If you are looking for the best boat tours in Chicago, Illinois, there are a ton of options!
With the Chicago River carving its way through the city and Lake Michigan forming one border, there is plenty of water to explore in this amazing Midwest city.
Taking a boat cruise is one of the top things to do in Chicago because it allows you to see the city from a new perspective.
Planning your trip to Chicago last minute?
Make sure to book ahead. Hotels and tours often sell out the closer you get to your trip. Here are our top pics for Chicago!
Top Experiences And Tours In Chicago:
- Chicago River Architecture Cruise (Skip the Ticket Office!)
- Willis TowerSkydeck & The Ledge Ticket (Elevator express entry!)
- Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Ticket (Panoramic views of Chicago!)
- Big Bus Hop on Hop Off Sightseeing Tours (24, 48, or 72-hour options available.)
Hop Hotels In Chicago:
As you cruise through the water, you can enjoy an architecture tour, a delicious meal, a beautiful sunset, or even a fun fireworks display.
With so many different options for Chicago boat tours, you can try a different one each time you visit!
If you visit Chicago during St. Patrick’s Day, you can even see the river when it is dyed green!
If you are looking for a cheaper Chicago boat ride, you can buy a ticket for the Chicago Water Taxi. This public Chicago ferry runs from May through September.
Now, let’s look at some of the best Chicago boat cruises!
13 Best Boat Tours in Chicago Worth Your Money
1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise
There are many Chicago River architecture tours and this 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise is one of the best!
As you explore three branches of the Chicago River, the guide will teach you all about the city’s noteworthy architecture.
The Willis Tower, Tribune Tower, NBC Tower, Wrigley Building, and more are highlighted.
There is an open-air deck and climate-controlled interior so this Chicago architecture boat tour can be enjoyed year-round.
Grab refreshments at the bar and enjoy this informative cruise!
If you are only spending a weekend in Chicago, you cannot miss out on adding this Chicago River boat tour to your itinerary.
1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Boat Tour in Chicago
You could not ask for a more beautiful experience than watching the sunset over the Chicago skyline and the water of Lake Michigan.
As you make your way from the river through the Chicago Locks to the lake you will hear some commentary on the process.
Most of the tour, however, has no narration so you can be fully emersed in nature and the wonder of the sunset.
The boat has a full-service bar where you can order local beers, spirits, and snacks during your Chicago sunset cruise.
Seadog Speedboat Ride
If you are looking for more of a thrill, book a Chicago speedboat cruise!
This Seadog Speedboat Ride will zoom you along the lakefront, showing off the amazing skyline.
During the half-hour ride, you will hear Chicago fun facts from the guide.
And don’t worry, this shoreline sightseeing Chicago cruise is more than just speed. There are stops where you can grab awesome photos of the city.
If you want even more heart-stopping fun, you can upgrade to the Extreme Thrill Ride option.
This ride will have full-throttle slalom runs and 360-degree spins! You will really feel the horsepower!
This is one of the most fun boat tours in Chicago, IL!
Gourmet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner River Cruise in Chicago
Want to enjoy your cruise with a delicious meal? There are many boat rides in Chicago for you whether you want brunch, lunch, or dinner.
If you want a fancy meal, look into this 2-hour Gourmet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner River Cruise in Chicago.
Dress up and get your photo taken as you board the Chicago cruise ship. Then take your seat in the glass-enclosed dining area.
You will love the 3-course, fine dining meal that is all prepared fresh on board. There is also a bar where you can buy cocktails.
During the dinner boat cruise in Chicago, there is a DJ playing music while the brunch and lunch cruises have architectural narration.
Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Boat Tour In Chicago
The Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise is one of the Chicago boat tours at Navy Pier.
This 40-minute cruise takes you along the lakefront as you listen to narration about the city’s history and architecture.
While the narration is not live like many other tours, the recordings are offered in both English and Spanish.
This is one of the best boat tours in Chicago with kids because it is not so long that they get bored.
Bring a camera to capture memories and photos of the skyline!
90-Minute River and Lakefront Cruise at Night
A Chicago night cruise gives you the chance to see this dazzling city lit up!
Book the 90-Minute River and Lakefront Cruise at Night to float down the Chicago River and along the lakefront during a peaceful night excursion.
You will be awed by the lights of the city as well as Buckingham Fountain’s light show on the waterfront.
The guide will tell you all about the city’s history and architecture. As you go through the engineering marvel of the Chicago Lock, you will learn how it works.
This boat tour in Chicago is very fun and one of the best things to do in Chicago at night!
Tall Ship Windy Architecture & Skyline Sailing Chicago Boat Tour
If you want to enjoy one of the most unique boat tours in Chicago, Illinois, then the Tall Ship Windy Architecture & Skyline Sailing Tour is the one you should book!
You will feel like a pirate when you board the iconic tall ship called Windy for this 75-minute cruise!
