Perched at the mouth of the Chicago River, right where it meets enormous Lake Michigan, some of Chicago's best views may be found from the deck of cruise ship. Or the seat of a speedboat. Or the cockpit of a kayak. Here are five ways to see Chicago from the water.
Tour in Style
Mosey up the river ways or study the skyline from afar. Either way, a few hours on one of the daily boat tours will reveal some key Chicago secrets - like that before 1673, this now-sprawling city was an uninhabited swamp.
Expert docents from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago History Museum provide extensive insight for the architecture buffs riding aboard Chicago's First Lady Cruises and Chicago Line Cruises.
Fun tidbits and historical overviews aboard tour lines Wendella Sightseeing Boats, Shoreline Sightseeing Company and Mercury, Chicago's Skyline Cruiseline are entertaining for all ages.
For fast and fun connections between Chicago's top tourist destinations, Chicago Water Taxi and Shoreline Water Taxi are the perfect combination of sightseeing and convenient transportation to Chinatown, Museum Campus, Willis Tower and more.
Celebrate on a Specialty Cruise
Unique water experiences abound each summer season and during festive holidays like St. Patrick's Day and Fourth of July. Sip on fantastic drinks underneath Chicago's towering skyscrapers on a wine tasting, cocktail or brew cruise. Dive into a delicious brunch buffet or take along the pooch for a canine cruise. Hit the decks for an early morning photography cruise or for fireworks at twilight.
Celebrate in style with the newly-renovated Odyssey Cruises and Spirit of Chicago and indulge in a delicious multi-course meal with the beautiful lake views as a backdrop. Or make it a late night affair on Mystic Blue when the Blue After Dark Moonlight Cruise transforms into a floating nightclub complete with DJs spinning on the outdoor observation decks.
Kayak for Kicks
Craving more active adventuring? Rent a one- or two-person kayak and go for a morning paddle or special fireworks paddle, navigating your way through the heart of downtown on the famous Chicago River. Even beginners can maneuver these easy-to-operate boats. Bring along an intrepid spirit and be prepared to get wet with kayak outfitters Urban Kayaks, Kayak Chicago and Wateriders.
Even landlubbers can learn to skipper a skiff on Lake Michigan. Sail up to the north shore to check out the beaches and amazing lakeside estates. Or stay close to Navy Pier on a luxurious yacht through Anita Dee Yacht Charters and marvel that this is the largest fresh-water lake within the United States.
Take a Thrill Ride
Crank up the music and speed down the lakefront on a turbo-charged tour from Seadog Cruises. For a truly intense experience, hop aboard the Seadog Extreme Thrill Ride or Lakefront Speedboat Tour and enjoy a jet-propelled ride at speeds of 45 mph with full-throttle twists and turns.