Chicago's Best Tours:
One of the best things to do in Chicago. Boat tours are very popular among both locals and visitors. There are several tour options offered by different companies.
One option is a lake cruise. These tend to be the shortest and cheapest of the tours, mostly 30 minutes. They head south for the great views of the skyline and Buckingham Fountain and then north for a look at the high-rises lining Lake Shore Drive. For the adrenaline junkies Seadog has a speed boat. Most lake tours leave from Navy Pier and there are so many during the summer there is one leaving all the time. They do take reservations but they are only necessary at peak times in the summer.
The second option is a river cruise. In our opinion the best boat tour in Chicago. It is the best way to see some of the great architecture downtown has to offer. You see the many draw bridges, some great Art Deco buildings, the Trump Tower, Marina Towers and the Sears Tower up close. All of the boats come with a guide who explains what you are seeing and they know a lot of interesting facts. The best not surprisingly is the tour offered by The Chicago Architecture Foundation. Most leave from near the Michigan Avenue Bridge.
The final option is a combined lake/river cruise. You get the best of both worlds, the views of the downtown skyline from over the lake and the up close looks at the architecture attractions. The drawback is the added cost and time. Going through the locks is interesting but it eats up a fair amount of time.
A much cheaper alternative is the water taxis. The one from Navy Pier to the Museum Campus is a short lake cruise and there are many river taxis. The Wendella taxi to Chinatown is a very pleasant cruise and costs only $6 roundtrip if you buy a day pass.
Shoreline Sightseeing Wendella Chicago Architecture Foundation Seadog Cruises
Bus & Trolley Tours.
The Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. has a hop on hop off tour that covers most of downtown's main attractions. The guided tour last approximately 2 hours and covers 13 miles and buses come by about every 10 minutes. There are 18 places where you can purchase tickets and get on the bus. This tour is a great way to see a lot of the city in a short time or to get back and forth between attractions such as: Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, John Hancock Building, Willis Tower and Field Museum.
Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.
The Chicago Architecture Foundations offers a vast array of tours. They have bus tours, walking tours and boat tours. They stay true to their name by concentrating on architecture and are lead by very knowledgeable docents. Chicago has some of the world's best buildings, some of which are not well know, and the CAF will take you to these hidden gems as well as the famous buildings. They also have tours of some of the cities' most interesting neighborhoods. Many of these are not so easy to explore on your own and the CAF is a great chance to get out and see more that just the main downtown attractions.
Chicago Architecture Foundation
A surprising tour option. Not only can you arrange you own customized tour for up to 6 people but this provided by the Chicago Office of Tourism & Culture service is completely free. They will customize a tour covering over 40 different special interests like: food, architecture, history and ethnic interests. They also cover 25 different neighborhoods. You need to contact them at least a week in advance and no transportation is provided.
Chicago is a great gastronomic city and the huge increase in the number of foodies has lead to the creation of many food tours. Some take you around to a few of downtown's top dinning options, others cover certain types of edibles like: pizza and chocolate, one tours local specialty stores, while a few cover certain ethnic fare such as: Chinese and Indian.
Chicago Food Planet Taste Bud Tours Chicago Ethnic Market Tours
Bike & Segway Tours.
These tours, mostly conducted on the lakefront, have become one of the most popular things to do in Chicago for tourists. The lakefront is one of the cities best attractions and there is an 18 mile long path running through it. The problem is it is tough to cover much of it by walking. By taking a bike or segway guided tour you can cover several miles and see some the best attractions and great views of the skyline, Buckingham Fountain, Northerly Island and the museum campus. Bobby's Bike's Tours are lead by knowledgeable and fun guides and cover more than just the lakefront. Bobby's Bikes is at North Pier close to Navy Pier and segway tours leave from Millennium Park and Navy Pier.
Bobby's Bikes City Segway Tours Chicago Segway Tours Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours
Other Tour Options:
Handsome Cabs. An old fashioned carriage ride is a unique way and romantic way to see the city. You do not cover much ground, but who cares. They usually are waiting near Water Tower and you negotiate with them individually.
Bikes. You can rent bikes and do a tour on your own. They are available in several places: Navy Pier, Millennium Park, Oak Street Beach, North Beach, Ohio Street Beach and at the Wabash Bridge.