Architectural River Tour Helps Chicago History Come to Life

Until a few days ago, I had always regarded downtown Chicago’s architecture as little more than a bunch of big buildings.

Some I had been inside, most—including, remarkably enough, the Sears Tower*—I had not.

Then, in celebration of our recent anniversary, my husband and I took a few days to explore the Windy City like tourists. And one of the highlights from our backyard vacation was the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise.

An extremely knowledgeable and passionate volunteer tour guide (one of some 450 “docents” trained by the CAF) offered observations and historical context that brought these “big buildings” alive. How historical events, such as the Great Depression or the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, influenced how and when buildings were created…how the presence of existing structures affects the way a newcomer is built…and on and on.

Even before disembarking, I saw the buildings all around me in a new light—and not only the featured buildings, such as Marina Towers, the Trump International Hotel & Tower or the Lyric Opera’s Civic Opera House.

The 90-minute excursion is something that should be at the top of every visitor’s to-do list.  Make sure it’s the river boat tour offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, as there are some inferior copycats in the vicinity.

With my newfound appreciation for Chicago’s architecture, I am going to take advantage of some of CAF’s 85+ tours.

*That’s right, I’m still calling it “Sears Tower,” though I know it’s name was changed a few years ago to Willis Tower. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I feel that’s my prerogative. 🙂 By the way, I did finally make it up to the top. But that’ story is  for another time.

1 comment for “Architectural River Tour Helps Chicago History Come to Life

  1. August 14, 2012 at 8:15 am

    So glad you took this tour. My wife and I took this tour a couple of years ago and it was the highlight of our visit, even given all the other things we did. We learned so much about Chicago and its fantastic skyline. Our tour guide was wonderful and knew so much! The tour lasted an hour and it ended around dusk as evening waterfowl were waking, so we got an extra highlight of the tour.

    Honestly, as soon as I find out someone is going to Chicago, I recommend this tour. Your review does it apt justice.

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