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Chicago River Tours

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2,857 Reviews
Chicago River
Winding its way through the heart of the Windy City, the Chicago River flows past some of the city’s most notable architecture, including the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), Wrigley Building, and Navy Pier. The river also offers opportunities for exploration, such as river cruises, kayaking, and canoeing, along a revamped riverfront.

The Basics
The most popular way to explore the Chicago River is on a cruise, in particular a Chicago architecture river cruise, which offers an overview of the city’s history and building architecture. You can combine your cruise with a Chicago city tour, food tour, South Side tour, speedboat ride along Lake Michigan, or VIP access to the Willis Tower. Kayak tours are also popular, including a nighttime ghosts and gangsters tour. 

Things to Know Before You Go
  • River cruises fill up fast in summer, so buy tickets or book a tour well in advance.
  • River cruises depart rain or shine. As weather can change quickly in Chicago, be prepared for rain or temperature fluctuations.
  • No experience is necessary to kayak on the Chicago River; tour guides provide a short lesson before each kayaking tour begins.

How to Get There
Running through the center of downtown Chicago and dividing the Loop from River North, the Chicago River is hard to miss. Most river cruises depart from below the DuSable Bridge at the corner of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue. If you’re coming via public transportation, take the El to State/Lake. 

When to Get There
The Chicago River is best explored during late spring, summer, and early fall, as most river cruises don’t operate during winter. The Chicago River is famously dyed bright green for St. Patrick’s Day, an event that traditionally takes place on the Saturday before March 17. If you are visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday during summer, book a fireworks cruise to enjoy fireworks over Navy Pier.

Chicago Architecture Highlights
Exploring the Chicago River is largely about appreciating Chicago architecture. On the main branch of the river, look for the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the corncob towers of Marina City, and the Merchandise Mart, once the largest building in the world. On the south branch, the highlight is the Willis Tower, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed as the Sears Tower in 1973.
Address: The Loop, Chicago, USA
Hours: Open daily
Admission: Free
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36 Tours and Activities to Experience Chicago River

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Chicago Architecture River Cruise

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

star-5
Cruise down the Chicago River to see the city's famous architecture on this boat tour. With commentary from your onboard guide, watch the spectacular skyline glide by, including more than 40 notable buildings like Navy Pier, the Wrigley Building, and the John Hancock Building. Cover all three branches of the Chicago River, passing the East Bank Club, the old Post Office Building and the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).
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  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$40.33
From
$40.33
Taking safety measures

Chicago Lake and River Architecture Tour

Chicago Lake and River Architecture Tour

star-4.5
Step aboard a boat for a comprehensive cruise that details the history of Chicago's architecture. Enjoy views of the Chicago skyline accompanied by architecture-focused commentary that points out each of the landmark buildings. As you cruise through Lake Michigan, snap photos of you and your party against the stretch of Chicago's 26-mile shoreline.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$39.00
From
$39.00
Taking safety measures

45-min Chicago River Architecture Tour

45-min Chicago River Architecture Tour

star-5
Get a front row perspective on the exquisite buildings that line the Chicago River during a 45-minute architecture cruise. Hear live commentary about the history and architectural heritage of Chicago on this family-friendly tour, which highlights landmarks such as the Chicago Riverwalk, Michigan Avenue Bridge, Wrigley Building, and Willis Tower. Sit on the open-air top deck or the sheltered bottom deck for the ultimate view of Chicago.
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  • 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$23.00
From
$23.00
Taking safety measures

Big Bus Chicago Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

Big Bus Chicago Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

star-4.5
Don’t spend time figuring out what to see in Chicago and how to get there—this hop-on hop-off tour provides a mapped-out itinerary of the city's top sights. With several strategically located stops, the tour allows you to explore the Windy City at your own pace. See the world-class Art Institute and landmark skyscrapers, while live commentary onboard gives you insight into the city's colorful history.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$29.00
From
$29.00
Taking safety measures

