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ATTRACTIONS Chicago's First Lady offers a premium architectural tour
by Andrew Davis
2021-08-05

This article shared 2138 times since Thu Aug 5, 2021
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Recently, USA Today selected the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Chicago's First Lady cruise as the best boat tour in the country—and it's easy to see why. (By the way, it also was voted the top boat tour in Chicago on TripAdvisor.)

From the friendly staff to the knowledgeable/funny docent to, of course, the spectacular views along the river, this cruise is a wonderful way to spend a day (especially, a sunny one).

People will learn about the architecture and design of more than 50 buildings as described by Chicago Architecture Center (CAC)-certified volunteer docents/guides on this 90-minute tour that showcases all three branches of the Chicago River. As for the docent on my trip, at one point she talked about the Great Chicago Fire as well as Catherine O'Leary and her cow, Daisy. (O'Leary was exonerated in 1997.) The docent then said, "We heard from her descendants some years after the fire. I mean Mrs. O'Leary, of course; we never heard from Daisy's descendants."

Even people who think they know everything about the building that line the Chicago River will learn something—and, yes, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago (the second-tallest building in the city) is included. (By the way, it's interesting that the Trump Tower's spire is included in calculating its height, but the Willis Tower's isn't.) You can also play a drinking game by taking a sip every time Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is mentioned—a testament to the influence and expansive work of the global architectural firm. Just a few of the other buildings and other structures that are covered include the St. Regis Chicago, the Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge, the Civic Opera House, Marina City and the commercial and residential buildings that line Wacker Drive along the river.

There is both indoor and outdoor seating, and a full-service bar and snack bar (including delicious alcoholic concoctions such as the Raspberry Twisted Lemonade). Plus, people can upgrade your tickets for $5 to include admission the Chicago Architecture Center, valid for up to seven days after the cruise.

"A friend worked here a long, long time ago and suggested I work here. I said, 'Why not? I was semi-retired," said Chicago's First Lady lead bartender Bill Daukus, who, incongruently, has a background in healthcare and who calls himself a "bartender extraordinaire." He added that, for him, the high point is interacting with the guests, although he definitely appreciates the city's architecture.

So many people I know have taken this cruise—and there were quite a few LGBTQ couples and individuals on the tour I recently took. Taking this tour is a must for tourists and local residents alike—and people have until the Sunday before Thanksgiving. (The boats are then taken down to Dolton until the spring, according to Daukus.)

To find out more about Chicago's First Lady, visit www.cruisechicago.com/tours/architecture.


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