Chicago River Cruise - Chicago Architectural Tour
Chicago River Cruise - My Experience.

Chicago River Cruise – My Amazing Experience!

The first time I came across Chicago was while playing Midtown Madnessan age-old car-racing game where I drove through the lanes of the city. I vividly remember taking my Mustang and waiting under the “loop” for a train. Never did I imagine in my wildest of dreams that my first international trip would be to Chicago.

I didn’t know much about the city before I visited the city. The towering skyscrapers from the bygone era grabbed my attention. The buildings and statues from the 1800s left me amazed. And that’s when I decided to take the Chicago River Cruise on one of the days I was there. 

In today’s blog post, I’ll share my experience of the Chicago River Cruise and all the details you need. While this is one of the favourite tourist activities, is it worth it? Read on the blog post to find out more. 

History of Chicago

The city dates back to the early 1800s when it had a few hundred people and soon became one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Today it is the 3rd largest city in the USA

The city is on the bank of Lake Michigan which is one of the largest lakes in the world. You cannot see the other side of the lake, it’s that huge. The Chicago River flows in Downtown and this is where the River Cruise happens.

Today Chicago’s skyline is one of the densest and tallest in the world. The Willis Tower is the 2nd tallest building in the Western Hemisphere after the One World Trade Center and the Trump Tower is the 3rd tallest in the United States.

Chicago River Cruise - Chicago Architectural Tour
Chicago River Cruise – My Experience.

The skyline is dotted with not only modern buildings but also buildings from the past. The Merchandise Mart, Wacker Tower, and Lakeshore Drive apartments are some of the beautiful buildings from the yesteryears. 

Being a sucker for old and traditional buildings, I was mesmerised looking at every building. I remember standing and admiring the building on many occasions. And the blend of modern and contemporary buildings just left me in awe. 

Chicago River Cruise – The Boat Cruise

One of the top preferred activities in the city is the boat cruise. While I was initially not planning to take it as I felt this “to be just like any other tourist gimmick”, I eventually took it after a few people on Instagram told me to take it. Since I hadn’t researched much about it, below are the details of the Chicago River Cruise that you must know about.

Chicago River Cruise Details

  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Days of Operations: Daily, at about 2-hour intervals. Check their latest timetable for more.
  • Operator: There are many like City Cruises, Wendella, First Lady, Shoreline Sightseeing and many more. I went with Shoreline Sightseeing
  • Cost: Varies from operator to operator. Shoreline Sightseeing Charges $47 per adult. I bought them at a discount from Tiqets.
  • Where to book: You can get it at the counter or book it online. You can also get one of the Chicago City Pass.
  • Starting Point: Most of them start from Michigan Avenue or Navy Pier.
  • Guide: This is a guided tour and the cost of the guide is included in the ticket price.

Shoreline Sightseeing has a ticket counter near the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue and their cruises also start from near the Apple Store.

My Chicago River Cruise Experience

There are different time slots as I mentioned and I chose the one around noon. Initially, I thought it might not be the best time because of the sun, but it’s “the windy city”, and it’s going to be cold and chilly. I walked from my Hilton Palmer Hotel in Adams & Wabash to Michigan Avenue. Went past the Apple Store to the station and the boat was already waiting there. 

Shoreline Cruise in Chicago
Shoreline Cruise in Chicago

I was the first person in the queue to get on board. They just scanned my online ticket (purchased the same morning) and allowed me on the boat. The boat was relatively spacious and anyone could sit anywhere they liked, there was no reserved seating.

I’ll just suggest reaching a little early so that you can choose your favourite seat. The boat also has a small pantry on the lower deck where you can buy drinks and something to eat. Overall, the boats aren’t very fancy, but are in good condition, clean and safe.

Witnessing Architectural Marvels

Since I already walked the Chicago Riverwalk, I had seen the buildings up close, now it was time to learn about the stories behind these buildings. We started with the Wrigley Towers, Trump Towers, the Marina City building, 77 Wacker, the Merchandise Mart and so on. Every building had a unique story to it but more than that the year when the building was built and the design is what intrigued me. I mean on one side we had the modern Trump Towers and right next to it was a skyscraper from the 1800s, mind-boggling.

Marina Building, Merchandise Mart near the river
Marina Building and Merchandise Mart

We took a turn towards the Civic Opera House building and on the way passed the Willis Tower, Union Station, Quincy Park and other iconic buildings to name a few. We were shown many places on the route where Batman was shot. Since I haven’t seen the movie, couldn’t relate to it much. 

We went a little further took a U-turn and started sailing towards our starting point on Michigan Avenue. We had more interesting stories on the way about all the buildings again, the fire, the flag and also the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

We crossed our boarding point, went a little ahead and took a U-turn. But this was the spot where they stopped the boat for a few seconds for us to click the beautiful Chicago skyline. The clear blue skies, the pristine blue water and the tower skyscrapers of today and yesterday – picture perfect as they say.

Wrigley's building & St. Regis hotel near the river
Wrigley’s building & St. Regis Hotel near the River

We soon reached our deboarding point, got a few pictures clicked and deboarded. There was also a Photo Booth from where you could collect the photos that were clicked when you boarded the boat. Mind you, these aren’t free so make sure you take them only if you want them.

Must Try The Chicago River Cruise

Overall, I found the River cruise to be a wonderful activity for everyone. The 90-odd-minute ride gives you insane insights into the history of the city. And for someone like me, you’ll have a super amazing time. 

I’m glad that opened my Instagram DMs and read those couple of messages that asked me to try this. After taking this cruise, I can re-affirm that this is one of the best things to do in Chicago. If you’re an architecture, or history buff, you’re going to love this tour. The buildings and the stories are going to leave you spellbound. 

At $47 this might seem a little on the higher side, especially for foreigners, but it’s worth it. You can purchase tickets from online websites like I did or get one of those City Pass to get it at a cheaper price. 

That’s about it for this blog post on my experience of the Chicago River Cruise. Feel free to comment down below if you have any queries. You can also DM me on Twitter at @Atulmaharaj, DM @Atulmaharaj on Instagram, or Get In Touch.

About Atulmaharaj

A seasoned blogger and a content marketer for close to a decade now. I write about Food, Technology, Lifestyle, Travel, and Finance related posts. Blogging brings me joy and the best part is I get to read and e-meet so many amazing bloggers! PS: I'm also the founder for :) Favorite Quote: "Traveling is like reading a book, one who hasn't traveled, hasn't turned a page.

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