boat-tour

Your guide to Chicago lake and river cruises

One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the water. The city is home to two stunning waterfronts — the Chicago River and Lake Michigan — and each offers plenty of cruise options. Admire the skyline on a lakefront cruise, learn about the city’s iconic architecture on a Chicago River cruise, enjoy dinner and dancing aboard an all-glass vessel, sip cocktails on a tiki-themed boat, paddle your own kayak — the options are truly endless. Here’s your guide to Chicago lake and river cruises, boat tours, dinner cruises, and beyond.

See it all with Shoreline Sightseeing

Shoreline Sightseeing boat cruise on the Chicago River

One of Chicago’s classic cruise options, Shoreline Sightseeing covers all the bases. Their ultra-popular Architecture River Tour takes you on all three branches of the historic Chicago River takes you past dozens of landmark buildings.

They also offer skyline lake tours, plus specialty cruises and holiday events. Hop on a boat at Navy Pier or on Michigan Avenue.

Dine on the water with City Experiences

Odyssey River Cruise

City Experiences dining cruises are the perfect way to create a memorable moment in Chicago. Choose from a river or lake dining cruise, complete with delicious cuisine, cocktails, and entertainment.

Their glass-enclosed river vessel is particularly stunning. It offers passengers panoramic views of the city’s most iconic buildings as you glide along the Chicago River. They also offer lakefront brunch and dinner cruise options that depart from Navy Pier.

Entertain the family with Wendella Boats

chicago river lake cruise

For three generations, Wendella Tours and Cruises has been cruising the Chicago waterways. With its variety of tour options, cruise times and lengths, and a heated, enclosed cabin, Wendella is a great choice for families looking for flexibility. Choose from lake & river architecture, sunset cruises, and more.

Admire architecture with Chicago’s First Lady

An architecture boat cruise on the Chicago River

Around the world, Chicago is known for its outstanding architecture, and it’s easiest to admire the city’s legacy from the water. By partnering with the Chicago Architecture Center , Chicago’s First Lady offers the most comprehensive tour of the skyline — docents must train 100 hours before they can lead tours.

Speed across Lake Michigan on Seadog Boat Tours

Seadog Boat Tour

Are you up for a thrill? Race across Lake Michigan on SeaDog Cruises, featuring 30 minutes of high speeds and exhilarating twists and turns. Come prepared to get splashed.

SeaDog also offers lakefront speedboat tours and a river/lake architecture tour, featuring views of Chicago’s iconic Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, Museum Campus, and more.

Live it up on an Island Party Boat

Looking for a party? These tiki-themed boats are always a good time, offering drink packages, stellar views, and fun vibes. You can hop on an Island Party Boat at Monroe Harbor or the Chicago Riverwalk, which is also where you’ll find their beach-inspired bar Island Party Hut. Choose from a river cruise, lake cruise, tacky tour guide cruise, or even a dueling pianos cruise.

Go back in time with Chicago Fireboat Tours

Step onto a real, historic fireboat and get ready for a unique experience with Chicago Fireboat Tours . The river tours are given aboard a real piece of Chicago history — a retired fireboat that patrolled the Chicago from 1937 to 1981. Tours are led by expert docents and include historic and sunset options.

Splurge on a Free Spirit Yacht Cruises

Looking to splurge a little? These private yacht charters are the way to go. The spacious yachts comfortably fit up to 49 or 120 people, making them the perfect option for a large celebration or an intimate gathering. Premium bar and catering packages round out the experience.

Explore the Chicago River with Urban Kayaks

Kayaking in Chicago

If you’re ready to ditch the captain and explore the water on your own, then it’s time to grab a paddle at Urban Kayaks . You’ll go through a brief training session before you hit the water, but you’re free to paddle the river or lake at your own pace. Or join in a guided tour to catch the sunset, fireworks, or historic highlights. Rentals are available at the Chicago Riverwalk or Monroe Harbor.

Rent an electric boat

Boat Bike from Chicago Electric Boat Company

Chicago Electric Boat Company offers fun and unique ways to get out on the water, including donut boats, retro boats, and even a bike boat that your group can pedal down the Chicago River. Rental locations include Marina City, the Chicago Riverwalk, and Rockwell on the River in Avondale.

See the skyline aboard Mercury Cruises

While Chicago’s summer fireworks are already fun to watch, it’s an entirely new experience when you’re on a 3D tour. Before the show, you’ll cruise around the lake and see some of Chicago’s famous landmarks.

Mercury Cruises also offer Urban Adventure, Canine Cruises, and Chicago by Night tours.

Check out Chinatown via Chicago Water Taxi

Chicago Water Taxi Boat Tour

Hop on! The Chicago Water Taxi is a fun and cheap way to get around Chicago. The Water Taxi stops at Ogilvie Transportation Center, Chinatown, Goose Island, the Chicago Riverwalk, Michigan Avenue, and River North. Get a one-way ticket for $6 or an all-day pass for $10. Check their daily routes and schedules for more details. Cruises.

From this article

Chicago Architecture Center

Tours & Attractions

Chicago architecture center.

Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline

Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline

Shoreline Sightseeing Company

Shoreline Sightseeing Company

Streeterville

Free Spirit Yacht Cruises

Special Event Venues

Free spirit yacht cruises.

Urban Kayaks

Urban Kayaks

River North

Wendella Tours & Cruises

Wendella Tours & Cruises

The Magnificent Mile

Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

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Help us win Best Boat Tour in USA Today's Best of 2024 poll! Vote every day here !

Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady

Architecture Adventure Awaits!

Explore Chicago’s iconic architecture aboard TripAdvisor’s #1 rated boat tour of the city. The only Chicago River cruise partnered with the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), Chicago’s First Lady Cruises offers visitors the city’s most engaging 90-minute architectural tour experience.

Highly trained and enthusiastic volunteer CAC docents (guides) provide visitors with a compelling and detailed narrative of Chicago's numerous architectural styles and the stories of the legendary figures who designed and built our city.

Enjoy cruising in comfort and style aboard Chicago’s Finest Fleet, featuring unobstructed sightlines and guaranteed seating on our open-air upper decks and full-service cocktail and snack bars in our climate-controlled interior salons. You’ll see why visitors and locals alike consistently name our tour the best way to see Chicago.

Experience More!

Complete your architecture experience with a visit to the Chicago Architecture Center, just $5 with a General Boarding Ticket and valid for up to 7 days after your cruise.

Or, treat yourself to a Priority Boarding Ticket, which includes exclusive early boarding period, skip-the-queue during general boarding, and CAC admission.

View Route   Buy Tickets

General Boarding Tickets Start At

Ticket details.

