River cruises focusing on architecture are probably the most popular tours in Chicago. Many companies offer these tours and the competition is so stiff that operators know they better provide a top notch product.
I’d say that the most highly regarded tour is that provided on Chicago’s First Lady by the Chicago Architecture Foundation‘s (CAF) docents. This 90 minute excursion is consistently voted as one of the top ten tours in America by various groups such as Trip Advisor.
I have only ever heard good things about the cruise and have even spoken with Chicagoans who have taken the tour several times with out-of-town guests and found that each docent puts their own spin on the tour so it’s never the same thing twice. I like that.
But. But. But. The tour costs $44 US/$60 Cdn per person. Personally, I cannot justify spending that kind of money. I also worried that, with a background in architecture, the tour wouldn’t offer me new insights.
When purchasing our discounted Second City tickets the other day, I noticed 1/2 price CAF cruise tickets. The counter staff at Hottix told us that they sometimes receive these tickets on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday in the summer. Sold. The tickets work out to a bit more than 1/2 price because Hottix adds a $5 per ticket charge to cover its overhead.
Our tour was at 1 pm on Monday. Although the boats have an air-conditioned lower deck, the views aren’t great and it is hard to hear the guide. So everyone sucks it up and sits outside. In the stinking hot sun. Bring sunglasses and a hat with a visor. We brought neither but were fine. Also bring water. It was a hot, sunny day but the only uncomfortable part was sitting on deck for 15 minutes before the cruise started. That said, Fahbio was wearing shorts and got an impressive sunburn on his knees.
Our guide, Mitzi, was fantastic. I certainly came away with new knowledge and a different perspective on the city. Fahbio, not particularly interested in architecture, also found it well worth it. He says it was jam-packed with information.
Today’s Quote of the Day comes from CAF’s docent Mitzi (paraphrased):
Montgomery Ward was a very egalitarian company. Since there was no way every employee could have a corner office it was decided that no one would have a corner office.