Spend some time along the Chicago River, and you’ll get an education in historic architecture. A range of styles can be spotted along the river: Modernist, Art Deco, and Spanish Colonial Revival.
And what better way to take in those sights than on an architecture boat tour? Any Chicagoan will tell you it’s one of the best ways to show off the city to visiting family and friends (there should really be a punch card deal for locals).
And now, millions of travelers that use Trip Advisor have ranked the experience as one of the top 25 in the world. Shoreline Sightseeing’s architecture river cruise only falls behind a tour of the Vatican.
The list was compiled with an algorithm based on reviews for bookable activities within the past year. There are a handful of architecture boat tours along the Chicago River, including one from the Chicago Architecture Center which opened in a new location along the riverfront last year.
So what else did the architecture river cruise beat out? There’s some steep competition. Skydiving in New Zealand came in at number 25 on the list. A hot air balloon ride and champagne breakfast only made it to the 19th spot. The best of Bali with a jungle tour was ranked as eighth.
What resonates with travelers is their tour guide—nearly every Trip Advisor user had left a comment admiring their guide’s knowledge of architecture and history.
There is a lot to cover between Mies van der Rohe’s modernist One Illinois Center building, the Art Deco Merchandise Mart, and Bertrand Goldberg’s brutalist River City apartments. What’s unique about the Chicago River is that it’s narrow, and allows for viewers on the top deck of the cruise to be totally enveloped in the buildings.
If you haven’t been to the Riverwalk, which is where many of the architecture cruises take off from, then you’ll be in for something new. The eastern most part of the Riverwalk, which was undergoing a renovation, opened in May. Plus there are new mural panels above the boat tour ticket booths and sculptural art.