I have always loved the Chicago skyline. I love the shapes and colors and textures of the buildings and the way that, from a distance, they seem to blend into a continuous landscape of glass and steel. The skyline is how Chicago introduces itself — the tall buildings announcing in no uncertain terms that you’ve arrived in the city.
I recently took an architecture tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and fell in love with the city all over again. My tour was "Modern Skyscrapers," a walking tour of the Loop that covers buildings dating from after World War II. The 2-hour tour highlights buildings by Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn and others, and includes fascinating information about design, architecture and Chicago history.
This particular tour was part of the Happy Hour series, tours that start at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (May-September) and end with a free drink at a nearby restaurant. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers more than 60 tours — tours
on foot, by bus, bike and boat of neighborhoods, architectural genres,
specific buildings and streets and more. Offerings include tours of the Macy’s building on State Street, a bus tour based on the book "The Devil in the White City," tours of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and a tour of Millennium Park. There’s also a tour of Hotel Burnham, one of the many Chicago hotels in the Loop. Walking tours generally run $5 to $20, and the price for bus tours is higher.
The foundation’s Architecture River Cruise is a longtime favorite activity for anyone enjoying a Chicago vacation. The 90-minute narrated ride along the Chicago River offers a great view of some of Chicago’s most famous buildings, including the Marina City,the "corncob towers" made famous in the movie "Hunter," where a car chase scene ends with a car falling off the tower’s parking garage into the Chicago River. The River Cruise tour is $28 Monday through Friday and $30 on weekends and holidays. Cruises often sell out, so the Architecture Foundation recommends buying tickets in advance online or by phone.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is at 224 S. Michigan Ave., across from the Art Institute of Chicago and just blocks from Millennium Park — making it easy to fit in with the rest of your Chicago vacation activities.
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Polly Fitz is an editor for Orbitz.
Tagged: Chicago Vacation