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Chicago River Tours

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Chicago River
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.
Address: The Loop, Chicago, USA
Hours: Open daily
Admission: Free
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4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Private 2-hour boat rental aboard Deep Dish for 9 people ~ Free pizza!

Rent with us and you can take a private, self-guided cruise along the Chicago River where you’re the captain! No strangers tag along. It’s just you, kicking back with some good friends, great food and awesome views! All cruises come with free pizza that you cook on the boat's special pizza grill. For more information call 1-770-PONTOON.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$299,00
From  
US$299,00
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Beer & Brewery Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Chicago River Cruise

See Chicago the Island Party way. Our floating Tiki Bar offers you the opportunity to take in all the sights and sounds as you relax an enjoy a beverage. Have questions about buildings? Our helpful staff will be happy to answer questions.
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$30,00
From  
US$30,00
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Private 2-hour boat rental aboard New York Style for 8 people ~ Free pizza!

Rent with us and you can take a private, self-guided cruise along the Chicago River where you’re the captain! No strangers tag along. It’s just you, kicking back with some good friends, great food and awesome views! All cruises come with free pizza that you cook on the boat's special pizza grill.
...  More
  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$279,00
From  
US$279,00
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation

4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Private 2-hour boat rental aboard Plain Slice for 8 people ~ Free pizza!

Rent with us and you can take a private, self-guided cruise along the Chicago River where you’re the captain! No strangers tag along. It’s just you, kicking back with some good friends, great food and awesome views! All cruises come with free pizza that you cook on the boat's special pizza grill.
...  More
  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$269,00
From  
US$269,00
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

Cruise down the Chicago River to see the city's famous architecture on this boat tour. With commentary from your onboard guide, watch the spectacular skyline glide by, including more than 40 notable buildings like the Aon Center, the Wrigley Building and the John Hancock Building. Cover all three branches of the Chicago River, passing the East Bank Club, the old Post Office Building and the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$41,44
From  
US$41,44
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Hop-on Hop-off Tours

Big Bus Chicago Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

Don’t spend time figuring out what to see in Chicago and how to get there—this hop-on hop-off tour provides a mapped-out itinerary of the city's top sights. With 14 strategically located stops, the tour allows you to explore the Windy City at your own pace. See the world-class Art Institute and landmark skyscrapers, while live commentary on board gives you insight into the city's colorful history. Don't forget to snap a selfie in front of the shiny steel bean in Millennium Park!
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  • 60 to 120 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$29,00
From  
US$29,00
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  • 60 to 120 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago Architectural River Cruise

See the towers, piers and iconic landmarks along the Chicago River on an architectural tour through the heart of the city. Enjoy complimentary refreshments on deck as you cruise down the historic waterway, while listening to fun stories and facts throughout the tour. Spot gargoyles that keep watch high above the city, and buildings that range from Neoclassical to Art Deco. Take in over fifty sites from Lake Point Tower to the Navy Pier, and see the Second City from the water.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$49,28
From  
US$49,28
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Viator VIP Tours

Viator VIP: Willis Tower Skydeck Early Access, Trolley City Tour and Chicago River Cruise

See Chicago from several angles, including the 103rd floor of Willis (Sears) Tower, where you have early access to the Skydeck. This Viator VIP package — available nowhere else — provides a crowd-free morning overlooking city landmarks from glass-enclosed balconies. Follow up your vista with a 2-hour narrated trolley tour past Grant Park, the John Hancock Center, the Wrigley Building and more. Finish with an afternoon cruise on the Chicago River and enjoy a complimentary drink as you discover the city's distinctive skyscrapers from an architecture-savvy guide.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$124,00
From  
US$124,00
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago Urban Adventure River and Lake Cruise