  • Priority Boarding tickets start at $69 and include exclusive early boarding period, skip-the-queue during general boarding, and Chicago Architecture Center admission.
  • General Boarding tickets start at $54. Include a visit to the Chicago Architecture Center for just $5 more!
  • Tickets can be purchased online , in-person at our dock during regular season hours or at the Chicago Architecture Center.
  • Avoid the box office by choosing "eTickets" or "Print at Home" as your delivery method.
  • Tour departures frequently sell out. Reserve your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Select "Will Call" to pick up your tickets at our dockside ticket office; bring your confirmation number.
  • Each person must have a ticket including infants and children.
  • Prices are subject to change.

Full Schedule

Early Spring March 17 - April 25

  • Mon 10:00 am 12:00 pm 2:00 pm 4:00 pm
  • Tues 10:00 am 12:00 pm 2:00 pm 4:00 pm
  • Wed 10:00 am 12:00 pm 2:00 pm 4:00 pm
  • Thu 10:00 am 12:00 pm 2:00 pm 4:00 pm
  • Fri 10:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
  • Sun 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm

Late Spring April 26 - May 23

  • Mon 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 7:00 pm
  • Tues 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
  • Wed 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
  • Thu 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 7:00 pm
  • Fri 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 5:30 pm 7:00 pm
  • Sun 9:30 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 6:00 pm

Summer May 24 - October 14

  • Mon 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 5:30 pm 7:30 pm
  • Tues 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 7:00 pm
  • Wed 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 6:00 pm
  • Thu 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 5:30 pm 7:30 pm
  • Fri 9:30 am 10:00 am 10:30 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 12:30 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 2:30 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 4:30 pm 5:00 pm 5:30 pm 7:00 pm 7:30 pm
  • Sun 9:30 am 10:00 am 10:30 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 12:30 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 2:30 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 4:30 pm 5:00 pm 5:30 pm 7:30 pm

Early Fall October 15 - November 3

  • Mon 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
  • Thu 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
  • Fri 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 5:30 pm 7:00 pm 7:30 pm
  • Sun 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30 pm 4:00 pm 5:30 pm 6:00 pm

Late Fall November 4 - November 24

  • Fri 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
  • Sun 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 1:00 pm 2:00 pm 3:00 pm 4:00 pm 5:00 pm

2024 cruising season begins March 17th and extends through November 24th. Tickets on sale now!

We are located at Michigan Ave and Wacker Drive, Chicago IL

Tour Details & Tips

  • Tour Duration 90 minutes
  • Arrival Time Make sure your entire party arrives 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • Priority Boarding Tickets  include exclusive early boarding period, skip-the-queue during general boarding, and Chicago Architecture Center admission.
  • General Boarding Tickets begin boarding approximately 15 minutes before departure.
  • Seating Open outdoor seating is guaranteed for all guests. The number on your ticket does not represent a seat number.
  • Tour Route The tour travels all three branches of the Chicago River. View tour route map.  Route subject to change without notice.
  • Cruises depart rain or shine. Tickets may not be refunded or exchanged if you miss your boat - allow extra time.
  • What to Bring Your sunglasses, cap or visor, as the sun can interfere with your view of the buildings.
  • Parking Discounted parking available at 111 E. Wacker Drive with proper validation from ticket office. Visit our  Location page  for more.
  • Did you know? A portion of your ticket fee supports the educational work of the Chicago Architecture Center!
  • Food & Drink  A full-service bar and snack bar are available on every vessel
  • Outdoor Seating Each vessel features an open-air upper deck which allows guests to safely enjoy the outdoors
  • Restrooms  Well-appointed restrooms are available on each vessel
  • Free Stroller Storage  Strollers will be folded and stored in the interior salon during the cruise. Children must be removed from strollers before boarding.
  • Limited Mobility Services Available  See our Location page for river-level drop-off directions for guests with accessibility needs. Our staff is also available to provide early boarding services for those with limited mobility.

chicago river lake cruise

“I learned so much and left with a vastly greater appreciation of Chicago's stunning skyline.” - Jennifer S. TripAdvisor, IL

Photo Gallery

chicago river lake cruise

  • What sets your tours apart from the others?

We are the only tour that partners with the Chicago Architecture Center to offer the official Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady. All of our tours are given by experienced, volunteer docents who receive hundreds of hours of training from the Chicago Architecture Center before guiding the river cruise tour.

  • How long is the tour?
  • Each tour is 90 minutes.
  • Is there food/drink available onboard?

Yes. All boats have a full service bar and small snacks onboard. Outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted.

  • Do I need to buy tickets in advance?

Advance reservations are recommended as many tours sell out during the busy summer season and on weekends.

  • Is there assigned seating?

All seating is general admission. There is enough seating for all guests to sit on our open air upper decks safely and with proper distancing measures in place. While seat numbers are printed on the tickets, you can ignore these as they are not valid.

  • Are tours offered in any languages other than English?

We are happy to offer free foreign language audio guides in Spanish, French, Japanese and Korean. Scan the QR code onboard for instructions. Mobile data for app download required.

  • Do I have to print my tickets?
  • You do not have to print your tickets. You can show your mobile ticket to our dock attendant with your smartphone, or you can have your tickets printed at the dockside will call window (be sure to bring a photo ID and your confirmation number).
  • Does the boat go on the lake?

No, the tour is only on the Chicago River. If you’d like to take a lake tour, please check out our sister cruise line Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline .

  • Are there restrooms onboard?

Yes, all the boats have restrooms onboard. There are also wheelchair accessible bathrooms on the Classic Lady, Leading Lady, and Emerald Lady. Please note: the restrooms close 15 minutes before the end of the tour for safety reasons.

  • Can I bring luggage onboard?
  • Due to security reasons, luggage cannot be brought onboard. There is not an area to store your luggage dockside either. We recommend having your hotel hold your luggage.
  • Can I bring a stroller onboard?
  • Yes, you can bring a stroller onboard. Children must be removed from strollers before boarding. Strollers will be folded and stored in the salon during the cruise.
  • Are there changing tables onboard?

The Classic Lady, Leading Lady, and Emerald Lady have changing tables onboard in the family restroom. The Little Lady, Fair Lady, and First Lady do not have changing tables onboard.

  • Are dogs allowed onboard?

Only service dogs are allowed onboard. Our sister company, Mercury , offers the popular Canine Cruise on summer weekends.

  • How can I get to your dock without using stairs?

There are two ways to reach our dock along Chicago’s Riverwalk without using stairs: 1. On foot via the ramp located on Wacker Drive at State Street. 2. Vehicle drop-off area on Lower Wacker Drive. Visit our location page for more information.

  • Can I trade my tickets for a different date/time?
  • No, all tickets are nonrefundable and nonexchangeable.
  • Do you cruise rain or shine?
  • Yes, we cruise rain or shine. All the boats have two levels – the top deck is open-air, and the lower deck is an enclosed, climate-controlled salon. Each salon is surrounded by large windows so you can stay comfortable while still taking in the magnificent views. Tour commentary is broadcast over speakers on both levels.
  • Are the boats wheelchair accessible?

