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Boat Trips and Tours in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago boasts one of the most iconic and breathtaking skylines in the USA and a boat tour is the perfect way to take it all in.

Cruise down the wide waterway of the Chicago river and see the dramatic skyscrapers looming above or take to the open water of Lake Michigan and admire the city’s beauty from a different vantage point.

Whatever your cruising style, there is a Chicago boat tour for you.

You will find below all you need to know about boat tours, one of the most interesting outdoor activities in Chicago.

Architecture River Cruise

Sit back and cruise down the Chicago River to enjoy the most popular river cruise in America. Your boat will sail down the impressive body of water and pass by more than 40 of the most impressive Chicago landmarks.

Some of the highlights include the Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, Marina City and the unmistakable Trump Tower.

If you wish to take a Chicago architecture tour, a boat ride will give the opportunity to see how the city has grown over the decades from its art-deco past to its glitzy skyscraper present, with a fantastic point of view.

Classic Lake Cruise

Gain a new appreciation for Chicago’s impressive architecture by taking to Lake Michigan for a cruise. Get a panoramic view of one of the most impressive skyline’s in America while enjoying the vast openness of Lake Michigan to the other side.

You will enjoy running commentary throughout, gaining valuable insight into the city’s history and architectural landscape. You can also make use of the fully stocked bar on board to enjoy some refreshments as you soak in the impressive scenery.

Lake Michigan Speedboat Ride

Make a splash with this exhilarating speed boat tour in Chicago. You will whizz by unmissable landmarks like Willis Tower, Tribune Tower, and Buckingham Fountain while having the ride of your life on an impressive boat, built for speed and excitement.

You will make waves in the Chicago River before heading out to the open water on Lake Michigan to see more of the city’s iconic sights from the waterfront.

Private Lake Michigan Sailing Charter

Enjoy the magnificence of the Windy City’s skyline from the comfort of a private charter. Hoist the sails and set out onto lake Michigan with 5 of your friends for an unforgettable adventure. Let the wind determine your course or let your captain know where you want to sail to for a customized sailing experience.

Chicago Dinner Cruise

Get a taste of cruise life with an elaborate dinner cruise on Lake Michigan. Board an impressive vessel for a 2-hour joy ride on the lake while a DJ sets the mood for an epic sunset journey.

Indulge in a delectable buffet and enjoy onboard games like giant Jenga and shuffleboard. See the city skyline light up after dark as you end the day with one of the most iconic views in America.

How much do boat tours in Chicago cost?

Most architecture river cruises in Chicago cost between US$40 and US$50 per person. These tickets allow you to skip the line at the docks and secure your place on board the most popular tour of its kind.

A boat cruise on Lake Michigan is around US$30 per person, a budget-friendly option for visitors looking to enjoy the marvelous views of the city.

A speedboat cruise in Chicago costs around US$60 per person for a trip on the river and Lake Michigan while a ride on only the lake is around US$30 per person.

A private sailing charter is priced for a group of up to six people at a cost of US$430 for the group.

A dinner cruise in Chicago is US$100 per person and includes food. There are also breakfast and lunch cruises available at the same price.

Which places are seen with a boat tour in Chicago?

There are more than 40 iconic buildings on the Chicago riverfront with several bridges spanning overhead as you cruise down the waterway. Here are some of the standout skyscrapers you will see on your journey.

Wrigley Building

The white façade of the Wrigley building is one of the most famous faces of Chicago. The exterior is covered in terracotta and the building dates back to the roaring 20s that shaped much of Chicago’s downtown.

You will have stunning views of its sparkling exterior as your cruise down the Chicago River next to the Magnificent Mile.

Willis Tower

The Willis Tower is often referred to by its old name, The Sears Tower, and it was the second tallest building in the USA upon its opening in the 70s. The building stands at an impressive 442 meters tall and dominates the Chicago skyline with its glistening black exterior.

Trump International Hotel and Tower

The Chicago skyline is filled with iconic skyscrapers, but few are as recognizable as the Trump Tower. Its tiered design and name spelled out in big bold letters are unmistakable and this record-setting building stands almost as tall as the empire state building.

How long does a boat trip last?

Architectural boat tours in Chicago cruise down the Chicago River and last between 1 to 1.5 hours.

Lake Michigan cruises are a little shorter at around 40 minutes and speed boat cruises on the lake are around half an hour.

Speed boat cruises that travel down the river and onto the lake are just over an hour long.

Dinner cruises last for 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the bountiful buffet and the onboard entertainment.

Where do boat tours in Chicago leave from?

Boat tours in Chicago leave from various departure points, depending on the tour operator you book with. There are docks all along the river and cruises on Lake Michigan usually leave from Navy Pier.

When is the best time for a boat trip in Chicago?

Chicago offers stunning scenery at all hours of the day but sunset cruises on Lake Michigan are especially popular as you get to see the city come to life after dark.

Take a boat trip in Chicago as soon as you arrive in the city to see all the major attractions from the best vantage points.

Which other outdoor activities can be done in Chicago?

Travel tips

  • Take weather-appropriate clothes as there might be a slight breeze on the water.
  • You might get wet on the speedboat tour so dress accordingly.
  • Remember to bring a camera to take beautiful photos of Chicago’s skyline.
  • Wear sunscreen on boat tours as you can get easily sunburnt on the water.