We cover the entire downtown city skyline from north to south. The six-mile trip on Lake Michigan proceeds north past Navy Pier to the Hancock Building, east out to the lighthouse, and south towards the Willis (Sears) Tower and Museum Campus, which includes the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum of Natural History.
We have a professional narration that highlights special events in our city’s history and points out landmarks on our famous skyline.
Our Classic Lake Tours run frequently, but reservations are still a good idea, especially in the busy summer months. Please note that while reserving a ticket secures your place, actual seating is on a first-come basis. During special festivals such as Taste of Chicago, we will run extra tours, but we cannot take reservations due to the size of crowds.
The Architecture River Tour goes down the main branch of the Chicago River, up the north branch to the East Bank Club, and then south past the Willis (Sears) Tower to the old Post Office Building. Each cruise is led by a professional and entertaining guide who provides detailed descriptions of more than 40 landmark buildings seen on the river cruise.
Architecture Cruises often sell out quickly, especially in the height of the summer season, so advance reservations are strongly advised. Please note that while reserving a ticket secures your place on a specific cruise, actual seating is on a first-come basis.
In the spring and fall our schedule is largely dependent on weather, except for our group commitments which will operate as scheduled. However, our tours will usually sail during the summer, though weather may require a reduced schedule. It is up to the Captain to decide whether conditions are unsafe and to delay or cancel the cruise accordingly. If cruises are canceled due to stormy weather, or any other reason, refunds will be issued for pre-purchased tickets.
Most of our tour boats are double-deckers with a partially covered overhead, but four of our Architecture River Tour boats have a single deck with no cover.
Approximate times are:
The architectural details of our famous buildings are more clearly visible during the day. However, when the city lights turn on, you get an entirely new view of Chicago’s architecture. Many guests have ended up taking both day and evening tours because they are so different.
Most Shoreline tours and cruises do not go through the locks. Doing so would add approximately 30 minutes per round trip, most of which time is spent sitting and waiting.
Alcohol is available on most of our boat tours.
Drinks and small snack items are available on most Shoreline tours.
Yes, the tour boats have restrooms as do the large water taxis. Our small water taxis do not have restrooms aboard.
The upper decks of our Chicago River Architecture Tour boats are accessible to people with disabilities. However, our vessels are not equipped with elevators. Therefore, restrooms, which are located on the lower deck, are not accessible. Additionally, the upper decks of our Architecture Tour vessels are open and provide no protection from the elements, although we do have a light-weight awning-type covering in the event of rain. Our Classic Lake Tour boats have limited access to people with disabilities. Our ramps are accessible only to wheelchairs with a narrow base and not at all to motorized vehicles. Our Water Taxis are not accessible to people with disabilities. If you have additional questions please call 312-222-9328. Find out more details on dock accessibility here.
Yes, leashed dogs are welcome on any of our tours.
Shoreline was founded in 1939 with one touring vessel giving Lake Michigan boat tours. We are now in our third generation of family ownership, with the largest touring fleet in Chicago.
Special rates are available for groups of 20 or more with advance reservations. Contact our Sales Office at 312-373-7258 to reach group sales or access complete information through Shoreline’s Group Sales web page.
We currently have the option for private charters. Please contact our group sales department – 312.373.7256 – for more information.
Groupon’s for Shoreline’s Architecture River Tour must be redeemed at a Shoreline Sightseeing ticket booth on the day you would like to take the tour. Please note that tour redemption is based on availability. Please refer to Groupon for expiration dates, and restrictions.
Typically we sail rain or shine. It is up to the captain to decide whether or not to sail. If the cruise is cancelled, a full refund will be issued. Otherwise, please advise all guests to dress for an outdoor activity.
Most of our tour boats are double-deckers with a partially covered overhead, but four of our Architecture River Tour boats have a single deck with no cover. Again, please prepare for any outdoor activity.
The US Coast Guard requires that there be life jackets for every passenger. However, they are only passed out in an emergency.
The upper decks for the Architecture Cruises are accessible to people with disabilities. However, bathrooms are located on the lower deck and can only be reached by stairs. Our Classic Lake Tours, Waterfront Adventure Tours and Water Taxis are not accessible to people with disabilities. Click here for complete information about the accessibility of our cruises.
