It can be expensive to take a regular taxi around downtown Chicago. A cheaper, more fun, and much more scenic way is to travel by water taxi.
The Chicago Water Taxi is as much a self-guided architectural boat tour as it is a mode of transportation.
For between $3 and $8 per person (depending on the destination and day of the week), the Chicago Water Taxi sails along the Chicago River, connecting Ogilvie Transportation Center (Metra trains) and Union Station (Amtrak trains) to Michigan Avenue and Chinatown.
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On weekdays, you can ride with the commuters to North Avenue or LaSalle and Clark Streets, which are near restaurants, theaters and shopping.
Another option is to go to Michigan Avenue and pick up the Shoreline Water Taxi. That’ll take you out to Navy Pier, a touristy entertainment district that includes a ferris wheel, regular fireworks shows, and the Chicago’s Children’s Museum.
The water taxis run about every 15 minutes, so no long waits. They operate from March through December.
During the ride, the taxi winds through a narrow path of skyscrapers and passes under bridges, allowing passengers to see the developing Chicago Riverwalk restaurant patios and get a glimpse of several iconic buildings, including the corn cob-styled Marina Towers and the controversial Trump Tower. (Many Chicagoans feel the word TRUMP on the side of the building is tacky – you can decide for yourself.)
You could visit the Willis Tower (go out on the glass ledge!), and then pop down to Chinatown for a dim sum lunch. Or head to Michigan Avenue, where you could grab a cheap burger from the Billy Goat Tavern (made famous by an old Saturday Night Live skit — “Cheesborger, cheesborger!”), and then stroll by the shops and street performers on Michigan Avenue to Water Tower Place and the John Hancock Building. On one nice summer day, we went a few blocks farther to Oak Street Beach – a public beach with free admission – and played in the sand with Chicago’s gorgeous skyline behind us.
My kids and I like to sit on the water taxi’s upper deck. The kids spend most of the time looking over the railing, down at the water, but I like to look up at the city’s incredible architecture. The view is much better than the one you get from the back seat of a regular taxi.
Tickets can be purchased at the stops, or on board. An all-day pass is $8, which will save money if you want to bounce between places.
For other money-saving ideas and fun things to do in Chicago, see TravelingMom.com’s Chicago page.