Chicago's Leading Lady, Chicago’s Classic Lady, and Chicago's Emerald Lady are wheelchair-accessible. These vessels cruise at the 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 5pm departure times. When boarding, guests cross two ramps and enter through a 36-inch-wide opening (doorway). Crew members will assist in guiding the wheelchair across the gangway. Please present yourself to our staff if you prefer to board before general boarding starts. Guests unable to climb stairs to the upper deck may choose to sit in the open-air bow or the enclosed, climate-controlled salon with large windows. For safety reasons, motorized scooters and electric wheelchairs cannot be accommodated. Guests who are able to transfer may use the company's manual wheelchair based on availability. Visit our accessibility page for more information.

chicago river lake cruise

Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours

Chicago River Tours | Fireworks Tours | Jazz/Cocktail Tours

River Boat Tours

Book your tour now, book by phone: (708) 488-6343, about the tours, chicago river boat architecture tours .

Welcome to Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours!  We’re proud to present you with an in-depth, expert architectural-based river boat tour that delves into one of the most remarkable American cities today. Known for unique, daring, and historical architectural pursuits, it’s hard to cover all of the design and building treasures that make up the Windy City today. If you’re ready to learning more about the designs, people, and innovations behind these creations, throw on your captains hat and get ready to cruise along the Chicago River and see what architects from around the world travel to see in Chicago.

About The Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours

Chicago is known around the world for its architectural feats, both inside and outside of the buildings. From the 100-year-old Art Deco, Neo-Classical, and Gothic Towers, to some of the tallest modern-day skyscrapers, Chicago is where old meets futuristic architectural endeavors. It has something for everyone in a way that no other city replicates today.

Why Tour Chicago’s Architecture with Us?

We are born-and-raised Chicagoans ourselves, passionate about the community that we know and love. That passion and desire spills into all of our tours, drawing on personal experiences for curating a tour that just can’t be duplicated by a book or a movie. We want you to experience everything firsthand. Why tour with us?

  • Expertise: All of our tour guides are either architects, architecture students, or architecture historians, making for an in-depth and personally rooted kind of touring experience that covers all of the discreet details.
  • Variety: We offer a variety of uniquely different tours that cover everyone’s individual taste. We offer the Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour that takes you down the famous Chicago River; there are several different options such as Architecture, History, Cocktail Cruises and Firework Viewing Tours
  • Flexibility : We want you to enjoy your Chicago River Boat touring experience, which is why we’re happy to talk with you and learn more about how our tours can accommodate you, your party, or your corporate outing. Our tours run daily, with availability always posted on our website here.

Our Tours  

  • Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour : When in Chicago, cruising down the Chicago River is  a must. Except with us, you’ll be taking in the architecture of the buildings that line the beautiful river. We provide detailed explanations of the construction and history of over 50 significant buildings, wrapping up at the end of the river.
  • Chicago River Boat Cocktail Tour : Join us for this great Architecture Tour while sipping craft cocktails, beer or wine available for purchase at our bar on board!
  • Lake Michigan Navy Pier Fireworks Cruise :  Fireworks, one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China were invented in the 12th century. Chicago approved City-Wide Use of Fireworks on the 4th of July 1893,. Mayor of Chicago Patrick Eugene Prendergast issued a proclamation approving the use of fireworks to celebrate the World’s Colombian Exposition and to celebrate the nation’s 117th Independence Day. This fascination with fireworks, noise, and color continues today. The City of Chicago offers a fireworks show at Navy Pier on Saturday nights at 10:15 p.m. The Fireworks Cruise sails on both the Chicago River and Lake Michigan each Saturday at 8:30 pm.

Our Commitment to Your Touring Experience

We believe that tours should be entertaining, enlightening, informational, and perfectly organized, every single time. A tour shouldn’t feel laborious in any way; you should feel an effortless inclination to learn more about what we present at your fingertips. With our Chicago architectural tours, that’s exactly what we strive to provide, basing each tour from the perspective of an expert with the real-life example in the background.

If you’re thinking about booking a tour with us, know that our commitment to flexibility and accessible makes our Chicago Architecture Tours easy and convenient:

  • 3 pm *Not Available Friday thru Sunday Summer Months*
  • 6:30 pm (Jazz Band, Cocktail w/bar) *Sunday Only*
  • 8 pm (Wednesdays)
  • 8:30 pm (Saturdays)
  • Seniors $48
  • Youths $30 (7-12 years old)
  • Children 6 and under Free

BOOK YOUR TOUR TODAY

Click Here to Purchase a Gift Certificate

Chicago river boat cocktail tour.

chicago river lake cruise

Join us in the evening to sip cocktails while cruising the historic Chicago River! Get the same tour just with a cocktail in your hand! Premium bar on board with craft cocktails, wine and beer available for purchase. Drinks may be purchased individually with a credit card on the boat. Tour Information Pricing Adults $49… Continue reading Chicago River Boat Cocktail Tour

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Chicago river boat architectural tour.

chicago river lake cruise

Forming a length of 156 miles when combined, the Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals the characterize the infamous skyline of Chicago today. The river, running through the city, including the city center Chicago Loop, is evident of man made design and infrastructure when completed craftily. In 1887, the river was reversed… Continue reading Chicago River Boat Architectural Tour

Lake Michigan Navy Pier Fireworks Cruises (w/ Architecture Tour)

chicago river lake cruise

Enjoy your favorite drink while gazing Chicago’s magnificent architecture and finish your cruise with fabulous light show, at Navy Pier. Fireworks, one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China were invented in the 12th century. Chicago approved City-Wide Use of Fireworks on the 4th of July 1893,. Mayor of Chicago Patrick Eugene Prendergast issued… Continue reading Lake Michigan Navy Pier Fireworks Cruises (w/ Architecture Tour)

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The 7 best chicago boat tours of 2024: river & lake cruises.

Enjoy architectural boat tours, kayak excursions, speedboat rides and more.

Best Chicago Boat Tours

Tall Ship Windy.

Courtesy of Tall Ship Windy

If you're hoping to see as much of Chicago as you can in a short amount of time, you may want to sign up for a boat tour. During each tour, you'll learn the historical significance of the skyline's iconic buildings while enjoying breathtaking views of the Windy City. Considering traveler reviews and expert opinion, U.S. News selected the best Chicago boat tours, ranging from an architectural boat tour on the river to a thrilling speedboat ride on Lake Michigan.

Editor’s Pick: Wendella Boats – Chicago River Architecture Tour

Price: Adults from $44; kids from $20 Duration: 1.5 hours

U.S. News independently paid to send Cortney Fries , an award-winning writer based in Chicago, on this tour to provide readers with an unbiased, first-hand perspective of what to expect. The Wendella Boats Chicago River Architecture Tour was selected by our team as an Editor’s Pick thanks to its popularity and favorable user reviews.

