Towering ships teach history

Tall Ships heads to Chicago this month


The Windy, Apple Door Four and the Red Witch go out on cruises during the festival.

Three years ago Alice Berry took her 9-year-old son TJ on a walk along the Chicago River. But instead of the usual tour boats out on the water, the two saw a parade of vessels reminiscent of Chicago during the 1800s.

This year, Tall Ships Chicago returns to the Windy City. From Aug. 3-9 more than 20 tall ships will sail into Chicago for sailing races, parades, festivals and fishing, emulating the lakefront's past. The celebration stretches along the Chicago River between Navy Pier and Wabash Avenue and also docks in DuSable Harbor, says Ann Sylvester, media contact for the city of Chicago.

Looking at and touching the vessels is free, but to board the boats individuals must have wristbands, which cost $11 in advance and $12 on-site (children younger than 3 get in free). Wristbands allow visitors to tour several of the ships, where crews tell stories, helping kids and families learn about sailing.

"It's all history-based, so you talk about the origins of each type of ship starting with the Napoleonic wars," Berry says.

If boarding the ships leaves you wanting more, families can also participate in sailing excursions on three of the vessels. These 1 1/2-hour-long trips cost $20-$35, depending on the specific ship, with an age recommendation of 5 and up.

Another fest highlight is the Hawg Tank, a 2,600-gallon fish aquarium on wheels. Touring bass professionals teach families about fishing and the Great Lakes, emphasizing how they can keep the environment clean, Sylvester says.

Children of all ages are welcome at Tall Ships, but keep in mind that the vessels can't accommodate strollers (they must be left on land). Older children may find a place for themselves onboard the ships-the crew is composed of young adults, so preteens and teens can talk to people their own age and learn about their sailing duties.

"I think it's interesting for a lot of kids," says Berry. "This was the first time TJ was able to see the boats he'd been reading about in real life."

Visit or call (312) 744-3370 for more information.

Olivia Ware


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