There are many ways to gaze upon Chicago's spectacular views, including from your hotel room, 360 Chicago or Willis Tower Skydeck. But one of the most entertaining is out in the open air on one of many Chicago boat cruises such as Chicago's First Lady or Shoreline Sightseeing.
In addition to the views, you'll gain history about the city's most significant architectural structures and neighborhoods. Here are some boat cruises you'll want to reserve tickets for during your next trip.
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Chicago's First Lady
In Brief: As the official vessels used for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, Chicago's First Lady offers riders a comprehensive, 90-minute guided tour of more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. All tour guides are CAF certified, and a portion of the cruise fee supports architecture education. There is a full-service bar with snacks on board. Cruise season is April through November on a daily basis.
$39.74-$42.58 per person
Other Details: All tours depart from Riverside Gardens, Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive (Southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge).
112 E. Upper Wacker Dr., 847-358-1330
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Chicago Line Cruises
In Brief: Guests who take these 60- and 90-minute cruises are treated to complimentary coffee, soft drinks and light refreshments. Chicago Line Cruises showcase 10 tour guides who are not only knowledgeable about Chicago's rich history and architecture, but are also great at storytelling. Three of them have tour experience with the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum and Chicago Architectural Foundation. In addition to the architectural cruises, there are Chicago history, cocktail focused and fireworks cruises. Most cruises sail throughout the year along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
All 90-minute cruises are $42 per adult, $35 per senior age 65+, $20 per youth ages seven through 18. The 60-minute river cruise is $36 per adult, $30 per senior age 65+, $17 per youth ages seven through 18. Children six and under are provided free passage.
Other Details: The boats and ticket office are located just north of the Centennial Fountain at 465 McClurg Court. For more information, call 312-527-1977.
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Island Party Boat
In Brief: All the party boats are BYOB (bring your own bikini) and BYOD (bring your own dog), and encourage you to really let your hair down. Throughout high boating season, the party cruises occur from May through September. They include the three-hour Aloha cruise with an authentic Hawaiian cuisine on Fridays; three-hour margarita cruise on Thursdays; and two-hour fireworks cruise every Wednesday. The boats--which include slides--sail along Lake Michigan.
$75-$125 per person for weekly cruises
Other Details: All tours depart from Monroe Harbor (400 E. Monroe St., 312-600-8454).
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Mystic Blue Cruises
In Brief: The cruises sail along Lake Michigan, showcasing views of the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and John Hancock Building. Guests may take advantage of a number of entertaining cruises, from brunch and lunch cruises to specialty rides like small craft beer, fireworks and moonlight dinner cruises. It cruises yearround.
$46.90-$99.90 per person
Other Details: All tours depart from Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave., 877-299-7783)
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Odyssey Cruises
In Brief: Always a great idea for a special date night, the champagne dinner cruise aboard this elegant yacht includes a multi-course menu that begins with a celebratory glass of bubbly. It's set against the city's beautiful skyline on Lake Michigan and live entertainment. Other cruises include brunch, lunch and fireworks. It cruises yearround.
$52.90-$132.90 per person
Other Details: All tours depart from Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave., 866-305-2469)
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Seadog Cruises
In Brief: Who needs to go to an amusement park when there are Seadog's extreme thrill rides, which are 30 minutes and an intense and jet-propelled cruise experience? Somehow tour guides bark out interesting sightseeing facts along the way to give the cruises perspective. Other cruises include 75-minute lake and river cruises, fireworks cruises, and beer or wine flight cruises. Seadog cruises April through October (weather permitting).
$22.95-$31.95 per person
Other Details: All tours depart from Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave., 888-636-7737)
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Shoreline Sightseeing
In Brief: Offering events from classic tours on Lake Michigan to guided architectural cruises on the Chicago River, Shoreline celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014. Throughout the year, guests may also board specialty cruises for St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest, plus wine tastings, craft beer cruises and fireworks tours. Booze cruises are 21 and over only.
Adults $35 to $39; children $18 to $20; infants free
Other Details: Shoreline is located at the Michigan Avenue Dock (401 N. Michigan Ave., 312-222-9328), which is across from the Tribune Tower.
Sail Away On Chicago's Top Boat Tours: Tall Ship Windy
In Brief: The 148-foot traditional four masted gaff topsail schooner is made from modern materials that were designed to look like traditional ships. It's a different type of experience from the other tour boats sailing Lake Michigan, which is why it's essential for guests to dress appropriately (There is very little coverage to shield from the winds). Experiences include lakeside architectural cruises, the Wednesday and Saturday fireworks cruise, educational sails and the true pirates of the seas cruise. All tour guides and staffers are outfitted in full pirate regalia. There is a full-service bar and snacks aboard.
Prices start at $30 per person