Hit the Water with These Unique Boat Tours for Families

All aboard! These boat tours offer a one-of-a-kind experience.

There’s no better way to tour the Windy City than from the water! Whether on the Chicago River or Lake Michigan, there are so many fun and exciting options to choose from. Here are some of our favorite themed boat tours.

This article was recently updated on June 17, 2024 by Chicago Parent’s Assistant Editor, Nikki Roberts. The update included her research and fact-checking expertise to provide the latest information on unique Chicago boat tours for families Questions? Please reach out to nikki@chicagoparent.com.

Looking for more kid-friendly activities? Check out our summer fun family guide!

Chicago Fireboat Tours Fireworks Cruise

  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Cost: $50 adults, $25 ages 4-12, free for kids ages 3 and under

Check out the city’s fireworks show every Wednesday and Saturday night through Labor Day from a piece of history! Ride on the Fred A. Busse, which traveled the Chicago waterways as an active fireboat for the Chicago Fire Department from 1937 until 1981.

Mercury Cruises’ Canine Cruise 

  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Cost: $42-$47 adults, $19-$24 ages 5-15, $10 dogs, free for kids ages 4 and under

Enjoy a great day outdoors with your favorite companion while cruising on Chicago’s waterways. Sit back, relax and soak in the city as you enjoy a lively narration of Chicago’s rich history and architectural marvels with dog-friendly highlights. Water bowls are provided for thirsty pups. Bar and snack service available for human passengers.

Tall Ship Windy’s Pirates & Maritime Stories Sail

  • Duration: 75 minutes
  • Cost: $49+ adults, $39+ ages 0-12

From epic battles to trickery and treasure, experience the incredible tales of real pirate adventure that happened right here on these magnificent inland seas. This Chicago sail is both educational and entertaining!

City Experiences Chicago Speedboat Tour

  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Cost: $34.95 adults, $24.95 ages 3-12, free for kids age 3 and under

Go for a spin aboard a bright yellow Seadog speedboat! Enjoy a 30-minute lakefront tour that highlights nearby landmarks from Museum Campus to North Avenue.

Wendella Tours & Cruises’ River Architecture Tour

  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Cost: $28 adults, $13 ages 4-12, free for kids ages under 4

Experience Chicago’s legendary architecture in this family-friendly introduction to the Windy City’s rich history and architectural heritage , featuring highlights from Wendella’s full-length architecture tours. 

Shoreline Water Taxi 

  • Duration: Hop on, hop off as desired
  • Cost: Varies depending on location

While not an official tour, water taxis are an affordable and flexible way to explore new parts of the city! These taxis run every 30 minutes with multiple docks conveniently located near major attractions including Navy Pier, the Willis Tower, Michigan Avenue, Museum Campus, and Union Station.

Chicago Electric Boat Company DIY Tour

  • Duration: As desired
  • Cost: $194-$245 per hour depending on size and type of boat

The Chicago Electric Boat Company lets passengers steer the ship themselves with departure points at the Chicago Riverwalk, Marina City or Rockwell on the River. Bring your own personal tour guide for a guided tour of the river. Sail in style and rent a yacht, or enjoy a unique ride in an 8-passenger “donut boat” or a brightly colored retro boats.


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Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky is an award-winning journalist and bestselling children's book author. She is the mom of three little ladies who keep her on her toes.

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