Chicago Building Awareness

  • Wrigley Clock Tower on the Chicago Architectural Cruise

On April 1, the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruises sail again. Get on board and accept no imitations.

Look for the blue awnings and start here.

Chicago's First Lady Cruise dock for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

Even if it’s gray and drizzling (it was when I went — check that sky in the photos), it’s a terrific way to see and hear about the varied architecture along with a bite-size taste of Chicago’s rich history. Our guide had an encyclopedic knowledge of the buildings and bridges along the route.

Chicago Architecture Cruise Tour Guide

You’ll see buildings that are past their heyday,

Old Post Office Building, Chicago

some that are still hanging in,

Chicago Mercantile Exchange BuildingRiver Cottages in Chicago

Chicago Civic Opera Building

and those that are high-end real estate.

River City Apartments in Chicago

You’ll learn the fascinating story of the waterway itself and how human intervention shaped it. Plus, you’ll view those iconic Chicago landmarks from the river’s view.

Marina City Garages, ChicagoSears, Willis Tower in ChicagoBut perhaps my favorite part was sailing under the bridges. Maybe because I’m a child of a dying rust-belt city, going under the steel and feeling like I could reach up and touch the massive rivets brought me a wave of nostalgia. And, strangely enough, a wave of happiness.

Going under a bridge on the Chicago Architectural CruiseGoing under a bridge on the Chicago Architectural Cruise

Going under a bridge on the Chicago Architectural CruiseThat’s nice. Sooo, should I go? History buff? Yes. Architecture buff? Yes. Tourist wanting to sit down and go on a nice boat ride for an hour and a half? Yes.

I’m smitten. Tell me more. The cruises sail in the rain, so bring a raincoat or umbrella if raindrops are threatening. There is a bar with adult beverages and snacks. You are also permitted to bring your own food on board.

Location Southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Dr. Look for the blue awning marking the stairway entrance. Go down the stairs.

Cost $53 for adults including Ticketmaster fees, $32 for infants 3 and under. (not sure bringing an infant is a great idea for this cruise, but if you can’t get a sitter…) There is a twilight cruise as well for a few bucks more. You can purchase tickets online here. I just ran up to the ticket office and purchased onsite as a boat was leaving in 5 minutes.

Tip There are a ton of river cruises in Chicago, but this one by the Chicago Architecture Foundation is focused on that – architecture. Look for the blue awning and the banner “Chicago’s First Lady Cruises.” Not to say the others are bad, but if you’re into Building Porn, this is your ride.

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