Cruise three branches of the Chicago River as you take in views of famous Chicago landmarks, such as the Willis Tower and Merchandise Mart. A knowledgeable guide provides an overview of the architecture and interesting lessons in Chicago history along the way. For instance, did you know that the Lyric Opera House was built in the shape of a giant throne, or that the Chicago River is the only natural river reversed by humankind? Learn about: the four stars on the Chicago flag and what they represent, the legend of the O’Leary cow starting the Great Chicago Fire, the statue atop the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago’s famous drawbridges.

Refreshments and snacks are sold on board. Sit on the top deck to listen to the live tour with unobstructed views, but bring a jacket or sun hat if it’s cool or sunny. Climate-controlled seating is offered below, as are restrooms. Tours are generally available daily beginning at 9:30 a.m., with multiple departures throughout the day and evening. If you’re short on time or traveling with kids, the 45-minute version of this architecture tour may be your best option.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise

Cortney Fries

Why we love it:

  • The Chicago River Architecture Tour is one of the best ways to learn about and explore Chicago sans crowds. 
  • Guides are engaging, informative and also provide ideas for other places to visit during your trip. 
  • Tours depart from Michigan Avenue near the Wrigley Building, where there are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby. Arrive early so you can enjoy the area and give yourself enough time to find parking.

– Cortney Fries

Check prices & availability on:

Tall Ship Windy – Chicago Skyline Sail

Price: Adults from $49; kids from $39 Duration: 75 minutes

Tall Ship Windy's Chicago Skyline Sail introduces you to the beauty and splendor of Chicago's world-famous buildings aboard the company's four-masted schooner. On the sightseeing tour, you'll learn interesting facts about the history of this renowned waterfront and its skyline, as well as the people who built it. Travelers love the experience, describing the crew and the schooner as incredible. They recommend booking one of the sunset sails for photo-worthy views.

Tours depart from Navy Pier daily from May through September at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Note that the 1 p.m. sail is all about the history of piracy in the area. Tall Ship Windy also offers nighttime cruises on select days to correspond with Navy Pier's seasonal Fireworks at the Pier show.

Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise

Price: Adults from $54; kids from $24 Duration: 1.5 hours

Hop aboard Chicago's First Lady for a tour of the Windy City's spectacular skyline. With one of the Chicago Architecture Center's volunteer docents guiding your trip, you'll learn the architectural and cultural history of more than 50 of Chicago's iconic buildings. Boats are equipped with open-air upper decks, climate-controlled lower cabins, full-service bars and restrooms. Travelers say this architectural boat tour is not to be missed and describe it as a family-friendly experience with spectacular views. They also rave about the insightful, entertaining tour guides who provide a wealth of information.

Cruises generally depart daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., though exact times may vary by day. For an additional $5, you can gain access to the Chicago Architecture Center (which saves you $9 on center admission).

Best Chicago Boat Tours

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City Experiences by Hornblower – Chicago Seadog Lakefront Speedboat Tour

Price: Adults from $35; children from $25 Duration: 30 minutes

This speedboat tour departs from popular Navy Pier, taking travelers on a fast-paced, 30-minute ride along Lake Michigan's shores. During the cruise, an expert guide will share the history of Chicago and the landmarks that created its iconic skyline. Along with the entertaining commentary, you'll enjoy photo-worthy views of lakefront attractions. Reviewers rave about the tour, saying that the views are superb and the speedboat makes for a thrilling ride.

The tour, which operates from March through October or early November, departs hourly every day starting as early as 11 a.m.; exact departure times vary by day. Keep in mind that the tour is not recommended for pregnant women or people with neck or back injuries. Prefer a more low-key ride? The company also offers brunch, lunch and dinner cruises on larger vessels, along with architectural boat tours.

Urban Kayaks – Historic Chicago Tour

Price: Singles from $65; tandems from $130 Duration: 2 hours

Travelers angling for an active way to see the Chicago River should book this guided kayak outing. You'll learn about Chicago's contemporary urban landscape – and the historical significance of many of its buildings – while you paddle alongside an expert guide. What's more, the tour is suitable for novice and experienced kayakers alike. According to the company, you should expect to get wet and will want to dress accordingly. Reviewers enjoy seeing the city from their kayaks and say you'll pass beautiful and romantic views along the way. They also appreciate the attentive, friendly guides.

Tours are available daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. from May through September. If you'd rather paddle the lake, consider renting a kayak from the company or signing up for its paddleboarding class.

Shoreline Sightseeing – Skyline Lake Tour

Price: Adults from $30; kids from $12 Duration: 30 minutes

Sit back, relax and take in the dramatic scenery of the Chicago skyline with this tour of Lake Michigan. The prerecorded narration will help you learn about Chicago's most famous buildings, such as the Willis Tower, and how they came to life. Along the short cruise, you'll have just enough time to take in the views and enjoy a drink or snack from the bar. Visitors love the tour for the views and history lesson, though some complain it was difficult to hear the narration from the back of the boat. They also advise future riders to bring a jacket because it gets cold on the water.

Tours depart daily in the spring, summer and early fall multiple times a day, weather permitting. Shoreline Sightseeing also offers architecture tours on the Chicago River.

Best Chicago Boat Tours

Tours & Boats – 90-Minute Architecture Boat Tour

Price: Adults from $49; kids from $25 Duration: 1.5 hours

Tour-takers say this boat ride is entertaining and educational thanks to the informed guides. You'll see Chicago's many famous buildings up close as guides tell stories of the city's history. Plus, the tour takes you to the locks on the river's main branch, Chinatown in the south and Goose Island in the north.

Cruise departures vary by month and day. Boats depart from River City Marina, which is about a mile west of Grant Park. For several reviewers, the boat's departure point was another reason to book with Tours & Boats as it offers better parking options than some of the other river cruise companies in the city. Tours & Boats also operates private tours.

You may also be interested in:

  • The Best Chicago Tours
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Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady

chicago river lake cruise

Experience why we're the #1 rated boat cruise in Chicago, tickets are on sale now for the 2024 season!

Buy Tickets

Voted as one of the Top 10 Boat Tours in North America by USA Today readers for 3 years in a row and Chicago Reader's Best Tour for over 10 years ! Looking for the ultimate Chicago architecture experience? Buy a combo ticket for the river cruise AND visit the Chicago Architecture Center—you'll save $9!

For more than 25 years, the CAC's expertly trained docent volunteers have led the CAC River Cruise, sharing fascinating stories behind more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. Hear how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world's largest cities in less than 100 years. In just 90 minutes, you'll get the best overview of Chicago’s architecture and its history.

