on September 28, 2007
At 23 bucks a pop, an architecture tour may not be at the top of your Chicago to-do list, but fist-time visitors will quickly learn the importance that architecture plays in understanding this beautiful city’s past and present from Wendella’s Chicago River Architecture Tour. Hardly first-time visitors to Chicago, but new to Wendella’s tours, my parents I were lured to this tour on a perfect summer day when we spied the dock across the river from our hotel, just below the bridge that spans the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue. The ticket booth located at the ferry dock was pretty crowded, so I would definitely recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time, and since the tours run every hour to hour and a half, you should expect lines for each time slot start forming about an hour in advance. Upon entering our ferry for the 11am tour the ferry quickly became crowded. Because the upper deck was open, everyone wanted to be there, but in place of benches or sturdy seats, flimsy plastic chairs were tightly scrunched together in narrow rows. This was a rather challenging seating arrangement for larger or elderly guests. The ferry was in good shape otherwise, and snacks and beverages were available for purchase on the lower level. The tour guide was definitely the shining star of the whole experience. A long-time Chicago resident with a degree in art history, a love for urban landscapes, and a knack for public speaking, our guide made Chicago come alive in this hour-long tour. She highlighted significant historical impacts on Chicago’s architecture such as the Great Chicago Fire and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition, and brought us to present day with insights into the city’s efforts to "go green." We had breathtaking views of the Civic Opera House, the Wrigley Building, and many of the coveted condominium buildings. She also introduced us to the amoeba-shaped Lake Tower renowned for its famous tenants. 33 Whacker Drive was my favorite because of the artistic reflection of nearby buildings its all-glass exterior rendered. Of course we also got a great view of the Sears Tower, John Hancock building, and Tribune building. I remember thinking to myself that even though people can’t help but stop and gaze at Chicago’s beautiful buildings, we would have missed so many nuances regarding their construction and history without our knowledgeable guide. For me, Wendella’s Chicago River Architecture truly captured Chicago as one that embraces the new, which is clearly reflected in its stunning and meticulously-planned array of architectural feats. During the rest of my stay in Chicago, I found myself appreciating the Chicago architecture that wasn’t visible from the river like Millennium Park or even the spacious design of Lincoln Park. So jump on the nearest Wendella’s ferry, get your facts straight, and have a blast exploring the many structures of the famous Chicago skyline. Learn more or buy your tickets at www.wendellaboats.com/chicago.htm.
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