Embarking On The Journey: Chicago River Cruise Departures & Arrivals

Whether you’re an ardent admirer of architecture, a lover of history, or simply a seeker of unique experiences, the Chicago River Cruise is an absolute must when you’re in the Windy City.

As you glide along the waterway, marvelling at the towering skyscrapers that redefine the skyline, you are privy to a narrative that weaves together the city’s past and present in the most enchanting way.

Where does this captivating voyage start and end? Let’s delve into the details.

Summary of Departure & Arrival Points

  • Main Departure Point: Michigan Avenue
  • Secondary Departure Point: Navy Pier
  • Termination Point: Same as the departure point

The Heart Of The City: Michigan Avenue

Michigan Avenue is the primary departure point for most Viator Chicago River Cruises. This bustling street in downtown Chicago, popularly known as The Magnificent Mile, is famous for its upscale shops, luxe fashion outlets, and distinguished museums. With its proximity to iconic landmarks like the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, and the John Hancock Center, Michigan Avenue provides a fitting starting point for the architectural voyage.

A Historical Perspective: Michigan Avenue Bridge

Specifically, most cruises begin at the docks near the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Officially known as DuSable Bridge, this historic double-leaf, double-deck bascule bridge is a marvel in itself.

Opened to traffic in 1920, it was the first double-deck bascule bridge built in Chicago and remains a symbol of the city’s architectural innovation.

As your cruise departs from the shadow of this iconic bridge, you’re instantly immersed in the rich history and design ingenuity that define Chicago.

A Cultural Hub: Navy Pier

In addition to Michigan Avenue, some cruises also depart from Navy Pier, a vibrant, cultural landmark stretching over the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Navy Pier is home to a range of attractions, including a towering Ferris wheel, an extensive food court, shopping centers, and the Chicago Children’s Museum.

For families planning a day out, choosing a cruise that departs from Navy Pier can be a strategic choice to combine multiple attractions in one outing.

The Ending Point: A Round-Trip Experience

In most cases, the Chicago Boat Ride is a round-trip experience, meaning the cruise will conclude at the same location from which it departs.

This offers a sense of convenience and predictability, allowing you to plan your day more effectively. Whether you’ve set sail from Michigan Avenue or Navy Pier, you can expect to disembark at the same location, enriched by the insights and perspectives you’ve gained along the way.

In the next section, we will delve further into what you can expect at these departure and arrival points, and how to make the most of your river cruise experience.

Exploring The Departure Points: An Architectural Feast

Both Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier offer more than just being points of embarkation for your river cruise. They are destinations in their own right, with a plethora of architectural marvels and historic landmarks.

Michigan Avenue: More Than Just A Shopping Haven

At first glance, Michigan Avenue can be mistaken as just another bustling shopping street. However, a closer look reveals the architectural grandeur that’s woven into its DNA. Iconic buildings line the avenue, each narrating a unique architectural tale.

The Tribune Tower, for instance, is a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture, with its buttresses soaring towards the sky.

In contrast, the Wrigley Building, with its white terra cotta façade and intricate detailing, exudes an elegance reminiscent of the French Renaissance.

Starting your river tour from Michigan Avenue allows you to soak in these architectural nuances, setting the tone for the rest of your journey.

Navy Pier: An Amalgamation Of Fun & History

A departure from Navy Pier provides a different flavor to your cruise. Known as the People’s Pier, it’s a place where history, culture, and fun come together.

Prior to your cruise, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the lake from the Centennial Wheel, delve into the world of imagination at the Children’s Museum, or just savor a leisurely meal at one of the many eateries.

Architecturally, Navy Pier demonstrates a mix of styles. The Pier’s headhouse and east end buildings are examples of Classical Revival style, while the Festival Hall complex showcases Modern architectural trends.

Arrival Points: The End Is Just The Beginning

Just as the river cruise is more than a sightseeing tour, the end of the cruise is more than a simple point of disembarkation. Once you step off the boat, you can further explore these fascinating locales.

For instance, if your cruise ends at Michigan Avenue, consider heading towards the nearby Millennium Park.

This 25-acre park is home to the Cloud Gate (famously known as The Bean), the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and Lurie Garden. It’s an urban oasis that beautifully encapsulates the city’s spirit.

If Navy Pier is your endpoint, you could end your day with a dazzling display of fireworks that the Pier hosts on Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the summer months.


The Chicago River Cruise, whether it starts at Michigan Avenue or Navy Pier, offers not just a trip along the waterway, but an immersive experience that spans architecture, history, and entertainment. The ending point, being the same as the departure, allows you a chance to explore these destinations further, thereby adding more depth to your Chicago visit.

It’s not just about the voyage, but the start and end points too, that make the Chicago River Cruise a memorable journey. This tour truly gives you the essence of Chicago, USA. A city where every street corner has a story to tell, and every skyline view is a brushstroke in its vast, vibrant canvas.


  1. “The Magnificent Mile” (https://www.themagnificentmile.com)
  2. “Navy Pier: Discover the Pier” (https://navypier.org)
  3. “Millennium Park” (https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park.html)
  4. “History of Chicago’s First Lady Cruises” (https://www.cruisechicago.com/about)
  5. “Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise” (https://www.architecture.org/tours/detail/chicago-architecture-center-river-cruise-aboard-chicago-s-first-lady/)