The CAC River Cruise is available in 4 languages: Continental French, Latin American Spanish, Japanese and Korean. To access these languages, please download the "Listen Everywhere" app in advance. Once you are on board the boat, the app will connect and allow you to listen in your selected language as the boat makes its way down the river.

*Continue your exploration with a visit to the CAC! Combo tickets include admission to the Center for just $5 (regular price $14). Admission is valid up to 7 days before or after your cruise.

*Please note that infant tickets must be purchased with a Priority or General Boarding Adult ticket. 

Evening River Cruise

The city's most popular tour is now offered in the evening. Serene and bathed in softer light, the city's architecture takes on a whole new life in the setting sun. Wind-down from the work-week by enjoying a cocktail with friends and family and experience Chicago's skyline on our luxury boats.

All departures lATER THAN 5:00 PM

  • CAC Members please call 312.922.8687 or come to the CAC Box Office at 111 E. Wacker Drive to redeem your BOGO benefit. 
  • You can buy a CAC membership over the phone and redeem your BOGO annual benefit at the time of your membership purchase.
  • Each person must have a ticket, including infants and children.
  • All tours depart rain or shine.
  • Arrive 30 minutes prior to your cruise departure time. Allow extra time for traffic and parking in summer.
  • Cruise guests board 15 minutes before departure time.
  • GENERAL ADMISSION SEATING
  • A full-service bar and snack bar are available onboard.
  • Tickets start at $54.00 for daytime cruises, $59.00 for evening cruises. Upgrade your ticket for $5 to include Chicago Architecture Center admission. Your visit must occur within 7 days before or after your tour.  View the CAC's hours .
  • Tickets may not be refunded or exchanged if you miss your boat. Allow extra time.
  • Find more information, including available parking, in our FAQs

Interested in a tour for a group of 20 or more? Please contact our group sales team at [email protected] . Private rentals are available.

Directions to Chicago’s First Lady boat dock

See a map here  or enter 112 E. Wacker Drive into your GPS. Located at the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, a black awning marks the boat dock entrance stairs that lead down to the river. If you have limited mobility, see these directions  for an alternative way to reach the dock.

About our Boat Partner

We’re proud to partner with Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, operator of Chicago’s finest fleet of cruising vessels. Its boats hold up to 250 passengers and feature open-air upper decks, full-service bars, climate-controlled lower cabins and upscale marble and granite restrooms. Being onboard is sure to be an experience you'll never forget. 

Photos From This Tour

chicago river lake cruise

Upcoming Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady Tours

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Highlights of this tour.

chicago river lake cruise

Chicago Riverwalk

1 w. lower wacker drive.

Strolling along Chicago’s beautiful Riverwalk, it’s hard to imagine just how much things have changed…

chicago river lake cruise

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Architect/firm.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was founded in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings. Partner…

chicago river lake cruise

trunnion bascule bridge

trunnion is a French word for "stump" or pivot point; bascule is a French word for "see-saw"; a trunnion…

chicago river lake cruise

Tribune Tower

435 n. michigan ave..

In 1922, on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the Chicago Tribune announced an international competition…

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London Guarantee Building

360 n. michigan ave..

Located where Fort Dearborn once stood, the London Guarantee & Accident Building is one of four structures…

chicago river lake cruise

330 North Wabash / AMA Plaza (IBM Plaza)

330 n. wabash ave..

One of the last American projects designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, this powerful Modernist structure…

chicago river lake cruise

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

It’s difficult to imagine what the skyline of Chicago might look like without architect Ludwig Mies van…

chicago river lake cruise

Arts and Crafts

The Arts and Crafts movement originated in England in the mid-19th century as an antidote to the dehumanizing…

chicago river lake cruise

150 North Riverside

150 n. riverside.

Gravity-defying 150 North Riverside has already taken its rightful place among Chicago’s architectural…

chicago river lake cruise

a large vertical, concrete pier, cast in place and used in a foundation where the soil is unstable

chicago river lake cruise

333 West Wacker

333 w. wacker dr..

When you’ve got it, you’ve got it—and 333 West Wacker has it.

chicago river lake cruise

Apple Michigan Avenue

401 n. michigan ave..

Foster + Partners’ Apple Michigan Avenue store is an impressive, airy glass box with a curved-edge…

chicago river lake cruise

Merchandise Mart

222 w. merchandise mart plaza.

Size has always mattered in the Midwest.

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Chicago River Architecture Tour

Chicago's Original Architecture Tour®

Experience the city’s legendary architecture from the best seat in the house—the river. Our experienced tour guides detail the 130 year long history behind the skyline, while our bartenders and staff keep you comfortable and entertained. This comprehensive tour navigates through the heart of the city on all three branches of the Chicago River. It’s the one thing everyone tells you to do in Chicago, done right.

chicago river lake cruise

Schedule & Tickets

  • Adult: $44.00
  • Child (4-12): $20.00
  • Under 4: Free (ticket required)

TICKETS ARE NON REFUNDABLE BUT ARE TRANSFERABLE.

  • Parking & Directions
  • More Information
  • Boarding begins 15-30 minutes prior to scheduled departure time.
  • All bags are subject to inspection.
  • Prohibited Items: Outside Alcohol, Weapons of any kind (Firearms, Knives, etc.), Flammables, Explosives.

Your boat includes:

Drinks & Snacks

Full-service bar with wine, local beer, and craft cocktails, as well as an assortment of snacks, all for purchase. Pinkies up!

Expert Tour Guide

Never boring, always entertaining.

Accessibility

Everyone should be able to enjoy our tours. We make sure you can.

No need to hold it. We have changing tables for the little ones who don’t know what holding it is.

Climate-Controlled Lounge

Keeping you cool when it's warm and warm when it's cool (or freezing).

*Not all amenities are available on every vessel.

BOOK YOUR EXPERIENCE NOW

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Chicago line cruises, chicago boat tours, discover world-famous architecture from chicago’s best vantage point., chicago river architecture tour.

Cruise down the Chicago River for 90 minutes as you listen to our expert guides discuss the history, impact and legacy of Chicago's renowned architecture.

Where to Find Us

Our boats are docked on the slip of water off the Chicago River called Odgen Slip. Click here for directions.

Ticket office and boarding: 465 N. McClurg Court Chicago, IL 60611

For help with directions, call us at 312-527-2002.

chicago river lake cruise

Bar Service & Merchandise

chicago river lake cruise

Complimentary

Starbucks Coffee, Twinings Tea, Coca-Cola soft drinks and lemonade are all complimentary.

chicago river lake cruise

BEER, WINE & COCKTAILS

Beer, wine and cocktails are available for purchase at any time.

chicago river lake cruise

MERCHANDISE

Never forget your onboard experience on your Chicago Line cruise. Be sure to purchase one of our stylish souvenirs today!

