Tour Schedule - 2/4/2024
Tours & Attractions , Architectural/Cultural Tours , Boat Tours , Special Interest Tours
Wendella tours & cruises.
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400 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611
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As Chicago’s original architecture boat tour, Wendella has been dedicated to serving Chicago’s families, visitors, students, guests and commuters for over 75 years. Family owned and operated for three generations, our mission is to provide you and your family with a safe, comfortable and affordable fun day on the waterways. Our experienced staff and expert tour guides, trained by Wendella’s in-house Education Department, work hard to ensure that you capture the true essence of Chicago’s past, present and future every time you step on board one of our vessels. Wendella offers our signature 90 minute Combined Lake and River Tour; the 75 minute Chicago River Architecture tour; the 45 minute Chicago Experience and our Chicago at Sunset Cruise. We also offer many specialty cruises including Wine Tasting and Fireworks. Taking Metra downtown? Ride the Chicago Water Taxi to Michigan Ave. Visit www.chicagowatertaxi.com for more information.
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Complimentary Policy 2 per group of 20 or more
Average Visit/Tour Length 1.5 - 2 hours
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Largest Room, Reception Capacity (Standing) 280
Largest Room, Banquet Capacity (Seated) 280
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Max Capacity, Banquet Style (Seated) 1120
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Wendella is located at 400 N Michigan Avenue at the historic Wrigley Building. Wendella has four dock locations that extend west from the Michigan Avenue (DuSable) Bridge to Wabash Avenue.
We understand that our guests desire unencumbered access to our facilities and vessels, and we do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. There are currently no access regulations for small passenger vessels, but we have made a concerted effort and reasonable accommodations to make our docks and vessels accessible where practicable.
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Wendella continues to set the standard for the Passenger Vessel Industry through our commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for our guests and personnel. We meet or exceed all federal, state and local safety requirements for U.S. Coast Guard-inspected passenger vessels, their passengers and crew.
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Even Chicagoans can't get enough of this tourist attraction: ‘It's about the only touristy thing I do'
Tourists aren't the only ones that love chicago architecture boat tours -- locals do, too, by francie swidler • published august 3, 2023 • updated on august 4, 2023 at 7:44 am.
We've all been there: Family or friends are visiting Chicago from out of town, and they want to hear it from you, the expert -- the local -- what's the "must-do," or "must-see" activity in the city?
Of course, there are plenty to choose from. But there's one tourist attraction many locals say they actually join their visitors on: The Chicago Architecture Boat Tour.
"I have some family in town for a wedding, and they wanted to go on the tour," said Nick Pappas, of Uptown. "And I wanted to join them, so I can give them my own personal commentary of my own history in Chicago as we went along."
Pappas, 55, has lived in the Chicago area his entire life. And although he was the only local passenger aboard a 90-minute, 9:30 a.m. Wendella Chicago River Architecture Tour on a recent Wednesday, it's not uncommon for more Chicagoans to be out sailing along the Lake or the River, listening to a tour guide wax on about how the sons of famous architect Daniel Burnham decided to design a building to look like a champagne bottle.
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"I was surprised when I first started," said Bobby Scheffel, who was helming tour guide duties on the boat that morning. "We get a lot of repeat locals, and always, there's a lot of local people that come on when they have guests visiting them in town."
Wendella, billed as Chicago's "original" architecture tour, in 1935 gave its first architecture tour of the city from a wooden diesel yacht out on Navy Pier, said Andrew Sargis, director of sales and marketing for Wendella Tours and Cruises . Now, upwards of 20 architecture tours are offered daily, with more on the weekends.
On average, Wendella tours see roughly 100,000 passengers each month over the summer, according to Sargis.
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MORE: 7 things that might surprise you about the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour
Although the majority of passengers on any given tour are Americans, they are from out of town, Sargis said. But there's just something about the tour that makes local people want to go, too, whether or not they are accompanying out of town guests.
"There's always something new to see," Sargis said. "New architecture, new developments. One of the tallest buildings in the city was just finished in the last year or so."
More than 100 locals who wrote to NBC Chicago on Facebook agreed.
