There is no city I have been to that celebrates architecture the way Chicago does. It really is an architecture groupie’s fantasy and this city makes visiting these architectural gems easy with what seems like an endless number of tour opportunities.
1. Chicago Architecture Foundation
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is definitely a huge resource; there are a ton of links and information on their website. The CAF runs a wide selection of tours and has several membership offers which give discounts and free tours as a benefit. You don’t need to live in Chicago to become a member and depending on the types of activities you plan to do it could be a great deal. Learn more at Chicago Architecture Foundation Membership.
2. The ARCHICENTER
The archicenter is operated by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. You can spend hours in this store; the variety of architecture merchandise is incredible, take a peek at their online store ARCHICENTER. Located at 224 South Michigan Avenue across from the Art Institute of Chicago.
3. Chicago Tour Foundation
The Chicago Tour Foundation offers a wide variety of tours where you can choose from modes such as boat, walking, bus/trolley, train, bike and even segway. The tour guides are Chicago Architecture Foundation-certified volunteers who receive hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advanced because some tours frequently sell out, particularly on weekends and holidays. The Tour center is located in the Archicenter store mention above. For more information visit: http://www.architecture.org/tours/
I highly recommend taking a boat tour in Chicago, the vantage point of the skyscrapers from the water is unsurpassed and the proximity to the bridges overhead.
The Mies van der Rohe Society offers architectural tours specific to the tale of Mies and the Illinois Institute of Technology offering both a docent-led or self-guided audio tours.
For everything Frank Lloyd Wright The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Fund is the place to find it. It was established in 1974 as a not-for-profit organization, to acquire and preserve Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park and is now made of more than 500 volunteers providing tours of these historic.
Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Fund offers guided and self-guided tours of Oak Park, an area filled with Wright’s Victorian and Prairie Style architecture.
Public Tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio from 1889 to 1898 is offered daily. His home offers insight into the first 20 years of his career, where he experimented with design concepts and raised six children with his first wife, Catherine Tobin.
The Robie House was completed in 1910 and is considered a masterpiece of the Prairie style and modernist architecture. Tours of the site offer both a first-hand experience of its amazingly contemporary spaces and the current restoration work. Tours are not offered daily, visit Public Tours of the Robie House for more information.
Visit: Wright’s Robie House
6. Visit a Tower
A trip to Chicago is not complete until you have gone up one of the tallest towers there, it is the birth place of the skyscraper after all. Definitely the John Hancock Tower Observatory or Willis Tower’s Skydeck are tops on the list. From the top you will get a great view of the city and there is nothing like being on the 94 stories or 103 stories above the ground. I don’t think you need to do both so choose wisely, I am a bit partial to the John Hancock, let me know what you think.
7. Open house Chicago
The Chicago Architecture Foundation organizes an annual weekend festival where over a hundred of Chicago’s architectural gems are opened to the public for free! Open House Chicago typically occurs in October it is a great time to visit.
Check out more at: http://www.openhousechicago.org/
Let me know if this helps you on your Chicago travels or if you have any other helpful tips.