Chicago River

Discover architectural gems and renowned landmarks on a cruise along the Chicago River.

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Chicago River: Tours & Tickets


Chicago River: Our most recommended tours and activities

Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

1. Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

Experience more of Chicago by boat than on any other architectural cruise. See architectural highlights and enjoy an open-air deck or climate-controlled interior as you travel the main River and its north and south branches. View all of Chicago's architectural highlights during this comprehensive sightseeing tour. Be entertained by the expert and friendly tour guides as they explain the 130 year-long history behind the skyline, while bartenders and staff keep you comfortable with refreshments.  Choose between the fresh air of the open-air decks or enjoy the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during your cruise. The tour starts at the Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and goes up the main branch of the Chicago River past Wolf Point. It then cruises along the north and south branches of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. On the way, learn about ornate, historic early skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the imposing art deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building. Don't miss the circular Marina City Towers, the majestic Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower and the tallest building in Chicago) the soaring AON Center, and more modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the new Vista Tower. During your cruise, have the opportunity to enjoy a full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits, and Garrett’s Popcorn. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Grand Staircase at the front of the boat or pose for photos at the picturesque stern or bow of this classic vessel.

Chicago: 1.5-Hour Lake and River Architecture Cruise

2. Chicago: 1.5-Hour Lake and River Architecture Cruise

Experience an architecture cruise along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, a family tradition since 1935. Admire Chicago’s historic and ever-changing skyline with a local expert guide as you cruise through the city. Choose between the open-air decks or the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during the cruise. Start the cruise at Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and go up the main branch of the Chicago River to Wolf Point before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. Learn about historic skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building, the circular Marina City Towers, the AON Center, and modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the Vista Tower. After passing through the Chicago Lock and cruising past Navy Pier, admire the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. Here you can also see the twin super-skyscrapers, the famous Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and the John Hancock Building. See the majesty of Grant Park with its famous Buckingham Fountain, and iconic Chicago venues such as Soldier’s Field, Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Enjoy several vantage points for memorable pictures throughout, and finally arrive back at Du Sable Bridge on Michigan Avenue.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

3. Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

Skip the lines at the ticket office and climb aboard a state-of-the-art cruise for a 60- or 75-minute cruise of all 3 branches of the Chicago River, and marvel at the architecture that has made the city so legendary. Get an insight into the buildings and engineering of a city that gave birth to the skyscraper and is the spiritual home of modern American architecture. Your expert guide will lead you down the Chicago River to uncover hidden gems, as well the city’s most renowned landmarks, such as the John Hancock building, Trump Tower, Marina City, Willis Tower, and more. Relax with a glass of something cold from the cash bar, as you cruise the Windy City’s waterway, and learn its status as a modern metropolis and one of the world’s most beautiful cities. End your tour in the same place where you boarded the boat.

Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

4. Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

Admire Chicago’s impressive architecture from a unique perspective aboard a cruise sailing down the Chicago River, which features an indoor and outdoor deck, along with live commentary tailored to entertain the whole family. Treat yourself to a full-service cash bar at your own expense. Experience the best of the Chicago River from Lakeshore Drive to the Willis Tower, navigating along the South branch of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. Be entertained by the fun and experienced tour guides as they explain the history behind Chicago’s buildings along the river and the exceptional architects who created this ever-changing skyline. Enjoy the most relaxing way to sightsee in Chicago, exploring the city free of traffic, noise, and congestion. Make sure to visit the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits. Explore the open-air decks that allow you to feel the cooling river breeze and see the city from many vantage points that provide perfect photo opportunities.

Chicago: 1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

5. Chicago: 1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

Start your sunset cruise on the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue. Make your way along the main branch of the river towards Lake Michigan before entering the Chicago Locks, a modern engineering marvel, that will transfer the vessel onto the great Lake Michigan. The vessel will cruise along Lake Michigan as the sun sets behind the wonderful skyline offering several amazing views. Your local tour guide will give a very brief commentary along the Chicago River and entrance to Lake Michigan, but most of the 1.5-hour cruise is spent without narration, leaving you to watch the sun put on a beautiful display with the City skyline. Admire the many angles of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. Capture magical views of Chicago's twin super-skyscrapers, the famous Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and the John Hancock Building. You'll also get to admire the majesty of Grant Park with its famous Buckingham Fountain, and iconic Chicago venues such as Soldier’s Field, Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. During your cruise, treat yourself at the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products. Try local beer and spirits and Garrett’s Popcorn. Choose between the fresh air of the open-air decks or enjoy the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during your cruise. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Grand Staircase at the front of the boat or pose for photos at the picturesque stern or bow of this classic vessel.

