First Lady Architectural Tour, Chicago | travel

by - September 10, 2014

In a recent post I did featuring the Top 5 things to do in Chicago I mentioned an Architectural River Cruise. I couldn't just leave it there as it truly was one of the best things I did in the city and I wouldn't have done it if somebody hadn't recommended it to me, so here is my experience. 

We were situated on North Michigan Avenue so where you hit the river is DuSable Bridge, this just happens to be the main entrance to the Riverwalk heading East to Lake Michigan. The Riverwalk at DuSable is also where you will find lots of various options to take to the water, including several architectural cruises but we chose to go with Chicago's First Lady.

Not only does Chicago's First Lady appear to rule this section of river, we were given a recommendation by our concierge, sometimes this comes from commission driven place but either way I'm glad we found our way to this company as it supports the Chicago Architecture Foundation and you will soon see when taking the tour the importance of preserving this beautiful city and it's history.

Tickets on the day are around $37.95 which is about £22.00. We didn't actually pay full price so make sure you check with your hotel before to see if they offer a deal or speak with the promotions stall at the top of the Riverwalk stairs just before DuSable Bridge. It's also a good idea to book before had which may not only get you a discount but guarantee you the day and time slot you want, especially in high season these tours are almost always sold out.

We took the cruise aboard 'Fair Lady', all of the boats are seemingly the same but I would recommend one with a large outdoor area for the best views and comfortable seating like above as they do not rush the tours. 

The first thing I loved about my experience with the tour is the friendly attitude of the guide and Captain, even before you board they come around the line introducing themselves, giving out booklets and even offering to take pictures for you.

This continued throughout the whole tour and the long running relationship between the Captain and guide was obvious and made the trip seem even more seamless and less rehearsed.

Another tip I would add is that whilst it doesn't particularly matter which side you sit, as the boat goes back and forth for that reason, I would recommend getting in line early so you can get a spot close to the barrier so as to get the best view, but honestly anywhere is a great location as you're mostly looking up. 

The tour starts by heading West down the river away from Lake Michigan, you pass amazing buildings just a Trump International, Marina Towers and The Opera House and obviously lots and lots of awesome bridges. Along the way you'll hear anything from funny anecdotes about certain buildings residence, history and zoning laws.

You come to the bottom of the river and turn North taking you to the quieter side of the city. It's fun seeing where real Chicago natives call home and the quirky waterside living they enjoy here. 

Heading back East, you get a phenomenal view of the Willis Tower and it's surroundings and an opportunity to take in the view from the other side of spots you may have missed on the way down.


It's fun to try and spot which places you've already visited and even your hotel from the apartment and somehow from the water you see how the whole city connects and can really orientate yourself for the rest of the trip. It also helps that the guide will give you lots of tips on what to see in each district if you have more time in the city.

You continue past where you began the cruise and head East out to Lake Michigan. In contrast to the West side where it is quite and residential and the middle of the city where it is skyscrapers and hustle and bustle, the lake is just beautiful. There are specific laws about building to the sky opens up and you can see a lot going on from Navy Pier to the Marina but it feel very relaxed and almost like a resort away from the city. 

The best part about this though, the view. There are unbelievable views of the city's skyline as the boat turns around. I have never seen this view of the city put anywhere online and I don't think anyone could get used to that view beyond Lake Shore Drive.

I wanted to share a little more about the tour so you knew what to expect, especially as when seeing the prices it may seem a lot, but if it's the only tour you do of the city you won't have missed much.

Thanks for coming along and let me know if you've experienced any of the other river tours in Chicago or any other city.

Until next time, 



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