We thought we knew about as much about Chicago as an educated traveler could know. We've been there countless times, seen all the big touristy sites, trolled the cool neighborhoods, hit the big sporting events and concerts. Could anyone show us something we didn't know?
Well, yes, the Chicago Architecture Foundation can, in grand style. Their river cruises, which depart along Lower Wacker Drive near North Michigan Avenue (on the riverbank's south side), reveal a beautiful side of the city, complete with interesting stories about Chicago's history and architectural influences.
We wouldn't consider ourselves architecture geeks. We can recognize the Trib Tower as Gothic....and the Trump Tower as....glass? You get the idea. And the knowledgable docents narrating the 90-minute cruises understand they need to appeal to newbies like us as well as architects who come from around the world to admire the amazing skyline. It turns out that gliding under one of Chicago's 18 river bridges revealed a side of Chicago we didn't know.
We were disappointed that the tour took place even though the skies opened up as soon as we left the dock, soaking all of us and forcing us inside. We would've rather come back on another day and been able to sit on the big open-air deck and watch the historic landmarks, modern skyscrapers and restored hotels glide by.
The foundation also runs dozens of other tours throughout the city; check them out online. Admission for the river cruise isn't cheap at $33 per adult, but as long as you don't get soaked or frozen, it's worth the trip.