Chicago river cruise

Chicago river cruise with an architectural and history tour of the city skyline

Chicago river cruise

A Chicago river cruise for Travel Photo Mondays


Not really knowing much about downtown Chicago, I thought the perfect start would be to take a river cruise as an introduction to see this magnificent city and skyline from a water vantage point. Even though the day was cold and drizzly, I knew that it would be fun to see the city cruising on the Chicago River to see and learn about the architecture and history of Chicago from its early development to present day. So I went to down to the newly created Chicago Riverwalk area where the river cruise boats were ready for the morning tour.


Chicago river cruise on the Chicago First Lady cruise

Chicago river cruise on the Chicago First Lady cruise

Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

I signed up for an architectural river cruise on Chicago’s First Lady cruises which is a line of recreated river boats that offers  tours and charters around Chicago River and Lake Michigan.  The morning cruise gives an excellent history tour of the city with an architectural tour that highlights significant architecture from Chicago’s classical period to contemporary styles that create the skyline of Chicago.



Chicago river cruise on a cold drizzly day on the Chicago river

Chicago river cruise on a cold drizzly day on the Chicago river


The nice part of taking this tour was the collaboration with the Chicago Architecture foundation – a knowledgeable local architect came on board and showcased all the amazing skyscrapers that are a part of the city’s impressive skyline. I found out that a part of the ticket price supports the architecture learning programs which are an excellent educational part of the river tour.


Architectural details and reflections Chicago river cruise

Architectural details and reflections


The architecture of Chicago has been a major influence on American architecture where many of the newly built skyscrapers were started in Chicago. After the great Chicago fire of 1871, many of the prominent buildings from prominent architects of the Chicago School were built along the riverfront downtown area. This created a new era of building and engineering firsts in Chicago including: structural steel frame, tube frame, large exterior glass panels and many of the first modern skyscrapers built in America. Well known architects left their marks on Chicago’s impressive skyline including Mies Van der Rohe, Martin Roche, Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan and a host of other important American architects.


Bridges of Chicago - Chicago river cruise

Bridges of Chicago – Chicago river cruise




Another interesting facet of the Chicago River cruise are the many movable bridges throughout the city. In less that two miles of river frontage, there are over 18 movable bridges that cross the Chicago River in the downtown area.  From the river tour, we were able to go under many of the different types of bridges including: the Double leaf, Trunnion, Bascule and the local Chicago type bridge.  From our guide, we learn that movable bridges were used primarily on the Chicago River because of the flat and low landscape of the city and the bridges were more practical and cheaper to build in this area.



Water taxi service- Chicago river cruise

Water taxi service- Chicago river cruise



Here are more photo highlights of the Chicago river tour



Chicago skyline - Chicago river cruise

Chicago skyline – Chicago river cruise




Mass transport and bridges at Chicago

Mass transport and bridges at Chicago






The Civic Opera Building - Chicago river cruise

The Civic Opera Building – Chicago river cruise






Cool glass reflections of the Chicago skyline

Cool glass reflections of the Chicago skyline






Lost in the clouds in Chicago city

Lost in the clouds in Chicago city







Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive

Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive


In spite of the foggy morning, this really was a nice introduction to visiting Chicago and getting a quick impression of the city, its major monuments and huge skyscrapers that shaped American architecture to what it is today. It was fun cruising in on the Chicago river even though I found it challenging to photograph the city in bad weather. For anyone touring and taking photographs in unruly conditions, take a look at this post I wrote on how to photograph on grey or rainy days here.



The Wrigley Building, and the Tribune Tower in black and white

The Wrigley Building, and the Tribune Tower in black and white


Thanks for visiting and checking out my post on the Chicago river cruise. If you enjoyed the post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons around the post. Also, take a look at the bloggers below with their Monday views for Travel Photo Mondays.


