August 22, 2014 07:01 ET

Chicago's Famed Architecture Joins List of Top Things to Do in the Windy City

Chicago's Skyscrapers Are Brought to Life on Shoreline Sightseeing's Guided Architecture River Tours, so Come Enjoy the Good Weather and Learn About Chicago Architecture

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Aug 22, 2014) - Visitors to Chicago have added an item to their must-see list; the city's world-renowned architecture. And it's not surprising; while the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the mainly wooden buildings in the residential and commercial heart of the city, it also allowed for a complete rebuilding of the city in brick and stone. World-famous architects poured into the city, anxious to leave their mark on Chicago's renewing landscape. Chicago soon became known as the birthplace of the skyscraper and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, a series of awe-inspiring buildings dot Chicago's landscape and line the Chicago River. Visitors seeking to explore the city's landmarks often head to Sightseeing's Architecture River Tours. Now celebrating its 75th Anniversary, Shoreline has been offering these popular tours since 1999.

Not only do Shoreline's 75-minute tours cruise past a multitude of the city's most famous skyscrapers, they are led by Shoreline's famously experienced and entertaining docents.

As Shoreline architecture docent Jeff Simpson says, "Our tours offer close-up views of the city's famous landmarks as well as commentary by one of our highly trained and dedicated docents. It's a relaxing way to learn about our great architecture. Plus our tours offer unobstructed views for photographers; the cameras and cell phones come out as soon as we pull away from the dock!"

A native of Chicago, Jeff has been with Shoreline for eight years, beginning as a deckhand and eventually becoming a Docent Manager. "I grew up in Chicago so knew a little of the city's history. I learned a lot more as a crew member on Shoreline's lake and river tours."

"It wasn't until I went through the Shoreline docent training that I gained a true appreciation of the role Chicago plays in the broad spectrum of American architecture. For instance, the river tour includes landmark buildings from three centuries beginning with Fulton House, completed in 1898 all the way up to Trump Tower and Aqua Condominiums, completed in 2009."

Asked about his personal favorites, Jeff cites the River Cottages by noted Chicago-based architect Harry Weese. "The River Cottages were ahead of their time. No one was contracting living space near the riverfront in the 80s, let alone embracing the river as the River Cottages do." Other favorites include 333 West Wacker, and two 20th Century classics -- the Tribune Building and the Wrigley Building.

Each Shoreline guide creates their own presentation, which helps explain why passengers enjoy returning for repeat Shoreline architecture tours. Not only might they get a slightly different angle on Chicago's architecture, but they can experience the tour at different times of day or evening.

"It's a completely different experience at night; the buildings are even more impressive lit up against the dark sky." Guides also keep up with the latest in Chicago architecture. "The skyline is constantly changing. "Since I started, we've added Trump Tower and the Aqua condominiums and there is construction starting soon at Wolf Point," says Jeff.

Shoreline's River Architecture Tours are known for being fact-filled, but also relaxed and humorous in spots. "I think there is definitely a place for a bit of humor in the stories behind Chicago's landmarks. There's always the old story of Mrs. O'Leary's cow turning over a lantern that started the Chicago Fire; actually many historians now debunk that as a myth. Passengers seem to relax once they realize the tour will be more than just a recitation of facts."

Like all Shoreline docents, Jeff is available after his tour ends to answer passenger questions. "It's actually one of the best parts of the job since I get to talk to people one-on-one."

Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tours depart daily spring through fall from two locations, Navy Pier and the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Summer-season tours begin at approximately 10:15 a.m. and run into the evening with last departure at 8:30 p.m. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, Shoreline also offers a combination Architecture Fireworks Cruise. This special cruise includes both the 75-minute guided architectural tour and viewing of the Navy Pier fireworks displays. For complete information, see or call 312-222-9328.

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