FAQ – Architecture Tours

What are the closest hotels to the dock?

There are many hotels within walking distance of our dock. To view many of your options, use Yelp to search “hotels” near our address (112 E. Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60601).

What sets your tour apart from the others?

We are the only tour company to partner with the Chicago Architecture Foundation to offer the official Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. All of our tours are given by passionate, volunteer docents who receive hundreds of hours of training from the Chicago Architecture Foundation prior to operating the river cruise tour.

We are also honored to have been recognized as one of the Top 10 Tours in the U.S. by TripAdvisor based on user reviews and ratings.

Are there changing tables onboard?

The Classic Lady and Leading Lady have changing tables onboard in the family restroom. The Little Lady, Fair Lady and First Lady do not have changing tables onboard.

Can I bring a stroller onboard?

Yes, you can bring a stroller onboard. Children must be removed from strollers prior to boarding. Strollers will be folded and stored in salon during cruise.

Can I bring luggage onboard?

Luggage cannot be brought onboard due to security reasons. There is not an area to store your luggage dockside either. We recommend having your hotel hold your luggage.

Are dogs allowed onboard?

Only service dogs are allowed onboard. To learn more about Mercury’s summer Canine Cruise, click here.

Is there food/drink available onboard?

Yes. All boats have a full bar available onboard, as well as local, Chicago-area snacks available for purchase.

Are there bathrooms onboard?

Yes, all the boats have restrooms onboard. There are also handicap accessible bathrooms on the Classic Lady and Leading Lady. PLEASE NOTE: the restrooms close 15 minutes prior to the end of the tour for safety reasons.

Are tours offered in any languages other than English?

The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises is given in English. However, there are foreign language brochures available at the ticket office in a variety of languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic.

How can I get to your dock without using stairs?

There are two ways to reach our dock along Chicago’s Riverwalk without using stairs:

  1. On foot via ramps from Upper Wacker Drive. There are two options for ramps: one is located at Wacker Drive & Wabash Avenue. The other ramp is located at Wacker Drive & State Street.
  2. Vehicle drop-off area on Lower Lower Wacker Drive.

To view more detailed directions for the ramps & our drop-off area, please click here.

Does the boat go on the lake?

No, the tour is only on the Chicago River. If you’d like to take a lake tour, please check out our sister cruise line Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline.

Where can I park?

Discounted parking (with validation) is available across from our dock entrance at 111 E. Wacker Drive (Illinois Center). The entrance is located on the south side of Wacker Drive and is the first driveway east of Michigan Avenue.

To receive the discounted rates, must have your parking ticket stamped at the Chicago’s First Lady ticket window. The discounted rates are $14 for 1-3 hours, $15 for 3-4 hours. Regular rates apply after 4 hours and 5 minutes.

Can I trade my tickets for a different date/time?

No, all tickets are nonrefundable and nonexchangeable.

Do you cruise rain or shine?

Yes, we cruise rain or shine. All the boats have two levels – the top deck is open-air and the lower deck is an enclosed, climate-controlled salon. Each salon is surrounded by large, oblong windows so you can stay dry and comfortable while still taking in the great views.

Where are you located?

We are located at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive on Chicago’s Riverwalk (on the south side of the Chicago River).

Look for the blue awning at the southeast corner of Michigan & Wacker. Follow the stairs down to our ticket office and dock on the river level. For GPS purposes please use 112 E. Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60601.

Are the boats wheelchair accessible?

The Chicago's Leading Lady and Chicago’s Classic Lady are wheelchair-accessible. Tickets for tours on this ship can be purchased by selecting 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 5pm departure times.

When boarding the ship, guests cross two ramps and enter through an opening (doorway) that is 36 inches wide. Crew members will assist you in guiding the wheelchair across the gangway. Please present yourself to our staff if you prefer to board before general boarding starts.

Guests who are unable to climb stairs to the upper deck may choose to sit in the open-air bow or the enclosed, climate-controlled salon with large windows. For safety reasons, motorized scooters and electric wheelchairs cannot be accommodated. Guests who are able to transfer may use the company's manual wheelchair. Our dockside staff will gladly monitor wheelchairs and scooters left at the dock during a tour.

What time is your ticket office open?

The ticket window is open Monday - Wednesday from 9am to 4pm & Thursday - Sunday from 9am to 5pm, with extended hours during the summer.

What payment forms do you accept?

Payment methods accepted in-person at dock: Cash, Visa, MasterCard, China UnionPay, JCB, BCcard.

Payment methods accepted online: AmEx, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Diners Club, Express Checkout, Visa Checkout, Google Pay, MasterPass.

Do I have to print my tickets?

You do not have to print your tickets. You can show your ticket to our dock attendant with your smartphone or you can have your tickets printed at the will call window (be sure to bring a photo ID and your confirmation number).

Do I need to buy tickets in advance?

Advance reservations are recommended as many tours sell out during the summer season and on weekends. Also, the weekday 7:30pm tour often sells out in advance.

Is there assigned seating?

All seating is general admission. There are enough seats on the upper deck for all guests to have a seat outside, so you won’t have to sit inside unless you want to. Indoor seating is available for those who wish to stay out of the sun or adverse weather conditions (While seat numbers are printed on the tickets, you can ignore these as they are not valid.).