See the the Second City from the water with a 1.5-hour cruise on the Chicago River and the Lake Michigan shoreline. Take in towering skyscrapers and spot the gargoyles that live on to of the city’s historic buildings. Hear stories about the city’s history and culture as you pass Chicago landmarks, museums and iconic buildings. Capture unforgettable images of the city skyline from Lake Michigan, and get a unique look at Chicago that’s perfect for all ages.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$36,00
From  
US$36,00
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Hop-on Hop-off Tours

Chicago City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

On a Chicago hop-on hop-off tour, you can enjoy easy transportation around the city to see the sights that interest you most at your own pace. Select the pass you want when booking, and create your own itinerary in Chicago to check out attractions such as the Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier and Millennium Park. Hop off and on the double-decker bus whenever you wish, and listen to narration about the city on board.
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  • 75 to 120 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$19,00
From  
US$19,00
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  • 75 to 120 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago by Night (90 minute River and Lakefront Cruise)

Discover the beauty of Chicago at night during a 1.5-hour cruise on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Watch the city sparkle as you pass landmarks such as Museum Campus, Willis Tower, Aon Center and the John Hancock Building, and the illuminated waters of Buckingham Fountain. You'll learn about the history of the city from live commentary by your knowledgeable guide as you glide along the waterfront of Chicago.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$38,00
From  
US$38,00
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago Lake and River Architecture Tour

Step aboard a boat for a comprehensive cruise that details the history of Chicago's architecture. Enjoy views of the Chicago skyline accompanied by architecture-focused commentary that points out each of the landmark buildings. As you cruise through Lake Michigan, snap photos of you and your party against the stretch of Chicago's 26-mile shoreline.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$39,00
From  
US$39,00
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture River Cruise

Explore Chicago's iconic landmarks on this sightseeing tour led by an expert guide. Board a comfortable, large-windowed minibus with a small group of twelve people or less. This ensures an intimate touring experience as you enjoy downtown and some North side neighborhoods. You will have a chance to get out and visit several locations such as the 1888 skyscraper called The Rookery, with its Frank Lloyd Wright designed lobby and the unparalleled skyline views from Museum Campus. Listen as your guide talks about the historical and cultural factors that make Chicago unique. The city tour ends at Millennium Park, home of the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, commonly referred to as "the bean."  Opt to upgrade your tour with a popular open-top boat tour on the Chicago River that focuses on the city's renowned architecture. Pick-ups from most downtown Chicago hotels are included.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$37,50
From  
US$37,50
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Helicopter Tours

Chicago Helicopter Tour

On a daytime helicopter tour over Chicago, enjoy views of the city's famed architecture and other sights from the air. You'll fly over Willis Tower (the old Sears Tower), Wrigley Field, Lincoln Park, and more while a pilot provides commentary about the city as you go.
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  • 12 to 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$99,00
From  
US$99,00
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  • 12 to 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Viator VIP Tours

Viator VIP: Architectural River Cruise and Chicago Helicopter Tour

Experience Chicago from the air and the water on this two-part tour that features a river cruise and a helicopter ride above the city. First, take a cruise down the Chicago River to learn about the architectural history of the town. Then, board a state-of-the-art helicopter and fly above the skyline. Both tours are fully narrated and you will see Navy Pier, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, the John Hancock Center, Willis Tower, and more.
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  • 15 to 90 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$173,34
From  
US$173,34
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  • 15 to 90 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Historical & Heritage Tours

Chicago Prohibition Tour

Visit four historic bars in operation since Prohibition in Chicago, and learn from a knowledgeable guide about the surreptitious world of the speakeasy. This adults-only tour takes you by coach to once-illicit establishments in Old Town, Wicker Park and the Chicago Loop where liquor, jazz and mobsters ruled. You’ll hear about Chicago gangsters like Al Capone and learn the historical context for the decade-long ban of alcohol. If you’d like, you can purchase recommended craft cocktails and signature drinks of the 1920s.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$45,00
From  
US$45,00
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Historical & Heritage Tours

