Architecture Foundation of Chicago Boat Tour

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Chicago, Illinois

Architecture Foundation of Chicago Boat Tour Reviews

waterfordgirl waterfor…
24 reviews
Chicago Architecture From the River Aug 13, 2014
During my fist full day in Chicago I spent part of the afternoon enjoying the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. The 90 minute boat tour featured a journey down the Chicago river and focused on the history and architecture of over 50 buildings in the area. Some of my favourite buildings on the tour were the Marina City building, 35 East Wacker, and the Civic Opera House.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) which operates the tours is an organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting the architecture of the city. The organization was founded in 1966 in an effort to save the Glessner House from demolition. This initial initiative brought together Chicago residents from all walks of life and resulted in the founding of the CAF. Today the organization has over 450 volunteer docents who run tours such as the river cruise. Last year 319,661 people participated in tours put on by CAF.

The CAF volunteer docents undergo a comprehensive training program and it shows. Volunteer docents are required to complete a five week class on the fundamentals of Chicago architecture and a four week class specific to the tour they will be running. More details about the training can be seen here. The docent of my particular tour was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and conducted the tour with great professionalism.

Overall the tour was a great mixture of history, architecture, and local anecdotes. The docent covered the basics of architectural style, talked about influential architects in the city, provided detailed accounts of numerous buildings, and filled in the tour with the history of Chicago. I came away from the tour feeling as though I learned a lot but also had an opportunity to simply enjoy the sights. Even if you don't know a ton about built heritage or architecture the tour is engaging and designed to be accessible to the general public.
Marina City Building
From the mouth of the river
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sarahelaine sarahela…
645 reviews
Architecture Boat Tour Aug 22, 2010
The Chicago Architecture Institute offers a huge range of tours of Chicago, but

I chose one of the most popular; the boat tour of the Chicago river. I would

really recommend this tour.



The tour takes in the buildings along the river and the volunteer guide

(“docent”) will explain what you are seeing, some of the main architectural

styles, and some of the history of Chicago. It was very interesting, and I

enjoyed it a lot. The tour is a good thing to do quite early in your stay,

because then you can spend the rest of your time in the city saying “that

building has an interesting conversation with the river” to yourself. It’s also

nice to know the real names of buildings. It turns out, for example, that the

tower I was thinking of as “giant corn cob wilco album cover art tower” is

really the more succinctly named “marina city” which you can say out loud

without feeling like an idiot.



The boat has a bar and some toilets, neither of which I used (it was 11 in the

morning) but they’re worth knowing about.


The boats depart from the riverwalk, not far from the Wrigley Building on the

opposite bank. It isn’t cheap, at 32USD for an adult, but it is well worth

while. I don’t think you could get a wheelchair on the boat, but maybe they

could sort something out if you phoned ahead. The tour warns that it isn’t

suitable for small children; 90 minutes is a long time to expect a child to

listen quietly to someone talking about buildings, and I saw a lot of children

getting quite fidgety. But if you have a small child who is very interested in

buildings, or has some sort of quiet game, they certainly won’t stop you

bringing them with you. Despite the price, I would consider doing it again if I

came back to Chicago, and I also might consider one of their other tours.
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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sarahelaine says:
It was well worthwhile!
Posted on: Sep 08, 2010
travelman727 says:
Sarah, I agree with you! The architecture boat tours of the Chicago river and the river/lake combination are terrific :-D
Posted on: Sep 08, 2010

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