Do you offer any discounts?

There is not a discounted price for seniors, children or military members. Tickets for children 3 years of age and younger are $25. For group rates, contact  the Chicago Architecture Foundation at groupsales@architecture.org or (312)322-1130.

How much do tickets cost?

Individual tickets cost $42 for daytime tours. The 7:30pm “Twilight Tour” costs $45. Tickets for children 3 years of age and younger are $25.

All passengers, even infants, must have a ticket per U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

Tickets purchased in person at the dock ticket window, or the Chicago Architecture Foundation, are exempt from Ticketmaster fees.

Where can I buy tickets?

There are two ways to buy tickets:

  1. Online through Ticketmaster
  2. In person at Chicago’s First Lady Cruises dockside ticket window (112 E. Wacker Drive on Chicago’s Riverwalk; open daily) or at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 S. Michigan Ave; open daily). 

Tickets purchased in person at the dock ticket window or the Chicago Architecture Foundation are exempt from Ticketmaster fees.

What will I see on the tour?

The tour travels along three branches of the Chicago River; it does not go onto the lake. Please click here to view a map of the tour route.

How long is the tour?

Each tour is 90 minutes.

When are your tours?

Our 2016 cruising season runs from April 2 - November 20. Please click here to view our tour schedule. Boarding starts 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. 

FAQ - Private Charter

How can I get more information or book an event?

Please call us at (847)358-1330 to be connected with one of our charter coordinators.

I am having my wedding onboard. Do I need to provide my own officiant to perform the ceremony?

Yes, you do need to provide your own officiant. Click here to view recommended officiants. 

Can I bring my own wedding cake onboard?

Yes, as long as your caterer also approves. Please make sure to let the caterer know in advance as they will be responsible to store the cake and assist in serving to your guests.

Can we have a narrated architecture tour during our private cruise?

Yes. A narrated tour lasts one hour (the first hour of the cruise) and can be given by a Chicago Architecture Foundation docent ($400 donation to CAF) or by one of our trained Skyline Commentators ($100 fee). If you’d like a tour less than an hour, our Skyline Commentator can give a truncated tour.

What are the entertainment options?

We offer complimentary use of the boat sound system with Sirius XM Radio or a hookup for your personal iPod; or, you are welcome to hire a band or DJ. Other entertainment ideas include renting a photobooth or casino games, or hiring a CAF docent or Skyline Commentator tour guide for a portion of your cruise time. Additionally, the City of Chicago puts on a fireworks display over Lake Michigan on summer Wednesdays and Saturdays. View some of our recommended vendors.

What happens if it rains?

All of our boats have two levels – the upper deck is an open-air deck and the lower deck is an enclosed, climate-controlled salon. Each salon is surrounded by large, oblong windows so you can stay dry and still take in the great views. Vessels cruise rain or shine, safely guided by our U.S. Coast Guard-trained captains and crew.

How late can we cruise?

You can cruise as late as midnight on any night of the week. If you are interested in an event ending after midnight, please give us a call at (847)358-1330 to discuss.

When are the fireworks displays over Lake Michigan?

The City of Chicago puts on a fireworks display over Lake Michigan on Wednesdays (9:30pm) and Saturdays (10:15pm) from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The fireworks last about 15-20 minutes and are a fabulous bonus for those cruising with us on Wednesday and Saturday evenings! If you’d like to catch the entire show from the lake (which is the best spot for viewing the fireworks), you need to cruise until at least 10:15pm. on Wednesday evenings and at least 11pm on Saturday evenings.

Do I have to use one of your catering partners?

Yes, catering is required and does have to come from one of our four catering partners. Catering is a separate contract, so you would reach out to our catering partners directly for pricing and to book your catering package.

Do you charge extra on holiday weekends?

No, we do not charge extra on holiday weekends.

How much does it cost to have an event onboard your boats?

The total cost will depend on the boat, day of week and bar/catering packages chosen. Each boat has an hourly rental rate that varies by day of the week. In addition to the hourly rental rate, you will also choose a bar package and catering package. Catering is required from one of our four catering partners. When speaking with one of our cruise coordinators, please inquire as to any applicable fees/taxes.

Is parking available?

Discounted parking (with validation from our ticket window or onboard bar; maximum 4 hours) is available at 111 E. Wacker Drive, LAZ Parking, just across the street from our street-level stairway entrance. See full details and parking rates.

Where is your dock located?

Our dock is located at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge along the Chicago Riverwalk. For GPS purposes, use 112 E. Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60601. Please note, we are on the Riverwalk level. Visit our location page for more information including details on the accessible drop-off area at river-level.

How many boats do you have? How many guests can each boat accommodate?

We have six yachts of varying sizes for you to choose from. View our fleet options for corporate/social events and wedding events. Please note, the same boats are available for social/corporate events and weddings; however, we recommend having a reduced number of guests aboard each boat for weddings due to the extras that often go along with weddings (cake table, gift table, etc.). 

Will we be the only party onboard?

All of our boats are exclusive-use. You will be the only party onboard and you won’t share the boat with any other parties or events.

When are the boats available for private parties?

All of our boats are available to be rented for private events in the evenings (start times vary based on the boat and the day of the week). Additionally, Chicago’s First Lady is available during the daytime Monday through Thursday for events concluding by 3pm.