When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of taking a field trip to the city for an architectural boat tour with my Chicago History class. I remember being happy to get out of class for a day, but being a typical teenager, I was pretty indifferent about the whole thing otherwise. This all changed when I stepped onto the boat. I grew up in the suburbs and visited the city plenty of times, but I had never seen it from this angle before. The buildings were huge, and I stood on the deck in utter amazement as we passed the staggering Willis (Sears at the time) Tower.
Nowadays, I’ve lived in the city for several years, and I’ve seen plenty of it. I’ll still be the first to tell you that you need to go on one of these tours, and I sincerely mean that. Here’s why:
There’s no Better Place to Take Pictures
Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or a self-proclaimed Instagram superstar, this will give you a leg up on the competition that nobody will see coming. The only other way to take these pictures would be to swim around in the Chicago River with your camera (if I have to tell you not to do this, you should probably reevaluate your life). The best part about photography here: there are both day and night cruises available, so if you’re looking for that perfect picture as the sun is settling into the water, look no further.
You’ll Learn so Much
The architectural tours aren’t just boat rides that take you around the Chicago River. Wendella, one of the companies that provide the tours, puts their guides through the equivalent of a college undergraduate course in architecture. The guides are also educated on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and its influence on the architecture and conservation of the city. Other tours are hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which obviously specializes in architecture. These tours focus on providing an architectural history lesson on how the city has grown and progressed over the past hundred years.
There are Options for Everyone
I’ve already mentioned two of the companies that provide tours, but there are plenty of others. If you’re looking for a trusted company, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is probably the most popular, and the city of Chicago itself advertises them on their website.
A common theme that I came across was the variety of tours available. There are tours that focus less on architecture and more on comfort, sunset cruises, getting from A to B, and even a Beer & BBQ cruise. I recommend looking around and exploring your options to see which fits your needs.
And they have snack bars, which, y’know… is an option. Yeah, options!
It’s a Truly Unique Experience
I can’t stress this enough. Like I said, I was mind-blown, and nothing I’ve ever done in Chicago has struck me like one of these cruises. The images are etched into my mind, and I don’t consider myself to be easily impressed by anything. If you’re looking for something to do that’s outside the norm, I would strongly consider an architectural tour.
It might even be a great fit for your Mother’s Day plans!