Chicago is home to two spectacular waterfronts — the Chicago River and Lake Michigan — with stunning shoreline venues to match. Whether you’re looking to host an event on a rooftop deck with sweeping water views or aboard your own private cruise ship, Chicago delivers.
Chicago River venues
Share Chicago’s amazing architecture and panoramic Chicago River views by hosting an event at the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC). The CAC Galleries accommodate 300 guests reception-style, and allow private access to 8,000 square feet of interactive galleries on two floors. Guests can see exhibits that include scaled models of famous skyscrapers, alongside jaw-dropping views of the Chicago River and nearby Wrigley Building. The CAC’s two other spaces include the 140-seat Joan & Gary Gand Lecture Hall and the 36-seat Arcelormittal Design Studio, a perfect workspace for team building that was designed to encourage creative problem solving.
For groups of 10 or more, the CAC can also arrange a tour on the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady. Voted the number-one boat tour in the country by USA Today‘s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, these world-renowned, 90-minute cruises are narrated by specially trained docents who share compelling stories behind more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River.
Or rent your own private yacht to host a party for up to 250 people with Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. Choose a Chicago River or Lake Michigan cruise (or both), where your guests can take in the amazing water views from the spacious open-air top deck or down below in a climate-controlled cabin with huge picture windows. Pick from one of Chicago’s First Lady’s preferred caterers to create a custom menu for your group.
Located at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River, Gleacher Conference Center offers well-appointed meeting rooms, boardrooms, classrooms, and private dining rooms overlooking the city skyline and dynamic downtown waterfront. Their award-winning range of amenities and services include audiovisual needs, catering, and business center services and support.
RPM Events offers more than 6,000 square feet of event space within a dramatic four-level restaurant and events complex overlooking the Chicago River. The venue features both indoor and outdoor options with sweeping water and city views. The grand ballroom can be divided into three independent spaces, with access to the breezy outdoor terrace. Menus can mix and match signature dishes from the acclaimed RPM Seafood, RPM Steak, and RPM Italian restaurants. RPM Events can accommodate up to 425 guests.
River Roast is known for its fantastic river and city views, as well as its contemporary American tavern fare. The restaurant sits on the Chicago River, serving up meat (including whole pig and leg of lamb), fish, and veggies that are roasted and carved tableside. Your group can soak in the panoramic river view outdoors on the huge patio. River Roast offers seven different spaces within its historic loft-style building, accommodating up to 750 seated or 1,000 for a reception.
Lake Michigan venues
Navy Pier is an iconic Chicago landmark set on Lake Michigan, providing dazzling water and skyline views. Navy Pier offers two exhibit halls and 36 meeting rooms. But the real stunner is its nostalgic, 18,000-square-foot Aon Grand Ballroom — which is original to Navy Pier’s 1916 construction and features an 80-foot-tall domed ceiling — accommodating up to 1,100 for dinner, with additional seating for 300 in the balcony. The upstairs Lakeview Terrace, which can host 1,000 for a reception in its 15,000-square-foot space overlooking Lake Michigan, is perfect for pre-function Aon Grand Ballroom Events.
Sable at Navy Pier, Curio Collection by Hilton is a waterfront 223-room boutique hotel located adjacent to Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. The hotel offers 4,352 square feet of event space and five meeting rooms (both accommodating up to 150 people), with breathtaking Lake Michigan and skyline views. The hotel also features Lirica, a Latin-influenced restaurant and lounge with private dining spaces. Upstairs is the glass-enclosed Offshore Rooftop & Bar, the world’s largest rooftop venue. The 36,000-square-foot, all-seasons venue features a chic bar and restaurant, a huge terrace with cozy fire pits, an entertainment and gaming area, and multiple gathering spaces for groups of all sizes. Offshore also offers the ideal front-row seat for Navy Pier’s spectacular summertime fireworks.
The Lakefront Restaurant is part of the revamped Theater on the Lake in Lincoln Park. The 125-seat upscale tavern serves Midwest fare, and can host private dinners indoors or on its seasonal 80-seat Skyline Patio with breathtaking Lake Michigan and city views. The year-round Theater on the Lake, which includes a 330-seat main theatre, can host groups of 25 up to 1,500.
The 63rd Street Beach House is a historic gem located along the lakefront in Hyde Park. It was created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of New York City’s famed Central Park. Quaint courtyards with bubbling fountains and open-air balconies overlooking Lake Michigan make the Beach House a perfect spot for a summertime cocktail party of up to 1,200 guests. Events at the 63rd Street Beach House can be hosted from June through September.
Take your event out on the water with City Cruises by Hornblower. Cruise year-round with Odyssey Chicago River, a single-level, European-style dining boat that departs from the Chicago River Esplanade, near NBC Tower. Soak in the stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding cityscape as the glass-enclosed vessel glides along the waters of the Chicago River. Odyssey Chicago River is available for full and partial charters, accommodating a maximum of 200 guests. For smaller groups, book a large table for one of the lunch, dinner, or cocktail cruises.
Or arrange for a private deck or full ship charter aboard Odyssey Lake Michigan, which departs from Navy Pier. Create a custom package tailored to meet the needs of a business luncheon, networking event, or dinner party for up to 749 guests. Cruise in the day or evening with the Chicago cityscape as your dramatic backdrop.
Choose from one of two Wendella Tours & Cruises vessels to host a chartered corporate outing or cocktail cruise (a water taxi is also available for group transportation). Board at one of Wendella’s many downtown docks on the Chicago River, then set out toward the cool blue waters of Lake Michigan to enjoy the spectacular skyline panorama. Wendella boats can accommodate 50 – 265 guests, with food provided by a preferred caterer or one of your choice.
In operation since 1939, Shoreline offers its elegant boats for charter for corporate events and cocktail parties. Vessels can accommodate from 70 up to 250 guests, and depart from Navy Pier. Your event can include a full bar, a menu from a premier caterer, and extras such as a live band or architecture tour guide. Or plan an outing on one of Shoreline’s many special event tours, including fireworks cruises on Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the summer.
Take your next team building activity out on the water with Chicago Line Cruises. Charter one of three vessels for groups of up to 170 and explore the city as you ply the waters of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Choose a caterer to provide anything from appetizers to a full meal. Make your event even more special with a live jazz band or a docent who can provide colorful narration.
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