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Thanks to Chicago’s First Lady Cruises which hosted me for a tour around Chicago, all thoughts and opinions are my own

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16 Responses to Chicago river cruise

  1. Suzanne Fluhr July 25, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    I also had the good fortune to go on an architecture tour of Chicago via the Chicago Rivera. It was a treat. It was also before digital photography, so I can’t check my photos to remind myself what the weather was like that day. As always, your photos more than do it justice. I’ve pinned the one with the interesting lighting fixtures. As disappointing as the weather probably was, I agree that you used it skillfully to enhance rather than detract from your photos. Nice.

  2. Carole Terwilliger Meyers July 23, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    I’ve taken that architectural river cruise on Chicago’s First Lady in the past. It is fabulous! In fact, all of the tours offered by the Chicago Architecture foundation are worthwhile, including the Frank Lloyd Wright tours,

  3. Marilyn Jones July 22, 2015 at 1:30 am #

    I have been to Chicago many times, but never took the cruise; I must do that next time!! A totally different perspective of the city.

  4. Sue Reddel July 21, 2015 at 4:15 am #

    Noel you did a wonderful job capturing our beautiful city even on the greyest of days. I always recommend that river cruise to anyone visiting and have taken many a house guest on that trip as well. Hearing the history seeing the architecture never gets old. I feel very lucky to have worked in an office on the river for many years. When things got a little stressed I would stop and take the time to enjoy the view – it’s amazing. It was also nice to meet you in person during your short visit. Hope you’ll come back again and get a bit nicer weather. Great post!

  5. Cathy Sweeney July 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    I think that the architecture boat tour in Chicago is one of the best tours in the country. I loved it and I’m from Chicago! I love that city for many reasons, and one of them is the wonderful architecture — the old, the new working so well together. Thanks for the great pics of the city sights that mean a lot to me.

  6. Paula McInerney July 20, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    Chicago looks eerily enticing. I love the architecture and the light that you have captured.

  7. Linja July 20, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Sorry you didn’t gave a sunnier day! I’ve been to Chicago but not for long visits.

  8. Susan Moore July 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    I didn’t have time for a river cruise when I last visited Chicago, I would love to do this! Wonderful photos, they look like they are from another time in history,there’s a vintage look to them.

  9. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go July 20, 2015 at 6:00 am #

    I’ve yet to visit Chicago and love the idea of taking a river cruise on the Chicago River to see some of it’s stand out architecture and the moving bridges downtown. Loved your photos which seemed mysterious and shrouded in fog – very atmospheric!

  10. Suzanne Stavert July 20, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    We took the cruise as well, however it was 95 degrees and blistering hot! I could not get over the incredible architecture and historic buildings in Chicago. My photos are completely different taken in the sunlight. I love the mood of your photos. Very lovely!

  11. Life Images by Jill July 20, 2015 at 4:17 am #

    thank you for the river cruise. Chicago’s skyline is certainly a mix of the old and new architecture. The foggy morning made me think of “gangsters” movies! Happy travels.

  12. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru July 20, 2015 at 3:35 am #

    I love what you do with murky weather. Your photos convey a sense of vintage mystery that I find more compelling than the many sunnier views I’ve seen of Chicago. I’ve been a frequent visitor to the city, having grown up in Michigan and lived in Minnesota for so many years. But you’ve shown me these familiar places in a very new way.

    • Noel July 20, 2015 at 5:30 am #

      Sometimes you really have to make the best of it and just work the angles and composition to convey the best details and feel. Thanks for the comments Betsy

  13. Rhonda Albom July 19, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    I grew up in Chicago and didn’t leave until my mid 20s. However, I went on this same river cruise on my last visit there about 6 years ago and that is where I learned much of what you talk about here. Great photos = great memories. When I was little, Marina City (the round buildings) were always my favorite site to see in the city, even though I have never been in them.

  14. budget jan July 19, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Hi Noel, We’ve just returned from 10 weeks in Europe so I hope to be back to linking to your Travel Photo Monday segment again. This boat trip in Chicago is so atmospheric and you have captured the feel of the river with the clouds/mist gorgeously. I wish I was on board trying to capture the feel as well. It is amazing that they have so many bridges that move, although I can see how that would be a good option for them. It would be interesting to see them in action. I pinned my favourite photo – the Water Taxi Service. Cheers. Jan


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I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

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