The Chicago Architecture Foundation is renowned for its historical and architectural tours of the city. They have a whopping 85 tours to choose from, and you can go on foot or by boat, bus or bike. If you’re a fan of architectural history, you’ll be in your glory trying to choose the best tour for you. Even if you’re not really “into” architecture, the tours offer interesting tidbits and history about Chicago and its buildings.
Here’s info on just three of their most popular tours:
- The River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady—This tour has been called a “top tour in Chicago and one of the top ten tours in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor. It also comes recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Kristin. In 90 minutes, you’ll cruise along the river while one of the CAF-Certified tour guides, called a docent, gives you the history on more than 50 buildings. If you’re traveling with kids, they may not be as interested in the history, but they should enjoy the scenery and the experience of the boat ride.
- Must-See Chicago—This one is for those of you who want to know more about Chicago’s famous buildings, including the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, Willis (Sears) Tower and the Chicago Theatre. In abotu 90 minutes, the tour also covers Chicago landmarks like Millenium Park, the Chicago River and “the Loop.” This is a hybrid walking/train tour. You’ll need Ventra passes to get on and off the “El” (trains).
- Historic Treasures of Chicago’s Golden Age—This walking tour looks at the architectural landmarks along Michigan Avenue and State Street, highlighting buildings from the 1890s-1930s. You’ll make stops at the Palmer House Hotel and the Chicago Cultural Center, while learning about some of Chicago’s greatest architects, like Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Holabird and Roche.
- Considering you’re in town for the Chicago Marathon, you’ll want to consider the timing of the tour and the mode of transport. With the walking tours, you will be on your feet for at least 2 hours (walking and standing). If you’d like to do a tour the day before the marathon, I highly recommend choosing a boat or bus tour. However, if you choose a walking tour the day after, it may be an ideal way to loosen up those sore muscles. And while there is a good bit of walking, the tour groups tend to move along at a moderate pace.
- One thing I love about the walking tours is that the CAF uses headsets to ensure everyone can hear. Have you ever been on a walking tour and had to strain to hear the tour guide? You won’t have to do that here. Each person receives a set of headphones and a power “box” to control volume. The docent is then equipped with a microphone, which feeds directly into your headset. It makes it a cinch to hear the entire tour, even above loud city street noises and your restless toddler.
I’m a three-time Chicago Marathon finisher. I’ve also finished several half marathons in Chicago and Duluth, MN. I run for Chicago Lights, which provides hope and opportunity to Chicago children, youth and adults who face the challenges of poverty. I’ve been involved with Chicago Lights for more than 5 years, including as a tutor and an Associate Board Member.