Depending on the vessel, anywhere from 150 to 260 people will fit on the boat.
Please view maps of our docks for boarding locations.
One person from your group must check in at the ticket booth and obtain a boarding pass for your entire group. Individual tickets are never issued to groups.
Seating is first come, first served. Sections or seats are never reserved for groups. We cannot guarantee that your group will all be seated together.
There is a cash bar on board most of our vessels from May to September. Food is not served on board.
Payment due dates are reflected in the “charges” section of your contract. Payment due dates vary depending on the type of tour.
We do require payment in advance for group bookings. To guarantee a reservation with a credit card and pay on site with cash or check please contact your Group Sales Coordinator.
Refunds are not given for unused tickets. A credit will be applied to the contact information for the group and can be used toward a future group booking.
Additional tickets may be purchased at the contracted rate on site. However, those seats are based on availability.
The Lake Taxis go between Navy Pier and the Museum Campus (Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium and also within walking distance of Soldier Field and Northerly Island). The River Taxis go from Navy Pier to Museum Campus, and the Willis (Sears) Tower/Union Station. Shoreline also operates morning commuter water taxis, serving Willis (Sears) Tower/Union Station and Erie Street.
Taxis run at least every twenty minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. during the main season of Memorial Day through Labor Day. Water Taxis may also run outside the main season in the spring and fall, weather permitting. Commuter taxis run from 6:55 to 9:00 a.m.
The Water Taxis operate as public transportation similar to buses so reservations are not available. All tickets are sold in person at our Shoreline kiosks or as you board.
We will usually run in the summer if it rains; not in the spring or fall. The decision to cancel is left solely to the captain who decides whether it’s safe to sail.
Our Water Taxis have both open and covered areas.
Most of our Water Taxis do have restrooms.
Our Water Taxis are not accessible to people with disabilities. Please call if you have additional questions.
Because the Water Taxis operate as “transportation”, we regret that we cannot offer Water Taxi group reservations or rates. We do offer group reservations for 20 or more on our Architecture and Classic Lake tours.
Yes, because we offer the largest boat fleet in Chicago and can provide unparalleled service!
Shoreline Sightseeing offers 75-Minute Architecture River Tours on the Chicago River led by professional and entertaining guides. We also offer forty-minute Classic Lake Tours on Lake Michigan, featuring a professional narration on the city’s history and landmarks along Chicago’s famous skyline. We also offer Fireworks Cruises, Sunset Cruises, Brew Cruises, Wine Tasting Cruises and a number of special themed cruises throughout the summer season.
Our water taxis provide one way services between each dock location. To transfer to another taxi or to take a return trip a new ticket must be purchased.
Yes, every private charter is completely private for you and your guests. While onboard, you will have exclusive use of the boat for the full duration of your event.
We have several vessels available, all of which were custom built for Shoreline or modified to our specifications for handling private events. Currently the Evening Star is the primary private charter vessel.
We handle private charters for 75-175 guests.
For the 2019 season, private charters will be available during the day and in the evenings.
At Shoreline Sightseeing, we appreciate your busy schedule so our professional charter sales representatives can handle all the details for you. Just tell us the date and time for your event, number of guests, and your budget. We will put together a proposal to include all of these details and will assist with the coordination along the way.
Boarding time is 15 minutes prior to the start time of your private charter. For example, if your charter is from 8–10 p.m., you would board at 7:45. There is no charge for this boarding time period.
Yes. We have chosen our catering partners based on their great food, superb service and high marks for customer satisfaction. All of our catering partners are fully licensed and insured for the duration of all Shoreline private charters. We believe you will be very pleased with their exemplary culinary selections and services.
All private charters leave from our convenient Polk Bros Park dock. See map for additional information.
Navy Pier fireworks displays take place at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10:15 p.m. on Saturdays throughout the summer. For detailed information, visit https://navypier.org/explore/fireworks/
Our standard deposit arrangement is 50% of the full private charter total at the time of the booking with a signed contract. The remaining balance is due two weeks prior to the event along with your final guest count.