On my first trip to Chicago by myself in September 2008 to see the Anaheim Angels play the White Sox and do a tour of Wrigley Field, I played around a little before and after work. One afternoon I was able to do the Shoreline Architecture River cruise in Downtown Chicago. Tours depart from two docks, one at Michigan Avenue and the other at Navy Pier. I was already down by the Navy Pier, so it was easy for me to jump on the tour from that location.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but I was happy to just be enjoying a ride on the water. Going into the adventure this way, I got way more than that and am so glad I included this on my itinerary. I paid for my ticket, waited in line to get on the boat, then listened to all the safety announcements, etc. Finally, we were off.
One of the first things I learned on my Shoreline Architecture River Cruise was about the Great Fire that happened in Chicago from October 8th-October 10th in 1871. They shared how the fire jumped a river and allowed for visionaries of structural steel and plate glass, such as John Wellborn Root, William Le Baron Jenney, Louis Sullivan (Wright’s mentor), and Daniel Burnham. In less than ten years these men lifted Chicago from the ashes of the fire to new heights. Chicago’s ascent continued into the 20th century with titanic figures such as Bertrand Goldberg, Fazlur Khan, and Mies van der Rohe. Chicago has since soared in the 21st century with audacious new steeples such as The Trump Tower and Aqua designed by Jeanne Gang, an internationally known artist of architectural design.
While cruising down the river we were able to watch the spectacular skyline glide by, including more than 40 notable buildings like Navy Pier, the Wrigley Building, and the John Hancock Building. The tour took us past all three branches of the Chicago River, passing the East Bank Club, the old Post Office Building, the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, Marina City, and the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).
Of course, while I was sitting on the boat I couldn’t help but think about the scene in the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding when Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney were on the boat and she almost told him she loved him, but the sun dimmed when they went under a bridge and the moment passed. It made me miss my husband Gene and I kept wishing he was there to hold my hand and kiss me. 🙂
What I didn’t remember hearing on the tour, if they even mentioned it, was that there are 26 miles of shoreline in Chicago. Wow, I had no idea, but good to know if I am ever asked that question. lol. While this tour is only a six-mile trip on Lake Michigan it proceeds north past Navy Pier to the Hancock Building, east out to the lighthouse, and south towards the Willis (Sears) Tower and Museum Campus, which includes the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Field Museum of Natural History.
It was a cool and unique way to see the city from a completely different perspective. I love water and being on the water, so this was something I really enjoyed a lot. I would happily do it again the next time Gene and I are in Chicago. Lower in this post is a map of the route the boat takes. Here is also a link to their website if you want to look into booking your own Shoreline Architecture River Cruise. By the way, the day and night cruises both have different feels. Hope to do a night tour the next time.
Shoreline Architecture River Cruise Information
401 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
312-222-9328 Ext. 1
Times and dates vary depending on the season. Check their schedule for availability.
- 75-minute, guided tour
- Unique views from the water create an entirely new perspective of the city
- 40+ landmarks including the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, and Marina City
- Hear the stories of Chicago’s architects and engineers while viewing their magnificent buildings
Adults: $43 – $47
Children (3-12): $24 – $28
Children 2 and under: Free
Steps off of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, our Michigan Avenue dock starts your tour in the heart of the Chicago River.
Start your tour down the Chicago River at our Navy Pier dock, which sits at the entrance to the iconic Navy Pier boardwalk. Our dock is accessible to people with disabilities.
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