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Chicago Cruises & boat tours

Our most recommended Chicago Cruises & boat tours

Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

1. 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 River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

2. 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: Fireworks Cruise with Lake or River Viewing Options

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

4. 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: Lake Michigan Buffet Brunch, Lunch or Dinner Cruise

5. Chicago: Lake Michigan Buffet Brunch, Lunch or Dinner Cruise

See the sights of Chicago from onboard the Spirit of Chicago with a brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise on Lake Michigan. Enjoy a buffet dining experience as you sail through the Windy City and delight in panoramic views of its skyline. Board your vessel at Navy Pier and receive a personal greeting. Get your photo taken by the ship's photographer to capture the memory before being seated at your private table. After settling in, savor your brunch, lunch, or dinner buffet consisting of freshly-prepared entrees, main course, and desserts, while listening to the onboard DJ's tunes. View the city's imposing towers like John Hancock Center, Aon, Trump Tower, and Willis Tower. After your meal, play games like giant Jenga and shuffleboard, or bust out some moves on the dance floor. Don't forget to visit any of the 3 climate-controlled decks to watch the skyscrapers of Chicago's distinctive skyline glide by. SAMPLE BRUNCH BUFFET MENU Early Risers Seasonal Fruit Breakfast Pastries Scrambled Eggs Breakfast Meats Breakfast Potatoes Late Risers Organic Mixed Field Greens Green Bean Salad Red Beetroot Salad Roasted Broccoli Florets Baked Ziti Pasta Mashed Potatoes Oven-Baked Atlantic Atlantic Flounder Filet Honey and Sesame Chicken Hand-Carved, Slow-Roasted Strip Loin Dessert Raspberry Mousse Lemon Pound Cake and Fresh Strawberries Coconut Vanilla Cake Red Velvet and Chocolate Chip Brownie SAMPLE LUNCH AND DINNER BUFFET MENU Salads Organic Mixed Field Greens Organic Spinach and Kale Salad Green Bean Salad Kidney Bean, Black Bean, and Chickpea Salad Red Beetroot Salad Bow Tie Pasta Salad Vegetables, Potatoes, and Pasta Roasted Broccoli Florets Creamed Corn and Cheddar Cheese Casserole Baked Ziti Pasta Mashed Potatoes Entrées Oven-Baked Atlantic Flounder Filet Honey and Sesame Chicken Italian Beef Meatballs Braised Beef Short Ribs (dinner only) Dessert Seasonal Fruit Raspberry Mousse Lemon Pound Cake and Fresh Strawberries Coconut Vanilla Cake Carrot Cake Red Velvet and Chocolate Chip Brownie (dinner only) The menu is subject to change. Please inform your server if anyone in your party has a food allergy.

Chicago: Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

6. Chicago: Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

Immerse yourself in the sights and learn about Chicago’s history and architecture during a cruise on Lake Michigan. Take advantage of skip-the-line entry privileges with a barcoded ticket that lets you proceed directly to the boarding line. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the city for the first time, taking in the spectacular views of Chicago's skyline from the lake makes for a perfect outing. You’ll see the city as never before while listening to commentary on Chicago's history and architectural gems. Simply hop on board, sit back, relax, and enjoy as you admire Chicago's most significant landmarks and striking buildings that make up the city's skyline that has appeared in so many movies and TV shows.