"I go on one almost every year and there is always something new to see," Maria Ohman wrote. "They are awesome."
"Born and raised in Chicago," Lynn Tanner Heicher echoed. "Love it and always learn something new!"
As Scheffel puts it, locals "like to show off the city in this way." But it's not always about what's new.
"I think it is probably part of that, if you don't live downtown, it's about reliving coming downtown as a kid," Scheffel said, adding that his favorite part of the tour is when he talks about the Board of Trade building, because he remembers walking by it when he was young.
"I remember really being impressed by it, thinking was such a cool, big, city building," he said.
The way Pappas describes it, is the city's history and one's own personal experience ultimately creates a new narration on Chicago.
"I was probably 25 years old the first time I went on this tour," Pappas said, as he pointed out a building where he held his first job as a lawyer. "That clock tower building, which was a warehouse, was a traffic court back in the day."
'It's about the only touristy thing I do'
According to Sargis, tour guides receive extensive, in-house training. They are also given a general script of facts to follow, and highlights to hit. But each of them will add their own narratives and personal flavor to the tour, "using their experience in the city and their character."
"We have a tour guide that is a retired police officer, and he will interject anecdotes form his career," Sargis said. "We have a tour guide that's a Vietnam War Veteran, and when we go by the Vietnam War Memorial, he will always discuss the importance of it to him."
It's moments like those -- along with playing the role of tour guide in their own city -- seems to be what keeps locals coming back to such a traveler-friendly attraction over and over again.
"It's about the only touristy thing I do," Micki Kay told NBC Chicago on Facebook. "It's my favorite. I love it. It's such a great way to see the beautiful city and learn about its history. I like quizzing myself to see if I know the answers to all the questions the guides throw out there."
As Pappas puts it, "It's nice to, you know, supplement, maybe something that the tour guide is not telling people on the boat."
Tours run year round, including during Chicago winters, Sargis said, "but weather is a factor."
"I have certainly had [the tour] under thunderstorms and downpours," Scheffel said. "I've never had a tour get canceled because no one bought a ticket. There's always someone who wanted to come out here in the rain or the cold"
Thunderstorm, snow or shine, there's just something about the pride Chicagoans feel for their city, Sargis said.
"One of the things we hear most commonly from locals is...that they forget, or at least, don't appreciate always how beautiful the city truly is, and how beautiful the skyline is," Sargis said. "I hear it almost every time I'm out on the boat."
"Life is busy," Sargis added. "We don't usually act like a tourist in our own city. It really gives them an appreciation of living here. It really makes them proud to be from Chicago."
Video editors Ivonne Ramirez and DS Shin produced and created the video for this story.
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Explore the city of Chicago from the Chicago Water Taxi. The Chicago Water Taxi connects several Chicago neighborhoods with various dining, sightseeing and shopping attractions. Looking for a guided architecture tour or Lake Michigan cruise? Wendella offers an expansive variety of tour and cruise options.
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Cruising the Moskva River: A short guide to boat trips in Russia’s capital
There’s hardly a better way to absorb Moscow’s atmosphere than on a ship sailing up and down the Moskva River. While complicated ticketing, loud music and chilling winds might dampen the anticipated fun, this checklist will help you to enjoy the scenic views and not fall into common tourist traps.
How to find the right boat?
There are plenty of boats and selecting the right one might be challenging. The size of the boat should be your main criteria.
Plenty of small boats cruise the Moskva River, and the most vivid one is this yellow Lay’s-branded boat. Everyone who has ever visited Moscow probably has seen it.
This option might leave a passenger disembarking partially deaf as the merciless Russian pop music blasts onboard. A free spirit, however, will find partying on such a vessel to be an unforgettable and authentic experience that’s almost a metaphor for life in modern Russia: too loud, and sometimes too welcoming. Tickets start at $13 (800 rubles) per person.
Bigger boats offer smoother sailing and tend to attract foreign visitors because of their distinct Soviet aura. Indeed, many of the older vessels must have seen better days. They are still afloat, however, and getting aboard is a unique ‘cultural’ experience. Sometimes the crew might offer lunch or dinner to passengers, but this option must be purchased with the ticket. Here is one such option offering dinner for $24 (1,490 rubles).
