, I was provided free entry as well as additional tickets for my family.


  • Seana Turner

    That looks so fun, and something different to do. Chicago really has a lot of terrific architecture, and watching from the water while cruising along sounds so fun. I think I’m adding this to my list…

  • Bev

    I went on an architectural river cruise in Chicago years ago and it was so interesting! Definitely one of the highlights of that trip. The history of and architecture in Chicago is so interesting!


      I didn’t know I was going to enjoy learning about the history and architecture as much as I did, but it was amazing!

  • Samantha Angell

    This looks like such a fun trip! I haven’t been to Chicago in years, but used to go every winter with my mom and aunt as a girls trip. I think my favorite part about visiting Chicago (or any city, really!) is the people watching. There are always os many great people to watch and observe!


      The people watching in Chicago is excellent…especially if you head over to the Bean and surrounding areas!

  • Kirsten

    The architectural tour is one of the best ways to see our city, especially if you get a day of nice weather. Unfortunately we got rain half way through our journey so we only enjoyed about half the tour, but I would love to take it again and would highly recommend it! Tons of information about the history of Chicago!

  • Josi @ The American Mama

    57 bridges!? That’s a lot! I can’t believe I lived in the midwest for 17 years and never, ever roadtripped my way up to Chicago. I have some family there, so maybe I should take a trip. I am living vicariously through your cruise photos – haha totally different kind of cruise than I am used to! Chicago seems beautiful.


      The number of bridges is crazy and when we there there it happened to be one of the few days a year when they raise all the bridges…quite a sight to see! Chicago is hands down one of my top three favorite cities in the U.S….you should definitely visit!

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