Chicago Architecture Center is Waiting for You!

By Maggie Kmiecik

Image from courtesy of Chicago Architecture Center.

Chicago's famed architecture draws in thousands of interested tourists and locals every year. From skyscrapers that sit with their heads in the clouds to historic churches, there is a style and history for everyone. Whether you're an architectural aficionado or someone who loves history and pretty buildings, you're going to want to check out the Chicago Architecture Center.

This nonprofit cultural organization's mission is to inspire people of all ages to discover why design is important. They have done this for more than 50 years through tours, exhibitions, programs and events. Although 2020 may look a little different, it has not stopped them!

If your time in Chicago is limited, there's no better way to see the famous architecture than aboard a river cruise! CAC's cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady started in 1983 and has continuously been a favorite of visitors and locals alike. This 90-minute tour gives you an overview of Chicago’s riverfront architecture and the city’s history from expertly trained CAC docent volunteers—all while enjoying spectacular views you can’t get anywhere else. Take a look at the schedule and plan your cruise here.

The Center’s spacious Drake Family Skyscraper Gallery is also open with new models on display that were loaned from world famous firms. In the Chicago Gallery, the Center’s popular and interactive Chicago City Model Experience reopens with more than 30 updates to its more than 4,250 detailed, miniature buildings fabricated by Columbian Model & Exhibit Works, Ltd. including the Ace Hotel and Catalog in the new podium at Willis Tower.

In addition, the CAC has reinstated nearly 50 options for CAC walking tours for members and the general public, each limited to a maximum of six attendees and available in three types:

  • Public CAC walking tours, free to CAC members, $26 per person for non-members;
  • My Social Circle private tours for “friends and family,” $135 per group for CAC members, $180 for non-members;
  • Architecture Conversations custom tours, created based on preferred locations and areas of interest and starting at $375 for two hours.

While the Center, located at 111 East Wacker Drive, and the river cruises aboard Chicago's First Lady are open and excited to see new visitors, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind.

When visiting the Center, the CAC is asking guests to:

  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth at all times.
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from other visitors and from CAC staff.
  • Share restrooms with no more than one other visitor at a time.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Use the elevator alone or with one other person with whom you have isolated.
  • Enter the Center from East Wacker Drive and exit the Center through the CAC Design Store into Illinois Center and the Chicago Pedway.
  • Use alternatives to cash for transactions whenever possible.

For river cruises, keep in mind:

  • It is required that all guests and crew members wear face coverings throughout the duration of all river cruises, on board and on the dock, except while eating or drinking.
  • Social distancing measures will be in place in cruise seating and in ticket queues, with spacing guidelines marked clearly.
  • Extended boarding times will be in place to allow for social distancing and less time spent in queues.
  • Cashless and touchless transactions are available for the convenience and comfort of guests.

Their full COVID-19 Safety Policies are available on the website.

Whether you take in a river cruise, walking tour, or visit the Center's amazing galleries, you will definitely leave with a wealth of new knowledge about Chicago's history and architecture!


Docked on Chicago’s vibrant Riverwalk, Chicago’s First Lady Cruises is a critically-acclaimed Chicago experience that connects Chicago locals and visitors alike to the city’s rich architectural history and breathtaking beauty through the official Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise and as a first-class venue for private events.

This year marks the 27th anniversary of the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise, the only private public partnership on the Chicago Riverfront. All vessels are operated by a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain and crew. For more information and for cruise schedules, visit, call 847-358-1330 or follow @cflcruises on social media.