A trip to Chicago would not be complete without an architectural cruise with a knowledgeable docent. The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises is the one we selected and it was excellent. Our docent was knowledgeable and passionate about architecture and Chicago. The docents are volunteers. I don’t know what our docents daytime occupation was, but I can’t imagine having a better person to share Chicago’s history and architecture with us. If you’re on a budget and are flexible about your cruise day and time, look for discounted tickets on Groupon.
The tour is about 90 minutes, the boats have outdoor top deck and indoor lower deck seating, there is no smoking, and there is a bar on on the lower deck. The docent’s presentation on our cruise had all of us so mesmerized, that I we all sat silently looking and listening and hardly anyone left their seats. The departure point for the First Lady Cruises is at Riverside Gardens on the Riverwalk. If you want your choice of seating on the boat, it’s wise to get to the departure point about 15 to 30 minutes prior to departure as people line up early. The cruises do not run during the winter months.
Our docent narrated the entire duration of the tour and it was impossible to keep up with everything since there are so many unique and spectacular buildings along the river and they all have such interesting histories. I took a couple of hundred pictures, but here are some of my favorites. We would love to participate in the Open House of Chicago event. This is a weekend event where the public is invited to tour some of Chicago’s historic buildings that are not usually accessible to the public. Please message us if you know when it will be held in 2018.
After we completed the cruise, we walked along the Riverwalk to admire some of the buildings again at a more leisurely pace. While on our stroll, we heard some of the other cruise providers — they were poor substitutes for the wonderful docent we had.
Chicago has a myriad of skyscrapers downtown, but the Carbide and Carbon Building is one you will notice and remember. It looks like a 37 floor champagne bottle with its green terra cotta tower and gold leaf top. This Art Deco building completed in 1929.
The Marina City buildings are two are mixed use buildings completed in 1968 and are the first to have been built with tower cranes. The towers have identical floor plans, with the bottom 19 floors serving as a parking garage, the 20th floor has the gym and laundromat and features panoramic views of the Loop, while floors 21 – 60 are apartments/condos. The 61st floor has a rooftop deck with a 360-degree view of the city.
The Chicago Tribune Tower reminds me of the Gozer’s place. It has the Gothic arches and dramatic vertical columns. The building was built in 1925. The building is adorned by sculptures and gargoyles. The building contains building fragments from structures far and wide: the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the Taj Mahal, Independence Hall, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, Palace of Westminster, Notre Dame de Paris, the Alamo, and more.
This building located at 150 N Riverside on the West side of the river in Chicago, is 53 stories tall and sits on a footprint for an 8 story building. The building candelievers out with office space. This engineering marvel was built in 2017.
Lake Point Tower was completed in 1968. It is a residential building in Chicago and is the only skyscraper east of Lake Shore Drive. The building has asymmetrical arms and the curved walls prevent the residents from seeing into each other’s units. The building looks golden because it reflects the sunlight off Lake Michigan. The Lake Point Tower exterior is made of bronze tinted glass framed by gold-anodized aluminum.
This office building at 333 Wacker Dr resides at the bend in the river and it’s shapes accentuates the reflection of the curve of the Chicago River and the sky. The green glass complements the other skyscrapers in the vicinity. The building was completed in 1983.
We look forward to doing the Architecture Foundation tour again on our next trip to Chicago. Once just isn’t enough.