NEW TO VIATOR

Chicago in a Day: Food, History and Architecture Combo Tour

An excellent choice for first-time visitors, this tour provides a comprehensive overview of the city and hits on both classic attractions and little-known sites. Beginning at the Chicago Theatre, work your way to the Chicago Pedway, an elaborate network of underground tunnels used by locals and commuters. Stroll the Chicago Riverwalk and the Magnificent Mile, then embark on a food tour to taste some of the city’s famous foods.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$99,00
From  
US$99,00
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Jet Boats & Speed Boats

Lake Michigan and Chicago River Architecture Cruise by Speedboat

Discover Chicago's world-renowned architecture during this 75-minute tour. Board a comfortable river boat for a cruise on the Chicago River, viewing landmarks like the Willis Tower and the Tribune Tower while listening to engaging commentary from your guide. Then board a speedboat for an exciting ride up the shore of Lake Michigan for views of Grant Park, the Chicago Harbor and the Museum Campus.
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$48,65
From  
US$48,65
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Viator VIP Tours

Viator VIP: Chicago Helicopter Tour Plus 360 Chicago Observation Deck

Travelers who like to get to know a city by seeing it from above will love this tour. View Chicago’s long coastline from the seat of a helicopter, then take your time spotting each individual landmark from the observation deck at 360 Chicago. There will be opportunities to take lots of impressive photos. Choose between a daytime or nighttime tours, for unforgettable views at any time of day.
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  • 1 to 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$169,99
From  
US$169,99
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  • 1 to 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Bus & Minivan Tours

Chicago Grand Half-Day Tour

Get the perfect introduction to the wealth of sights in the Windy City during this 4-hour Chicago day tour. Discover the many landmarks spanning both the city's North Side and South Side, enjoying a scenic ride along Lake Michigan on Chicago's Outer Drive along the way. You'll also have the chance to admire the city's Washington and Grant Parks, explore inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory, see Adler Planetarium and visit the iconic Wrigley Building. This Chicago in a half day tour also includes transport between all sites and tour narration.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$52,95
From  
US$52,95
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Architecture Tours

Chicago Walking Tour: Modern Architecture

Embark on a walking tour of Chicago's more-recent architecture heritage with a 2-hour stroll highlighting the city's modern, postmodern, and international structures. Especially known for its architectural originality, Chi-town boasts everything from the elegant metal and glass tower of One South Dearborn to the Harold Washington Library, with its Beaux-Arts inspired exterior. Your guide will highlight these and other unique buildings, relaying background on their individual histories and construction en route.
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  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$26,00
From  
US$26,00
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  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago Architecture River Cruise in Spanish

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 of the Chicago River, up the north branch to the East Bank Club, and then south past Willis Tower (Sears Tower) to the old Post Office Building. Take in magnificent city skyline views as you see more than 40 notable buildings, including the John Hancock Center and the Wrigley Building, and learn about their distinctive architecture from your onboard guide, an expert in architecture.
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$43,68
From  
US$43,68
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Day Cruises

Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour

Welcome to Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours! We’re proud to present you with an in-depth, expert architectural-based river boat tour that delves into one of the most remarkable American cities today. Known for unique, daring, and historical architectural pursuits, it’s hard to cover all of the design and building treasures that make up the Windy City today. If you’re ready to learning more about the designs, people, and innovations behind these creations, throw on your captains hat and get ready to cruise along the Chicago River and see what architects from around the world travel to see in Chicago. Tour departures from 465 N. McClurg Ct.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$48,00
From  
US$48,00
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Historical & Heritage Tours

Land and River Architecture Tour of Chicago's Scenic North Side

Discover Chicago’s iconic architectural gems from every angle on a 3.5-hour tour of the North Side. Divided between land and water, the comprehensive tour enables you to cover a huge area of the city without getting worn out. Travel comfortably by coach or trolley to Fort Dearborn, Wrigley Building, and more. Afterwards, see the Windy City's famous skyscrapers, bridges, and historical sites on a 90-minute cruise down Chicago River.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$76,95
From  
US$76,95
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation


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(888) 651-9785
(888) 651-9785