Chicago Prohibition Tour

Chicago Prohibition Tour

star-4.5
Visit four historic bars in operation since Prohibition in Chicago, and learn from a knowledgeable guide about the surreptitious world of the speakeasy. This adults-only tour takes you by coach to once-illicit establishments in Old Town, Wicker Park and the Chicago Loop where liquor, jazz and mobsters ruled. You’ll hear about Chicago gangsters like Al Capone and learn the historical context for the decade-long ban of alcohol. If you’d like, you can purchase recommended craft cocktails and signature drinks of the 1920s.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$55.00
From
$55.00
Taking safety measures

Chicago in a Day: Food, History and Architecture Combo Tour

Chicago in a Day: Food, History and Architecture Combo Tour

star-5
An excellent choice for first-time visitors, this tour provides a comprehensive overview of the city and hits on both classic attractions and little-known sites. Beginning at the Chicago Theatre, work your way to the Chicago Pedway, an elaborate network of underground tunnels used by locals and commuters. Stroll the Chicago Riverwalk and the Magnificent Mile, then embark on a food tour to taste some of the city’s famous foods.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$102.30
From
$102.30
Taking safety measures

Chicago Grand Half-Day Bus Tour

Chicago Grand Half-Day Bus Tour

star-3.5
Get the perfect introduction to the wealth of sights in the Windy City during this 4-hour Chicago day tour. Discover the many landmarks spanning both the city's North Side and South Side, enjoying a scenic ride along Lake Michigan on Chicago's Outer Drive along the way. You'll also have the chance to admire the city's Washington and Grant Parks, explore inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory, see Adler Planetarium and visit the iconic Wrigley Building. This Chicago in a half day tour also includes transport between all sites and tour narration.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$52.95
From
$52.95
Taking safety measures

Chicago Grand Tour and Admission to 360 Chicago (formerly John Hancock Observatory)

Chicago Grand Tour and Admission to 360 Chicago (formerly John Hancock Observatory)

star-3.5
This Chicago grand tour covers four hours of sightseeing with admission to 360 Chicago (John Hancock Observatory). Get oriented to the Windy City on a coach tour that takes you along a scenic route on Lake Shore Drive, and past North Side and South Side highlights including Museum Campus, Lincoln Park, Washington Park, Grant Park and Wrigley Field. Finish on the 94th floor of the Hancock Center, one of Chicago's tallest landmarks, for panoramic views of the Magnificent Mile from the open-air observation deck.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$73.95
From
$73.95
Taking safety measures

Land and River Architecture Tour of Chicago's Scenic North Side

Land and River Architecture Tour of Chicago's Scenic North Side

star-4.5
Discover Chicago’s iconic architectural gems from every angle on a 3.5-hour tour of the North Side. Divided between land and water, the comprehensive tour enables you to cover a huge area of the city without getting worn out. Travel comfortably by coach or trolley to Fort Dearborn, Wrigley Building, and more. Afterwards, see the Windy City's famous skyscrapers, bridges, and historical sites on a 90-minute cruise down Chicago River.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$76.95
From
$76.95
Taking safety measures

Best of Chicago: History & Culture Tour with Chocolate and Popcorn

Best of Chicago: History & Culture Tour with Chocolate and Popcorn

star-5
The Windy City is known for its spectacular architecture and eclectic food scene. Experience both on this tour through the downtown that combines sights with nibbles. Take in famous landmarks like the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, and Cloud Gate on foot and with the scenic L train or water taxi along the Chicago River. Taste popcorn and chocolate from two beloved city eateries during the tour.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$50.63
From
$50.63
Taking safety measures

