The Chicago Architecture Center was founded in 1966. Originally named the Chicago Architecture Foundation, it was established for the purpose of preserving a Chicago landmark known as the Glessner House. Today, the scope of the Chicago Architecture Center has grown extensively, but it remains committed to educating both local residents and out-of-town visitors alike about the many wonders of Chicago’s design, layout, history, and unique buildings. In 2018, the Chicago Architecture Center moved into a brand-new location on East Wacker Drive, where guests may explore special exhibits, sign up for a tour, visit the official store, or enjoy a stunning model of Chicago that features over 4,000 distinct buildings.
Popular Tours from the Chicago Architecture Center
The Chicago Architecture Center offers 85 tours. Tours run daily, and take various forms. Depending on your interests, you can take a tour from the Chicago Architecture Center that runs via boat, bus, bike, or even one of Chicago’s iconic “L” trains. And the tours themselves cover an outstanding array of subjects and/or locations. Some tours focus exclusively on a single site—such as the John Hancock Center, Fine Arts Building, or Aqua Tower—while other tours focus on a particularly subject such as Chicago’s murals, churches, or cemeteries—just to name a few. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of tour you select, but there are tours available across a range of price points.
River Cruise: This unforgettable outing is consistently one of the most popular city tours found anywhere in the United States. As you cruise comfortably up and down the Chicago River, you’ll hear all about the history of Chicago and its world-famous skyline. In fact, your tour guide will discuss over 50 different buildings as you ride along! The River Cruise tour lasts roughly 90 minutes, and costs approximately $50 per person.
Art Deco Skyscrapers: Fans of the style of architecture and design known as “art deco” will not want to miss this 90-minute guided excursion that explores the lobbies of 5 landmark Chicago buildings. Highlights include up close and personal views of the Carbide and Carbon Building and the Trustees System Service Building. The Art Deco Skyscrapers tour runs about $30 per person.
Architectural Highlights: This bus tour is the Chicago Architecture Center’s “most comprehensive” option. It lasts approximately 3.5 hours, and covers a whopping 30 miles of Chicago, taking you around to an incredible number of the city’s most beloved sites. As part of this outing you’ll see classic buildings all over town, including in notable neighborhoods like the Gold Coast, the Loop, Hyde Park, and more. You’ll make multiple stops along the way, and even get to tour the inside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s influential Robie House.
Chicago Architecture Center Insider Tips
- In addition to the price of any tour ticket you might want to purchase, there is an admission fee for entry into the Chicago Architecture Center itself, too: $12 for adults, $8 for students, and free for all kids under the age of 5. The Chicago Architecture Center is open each day between the hours of 9:30am and 5:00pm (though its box office and store open 30 minutes earlier, at 9:00am).
- No matter which Chicago Architecture Center tour you decide to take, it’s always a great idea to plan to arrive on the early side. However, if you’re taking the ever-popular River Cruise, please keep in mind that you’ll need to arrive 30 minutes before your tour’s listed start time. The tour runs run or shine!
- There are plenty of parking garages to be found in the immediate vicinity of the Chicago Architecture Center, with the garage closest to the Center itself being found at 233 N. Michigan Avenue. The Chicago Architecture Center may also be reached through public transportation options such as a number of different CTA trains or buses.
- The Store at Chicago Architecture Center is not just any tourist-attraction gift shop; locals are even known to stop in here occasionally simply to find a present or two for a loved one. As a result, it’s known as an especially great place to find that perfect souvenir from your trip to Chicago. It has a wide selection of items, including everything from books, DVDs, clothing, and jewelry to posters, prints, knickknacks, and even home décor goods.
Is the Chicago Architecture Center the Tour Company for You?
With over 80 different tours to choose from, no matter what you want to explore in the wonderful city of Chicago, chances are there’s a tour available from the Chicago Architecture Center that’s perfect for you. Also, if you want more than just to see some of its famous attractions—if you want to actually learn a fair amount about each of these famous attractions—then one of Chicago Architecture Center’s offerings is likely for you, as each one of its tour guides goes through hundred of hours of training before becoming certified. While some of the tour tickets available from the Chicago Architecture Center are on the pricier end of the spectrum, the tours are consistently quite well-regarded, with the majority of individuals who go on them reporting back that they enjoyed their experience.