Any other day in November and it would have really been too cold to enjoy a 90-minute boat ride in and around Chicago. However, on this particular day, the stars aligned and it was absolutely beautiful.
Myself, Sunshine, and Random Esquire were fresh off our morning spent at the Shedd Aquarium and decided to go on one of the many Architecture Boat Tours that Chicago has to offer. This one, in particular, would not only take us up and down the Chicago River, but also out onto Lake Michigan to provide even more incredible views of this incredible city.
The beauty of the tour is that not only are you enjoying fantastic views from a unique vantage-point, but you’re also learning a LOT of really interesting facts about how the city of Chicago rebuilt itself after the devastating fire of 1871 that burned over 3 square miles of the downtown area.
One of the facts I remember is that the Chicago River, at one time, was so polluted from sewage spewed out by the booming Chicago industrial industry that fires would actually start spontaneously on the water. That was one of the reasons (of many) that led to the reversing of the actual flow of the river back in 1900…a spectacular feat that is still impressive today.
Some of the buildings we saw were not only beautiful, though. Stories were woven throughout the tour and my interest never waned. Buildings with their own zip codes…buildings considered the ugliest in Chicago…buildings held by a suspension system similar to a bridge…so much history and information that I found utterly fascinating.
We made our way out to Lake Michigan, stopping in the Chicago Lock (pictured left) to make the transition. Because the lake has a higher elevation than the river (and to continue the whole “flow reversal” thing), the Chicago Lock is an area that encloses a boat and opens slightly to let in the water from the lake so that the water level ends up being the same.
Once on Lake Michigan, the views of the city were absolutely spectacular…
We made our way back in from the lake and cruised back to the point of origin, which was right beneath Michigan Avenue. I have to be honest…I wasn’t entirely looking forward to the tour when I was planning to come to Chicago. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be wrong because this, without a doubt, was one of the most fascinating tourist attractions I’ve ever been on. Of course, that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I thoroughly enjoy architecture…but the history of the city told through the tour made for a unique experience I’m not soon to forget.