Lonely Planet Experiences: River North Historical Food Tour

Lonely Planet Experiences: River North Historical Food Tour

star-5
Get to know the food offerings in River North on this small-group walking tour. As you explore, listen to in-depth commentary from your guide on the culinary history of Chicago and the culture of the River North neighborhood. With a small group of just 12 fellow food-lovers, you'll enjoy personalized attention and the chance to chat about your favorite tastings. Samples include the classic Italian beef, a Chicago-style hot dog, and the famous deep dish pizza.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$60.96
From
$60.96
Taking safety measures

Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady

Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady

star-5
The Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady has long been the gold standard among all Chicago tour experiences, and is the only Chicago architecture boat tour led by highly trained expert docents. On this 90-minute cruise, you will enjoy an overview of historic and modern architectural styles including stories about the people who designed and built Chicago. No visit to Chicago is complete without experiencing this award winning tour, so accept no substitutes.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Taking safety measures
From
$53.25
From
$53.25
Taking safety measures

Chicago Insider Segway Tour in Small Group

Chicago Insider Segway Tour in Small Group

star-5
This is a tour like no other! Our newest Segway adventure is completely unique and will cover the good, the bad, the ugly and the totally weird stories of Chicago. We will travel back through the ages as you discover the city through the lens of the Chicago Syndicate, hear the whispers of the city’s elite (or politicians), and be entertained by stories that are rarely told. You’ll think “No, really I never would have known!” Glide around Millennium Park, through the new neighborhood of Lakeshore East, and along the Lakefront as we unveil Chicago’s forgotten past in two hours! Your imagination will come alive as you hear stories of the Chicago Mob, the truth behind the 1968 Democratic National Convention, innovations that changed history, and so much more!
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$75.58
From
$75.58

Private Pontoon Boat Rental with Pizza Included

Private Pontoon Boat Rental with Pizza Included

star-4.5
Set your own course on this private self-guided cruise along the Chicago River. You're the captain for your group of just eight people, steering the boat wherever you like and getting epic views of the towering buildings along the river. When the munchies hit, grill up the provided pizza on the boat's barbecue and dig in.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$297.60
per group
From
$297.60
per group

Chicago Walking Tour: Modern Architecture

Chicago Walking Tour: Modern Architecture

star-4.5
Embark on a walking tour of Chicago's more-recent architecture heritage with a 2-hour stroll highlighting the city's modern, postmodern, and international structures. Especially known for its architectural originality, Chi-town boasts everything from the elegant metal and glass tower of One South Dearborn to the Harold Washington Library, with its Beaux-Arts inspired exterior. Your guide will highlight these and other unique buildings, relaying background on their individual histories and construction en route.
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  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$26.00
From
$26.00
Taking safety measures

Scenic Chicago North Side Tour and 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

Scenic Chicago North Side Tour and 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

Discover the sights of North Chicago on a 2-hour group walking tour. Offered in the morning and afternoon, select a start time that fits with your schedule. Follow your guide to Millennium Park, Lake Michigan, and more. Feel free to pause for photos and ask questions whenever you like. You also get free admission to the 360 Chicago Observation Deck, which you can use at anytime until 10:30pm.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$55.95
From
$55.95
Taking safety measures

Chicago City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture River Cruise

Chicago City Minibus Tour with Optional Architecture River Cruise

star-4.5
Explore Chicago's iconic landmarks on this sightseeing tour led by an expert guide. Board a comfortable, large-windowed minibus and explore downtown and Northside neighborhoods. You have a chance to get out and visit several locations and hear about the historical and cultural factors that make Chicago unique. Upgrade your tour with a popular open-top boat tour on the Chicago River that focuses on the city's renowned architecture.
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  • 2 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$43.95
From
$43.95
Taking safety measures

Best in Chow: Chicago River North Food Tour

Best in Chow: Chicago River North Food Tour

star-5
Go beyond deep-dish on this culinary walking tour of Chicago, which includes five tastings of classic Windy City cuisine. Navigate the endless options of downtown dining with a guide who can provide insight into the best food Chicago has to offer, and skip the lines and the wait with VIP access to popular restaurants.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$64.00
From
$64.00

