Many of Chicago's iconic buildings are viewed best aboard one of Chicago Architecture Foundation's (CAF) First Lady vessels. Between four and seven ninety-minute cruises a day run in the season with CAF volunteer tour guides providing informed commentary on more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River.
(L to R) Wrigley building (1924), Intercontinental Hotel, Chicago Tribune building as seen on a CAF architectural river cruise
Notable buildings on the tour include the European Renaissance inspired Wrigley Building completed in 1924, Marina City (1967) which looks like two corn cobs, and Trump Tower finished in 2009, a 90-storey-high 'miniature' version of Dubai's Burj Khalifa.
Our guide was also very knowledgeable about the development of the city, widely regarded as the birthplace of the skyscraper. Interesting stories included how the flow of the river was reversed in 1900 to avoid polluting Lake Michigan and how planning regulations led to the 'armchair' design of many city towers.
The large, open upper deck of the boat allows plenty of room for everyone to take a seat and have a great view of the cityscape. We went in November when it was quite chilly. If you find it too cold the bar on the lower, enclosed deck offers hot cider and chocolate among other beverages. There are also washrooms on the boat.
The embarkation point is at the riverside by the south east corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive. A blue awning marks the entrance to the stairway that takes you down to the ticket office and boat.