Chicago: Lake Michigan Gourmet Brunch/Lunch/Dinner Cruise

7. Chicago: Lake Michigan Gourmet Brunch/Lunch/Dinner Cruise

Discover Chicago's sparkling skyline from Lake Michigan on a sightseeing cruise. Savor a mouthwatering meal while listening to music played by a live DJ. Sip on unlimited coffee and tea while gazing out at sights like Navy Pier, Grant Park, and Willis Tower. Board the boat at Navy Pier and enjoy a personal greeting. Smile for the ship's photographer to capture the memory, then embark on an elegant dining cruise along the Chicago shoreline. After being seated at your private table, tuck into your gourmet meal. Enjoy a creative meal prepared fresh by the onboard chef. Following your meal, dance to live music or relax on any of the 3 decks as you watch the skyscrapers of Chicago's distinctive skyline glide by.  Sample Brunch Menu:Early Riser:Breakfast Pastries Scrambled EggsBreakfast Meats Breakfast Potatoes French Toast Late Risers:Kale Quinoa SaladGreen Goddess Pasta SaladCaesar Salad Oven Roasted WhitefishKid's Station Hand Carved Strip Loin Hand Carved Oven-Roasted Turkey Dessert: Cakes, Brownies, Seasons Fruit Sample Lunch and Dinner Menu: Starters (choice of one): Caesar Salad Lobster Bisque (dinner only) Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (dinner only, available for additional price) Seafood Tower (dinner only, available for additional price) 2.5oz 1/2 Lobster Tail (dinner only, available for additional price) Main course (choice of one):Jumbo Forest Mushroom Ravioli Oven-Baked Atlantic Salmon Filet Oven Roasted Frenched Chicken Breast with Rosemary and Thyme Braised Beef Short Rib Pan-Seared Fresh Pacific Cod (dinner only) 8 oz USDA Choice Filet Mignon (dinner only, available for additional price) 18 oz USDA Prime Striploin (dinner only, available for additional price) Two 5 oz Broiled Maine Lobster Tails (dinner only, available for additional price) Dessert (choice of one): Eli's New York Style Cheesecake Duo of Sorbet Freshly Cut Fruit and Fresh Strawberries Triple Chocolate Mud Pie (dinner only) Odyssey Signature Warm Butter Cake (dinner only) French Macarons (dinner only, available for additional price) Champagne Chocolate Truffles (dinner only, available for additional price) Menu items are subject to change.

Chicago: Gourmet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner River Cruise

8. Chicago: Gourmet 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: 1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

9. Chicago: 1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

Relax as you glide over the Chicago River and into Lake Michigan on this cruise. Enjoy the glow of the sunset on Chicago's sparkling skyline. Have the option to purchase delectable drinks and snacks at the onboard bar as you sail. 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: City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture Cruise

10. Chicago: City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture Cruise

Start with a pickup from your downtown Chicago hotel. Board your climate-controlled minibus and embark on your guided sightseeing tour. Begin in the heart of downtown Chicago, at The Loop. Here you'll see incredible architecture, including the world's first skyscrapers. You'll even go inside one that features a beautiful lobby designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The stop also includes views of The Chicago Board of Trade and the Willis (Sears) Tower. After The Loop, head through Grant Park, which is known as the city's front yard. The centerpiece of the park is the Buckingham Fountain. Museum Campus is up next, with three museums, Soldier Field, and the most spectacular skyline views in the city. After a 10-minute photo stop, travel around Millennium Park, featuring The Bean, before heading up north along Wacker Drive, which parallels the Chicago River. Arrive in the fancy Gold Coast nightlife area and residential neighborhood - one particularly interesting sight here is the original Playboy Mansion.  Then, take a trip through part of Lincoln Park, and end the tour by zipping along Lake Shore Drive, past beaches, and old mansions, before being dropped off at your hotel. For those wanting the ultimate Chicago experience, add on the option of the world-famous architecture cruise of Chicago. After your minibus tour and a short break, climb aboard a state-of-the-art cruise vessel for a 75-minute cruise of all three branches of the Chicago River. Marvel at the architecture that has made the city so legendary. Gain insights into the buildings and engineering of a city that gave birth to the skyscraper and is the spiritual home of modern American architecture. An expert guide will lead you down the Chicago River to uncover hidden gems, as well as the city’s most renowned landmarks, such as the John Hancock building and more.

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What people are saying about Chicago

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 670 reviews

This was a wonderful hour and a half guide down the river. I had already walked Chicago for five days with an architectural book in my pocket, and I still thoroughly enjoyed this tour. The sights from the river open up views to buildings you don’t normally see walking. 90% of the tour guide information was not in my tour book. We went on a cold December day, roughly 17° with 15 mile an hour wind down the river. I had a long sleeve shirt, vest, a windproof suit, mittens, and I was just warm enough to be comfortable, except for my feet. I wish I would have worn by snow boots. However, they sell handwarmers down in the lower level of the theory, so I bought a pair and put them in my shoes; solved the problem:)

awesome, interesting & beautiful! make sure you know where you’re going & arrive 15 min early. our friends uber dropped them in the wrong spot so we barely made it & had to stand during the tour which honestly wasn’t bad, but the earlier you arrive you’ll get your choice of seats.

Worth every penny, even braving extreme cold! Had excellent indoor (warm) options too; I liked being on deck to get a full view of all the wonderful structures!

Loved the guide, Kevin, very knowledgeable and entertaining... Thanks to all the staff as well for what they did to make us enjoy our trip...

John was fantastic! It was a professional tour and had open book questions that we're fun and inclusive.