If you want to travel in style, consider Flotilla Radisson. These large, modern vessels are quite posh, with a cozy restaurant and an attentive crew at your service. Even though the selection of wines and food is modest, these vessels are still much better than other boats.
Surprisingly, the luxurious boats are priced rather modestly, and a single ticket goes for $17-$32 (1,100-2,000 rubles); also expect a reasonable restaurant bill on top.
How to buy tickets?
Women holding photos of ships promise huge discounts to “the young and beautiful,” and give personal invitations for river tours. They sound and look nice, but there’s a small catch: their ticket prices are usually more than those purchased online.
“We bought tickets from street hawkers for 900 rubles each, only to later discover that the other passengers bought their tickets twice as cheap!” wrote (in Russian) a disappointed Rostislav on a travel company website.
Nevertheless, buying from street hawkers has one considerable advantage: they personally escort you to the vessel so that you don’t waste time looking for the boat on your own.
Prices start at $13 (800 rubles) for one ride, and for an additional $6.5 (400 rubles) you can purchase an unlimited number of tours on the same boat on any given day.
Flotilla Radisson has official ticket offices at Gorky Park and Hotel Ukraine, but they’re often sold out.
Buying online is an option that might save some cash. Websites such as this offer considerable discounts for tickets sold online. On a busy Friday night an online purchase might be the only chance to get a ticket on a Flotilla Radisson boat.
This website (in Russian) offers multiple options for short river cruises in and around the city center, including offbeat options such as ‘disco cruises’ and ‘children cruises.’ This other website sells tickets online, but doesn’t have an English version. The interface is intuitive, however.
Buying tickets online has its bad points, however. The most common is confusing which pier you should go to and missing your river tour.
“I once bought tickets online to save with the discount that the website offered,” said Igor Shvarkin from Moscow. “The pier was initially marked as ‘Park Kultury,’ but when I arrived it wasn’t easy to find my boat because there were too many there. My guests had to walk a considerable distance before I finally found the vessel that accepted my tickets purchased online,” said the man.
There are two main boarding piers in the city center: Hotel Ukraine and Park Kultury . Always take note of your particular berth when buying tickets online.
Where to sit onboard?
Even on a warm day, the headwind might be chilly for passengers on deck. Make sure you have warm clothes, or that the crew has blankets ready upon request.
The glass-encased hold makes the tour much more comfortable, but not at the expense of having an enjoyable experience.
Getting off the boat requires preparation as well. Ideally, you should be able to disembark on any pier along the way. In reality, passengers never know where the boat’s captain will make the next stop. Street hawkers often tell passengers in advance where they’ll be able to disembark. If you buy tickets online then you’ll have to research it yourself.
There’s a chance that the captain won’t make any stops at all and will take you back to where the tour began, which is the case with Flotilla Radisson. The safest option is to automatically expect that you’ll return to the pier where you started.
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River Cruise on Luxurious Radisson Boat
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Equipped with ice-breaking technology, these huge fancy yachts are the only river cruisers running all year around. The round trip journey takes two and a half hours and floats past all the big sights like the White House, Novodevichy monastery and the Kremlin. There’s a large open air observation deck up top, while the main body of the ship houses a restaurant with a dance floor for a romantic post dinner dance. For a particularly romantic experience take one of the evening boats and admire the bright lights of the city skyline at night.
The most relaxing and picturesque tour that Moscow can offer: a great way to see the city center and its main attractions. This is a perfect alternative to exploring the city by car, if you only have time to do sightseeing during weekday rush hours.
Your English-speaking guide is eager to share every bit of their knowledge about the surrounding landscape, the architecture and historical details.
We conduct Moscow river tour on Radisson Flotilla boats all year around! It’s warm inside during winter months, while there’s air conditioning during hot summer days. You may also treat yourself to drinks, lunch or dinner on board (drinks and food are not included in tour price).
The cost of an excursion with a personal guide for 1 person
Quay at Radisson Collection Hotel
Government Headquarters ("the White House")
Kievsky Railway Central
Academy of Sciences
Monument to Peter I
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
U-turn and back to Quay at Radisson Royal Hotel
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