See How Guests Are Enjoying Our Tours on Instagram

Chicago Line Cruises

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Celebrating Chicago by Boat since 1981 with River Architecture Tours | Private Boat Cruises #chicagolinecruises

Our boats: The Marquette

This is my 8th time on a Chicago architectural river cruise and this was by far the most informative and biggest bang for your buck. Operagolf / LaHabra
The best guide on our whole USA trip. We took the Architecture tour where the boat meandered in between all of the incredible buildings of the city with the guide knowing EVERYTHING about each building; its style, age, height, architect, cost, purpose, owner ….. Quite brilliant! DrCumbrian / TripAdvisor
I've done several of the architecture cruises since my family moved to Chicago, and this is the best one yet! Allie K / TripAdvisor
If you only have time for one sight-seeing event while in Chicago, do this. We really have no great interest in architecture, but this tour came highly recommended and we did not regret it. Allice I / Oklahoma
My wife and I very much enjoyed the Chicago Line Cruise jazz cruise... My spouse said this was one of the favorite things she has done in Chicago since moving here in the past year, and I agree. I am a jazz snob, and ... I was very pleased with the music offered by the Geordie Kelly group. He's a fine jazz guitarist, and his band was great. Augie R / Yelp

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Forbes Travel Guide Stories

Chicago’s Best River And Lake Cruises By Correspondent Lauren Viera

June 27, 2013

chicago river lake cruise

There are few activities more enjoyable — or more quintessentially Chicago — than a sunny float down the Chicago River or a twilight cruise on Lake Michigan. Summer is prime boating season both for locals who stow their ships in the city’s 10 harbors and for visitors looking to get a glimpse of the incredible skyline from a different perspective. Here are our picks for the best river and lake cruises in town:

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady

This is the crowd favorite. In its 20th season, this 90-minute river cruise floats at a photogenic pace through the heart of Chicago’s downtown with postcard-worthy views of skyscrapers and historic buildings. Departing from Michigan Avenue, each cruise is staffed with a well-versed docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation, offering non-stop factoids of the buildings in plain view. New this summer is a special weekend morning Capture Chicago Photography version of the CAF cruise, with select stopping points along the way to nail the perfect picture. Tickets: $46.54.

Wendella’s Chicago at Sunset Cruise

The season’s long days yield later sunsets falling within the 8 o’clock hour — the right window for a cocktail cruise with a sunset behind the Chicago skyline. This cruise boards from the Wendella dock near the Wrigley Building and makes its way to Lake Michigan just in time to catch the sunset from a picture-perfect perspective. After you’ve gotten your sunset fill, the boat travels south to the famous Buckingham Fountain to take in its spectacular water and light display. Tickets: $26.60.

Chicago History Museum Cruises with Chicago Line

For those who prefer to brush up on Chicago history while cruising, the best floating classroom belongs to the Chicago History Museum, whose daily rides are operated by Chicago Line Cruises. Basic Chicago history and architecture tours are offered regularly, and special theme cruises — such as the history of brewing in Chicago — are sprinkled throughout the season. These cruises board from the pretty North Pier Docks behind the River East Art Center. Tickets: $43.60.

Mystic Blue Chicago Fireworks Dinner Cruise Offering a literal bang for your buck are Mystic Blue’s fireworks dinner cruises, which correlate with the twice-weekly (Wednesday and Saturday) fireworks displays at Navy Pier, from which it departs. These evening cruises are a bit longer — three hours in all — and include a light buffet-style dinner, a cash bar and live entertainment. Bring your dancing shoes for this one. Tickets: starting at $135.87.

Photos Courtesy of Chicago’s First Lady, Entertainment Cruises and Wendella

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City Cruises – Seadog River and Lake Architecture Tour

seadog river and lake architecture tour 1

Enjoy Chicago’s iconic skyline with an exciting architecture cruise on the Chicago River.

Departing from Navy Pier, this 75-minute narrated cruise is the best way to get up-close views of Chicago’s unique architecture and famous landmarks. Seadog offers fun for the whole family (and the dog, too!) with live narration along the city’s shore.

Enjoy the speed of Seadog afterward during a short speedboat ride on the lake!

You’ll Enjoy:

  • 75-minute cruise
  • The only tour to take you from the lakefront, through the locks, and along the Chicago River all the way to the famous Willis Tower!
  • The best views of Chicago’s famous buildings and unique architecture with entertaining narrations.
  • This ride also includes a short speedboat ride portion on the lake!
  • Seadog is BYOB – bring your own drinks to enjoy on the water (no glass containers)

Disclaimer:   This ride is not recommended for guests with conditions to the neck or back or that may be pregnant. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

*Cruising with a child under 2? Please add a $0.00 infant ticket to your cart. Infants cruise free, but are required to have a ticket so we can get an accurate head count.

Image Gallery

Tour Group Aboard Seadog Cruises Boat From Navy Pier

+1 (312) 815 3214

600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

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chicago boat tours

The 15 best boat tours in Chicago

See the skyline from dazzling new vantage points aboard one of the best boat tours in Chicago

Sure, walks along Michigan Avenue and State Street are nice and rooftop bars offer plenty of pretty sights – but the best way to see downtown Chicago is from the water. Both the Chicago River and Lake Michigan offer unparalleled vantage points for taking in the city’s world-famous architecture and the breathtaking Chicago skyline , with many of the tours providing unique insights into the city’s culture and history.

From architecture tours and history lessons to  straightforward sightseeing affairs , romantic excursions and pirate-themed family fun, there's a Chicago cruise for every groove. Below we’ve got the essential list of the city’s finest waterborne tours, including tall-mast ships and glitzy speed boats. Bon voyage!  

RECOMMENDED: Find more to explore with the best things to do in Chicago Plan your trip with the  best hotels in Chicago

How do we determine the cream of the crop? Our staff picks combine the top, most recent reviews with some of our personal favorites to make sure you get the best deal on the web. Throughout this article, you may notice some affiliate links – these have no influence on our editorial content – we pinky swear. For more information, see our  affiliate guidelines .

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Best Chicago boat tours

1.5-Hour Guided Architecture River Cruise

1.  1.5-Hour Guided Architecture River Cruise

Departing from Navy Pier's Polk Bros Park or the northeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, this 60-minute trip packs in all of the architectural sights that visitors want to see. Tour guides highlight more than 40 towering Chicago landmarks, including the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, and Marina City (a.k.a. "The Corncobs" or " The Wilco Building "). 

Don't miss:  Locally sourced food and drink from the boat bar.  