Chicago: Fireworks Cruise with Lake or River Viewing Options

6. Chicago: Fireworks Cruise with Lake or River Viewing Options

Take in the amazing fireworks display off Navy Pier on a boat cruise. Briefly explore the architecture on Chicago River’s main branch before either heading out through the Chicago Locks onto Lake Michigan or staying inside the Locks to watch the fireworks. All cruises start by sailing inland up the Chicago River to Wolf Point, with some light narration provided focusing on history and architecture. Admire Chicago’s impressive architecture at twilight from either the indoor climate-controlled cabin or the airy outdoor deck. The cruise then heads back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago Lock, and Lake Michigan for the spectacular fireworks show by Navy Pier. While on the boat, make sure to visit the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits. Choose from the following options: River Fireworks Cruise from either Michigan Ave or the Riverwalk This shorter 45 to 60-minute River Fireworks Cruise option watches the fireworks display from the mouth of the Chicago River before returning to the dock. This cruise is perfect for families with children, couples, or groups of friends who are enjoying a night out on the town. Lake Michigan Fireworks Cruise from Michigan Ave This 2 to 2.5-hour Lake Michigan Fireworks Cruise goes through the Chicago Lock System, an American engineering marvel, and out onto Lake Michigan. The vessel will cruise along the shoreline with contemporary music and will ultimately stop on the lake and float alongside the fireworks display.

Chicago: Mob and Crime Bus Tour

7. Chicago: Mob and Crime Bus Tour

Experience Chicago’s underworld of criminals and gangsters on a luxury bus tour. Find out how some of the world’s most famous criminals, mobsters, and gangsters conned their way through the city. Ride comfortably in luxury, on a climate-controlled bus, as you see famous Chicago crime scenes that range from the 19th century through modern times. Unlike Chicago walking tours, this Mob and Crime Tour isn’t affected by the Windy City weather. Learn from a local expert tour guide giving interactive live commentary about Al Capone, the Untouchables, the Chicago Mob, John Dillinger, Terrible Tommy O'Connor, H. H. Holmes, the Chicago Black Sox, Leopold and Loeb, bank heists, Cap George Streeter, and more. Grab your camera for a drive-by shooting of the historic criminal courthouse, a Chicago architectural landmark where some of Chicago's most notorious cases were tried. You'll also view historic video footage, receive an informative pamphlet with photos, and can even take part in a crime quiz. Stake out crime scenes like the Biograph Theatre, Holy Name Cathedral, Clark Street Bridge, and other Chicago landmarks. See the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, one of Chicago's most notorious murder scenes. Get off the bus and walk the path that notorious Chicago gangsters John Dillinger and Hymie Weiss followed just before their deaths. Travel into the criminal past of Chicago's River North, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Loop, and Magnificent Mile neighborhoods.

Chicago: Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Bus Tour

8. Chicago: Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Bus Tour

From your vantage point on the double-decker sightseeing bus, you'll enjoy panoramic views of Chicago’s finest skyscrapers, including the 875 N Michigan, the Willis Tower, and the Wrigley Building. Take in the city's impressive landmarks as your tour guide provides entertaining commentary and insight into Chicago's history. Enjoy exploring this dynamic city with the freedom to hop on and hop off as many times as you wish to visit attractions such as the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. You’ll travel down the famous Magnificent Mile, considered one of the great avenues of the world, and continue across the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River. The bridge connects the north and south sides of the city. This hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Chicago makes it easy for you to explore the city's sights at your own pace. There are 12 stops, where you can hop off to visit attractions and explore places of interest. The stops are conveniently located to make navigating your way around the city easy, and with a choice of 24- or 48-hour tickets, you can take your time discovering Chicago. Be sure to take advantage of admission to the Chicago Architecture Center, included if an appropriate option is selected, to dive deeper into the city that invented the skyscraper. So don't wait, just hop on an exciting journey through Chicago.

