Chicago River
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The area
Neighborhood: Downtown / The Loop
Often visitors' first stop in Chicago, The Loop is a good starting point to sample the city's energy and flavor. This central business district boasts Michelin-rated restaurants, upscale hotels, premier shopping, and enough arresting architecture to keep your camera busy for hours. You won’t find too many photo galleries of downtown Chicago without a shot of Millennium Park and Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. A stunning skyline coupled with cultural attractions like the Art Institute of Chicago present a Downtown where work and play peacefully coexist.
How to get there
  • Clark/Lake • 3 min walk
  • Clark/Lake • 3 min walk
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
2,016 reviews
Excellent
1,500
Very good
451
Average
56
Poor
6
Terrible
3

Janet M
5 contributions
Aug 2022
We launched at the put in right behind REI on Kingsbury and paddled all the way to navy pier then back around south to see Chicago architecture from a different viewpoint. It was the air and water show but the weather was not great this year, so we did not see as much as in years past.

Make sure you know how to handle your kayak because some of the large sightseeing vessels make large wakes, and you definitely don't want to capsize. The river is cleaner than it used to be but still definitely not clean enough for a dip unless you want to get sick 😲

We own our own kayaks but if you don't own your one you can rent from REI or book one of their experiences with their guides. If you are a coop member you get a rental/trip discount!
Written September 18, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Jessica A
1 contribution
Jun 2022
We parked right at the marina and were greeted by friendly, helpful staff. Our tour guide, Hillary was outstanding, full of fascinating information about the history and the city, the buildings, and the architecture. She delivered the information in a fun, but informative way so it was never dull or boring. The views from the boat were incredible. We brought our teenage daughters and they loved it as much as we did. I highly recommend this tour !
Written June 21, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Taylor B
Chicago, IL8,032 contributions
Nov 2022
According to the Illinois Office of Tourism, the Chicago River is the No. 1 attraction in Chicago, not Cloud Gate or Navy Pier or Wrigley Field or the Art Institute of Chicago or the Museum of Science and Industry. While most people perceive the Chicago River to be the 1.5-mile main stem that flows west from Lake Michigan to Wolf Point in downtown Chicago, passing beneath the Outer Drive, Columbus Drive, Michigan Avenue, Wabash, State, Dearborn, Clark, La Salle, Wells and Franklin Street bridges, where it converges with the North Branch to form the South Branch, which flows southwest and empties into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Along the way, it affords views of some of the city's great structures, including Tribune Tower, NBC Tower, Wrigley Building, Trump Tower, Marina City and Merchandise Mart. In fact, the Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles that run through the city of Chicago, including its center (Chicago Loop). It is not especially long but it is notable because it is one of the reasons for Chicago's geographic importance, a link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. The river was crucial in the city's development as a major center of the lumber and meatpacking industries during the 19th century. The Chicago Riverwalk has been developed on the south bank of the main stem to provide dining, entertainment and recreational opportunities for Chicagoans and tourists.
Written November 28, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Dolores S
3 contributions
Aug 2022 • Couples
Didn't bother going through the hassle and risk of not finding the dock area. We drove around the address given and could not find Wendella Tours the day before we thought of riding. I later called them asking for better directions and if they had any openings for the sunset tour for 2. They did but had to order $42 tickets each online or by phone in advance before attempting to park and show proof of purchase at the gate to pay a $12 fee. Then take a risk of not finding and losing our money by walking .2 miles to the boat dock via instructions and not getting there on time. Too much for seniors like us visiting for the first time. So complicated, why does it have to be?
Written August 21, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

christopherbO9687MP
Acton, MA525 contributions
Sep 2022
The Chicago River is a great downtown highlight that accents the city. Most cities have a waterfront that forms the boundary of the city; Chicago has this River that splits the downtown with a relatively narrow divider. With the Riverwalk and all the downtown tour boats, there's always something to see traveling along the river.
Written September 28, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

True-advice-1A
Chicago, IL221 contributions
Aug 2019
If you want to city Chicago with all its esplendor. Take the river night cruise during the spring and summer time. Usually starts around the end of May thru September. The tickers are around $50 but 100% worth it. An experience the you w'll always remember.
Written February 14, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

B1714D
Belgrade, Serbia15,388 contributions
Apr 2022
....but best - do them both.
Chicago river is the main artery of the Windy city. It runs through downtown and splits then into northern and southern branch.
Amazing historic edifices and beautiful skyscrapers are spread along it.
You can discover them for free walking the Riverwalk, or taking one of many architectural boat tours which last around 90 min and cost around 40$.
Written May 22, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Tarynitup While Traveling
Elkhart, IN1,024 contributions
Sep 2021
While walking around the city, we stopped at the Chicago River to snap a nice night photo of the buildings (see attached). This location really is a great shot as you have a lot of buildings, lights, and river all in the same location.

It is also neat to watch the tour boats traveling through. This is a great stop while touring around Chicago.
Written September 13, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

teacher1349
Billerica, MA30 contributions
Jun 2021
We loved walking the river and people watching. In April, it was cold but still beautiful and fun to visit. In June, it was happening and nice to have a wine outside City Winery! Watching all the boats go by is fun, and watching all the dogs walk by was sweet. You can get a great sense of the river, the history, and the city by walking a good portion of the river, and if you are inclined - you can reach the lake by an underpass. There are bathrooms midway along the riverwalk and they are very clean. The bridges are cool to look at and for history buffs, there are plenty of plaques to read. Go there on day 1!
Written June 26, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kinh N
13 contributions
May 2021
By taking of the River Cruise on Chicago River... It gave us a big beatiful pictures of the City River and its one of the best Architecture of the Chicago City... First time visiting Chicago, it made me missed the areas after got home! Hope you will enjoy your trip here!!!
Written June 2, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Chicago River - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

Frequently Asked Questions about Chicago River

We recommend booking Chicago River tours ahead of time to secure your spot. If you book with Tripadvisor, you can cancel up to 24 hours before your tour starts for a full refund. See all 19 Chicago River tours on Tripadvisor