Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Tour

See and learn about some of the most famous buildings in Chicago, Illinois, from the water during this Chicago River cruise. 

Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Tour in Chicago, Illinois (photo by Barry Butler)

In a journey of Instagrammable moments, Chicago’s First Lady Cruises plies the waters of the Chicago River passing architectural gems that define the city’s brilliant building heritage, both past and present, as well as its most iconic architects. For nearly 30 years, the boat line has partnered with the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center to present the only architecture river cruise narrated by trained and certified CAC docents.

Offering both daylight and evening cocktail cruises, guides give the lowdown on both the buildings and the architects. The tour offers an amazing amalgam of styles, from the neoclassical Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the midcentury modern Marina City (at one time the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the world) to postmodern designs such as the Harry Weese River Cottages at the foot of the Kinzie Street Bridge and art deco beauties like the Civic Opera House. 

Chicago has the most movable bridges in the United States, and the cruise showcases such stunners as the 1928 LaSalle Street Bridge with its four Beaux Arts-style bridge houses and the Franklin Street Bridge, built eight years earlier, that features ornate railings with the shapes of flowers incorporated into its design.

The cruise lasts 90 minutes, and it also presents a look at newer structures along the riverbanks, including the St. Regis Chicago (formerly known as Vista Tower), which is the city’s third-tallest structure, and two of the three Wolf Point luxury apartments. Not to be missed is the classical-influenced, art deco-style Old Post Office. The nine-story, 2.5 million-square-foot building recently underwent an $800 million renovation after sitting vacant for two decades. 

This being Chicago, sometimes the weather can be quirky. But not to worry, the boat line’s vessels have open-air upper decks and climate-controlled interiors as well as fully stocked bars and concessions. 112 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60601, 847/358-1330,