Chicago City Tour and Chicago River Cruise

Chicago City Tour and Chicago River Cruise

star-3.5
See Chicago from a new perspective during this 4-hour combined bus and boat excursion covering some of the city's most iconic sights. First discover Windy City landmarks such as the skyscrapers of the Loop, Grant Park, Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field and the former stomping grounds of President Obama during a narrated coach tour. Then take a Chicago cruise aboard your state-of-the-art yacht, enjoying a cruise of the Chicago River that provides a unique look at the city's architecture from the water. This half-day Chicago exploration also includes hotel pickup.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$76.95
From
$76.95
Taking safety measures

Scenic Chicago North Side Tour and Chicago Style Pizza

Scenic Chicago North Side Tour and Chicago Style Pizza

Get a comprehensive overview of Chicago’s North Side on a 3.5-hour sightseeing tour. Home to Wrigley Field, Tribune Tower, and Chicago Water Tower, the vibrant district is not to be missed. Enjoy live narration as you travel along North Lake Shore Drive past Lincoln Park Conservatory and Zoo and much more. After the tour, receive a meal voucher for a personal pizza at the popular Exchequer Restaurant.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$56.95
From
$56.95
Taking safety measures

Chicago Scavenger Hunt: Chicago's Magnificent Mile

Chicago Scavenger Hunt: Chicago's Magnificent Mile

star-5
Named for the cable car turnarounds and the prominent elevated railway that encircled the area at the end of the 19th century, the Loop is Chicago's commercial and cultural core. On today's epic scavenger hunt of Chicago, you'll uncover the area's best sights and rich history. Along the way, you'll visit Cloud Gate, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. It's time to strap on those walking shoes, round up some friends and book your Chicago Loop scavenger hunt today! What You'll See: Tiffany Dome, The Bean, Crown Fountain, Art Institute of Chicago
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  • 2 hours
From
$13.08
From
$13.08

Chicago Highlights Driving Tour: Covid-19 Safe and Private Tour

Chicago Highlights Driving Tour: Covid-19 Safe and Private Tour

star-5
Get an insider’s look at the Windy City’s most iconic monuments during this 3-hour private tour. Travel through Chicago aboard a private vehicle as you discover some of the city’s top neighborhoods, including the Loop, River North, the Magnificent Mile (along Michigan Avenue), Streeterville, the Gold Coast and much more. Your private driver-guide and vehicle, bottled water and round-trip hotel transport are all included.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$190.00
Price varies by group size
From
$190.00
Price varies by group size
Taking safety measures

2-Hour Chicago Holiday Lights Segway Tour

2-Hour Chicago Holiday Lights Segway Tour

star-4.5
Soak up the Windy City’s festive holiday feel and explore local landmarks with ease on this Segway tour in Chicago. Hop onto your Segway and spin through Chicago’s Millennium Park to the Loop. With your guide, you'll watch skaters enjoying the ice rink, explore Michigan Avenue and admire festive department store displays. See the German Christmas market stalls at Daley Plaza, where locals sip hot chocolate and munch 'bratwurst,' and enjoy the atmosphere beneath the city’s Christmas tree. Get the personalized feel of a small-group experience.
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  • 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$75.10
From
$75.10

Private Luxury Boat Rental with Pizza Included

Private Luxury Boat Rental with Pizza Included

star-5
Step aboard an easy-to-maneuver pontoon boat for a private cruise on the Chicago River. You and your private group of up to nine people will enjoy having the boat to yourselves, as well as captaining the ship. You can choose your own itinerary and move at your own pace, pausing to cook the included pizza on the boat's built-in pizza grill.
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  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$318.94
per group
From
$318.94
per group

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What are Chicago River hours of operation?
A:
Chicago River hours of operation: Open daily. Buy tickets in advance on Viator. If you book with Viator, you can cancel at least 24 hours before the start date of your tour for a full refund.
Q:
What's the best way to experience Chicago River?