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Architecture Tour Along The Chicago Riverfront is A MUST DO!!!

Ok, folks, I’ve been promising it for a few days now, so I finally did it. I went through the almost 400 images I shot while on the architecture tour along the Chicago riverfront and picked the best of the best to share with you. There were so many great shots, but after a while of looking at shot after shot of buildings, it was getting quite difficult to pick and choose. I think the ones I have are good, but by no means should you assume that this is the only thing you see on the ride. So, before I go into the shots themselves, let me tell you a little about the tour.

The architecture tour along the Chicago rivers is given by about three or four different tour companies that have all set up shop at Chicago’s Navy Pier. There’s a Navy Pier in every major town. In Miami it’s called Bayside. Here in San Francisco it’s called Pier 39. In Baltimore, it was the Inner Harbor. It’s a tourist trap place with plenty to ooh and ahh yourself with while making a great ploy for your to shell out a bunch of money. But, I will give Navy Pier it’s props simply because it houses the companies that give the architecture tour.

Not all of the companies follow the same route, and I couldn’t even tell you the name of the one that I took, but you want to ask for the one that goes all the way down to the Montgomery Ward building. If you ask the question and the attendant eager to take your money doesn’t know if they do, you probably aren’t at the right one.  Because the tour takes place along the river, go away from the boardwalk along Navy Pier and walk towards a the Bob Newhart sculpture. Once there, you’ll see a little kiosk right along the river, that’s the one you want.

I have taken a fair number of water and land tours. There have been the really lame (like the duck tour in just about every city I’ve taken it) and there have been the really awesome ones. This tour was the 2nd best tour I have EVER been on!!! I am not exaggerating on this one. Which one was the best, you ask? The nighttime graveyard tour in Boston takes the cake by a mile. That’s a bus driven tour guide through Boston’s oldest and most famous graveyards along with a few stops of the grim and gruesome that has happened during that town’s history. All this, while being entertained by the tour guides, who are in ghoulish disguise and playing the part of deceased Bostonians recanting tales from their time. That was BADASS!!

Back to the Architecture Tour….

There are several rivers in the Chicago area that come to all meet in the heart of the city. The tour takes place through all three rivers and takes up all of about an hour and a half. It’s a flat ferry style craft with plenty of wooden park benches to give each and every seat the same great view. The tour was given by a very knowledgeable and excited tour guide. He must have talked the whole hour and a half, and at times, almost sounded like an auctioneer with how fast he was going. I caught everything he was saying, so don’t worry about not being able to follow along. If English isn’t your first language, I would say that you would probably catch less than half of what was being said, but you would still get the beautiful vistas all the same. So, don’t fret.

Aside from being a comfortable experience, the boat was equipped with bathrooms and a full service bar in the back. They did have some snacks as well, but I wouldn’t expect them to have much more than candy bars and potato chips. My suggestion would be to eat before or after the tour. Unless you’re like my father-in-law, who thought at one time that a square meal consisted of ice cream and a Pepsi, you wouldn’t be able to get any better on board the vessel. Navy Pier has plenty of eateries to temp your cravings for that day…

The vessel has room for about 150, I would say. There was maybe 50 people on board, so I had room to spread out. Being that I brought with me the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 that I had rented from, I also decided to take out my Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0 and set it alongside me just in case I wanted to change lenses at a moment’s notice. It turned out to be not that bad, since I quickly figured out that we’d be seeing the same views coming back. So, I left the Tamron on the camera until we got to the turning point, then switched over to the Tokina for a different viewpoint for the remainder of the ride.

The tour guide not only gives you the history on how Chicago was settled, but all the marvels and feats that were accomplished in order to keep from polluting Lake Michigan at the expense of St. Louis. My particular tour guide was very well versed with the great Chicago architects and the visions they had for each of their buildings that we saw during the tour. Ever major building in the Chicago skyline touches the river front, except for my favorite John Hancock. Knowing this, I scheduled a separate trip to see the Hancock building for the next day, which I shared with you last week.

Please be sure to tip your tour guide if you feel that they did a great job. You don’t want to be on the tour right after the stingy folks got off and the tour guide is pissy…


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