Seadog River and Lake Architectural Tour

2.  Seadog River and Lake Architectural Tour

There are few more iconic Chicago sights than seeing the bright yellow Seadog speeding around town. Combining speed and sightseeing, Seadog’s architecture tour whizzes guests past the likes of the Willis Tower and Lyric Opera, all while arming you with an impressive load of facts about the Windy City. And after this blustery 75-minute tour has finished traversing the Chicago River, it ends with a thrilling whizz across Lake Michigan, past Museum Campus, and Grant Park. This one departs from Seadog’s dock at Navy Pier throughout the summer months.

Don't miss:  Local beer, spirits and Garrett's Popcorn at the boat bar.

Wendella: Chicago's Original Family-Friendly Architecture Tour

3.  Wendella: Chicago's Original Family-Friendly Architecture Tour

If you're weighing your options, Wendella's architecture tour (which it claims is Chicago's original ) is another way to explore all of the beautiful structures that line the river. Over the course of the 90-minute tour, you'll navigate all three branches of the Chicago River, while your guide fills you in on the stories behind some of the skyline's most prominent edifices. This tour departs from the Wendella Dock, located at the northwest corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at the foot of the Wrigley Building.

Don't miss: Live commentary from the tour guide, with material to entertain the whole family. 

1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

4.  1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

How do you end the perfect day of sightseeing? With the perfect sunset, obvs. Setting off from Wendella Dock (at the northwest corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at the foot of the Wrigley Building), this 90-minute cruise will breeze along Lake Michigan as the glint of the sun on Chicago's skyscrapers is replaced by twinkling city lights. 

Don't miss: Toasting to the end of the day with wine, local beer and hand-crafted cocktails.

Tall Ship Windy Architecture & Skyline Sailing Tour

5.  Tall Ship Windy Architecture & Skyline Sailing Tour

Let the wind carry you to stunning views of the city from aboard the Tall Ship Windy, a four-masted, 148-foot topsail schooner. The 75-minute trip cruise brings guests on a scenic route running along the Lake Michigan shoreline, where you can take in lovely skyline vistas and glimpses of the sunset. Head to the onboard bar to find snacks and drinks for sale. 

Don't miss:  Bring the kids for the special pirate-themed cruise, featuring  tales of swashbuckling  on the Great Lakes.  

Seadog Speedboat Tour

6.  Seadog Speedboat Tour

If you balk at the idea of traipsing around museums and galleries all day with just your legs for locomotion, this whistle-stop boat ride is the tour for you. See every worthy Chicago landmark in 30 minutes on Seadog’s speedboat, which can sometimes feel like a floating rollercoaster. Launching from Navy Pier, the captain will efficiently guide you (with a running commentary) around Lake Michigan, past Museum Campus, Magnificent Mile, Grant Park, and more.

Don't miss: Upgrade to the Extreme Thrill Ride, which includes full 360° spins and more. 

Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

7.  Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

Want to see Chicago from the water but don't have much time to spare? You can peep the skyline in just 30 minutes on Shoreline's Classic Lake Tour, which departs from Navy Pier and boasts some of the best views you'll find on Lake Michigan. The commentary on the city's architecture and history is pre-recorded, so you won't miss out on any information because your guide ran out of time (and if you've heard it before, you can sit back and enjoy those sweet, sweet sights).

Don't miss: Proceeding straight to the boarding line with a barcode that lets you skip the ticket office. 

Lake Michigan Gourmet Dinner Cruise

8.  Lake Michigan Gourmet Dinner Cruise

Enjoy a three-course gourmet dinner on the water in the Odyssey Chicago, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the skyline surrounding you. Departing from Navy Pier, this cruise includes a dinner with freshly prepared entrées, mains, and desserts. The 2.5 or 3-hour ride takes you around Lake Michigan, with a cash bar to keep the drinks flowing throughout your meal.

Don't miss: The live DJ set and unlimited tea and coffee.

https://media.timeout.com/images/106037667/image.jpg

9.  Chicago's Lake Michigan Kayak Tour

If you want to couple a workout with your sightseeing, consider touring Lake Michigan by kayak. The rental lasts one hour and if you've never kayaked before, don't worry – tandem kayaks are available for less experienced guests. The meeting point is at Ohio Street Beach and you'll be provided with a life jacket on arrival before paddling out onto Chicago's most incredible river view.

Don't miss: Take a break along the urban beachfront, with the chance to also rent stand-up paddle boards.  

Lake Michigan Buffet Brunch Cruise

10.  Lake Michigan Buffet Brunch Cruise

If you're looking for dinner with a view, you could do worse than watching the sunset against the skyline aboard this 2.5 or 3-hour Lake Michigan brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise. Grab a group of friends and book a table – ideally one with a window-facing view—for a buffet-style meal before making your way to the dancefloor for an evening of DJ-curated music. Unlimited coffee, tea, and water will be on hand.

Don't miss: Creative signature cocktails at the bar. 

Lake Michigan Odyssey Gourmet Lunch Cruise

11.  Lake Michigan Odyssey Gourmet Lunch Cruise

Why settle for lunch at a land-bound restaurant when you could eat your meal on Lake Michigan? The Odyssey's lunch cruise includes a three-course meal and all the coffee, hot tea, iced tea and water you can drink. Visit the cash bar to buy wine, beer and cocktails and enjoy the views on this two-hour tour.

Don't miss: Dance on the top deck to tunes played out by the onboard DJ. 

12.  Chicago Fireboat Tours Historical and Architectural Cruise

Hosted on the bright red Fred A. Busse Fireboat – which served the Chicago Fire Department until 1981 – this architectural tour of the Chicago River lasts anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. A docent will fill you in on the history of buildings lining the river as well as the story of the boat you've boarded, which formerly traveled the city's waterways to fight fires. 

Don't miss: Check out the vintage firefighting artifacts and photos on board. 

Lady Grebe Chicago River Experience

13.  Lady Grebe Chicago River Experience

Want to feel extra posh? Grab a group of up to six friends and book a private cruise aboard Lady Grebe, a 48-foot vintage yacht that can be reserved for two-hour trips along the Chicago River. The reservation comes with a premium drinks package and you can also opt to kick things up a notch with picnic baskets full of food or full-service catering. 

Don't miss:  Book a Chicago Architecture Center docent to give a guided tour for an educational twist.

Chicago Electric Boat Company Tour

14.  Chicago Electric Boat Company Tour

Go your own way. Be your own captain. That’s what’s on offer with this Chicago River tour. The Chicago Electric Boat Company lets passengers steer the ship themselves (if they’ve got a valid driver’s license and watched a 10-minute tutorial, that is), allowing total freedom on the Windy City’s waterways. If you’re looking to still have some kind of tour, you can hire a personal tour guide—and we haven’t even gotten to the best bit. These boats are all electric, so they’re a little bit more environmentally friendly, too.

Don't miss: Hot tub boat rentals are also available.

Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady

15.  Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady

There's a reason the Chicago Architecture Foundation's beloved tour has been named the Best Boat Tour in the U.S.  The center’s official tour goes into detail on more than 50 buildings both on the riverfront and beyond. In doing so, they give a fascinating history of the city and those that built it—plus you can easily upgrade your ticket to include entry to just Chicago Architecture Center itself. It’s a proper design enthusiast’s dream. This one leaves from the Chicago First Lady Cruises dock and lasts around 90 minutes. 

Don't miss:  Gather friends for the serene evening cruise for just a few dollars more.

GYG Chicago TTD

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Architecture Lunch Cruise Chicago River | City Cruises™

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chicago river lake cruise

CHICAGO BY NIGHT! Cruise

See Chicago's skyline sparkle and glow as you glide along the Chicago River and Lakefront under the dazzling glow of the city by night. 

2024 CRUISING SEASON MAY 24 - OCTOBER 14

Tickets on sale now!

See Chicago Twinkle and Glow

Glide along the Chicago River and Lakefront as you're dazzled by the sparkle of the city at night. Hear lively commentary as you feel the night breezes and see Chicago’s dramatic skyline transformed into a glittering jewel. Family-friendly boat tours are our specialty!

Priority boarding now available!

• Includes exclusive early boarding period • Skip the queue during general boarding

Ticket Price

  • Adults (Priority Boarding) $47
  • Adults (General Boarding) $42
  • Kids 5-15 (Priority Boarding) $24
  • Kids 5-15 (General Boarding) $19
  • Under 5 Free

Call us for group reservations at 312-332-1368 or contact us at [email protected] (group rates available Sunday - Friday).

Ticket Pricing

Full schedule.

May 24 - October 14 Departing Monday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday at 8:15pm

Located on Chicago’s Riverwalk

chicago river lake cruise

On the Chicago Riverwalk just off The Magnificent Mile

We love groups!

A fun, relaxing, informative boat tour along Chicago's beautiful waterways is the ultimate way to experience the city and leave a lasting impression on your group.

chicago river lake cruise

“Our tour guide really impressed us with how much she knew about the city. It wasn't a scripted speech. She truly loves her city and it showed! My daughter and I loved this tour and can't wait to do it again.”

Nicole C. Yelp, Chicago, IL

Nicole C.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Reservations are not necessary for daytime tours, though you are welcome to purchase tickets in advance online . We also encourage advance purchase online or dockside if you desire to cruise a particular date and time and want to guarantee your seats aboard.

We do advise that you buy CHICAGO BY NIGHT! and 3D Fireworks Cruise tickets in advance – online or at the box office – as these tickets are extremely popular.

Online we accept Visa and MasterCard. At our dockside ticket office, we accept cash, Visa and MasterCard.

Beverages – including water, soda, canned cocktails, beer, and wine – are available for purchase on board. Please note, no outside alcoholic beverages are allowed.

Snacks - including small items such as chips, cookies, and nuts - are also available for purchase.

Please note that all ticket sales are final.

All of our Urban Adventure Cruise, Chicago By Night! and 3D Fireworks tours pass through the Chicago River Lock System. Our guide/narrator gives a full explanation of the operation of the lock. You’ll feel the boat rise as you enter Lake Michigan and lower as you return to the River.

Yes. Our cruises depart rain or shine. We have open and covered seating on board.

Yes, of course! There are "Heads" located on board as well as one lined with newspapers for your dog(s) during the Canine Cruises.

The safety of our guests and crew is our number one priority. After more than 80 years providing memorable cruises of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan for millions of guests, we are proud to say we have a perfect safety record.

All of our vessels are regulated, licensed and inspected by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) every year, and have undergone stability testing to ensure our guests are safe on their waterway experience. Our captains and deckhands go through an extensive training and drilling program that goes above and beyond the standards set by the USCG. Because we are committed to continuing education, we provide extra training every day to our crew.

If you have any questions about our safety training protocols or other concerns, please contact our Company Security Office Captain Tom Hacker at [email protected].

No. Luggage is not allowed aboard the Mercury vessels. Please leave your luggage at your hotel or check your bags in at a hotel near the dock (be sure to confirm in advance the ability for the hotel to accommodate you). Also, please be aware that all bags (purses, backpacks, etc.) are checked before boarding.

Yes, strollers may be brought aboard and will be folded and stored in the indoor salon for the duration of the cruise. They are not allowed on the deck. Please note, children must be removed from strollers before boarding.

In accordance with ADA guidelines, we welcome service dogs onboard. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the person's disability prevents use of these devices. Emotional support animals, pets and other animals not covered by the ADA are not permitted. All dogs are welcome on  Mercury's Canine Cruise ! Please visit the ADA's FAQ on service animals for further details. 

We love groups and would be happy to offer you a group discount if you would wish to reserve in advance! Please call 312-332-1368 or [email protected] for more information! 

Please note that we do not offer group discounts for our 3D Fireworks Cruise, but are happy to make a group reservation for full price! 

Boarding begins 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. Choose any seat - all offer a great view!

Children under 5 are always welcome free of charge, but do still require a ticket. Folded strollers may be brought on board. Children’s rates available for kids 5-15 years old.

At this time the Riverwalk does not offer any elevators. For those who need ADA ramps, you may access the Riverwalk via the ADA ramp at State Street and Wacker Drive within the Vietnam Memorial Park. Then just follow the Riverwalk to the East under the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Our Ticket Office is marked with a blue awning. Our stairway offers handrails, and shade from the sun. For guests needing special vehicle drop-off assistance, click here for Mobility Assistance directions.

For safety reasons, motorized scooters and electric wheelchairs cannot be accommodated aboard the ship. Guests who can transfer may use the company's manual wheelchair, based upon availability. Please note guests using manual wheelchairs must be accompanied by individuals who are capable of assisting/lifting the wheelchair over the boat’s threshold. Under Federal law and due to special marine safety construction guidelines, USCG-regulated small vessels are not subject to land-based architectural configuration requirements. Although we do our best to accommodate passengers with limited mobility consistent with our vessel capabilities, staffing and the docking space which is publicly owned and controlled, we can do a better job with advance notice .

LAZ Parking Garage at 111 E. Wacker Drive. This garage is across the street from our street-level dock entrance. Make a self-parking reservation online .

Discount rates available for Mercury customers with validation: $14 for 1-3 hours or $15 for 3-4 hours of parking. After 4 hours, standard rates apply. IMPORTANT: You must have your parking ticket stamped at our ticket window or on your boat in order to receive the discounted rate. Stamped tickets must be further validated at the parking garage office before departing the garage. Note: LAZ Parking Services at 111 E. Wacker is not owned or affiliated with Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. The parking information posted here is merely for the convenience of our guests and is not to be construed as a recommendation or endorsement.

We are located on Michigan Avenue just 3 blocks north of Millennium Park. Visit TheMagnificentMile.com or MillenniumPark.org for activities, events and special offers.

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