From the soaring John Hancock Center to historic Old St. Patrick’s Church, Chicago is rich with world-class architecture. Considering how much there is to look at, it’s no surprise that the city boasts dozens of architecture tours, but for the greatest vantage point, skip the bus and walking tours and hit the water instead. An architecture boat cruise is an amazing way to take in the wonders of the Windy City, so grab your family and board a boat to see the genius that formed this magnificent skyline.
You might be worried that your kids will get bored hearing about art deco this and wrought-iron that, but they’ll definitely pay attention on the Seadog Chicago River & Lake Architecture Tour. This 75-minute speedboat cruise–that’s right, speedboat–covers a lot of ground water and entertains just as much as it educates. Hold on to your hats as the boat roars out of Navy Pier, and keep hanging on as your guide shares tales of Chicago’s history, from its incorporation as a city in 1837 to its current status as one of the cultural and economic drivers of the country. While you fill up the memory card in your camera, the boat will zoom from the lakefront, through the locks, and up the Chicago river all the way to the Willis Tower, enjoying views of all the famous bridges along the way.
For a somewhat more relaxed–but no less engaging–experience, check out the architecture boat cruise run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. On this cultural journey, you’ll glide along on the stately First Lady while the city’s emergence on the architectural scene is related by experts — often architects themselves— who volunteer as docents. You’ll gain insight on more than 50 buildings and snap pictures from every angle. Make sure to get a shot of your kids’ faces as they gaze upward in awe. (A bonus idea: surprise them with sketch pads and pencils at the beginning of the journey. You just might end up with an urban masterpiece by the end.)
Whichever cruise you choose, your family will come away with an understanding of Chicago’s architecture that will make them appreciate the city even more. Take one of these trips at sunset and you may fall in love for good.