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The Chicago Traveler

Chicago Architecture Tours Examine the City from Very, Very Top to Bottom

by Matt B on May 31st, 2008

The city of Chicago features numerous impressive buildings designed by famous architects. Even if you've never studied the field, you may have heard of prominent names like Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Stuart Cohen, or 'the Chicago Seven.' Every Monday, The Chicago Traveler features at least one attractive piece of architecture in the Windy City. The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is also passionate about educating the public on the incredible design that graces our city.

chicago's little lady architectural tourCAF offers over 80 tours, from downtown to suburbia, from a healthy walk to a comfy bus ride. Among the most popular is the River Cruise, a 90-minute narrated trip down the Chicago River, right between several of the city's soaring skyscrapers! The tour highlights more than 50 of Chicago's most recognizable structures. Each of the three boats has climate-controlled indoor seating as well as open-air seats where you can tip your head all the way back to observe the city's towers. You can even purchase snacks and beverages on board.

chicago architecture toursRiver Tours take place from May through November nearly every half-hour or hour. (Check the website for an exact schedule and other information.) Look for the blue awning near the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. If you plan on sitting in the open air, dress with the weather in mind.

Other popular architecture tours include:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright by Bus. Discover Oak Park, where FLW lived and developed his 'first golden age.' The trip includes an interior tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio and a one-hour guided walking tour.
  • chicago architecture toursGraceland Cemetery. This is one of my favorite cemeteries, and I used to live only a couple blocks away. It's full of monuments dedicated to famous figures from Chicago's social and political history.
  • Highlights by Bus. This tour covers 30 miles (48 km) including the Loop, Hyde Park, the Gold Coast, the lakefront, several historic districts, and more, along with several stops in the downtown area.
  • Historic Skyscrapers. See a piece of tangible history and learn about some of Chicago's first skyscrapers, including a number of buildings constructed in the late 19th century as well as the Chicago Board of Trade Building (1930).
  • Magnificent Mile. As everyone knows, Michigan Avenue is a mecca for high-end shopping, but it wasn't always. Find out how this boring street full of factories and saloons evolved into a world-famous Avenue.
  • Modern Skyscrapers. Chicago has a long history of great design and construction, and that tradition carries on to today. This tour examines contemporary models of modern and post-modern structures.

Obviously there are so very many more, and you should definitely check them out. A number of tours provide audio-assist devices, and a few are even offered in French, German, Japanese, and/or Spanish.

Visit http://www.architecture.org/ (or call 312-922-3432) for directions, times, rates, meeting points, and detailed information on each available tour.

Photo credit: (c/o Flickr) qmechanic, karmablue

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POSTED IN: Architecture & Attractions

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