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Chicago Tours. A comprehensive collection of sightseeing excursions by air, water, and land can be found through Chicago Tours, a travel-reservation company offering more than 75 tours, events, and activities. 888/881–3284; www.chicagotours.us.

Boat Tours

Get a fresh perspective on Chicago by viewing it from the water. The cruise season usually runs from April through mid-November, but monthly boat schedules vary; be sure to call for exact times and fares. One option in particular stands out, though it's a bit more expensive than the rest: the Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady, Chicago's Little Lady, or Chicago's Fair Lady. The CAF tour highlights more than 50 architecturally significant sights. The cost is $38 ($35 if reserved online, and $30 for select Tuesdays and Wednesdays); reservations are recommended. Shoreline Sightseeing also runs architecture-themed boat tours.

If you're looking for a maritime adventure, you can get a blast from the past on the tall ship Windy, a 148-foot ship modeled on old-time commercial vessels. Passengers may help the crew or take a turn at the wheel during several different themed cruises on Lake Michigan. The cost is $25 to $45.

Boat Tours

Chicago Architecture Foundation. 312/922–3432; www.architecture.org.

Mercury Chicago Skyline Cruiseline. 312/332–1353; www.mercuryskylinecruiseline.com.

Shoreline Sightseeing. 312/222–9328; www.shorelinesightseeing.com.

Wendella. Illinois. 312/337–1446; www.wendellaboats.com.

Windy of Chicago Ltd. 312/451–2700; www.tallshipwindy.com.

Bus and Trolley Tours

A narrated bus or trolley tour can be a good way to orient yourself among Chicago's main sights. Tours start at roughly $20 and can last from two hours to a full day. American Sightseeing offers about 30 options, from classic outings to pizza- and blues-themed tours. The double-decker buses of Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. stop at all the downtown attractions. You can get on and off the open-air trolleys as you like; these tours vary in price, so call for details. The Chicago Architecture Foundation's bus tours often go farther afield, exploring everything from cemeteries and movie palaces to far-flung neighborhoods.

Bus and Trolley Tours

American Sightseeing. 312/251–3100; 800/621–4153 ; www.americansightseeingchicago.com.

Chicago Architecture Foundation. Tour Centers, Santa Fe Bldg., 224 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois. 312/922–3432; www.architecture.org.

Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.. 773/648–5000; www.chicagotrolley.com.

Foreign-Language Tours

Chicago Tour Guides Institute, Inc. 773/276–6683; www.chicagoguide.net.

Special-Interest Tours

African-American

Black Coutours. 773/233–8907; www.blackcoutours.com.

Gangsters

Untouchable Tours. 773/881–1195; www.gangstertour.com.

Horse-and-Carriage Rides

Antique Coach and Carriage Company. 773/735–9400; www.antiquecoach-carriage.com.

Chicago Horse & Carriage Ltd.. 312/988–9090; www.chicagocarriage.com.

Noble Horse. 312/266–7878; www.noblehorsechicago.com.

Walking Tours

The Chicago Architecture Foundation has by far the largest selection of guided excursions, with more than 50 itineraries covering everything from department stores to Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park buildings. Especially popular walking tours of the Loop are given daily throughout the year. Chicago Greeter and the affiliated InstaGreeter program (for last-minute weekend visits) are two free services that match knowledgeable Chicagoans with visitors for tours of various sights and neighborhoods.

Information

Chicago Architecture Foundation. Tour Centers, Santa Fe Bldg., 224 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois. 312/922–3432; www.architecture.org.

Chicago Greeter . Chicago Office of Tourism, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, Illinois. 312/945–4231; www.chicagogreeter.com.