This is a great family activity in Chicago! Young and old alike will love watching the sails work in the wind atop this 148-foot traditional schooner.
There are sunset and architecture tour options. Each gives you panoramic views of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan.
Listen to the informative narration and sip a drink from the onboard bar.
Lake Michigan Buffet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner Boat Tours in Chicago
The 2-hour Lake Michigan Buffet Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner Cruise is another of the best Lake Michigan cruises in Chicago that feature a meal.
Hop aboard the Spirit of Chicago and enjoy a buffet-style meal with a view of the city. The food for this lunch cruise in Chicago is freshly prepared and tasty.
There are three decks with climate-controlled rooms and outdoor observation decks.
When you are done eating, there are games to play! Try your hand at giant Jenga and shuffleboard.
You can also dance to the music put on by a live DJ! This is one of the most entertaining Chicago boat rides!
Family Fun Urban Adventure River and Lake Cruise
Chicago’s history is brought to life with fun narration on the 1.5-hour Family Fun Urban Adventure River and Lake Cruise.
You will start the cruise near the historic DuSable Bridge before moving down the river between looming skyscrapers.
Then you will pass through the Chicago Lock and onto Lake Michigan.
From the lake, you will glimpse the Navy Pier, the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, and the Museum Campus.
Beverages such as soda, wine, and beer are sold onboard.
This boat cruise is one of the best tours in Chicago to check out on your trip.
Wine & Cheese or Beer & BBQ Thursday Evening Boat Tours in Chicago
This next Chicago boat tour is a great way to sample local food while taking in the sights.
The Wine & Cheese or Beer & BBQ Thursday Evening Cruise has two options.
Book the wine tour to enjoy several tastings from the Chicago-based Picnic Wine & Provisions wine boutique.
There will be a cheese table and an expert that will guide you in wine and cheese pairings.
This is one of the best boat tours in Chicago for couples looking for a unique experience.
The beer and BBQ tour will have beers from local breweries in Chicago and a meal provided by Blackwood BBQ.
Each tour is 2 hours long and sure to satisfy your taste buds. You will travel along the river and out to the lake.
Fireworks Premiere Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan
The Fireworks Premiere Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan is a 3-hour sunset dinner cruise in Chicago that guarantees a memorable time.
You will cruise along the Chicago shoreline on the luxury Odyssey. Greet the captain as you board and get your photo taken for a cool keepsake.
Your gourmet 3-course meal is prepared fresh onboard and will leave your mouth watering.
There are many options for your appetizer, entree, and dessert.
After your meal, head to one of the observation decks to watch the summer fireworks show over the Navy Pier.
The colors of the fireworks will light up the lake and take your breath away! There is even a live band that will add to the mood.
Keep in mind that the fireworks only occur on Wednesday and Saturday nights from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Chicago Seadog Speedboat Fireworks Cruise on Lake Michigan
Another cool way to see the fireworks from the water is aboard a speedboat!
The Chicago Seadog Speedboat Fireworks Cruise on Lake Michigan is a 60-minute boat ride popular among tourists.
Whether you are traveling with family or friends, this is a fun experience you will not soon forget!
As you speed through the lake in the open-air boat, you will have one of the best views of the Navy Pier fireworks show.
Be prepared for the possibility of getting wet from the spray as the boat zooms through the water.
The tour is also narrated by a lively guide that will make the city’s history interesting.
This is truly one of the best things to do in the summer in Chicago!
Chicago River Sights with Starters & Drinks
Another of the best river boat tours in Chicago, IL, is the Chicago River Sights with Starters & Drinks cruise.
As you float down the river, listen to music while you enjoy a selection of tasty cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
Unlimited coffee, hot tea, iced tea, and water will also be provided on the 2-hour boat ride.
Sit inside the glass-enclosed dining area or stand out on the deck at the front of the boat as you take in the sights of Chicago.
This is one of the best Chicago River cruises for adults who want to enjoy a relaxing activity away from the kids.
Packing List When On A Boat Tour In Chicago Illinois
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing when heading to Illinois.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when traveling to Chicago.
It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID-blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind.
You can place it under your clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery.
This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking Insta-worthy selfies during all the eateries in Chicago you visit.
I never much believed in using packing cubes when traveling. That is until I tried them. Now I am hooked. These are the exact cubes I use to stay organized when I pack for a trip!
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for your adventures and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this collapsible silicone foldable water bottle would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. . No matter the time of day or evening.
This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. And it comes in many different colors!
There is no shortage of Chicago boat tours to enjoy during your Chicago vacation!
From luxury cruises with delicious meals to thrilling speedboat tours in Chicago, Illinois, you will find a fun activity for your family.
A boat tour in the Chicago River is a must!
If you are planning a trip to Chicago, check out our complete list of where to stay in Chicago by neighborhood.
Or you can check out our suggestions of the top things to do in Illinois!