Chicago Architecture Foundation's Ten Tips for Visiting Chicago

Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop

Out of town visitors are almost always an excuse for us to arrange a Chicago Architectural Foundation river cruise, a favorite activity. We love it because it is the only way to see the very center or heart of the city. This is only one of a wide range of tours offered by CAF either walking, biking by bus or boat. The CAF developed 10 tips to make the most of seeing Chicago. We are sharing them because we believe they will be very helpful ideas for residents, visitors and anyone "New To" Chicago.

Lynn Osmond, Chicago Architecture Foundation President and CEO said, "CAF gets so many questions about Chicago, well beyond our tours and was time we put these suggestions together so people can get the most out of a visit."

Wacker Tower

For more than 40 years, CAF has been a leader in bringing the rich architectural legacy of Chicago to visitors both out-of-town and local residents - through tours, exhibitions, lectures and other programs. The tips were developed to assist visitors in discovering Chicago's architecture and design resources.

  1. Plan ahead: get maps, materials, schedules and information from the web or request information by mail from places you want to visit. Resources include:,,,
  2. Create an itinerary with extra time allotted to change plans if necessary. The Historic Loop Skyscrapers walking tour is a perfect introduction, a two-hour summary led by CAF trained volunteer docents. Other popular tours include the Official CAF Architecture River Cruise, architecture Highlights by Bus and other walking tours that take in Art Deco, Millennium Park and Tiffany Stained Glass. There are more than 85 different architecture-themed tours available in the city and neighborhoods.

    Millennium Park

  3. Be sure to include Chicago's Millennium Park, Loop, some neighborhoods and the views from the Sears Tower Sky Deck and the Hancock Observatory. All of these sites are included in various CAF tours or they can be visited on your own.

    Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Church, Oak Park

  4. Schedule time-specific tours in conjunction with free time periods to visit museums on your own.

    Church in Logan Square

  5. If your visit is between April and November, be sure to include the Chicago Architecture Foundation architecture river cruise. It is a great way to relax while seeing Chicago's architecture and hearing about the buildings from the perspective of the river.
  6. Wear comfortable shoes, appropriate clothing and bring an umbrella.
  7. Bring a camera and take photos of things that will help you relive the visit when you get home.
  8. Talk to other people on the tours as well as the docent leading the tour; find out their hometowns, get tips on other tours, restaurants and museums.

    Columbia College, Michigan Avenue

  9. Make sure you see Chicago's downtown and North Michigan Avenue in the evening for the lights and sparkle of the city. CAF offers "Happy Hour" walking tours weekdays, May-September.
  10. Go out to the museum campus and/or to Navy Pier to get a sense of Chicago's skyline

    Chicago Board of Trade Building

Chicago Architecture Foundation Offers Free Ideas to Optimize Visiting ChicagoThe free 10 tips card is available at the CAF shop -224 S. Michigan Avenue at Jackson.In addition to the CAF shop at 224 S. Michigan, free 10 Tips cards are also available at city of Chicago's Visitor Information Centers at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph and at Chicago Water Works, 163 E. Pearson.

To download the card, go to:

About the Chicago Architecture Foundation: The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public interest and education in architecture and related design. The Foundation pursues this mission through a comprehensive program of exhibits, tours, special events, and lectures. CAF's ArchiCenter is located in the Santa Fe Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue at Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60604. For further information visit or call 312.922.3432.


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