guidesImage

Best Time to Take a Chicago Architecture Tour

Ammara Younas2024-05-31

Table of Contents

dropdown

Chicago's skyline is a dazzling tapestry of architectural innovation, showcasing styles from the classic to the contemporary. One of the best ways to appreciate this rich architectural heritage is through a Chicago’s architecture tour, particularly one that takes you along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. But when is the best time to embark on this visual feast? Let’s explore the ideal timing, and what to wear, and answer some common questions to make your tour of the city unforgettable! 

Embark on the Best of Chicago Tour featuring an Architecture Cruise!


Chicago Architecture Tour: A Seasonal Guide

Chicago Architecture Cruise

Credit: Jake Leonard / Unsplash

Spring: A Refreshing Start

Spring in Chicago, from late March to early June, is a fantastic time to enjoy an architecture tour. As the city shakes off winter's chill, flowers bloom and the cityscape is bathed in mild sunlight. The temperatures are generally comfortable, making it an excellent time for an open-air architecture boat tour. The crowds are not as dense as in the summer, allowing for a more relaxed experience. Plus, you'll avoid the summer's higher humidity, ensuring you can enjoy the sights without breaking a sweat.

Summer: Vibrant and Bustling

Summer, from late June through August, is the peak season for Chicago architecture tours. The city is alive with festivals, tourists, and the beautiful hustle and bustle that only summer can bring. A river cruise aboard one of the many boats offers a perfect vantage point to see iconic structures like the Willis Tower, Merchandise Mart, Navy Pier, and the Wrigley Building. 

Chicago River

Credit: Richard Tao / Unsplash

Departure times are frequent, and the tours often run from early morning to late evening, providing flexibility to fit your schedule. However, be prepared for the heat and humidity, especially in July and August. But don't worry—there are lots of tours with boats that feature climate-controlled cabins to keep cool. Also you can take this tour in early mornings or evenings to escape the summer heat. 

The Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise led by Chicago’s First Lady is a popular choice in summer because of its open-air upper decks and climate-controlled cabins. The boat also features a snack bar and a full-service bar. Once you purchase its ticket, be prepared rain or shine (as they never cancel), and make sure to come 30 minutes before the boat departs! 

Fall: A Picturesque Escape

Fall, from September to November, is arguably the best time to take a Chicago architecture tour. The summer crowds have thinned, the weather is cooler, and the changing leaves provide a stunning backdrop to the city's architecture. The departure times are still frequent, and the clear autumn skies make for fantastic photo opportunities. The architecture boat tour along the Chicago River, under the crisp fall air, offers a serene yet visually rich experience.

Chicago River

Credit: Max Bender / Unsplash

Winter: A Unique Perspective

Winter in Chicago, from December to February, might not be the first season that comes to mind for an architecture tour, but it offers a unique perspective. Yes, Chicago architecture tours do run in the winter. While the Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise operates from March to November, Wendella Cruises offers Chicago's Original Architecture Tours year-round (excluding Christmas). 

Wendella Cruises also has lots of tours to choose from which run for 45 to 90 minutes and explore 130 years of architectural legacy. The city's buildings take on a different character under a blanket of snow, and the holiday lights add a magical touch. If you’re prepared for the cold, winter can be a truly memorable time to explore Chicago’s architectural wonders.

There are some other tour operators that tend to offer Chicago Architecture River Cruises from time to time. The Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Tour is a highlight. Make sure to check the website of all the top tour operators in the city before you plan your visit—winter is unpredictable! 

Best Time of Day for an Architecture Tour

Morning: Fresh and Tranquil

Morning tours are perfect for those who enjoy a quieter, less crowded experience. The air is fresh, the light is softer, and you can often get some of the best views without too many other tourists around. A morning cruise aboard an architecture boat tour offers a peaceful start to your day with stunning views of the city waking up. Also, early mornings (and early evenings) are the best times to embark on an architecture tour in summer because the weather is milder and there is enough light to see the attractions. 

Afternoon: Lively and Bright

Afternoon tours are ideal for those who enjoy a vibrant atmosphere. The sun is high, casting the city’s buildings in bright, beautiful light. This is the best time for photography enthusiasts as the lighting is optimal. The river and lake tours are bustling, reflecting the lively spirit of Chicago. Afternoon tours are best enjoyed in the colder months. 

Evening: Magical and Serene

Chicago River Cruises

Credit: Gautam Krishnan / Unsplash

Evening tours, particularly those that coincide with sunset, provide a magical experience. The city lights begin to twinkle, the sky transforms with hues of orange and pink, and the reflections on the Chicago River are breathtaking. An evening architecture tour offers a serene end to the day, perfect for couples or anyone looking to see Chicago's architectural marvels in a different light. Evening tours are also a year-round delight. 

Embark on a Scenic Chicago Night Tour featuring an Architecture Cruise!


Notable Highlights on the Tour

When you embark on a Chicago architecture tour, there are several iconic landmarks you shouldn't miss:

- Willis Tower:

Once the tallest building in the world, it remains an architectural marvel and offers stunning views of the city.

- Merchandise Mart:

This massive Art Deco building is a sight to behold, especially when illuminated at night.

- Navy Pier:

A hub of activity with its own architectural beauty, offering both historical and modern attractions.

- Wrigley Building:

Its gleaming white exterior and intricate details make it one of the best photographed buildings in Chicago.

- Chicago River: 

Cruising along this iconic waterway provides a unique vantage point to appreciate the city's architectural diversity.

FAQs

Do Chicago Architecture Tours Run in the Winter?

Yes, many Chicago architecture tours continue through the winter. While the open-air boats may be less frequent, several tours use climate-controlled vessels, making it possible to enjoy the city's architecture regardless of the weather. Wendella Cruises, for example, operates year-round, providing a comfortable environment to take in the sights even in the chilliest months. The Chicago Architectural Brunch Cruise led by City Experiences also runs year-round! 

What to Wear on a Chicago Architecture Tour?

What you wear on a Chicago architecture tour depends largely on the season. Here are some tips:

- Spring/Fall:

Dress in layers. The weather can be unpredictable, so having a light jacket or sweater is advisable. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

- Summer:

Wear light, breathable clothing. A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are a must. Comfortable sandals or sneakers are ideal for walking.

- Winter:

Bundle up with a heavy coat, gloves, a hat, and a scarf. Opt for waterproof boots if snow is on the ground, and consider wearing thermal layers to stay warm. 

In conclusion, the best time to take a Chicago architecture tour depends on your preferences for weather and crowd levels. Whether you choose the vibrant summer, the picturesque fall, the refreshing spring, or the unique winter, each season offers its own charm. Remember to dress appropriately, check departure times, and enjoy the breathtaking views of Chicago's architectural masterpieces!

Latest Articles

Visiting Chicago in June.jpg

Visiting Chicago in June (What to do in Chicago in June)

2024-05-28

Millennium Park

Best Places To Visit In Chicago

Best Places To Visit In Chicago

2022-08-30

Buckingham Fountain Chicago

Top Tours in Chicago

2022-04-20

Visiting Chicago in June.jpg

Visiting Chicago in June (What to do in Chicago in June)

2024-05-28

Millennium Park

Best Places To Visit In Chicago

Best Places To Visit In Chicago

2022-08-30

Buckingham Fountain Chicago

Top Tours in Chicago

2022-04-20

Visiting Chicago in June.jpg

Visiting Chicago in June (What to do in Chicago in June)

2024-05-28

Millennium Park

Best Places To Visit In Chicago

Best Places To Visit In Chicago

2022-08-30

Buckingham Fountain Chicago

Top Tours in Chicago

2022-04-20