5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2884 Reviews

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  • Address: The Loop, Chicago, USA
  • Hours: Open daily
  • Admission: Free

Chicago ATTRACTIONS See all

Chicago River Tours

Winding its way through the heart of the Windy City, the Chicago River flows past some of the city’s most notable architecture, including the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), Wrigley Building, and Navy Pier. The river also offers opportunities for exploration, such as river cruises, kayaking, and canoeing, along a revamped riverfront.

The Basics
The most popular way to explore the Chicago River is on a cruise, in particular a Chicago architecture river cruise, which offers an overview of the city’s history and building architecture. You can combine your cruise with a Chicago city tour, food tour, South Side tour, speedboat ride along Lake Michigan, or VIP access to the Willis Tower. Kayak tours are also popular, including a nighttime ghosts and gangsters tour. 

Things to Know Before You Go
  • River cruises fill up fast in summer, so buy tickets or book a tour well in advance.
  • River cruises depart rain or shine. As weather can change quickly in Chicago, be prepared for rain or temperature fluctuations.
  • No experience is necessary to kayak on the Chicago River; tour guides provide a short lesson before each kayaking tour begins.

How to Get There
Running through the center of downtown Chicago and dividing the Loop from River North, the Chicago River is hard to miss. Most river cruises depart from below the DuSable Bridge at the corner of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue. If you’re coming via public transportation, take the El to State/Lake. 

When to Get There
The Chicago River is best explored during late spring, summer, and early fall, as most river cruises don’t operate during winter. The Chicago River is famously dyed bright green for St. Patrick’s Day, an event that traditionally takes place on the Saturday before March 17. If you are visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday during summer, book a fireworks cruise to enjoy fireworks over Navy Pier.

Chicago Architecture Highlights
Exploring the Chicago River is largely about appreciating Chicago architecture. On the main branch of the river, look for the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the corncob towers of Marina City, and the Merchandise Mart, once the largest building in the world. On the south branch, the highlight is the Willis Tower, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed as the Sears Tower in 1973.

Tours & Tickets

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Chicago Architecture River Cruise, Chicago, null
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Chicago Architecture River Cruise

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2400 Reviews

Experience one of the world’s most beautiful cities on a 75-minute cruise on the historic Chicago River. On this architecture cruise, head down the main branch ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 75 minutes (approx.)

From USD $43.68
Viator VIP: Willis Tower Skydeck Early Access, Trolley City Tour and Chicago River Cruise, Chicago, ... 
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Viator VIP: Willis Tower Skydeck Early Access, Trolley City Tour and Chicago River Cruise

4.5 star rating: Recommended 98 Reviews

See classic Chicago sights with this Viator VIP package that includes early entry to the Skydeck in Willis (formerly Sears) Tower where you'll be greeted and ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

From USD $124.00
Chicago Food Tour: Chicago-Style Pizza, Beer, Brownies, and Hot Dogs, Chicago, Viator VIP Tours
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Chicago Food Tour: Chicago-Style Pizza, Beer, Brownies, and Hot Dogs

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 49 Reviews

Sample your way through Chicago’s most iconic foods on this 2.5 hour walking tour of the Loop. Taste Chicago-style hot dogs, deep dish pizza, the original ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $53.10
Chicago City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture River Cruise, Chicago, Walking Tours
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Chicago City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture River Cruise

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 92 Reviews

Don’t miss Chicago’s famous sights and fabulous views on this award-winning small-group sightseeing tour of the city. Travel through Chicago with an expert ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $35.00
Lake Michigan and Chicago River Architecture Cruise by Speedboat, Chicago, Half-day Tours
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Lake Michigan and Chicago River Architecture Cruise by Speedboat

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 154 Reviews

Chicago is renowned for its stunning and original architecture, and the most relaxing way to see it is on a cruise on the Chicago River! You'll learn all ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 75-minutes

From USD $42.50
Chicago South Side Tour with Optional River Cruise, Chicago, Day Cruises
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Chicago South Side Tour with Optional River Cruise

4 star rating: Recommended 7 Reviews

Experience the beauty of Chicago on a tour full of history and excitement. See all of the city’s highlights, such as Grant Park, the Adler Planetarium and the ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $29.00
Chicago River Walking Tour, Chicago, Bus & Minivan Tours
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Chicago River Walking Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 1 Review

This walking tour along the Chicago river is sure to educate and entertain. You'll learn why the river is referred to as Chicago's lifeblood and an engineering ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $30.00
Chicago City Tour and Chicago River Cruise, Chicago, Walking Tours
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Chicago City Tour and Chicago River Cruise

Discover Chicago from both land and water on this scenic half-day tour. Take a narrated coach tour through the city’s South Side and see highlights including ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $60.00

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