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Sightseeing on Lake Michigan

Illinois

Chicago, Illinois: Big Sights, Big Variety with Shoreline Sightseeing

By: Amy Nance

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  • States:
    Illinois

Shoreline Sightseeing is a unique and memorable way to discover the beauty of Chicago.

They opened in 1939 with just one boat, but now Shoreline Sightseeing is in its third-generation and has the largest fleet in Chicago. Their large fleet means there’s always a vessel waiting to take you on a variety of tour types, each of which features dramatic views of the city skyline by boat. Hear all about Chicago, Illinois’ famous history from an engaging narrator, and learn about its most iconic art and architectural structures from a docent. Or, navigate to some of the city’s biggest attractions via Shoreline Sightseeing’s water taxi, which gets you where you need to go and offers scenic views.

From Skyscrapers to Skylines

Can’t decide between charting a course up the Chicago River to see the iconic skyscrapers or a leisurely pass along the pretty Lake Michigan shoreline? You don’t have to; there are both river and lake tours offered here at varying lengths. On the 75-minute architecture river tour, you’ll be led by a knowledgeable docent through the downtown interior, learning about the city’s most notable buildings and history along the way. Classic Lake Tours last 40 minutes and are also fully-narrated, bringing to life the scenic skyline that spans before you.  

Cruising along the Chicago River

Cruising along the Chicago River
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All Aboard the Water Taxi

Leave the rental car behind and get to some of Chicago’s most popular sites by water taxi. Boats depart daily (and every twenty minutes during main season) from four locations, including Navy Pier, Willis (Sears) Tower/Union Station, the Museum Campus and North Michigan Avenue. Both river and lake routes are offered and make stops at all of the above locations (with Soldier Field and Northerly Island within walking distance of the Museum Campus stop). Taxis have both covered and open areas for travelers who want to enjoy a cool breeze with unfettered views of the city.  

Classic Lake Tours depart from Navy Pier

Classic Lake Tours depart from Navy Pier
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Spotlight on Special Events

With so many ships, it’s no surprise that Shoreline Sightseeing offers a range of themed and special event cruises. Along with sunset and Fourth of July fireworks tours on both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, Shoreline gets in the spirit with tailgate cruises during the American football season. See the Chicago River turn green on St. Patrick’s Day with a special 75-minute Irish buffet lunch cruise, or climb aboard during Craft Beer Week, where brews, a DJ and appetizers are on tap (other culinary tours include wine tasting and hard cider cruises). For a raucous good time, join Shoreline on a comedy cruise or for Oktoberfest, where beer, bratwurst and standard German fare are served up with music and dancing.

Two Shoreline Sightseeing boats on the Chicago River

Two Shoreline Sightseeing boats on the Chicago River
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Getting There

Travel into Chicago from international destinations via Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). Both are less than an hour from downtown Chicago. Shoreline Sightseeing is conveniently located in the city, with vessels docking at Navy Pier, Union Station, North Michigan Avenue and the Museum Campus.