Around fifty curious folks boarded the Shoreline Architecture Sightseeing cruise with my Dad and Eric and I on Saturday, ready to head down the Chicago river on the top deck of a boat and to get the real story behind some of those buildings we locals see every day. You know, the ones tourists gaze at in wonder and awe.
Not gonna lie – I was a little awestruck during the tour myself.
The sixty minute tour begins from a little nook at Navy Pier, and heads down the Chicago river, going a little way up the north branch before looping back south to the Sears/Willis tower, then heading back the way it came. It’s fast and informative and you get astonishing views of some of these buildings, which makes for great photo ops.
Our tour guide was a young dude who was clearly knowledgeable, but also surprisingly witty. He shared with us a ton of interesting stories and information, such as (did you know?) the Swissotel and the Chicago Federal Prison building where both designed by the same architect? I didn’t either – but now the distinct triangular shape of both buildings makes more sense.
(Also of interest was the rumor/legend that the architect of the Chicago Opera Building designed it in the shape of a throne as a tribute to his daughter, who went to NYC to make it as an opera singer. Unfortunately, she was bad. So the architect decided to build her an opera house, with it’s back turned to NYC. Of course, as the legend sometimes claims it was the architects wife, it’s hard to gauge the accuracy, but still – interesting stuff!)
We also learned about the pollution of the Chicago river, which used to be the dumping ground for all the city’s waste, in particular the remains from the meat packing district. Tasty, huh? Also, on a bright note, the river was upgraded from “toxic” to “very polluted,” which is apparently all you need for people to be able to use it for kayaking/canoeing.
There’s also a full bar on board, which I wasn’t expecting. If you want to enjoy a Bloody Mary while cruising down the river, that’s your prerogative and I won’t blame you at all. I had water, as it was a seriously smoldering sunny day during my trip, but had the weather been a little more overcase, I’m not saying a beer wouldn’t have been awesome.)
Nerd Alert: We also got to ride right under a bridge that was closed to street traffic due to Transformers 3 filming – and many of the extras (in full military gear, even in 80+ degree weather) waved at us as we passed.
My Dad, Eric, and I all agree it was a good time.
Check it out – ShorelineSightseeing.com