If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love Chicago. I love living here, and I have to admit that I miss living in the city itself rather than “just” the suburbs. I take advantage of every opportunity I can to make it into the city, and I love doing the “touristy” activities that go along with that, especially the architecture tours offered by Shoreline Sightseeing.
Now that Memorial Day is here and passed, “summer” has officially arrived, which is the perfect time to get out on the river and enjoy a tour of Chicago via boat. Personally, I love the Shoreline Sightseeing tours because they provide so much information on the history of Chicago as well as what’s happening currently. I always learn something new on their cruises, which range in length from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.
It gets better, too, because not only does Shoreline Sightseeing offer the architecture tours leaving from Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue, but they also have water taxi service. This is always such a hoot for me to ride on them to travel from my train station to where I want to go downtown, whether it be to the Museum Campus, Navy Pier, or Michigan Avenue. It’s such a fun – and fast – way to get around downtown Chicago!
This time, I was on a 60 minute river tour. Each tour has a docent who provides narration during the boat ride. I’m always so impressed by how much information they retain and how they impart it in such an entertaining way. I’ve yet to have someone who doesn’t possess a great sense of humor and ability to think on his feet. This makes the tour fun for all ages, as I brought the wee ones with me on this tour for the first time.
And they were enthralled. When we got off the boat, I asked them what they liked the most. Mister Man immediately was drawn to the story about the bridge flood back in the ’90s where there were fish swimming in the Fields store. Little Miss, on the other hand, loved hearing about the old post office and how it had a road going through it. Well, that and she loved hearing about how the Chicago River has been downgraded in its level of toxicity. As she peered at the murky green waters she quickly agreed that she never wanted to go swimming in it, though kayaking is now allowed. Just… don’t eat the fish you catch.
I loved showing the wee ones the buildings that mean something to me from the Sears Tower (and amen to the docent who agreed that it will always be known as the Sears Tower to any Chicagoan) where I had my first “real” job to the building on Wacker where I worked post college for three plus years and more. They love hearing how Mommy had a life that didn’t involve them once upon a time.
And I love hearing about it all from the bridges that raise up on certain days of the week to allow boats to pass through to Lake Michigan to the architect who loved triangles and used them everywhere in his buildings to what Chicago showed the World during the (late) 1893 World’s Fair, where the Ferris Wheel was demonstrated for the first time. Little did I know that each train size car had its own bar!
Right now in Chicago, we are in construction season, and during our river cruise, that meant we had a boat working on a bridge that unexpectedly blocked our path for a good 15-20 minutes. Our docent didn’t miss a beat and improvised with a great deal of additional information (including the bit about the fish in Field’s), which kept us all entertained, before fielding questions from the audience which he handled with aplomb and humor. I was truly impressed.
Whether you’re a first time visitor to Chicago or you’ve been on the architecture tours many times, it never fails to delight. I’ve been visiting Shoreline Sighteeing since 1997 when my company hired out the boat for a summer intern cruise. This was definitely not my first trip, yet I still learned more about Chicago and enjoyed myself. You can bet it won’t be my last trip, either!
And lucky you, if you’ll be in Chicago during the 2013 cruising season, you’re in luck (hint, hint for anyone attending #BlogHer13). I have two tickets to give away to one lucky winner for a Chicago River Architecture Cruise from Navy Pier’s Ogden Slip.