Chicago: Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner River Cruise

9. Chicago: Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner River Cruise

Enjoy a fine dining experience on the Chicago River while admiring unparalleled riverfront views on this city cruise trip. Explore the beautiful Chicago Riverwalk when boarding the boat. Be welcomed aboard by the crew as the ship's photographer captures the moment. Arrive early for your cruise, dressed to impress. Be escorted to your table in the dining area. With its gorgeous glass-enclosed design, enjoy Chicago's incredible architecture from your seat. Savor a delicious meal prepared freshly on board. You can also buy a cocktail from the bar. To add to your enjoyment, the dinner cruise includes music by an onboard DJ. During the lunch and brunch cruises, listen to informative commentary on some of the architectural highlights along the river. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer, enjoy the Navy Pier fireworks display. Sample Dinner Menu Choice of starter: Caesar salad, lobster soup Choice of main course: Jumbo lump crab cakes, maple, and mustard glazed chicken breast, braised beef short rib, jumbo forest mushroom ravioli Choice of dessert: Eli’s original cheesecake, duo seasonal sorbet, chocolate decadent cake, odyssey signature warm butter cake Sample Brunch Menu Choice of starter: Caesar salad, Scottish smoked salmon toast, Greek yogurt, and granola parfait, fresh blueberries and strawberries Choice of main course: Cannellini bean shakshuka, maple, and mustard glazed chicken breast, scrambled eggs, raisin and cinnamon french toast Choice of dessert: Eli's New York-style cheesecake, tres con leche flan, triple chocolate mud pie, freshly cut fruit, and fresh strawberries Sample Lunch Menu Starter: Caesar SaladChoice of main course: Jumbo forest mushroom ravioli, maple, and mustard glazed chicken breast, oven-baked Atlantic salmon fillet, braised beef short ribChoice of dessert: Eli's New York-style cheesecake, freshly cut fruit, and fresh strawberries, duo of sorbet

Chicago: Go City Explorer Pass Choice of 2-7 Attractions

10. Chicago: Go City Explorer Pass Choice of 2-7 Attractions

With the Chicago Explorer Pass by Go City you can visit top sites such as the Navy Pier, Skydeck Chicago, or The Field Museum, all on one handy pass. Enjoy great savings on admission to your choice of 2 to 7 top Chicago attractions and tours, and pay nothing at the gate. Explore at your own pace on a hop-on and hop-off Chicago bus tour, or aboard one of two lake cruises. You have 60 days to use your pass from your first attraction visit. To help you create your own itinerary you'll also get a free digital guide. Use it to help you decide what to do, where to go, and how to get there. The most popular activities require advanced reservations, check instructions on the included Go City guide, and make sure to place reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. Included Chicago attractions to choose from with your Explorer Pass: • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Chicago: 1-Day Classic Tour • 360 CHICAGO • Skydeck Chicago (reservations required) • Navy Pier - 4 -Ride Pass • Adler Planetarium • 10pin Chicago 90-minute Bowling & Pizza (reservations required) • America Writers Museum • Shoreline Architecture River Cruise • Shoreline Classic Lake Tour • Field Museum • Museum of Science and Industry • LEGOLAND Discovery Center • Bike Chicago: 4 Hour Bike Rental • Big Bus Chicago: Panoramic Night Tour • Chicago Children's Museum • Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour • Chicago History Museum • Museum of Contemporary Art • Robie House • Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour • Panoramic and Scenic North Side Tour • Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home • Historic Chicago South Shore Tour • Grand Tour • Lincoln Park Zoo Rides

Other Sightseeing Options in Chicago River

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What people are saying about Chicago River

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 6,364 reviews

Really fun and informative! Tour guide really made it amazing :) It was a little cold from the wind and night but still super fun!

Excellent Tour guide! We had so much fun! Also, the timing was perfect. all the tour team was really nice and helpful. Thank you!

Excellent scenic views of Chicago skyscrapers on a peaceful boat ride!!

Departure is on time Rain or Shine Great Bartender Great Captain

It was a great experience, the tour guide was very engaging