Sailing On The Chicago Waterway

The Windy City, renowned for its deep-dish pizza, jazz music, and die-hard sports fans, has another jewel to its crown – the Chicago River.

Carving a route through the heart of the city, the Chicago River is flanked by a spectacle of architectural wonder, a sight best appreciated aboard a river tour.

The Chicago River Boat Tour, an enchanting blend of city history, architectural prowess, and breathtaking scenery, provides visitors with a unique perspective of Chicago.

Quick Answer:

  • Architecture Tours: Typically ranging from $35 to $50 per adult
  • Evening Cruise: Around $45 per adult for a sunset or evening tour
  • Lunch/Dinner Cruises: These can vary greatly in price but typically range from $70 to $150 per adult
  • Private Tours: Depending on the boat size and tour length, these can start around $1000

Now, let’s delve deeper into these river tour options and what you can expect from each, keeping in mind that prices can vary depending on the season, tour operator, and additional amenities.

Detailed Overview:

The Classic: Chicago Architecture Boat Tour

When one talks about a Chicago River Tour, they’re often referring to the famed Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. Showcasing over 40 of the city’s architectural marvels, this tour is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Most tours last approximately 75-90 minutes and are led by knowledgeable guides who share fascinating insights about the city’s architectural history and the design of its iconic skyscrapers.

Typically, a ticket for an architecture tour can range between $35 and $50 per adult. Some companies offer discounts for children, students, and seniors, so it’s worth exploring these options when booking your viator tour.

The Romantic: Evening Cruise

For those looking to take in the city’s beauty under the glow of a setting sun or twinkling night sky, the evening cruises offer a special treat.

These tours often include the same architectural insights as the daytime tours but add an extra layer of magic with the city lights reflecting off the river.

The cost for a sunset or evening tour usually falls around $45 per adult. Some evening cruises might also include additional amenities like a glass of champagne or a full bar, which could affect the price.

The Culinary Delight: Lunch & Dinner Cruises

Looking to combine your sightseeing with a meal? Lunch and dinner cruises are a fantastic option. These tours often last for two to three hours and offer a buffet or multi-course meal in addition to the river cruise.

Lunch or dinner cruises usually cost more due to the added food and service. These can range from around $70 to $150 per adult. Some dinner cruises might include premium features like a live band, gourmet meal, or top-deck dancing, which would be reflected in the price.

The Personalized Experience: Private Tours

For those seeking a more intimate, personalized experience, private boat tours are available. These allow for customizable routes and durations, personal tour guides, and can accommodate anything from a family outing to a corporate event.

Private tours will vary significantly in cost, starting around $1000 and increasing based on boat size, tour length, and additional requested amenities. It’s best to reach out to individual tour companies for an accurate quote based on your specific needs.

The Luxurious Option: Wine Tasting Cruise

For the wine lovers and connoisseurs, there’s a special treat – the Wine Tasting Cruise. This unique river tour combines an enlightening cruise down the Chicago River with a curated selection of wines.

Accompanied by expert sommeliers who walk you through each wine’s tasting notes, this cruise is a delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening. These tours typically last around 2 hours and prices may vary from $75 to $100 per adult.

Family Friendly: Kids Cruise

In an effort to make the river tour experience accessible and enjoyable for the whole family, some tour operators offer a special kids cruise.

This family-focused tour includes interactive activities and kid-friendly commentary, providing both education and entertainment for young passengers.

Prices for the Kids Cruise generally fall around $20-$25 for children with adult tickets priced similarly to the architecture tours.

The Thrilling Adventure: Speedboat Tour

For thrill-seekers, the Speedboat Tour offers an exhilarating ride along the Chicago River and out onto Lake Michigan. This high-speed journey gives you a different perspective on the city’s architecture and includes a thrilling ride with plenty of turns and high-speed stretches.

Expect to pay anywhere between $30 and $45 per person for this adrenaline-filled experience.

Exploring Further: Combo Tour Packages

For those wishing to get the most out of their Chicago visit, some companies offer combo tour packages that include the river tour plus another attraction, such as a hop-on, hop-off bus tour or admission to a local museum or attraction.

These combo packages provide a comprehensive exploration of the city and can offer good value. Pricing varies greatly depending on what’s included, but expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $100 per adult for these combination packages.

A River Cruise For Every Budget

No matter what your budget or interests, there’s a Chicago River Tour that’s just right for you. From educational architecture tours to adrenaline-pumping speedboat rides, this diverse offering means that every visitor can find a way to appreciate the beauty and history of the Windy City from its stunning waterway.

As with any tour or experience, it’s always recommended to book in advance, particularly during the busy summer months, to secure your spot on these popular cruises.


  1. Chicago’s First Lady: Cruise Options and Pricing (
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