The Chicago Architectural Foundation river tour takes you up and down both prongs of the Chicago River and out to Lake Michigan providing a memorable, excellent introduction to the city from a unique vantage point.
With that said, we found the tour highly informative, too long (over two hours) and geared more towards architecture buffs than the general public. After having taken the trip, I can’t recommend it for kids under the age of ten or any autistic with moderate to severe sensory issues.
The first obstacle our son had to overcome was standing in a rather long line of several hundred people to board the boat even though we had reserved the cruise a day in advance.I did go and ask whether there is any way to accommodate my son but my question wasn’t even gratified with an answer.
It is advantageous to be in the front of the line and snag seats next to the boat’s sides for better views during the tour so travelers wishing to enjoy a better vantage point for photographs should arrive at least half an hour earlier than the set departure time.
The boarding process was smooth, but the lack of assigned seating might be problematic for families wanting to sit together and autistics with sensory issues trying to avoid noise.
We were forced to sit near to a loudspeaker and endure the continuous noise for the two and a half hours onboard which significantly hampered our enjoyment of the tour. Several pleas to the guide to maintain some distance between his mouth and the microphone or speak in a softer tone went entirely unanswered.Apparently, the staff on the boat wasn’t trained in handling passengers with autism or in offering superior customer service in general.
Two other problems our autistic son encountered were the gridded metal seat that felt highly uncomfortable as well as the fact that with overhead cover provided passengers can be exposed to the scorching sun or harsh wind of Chicago.
In hindsight, it would have been more enjoyable for my family to take the city’s hop on and off to see the different landmarks since passengers can get off whenever they wish, and most seating is offered in closed areas that are not open to the elements.
Have you taken the Architectural Riverboat cruise; if so how did you like it?
Autism travel tips.
*Buy your tickets ahead of time they sell out rather fast especially in the summer time.
*Arrive at least half an hour ahead of scheduled departure to get a proper place in line.
*If your kid can’t stand and wait have him/her sit in the nearby Monet Cafe. If they can stand in line, bring electronic entertainment to keep them busy.
*Bring a mini fan, water bottle and a seat cushion for your autistic traveler
*Try to sit in the first few rows so you can leave faster when the tour is over.
*Watch out for the loudspeakers hanging on the sides on the boat and make sure you don’t sit in proximity to any of them.