7 things that might surprise you – NBC Chicago

There are plenty of ways to take in the sights, sounds (and smells) of Chicago, but you don’t necessarily have to be on land to do that.

And you don’t have to be a tourist, either.

In fact, one of the most beloved ways — among locals and visitors alike — to experience city is by journeying across the Chicago River and Lake Michigan while a tour guide talks about buildings and regales you on the untold story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

In other words: a Chicago Architecture Boat Tour.

“As you’re going up and down the Chicago River and on Lake Michigan, you’re seeing the city’s evolving architecture, which is changing every year” said Andrew Sargis, director of sales and marketing for Wendella Tours and Cruises.

Wendella, billed as Chicago’s “original” architecture tour, in 1935 gave its first architecture tour of the city from a wooden diesel yacht out on Navy Pier, Sargis said. Now, upwards of 20 architecture tours are offered daily, with more on the weekends. On average, Wendella tours see roughly 100,000 passengers each month over the summer, Sargis said.

And though the majority of guests on any given Wendella architecture tour are tourists, Sargis said, locals take them, too.

“I was surprised when I first started, we get a lot of repeat locals,” Bobby Scheffle, a Wendella tour guide told Breaking News Of World. “And always there’s a lot of local people that come on when they have guests visiting them in town. They like to show off the city this way.”

But there’s something else about the experience that makes it so very Chicago.

“I think it is really unique to experience the city from a boat on a river, because we think about other big cities in the United States — there aren’t many that have a river that go right through downtown,” Scheffle said. “You feel like you’re in the city, you hear the noise, and you see the buildings and all that.”

Whether you’re taking the ride for the first time or the 50th, bringing out-of-town guests out for a memorable activity or just itching to be a tourist in your own city, here are seven things to know about the Chicago Architecture Boat Tour.

Will weather stop a tour from running?

Wendella’s architecture tours run year-round, Sargis said, although “weather is a factor.”

Weather events like ice on the river or significant snowfall can impact operations, Sargis said, but they typically don’t, since the Chicago River — a federal waterway — must remain navigable year-round.

While Wendella’s boats do have climate-controlled indoor lounges, tours during the winter may run at limited times. But rain, snow, extreme heat or wind, unflappable Chicagoans still show up.

“We went on drizzly day a few years ago,” Kathy Rambo wrote on Breaking News Of World’s Facebook page. “There were only about 10 of us on the boat!

And most often, the tour will run — rain or shine — so don’t hesitate to bring a raincoat.

“I have certainly [given tours] under thunderstorms and downpours, and I’ve gotten drenched sometimes,” Scheffle said. “I’ve never had a tour get canceled because no one bought a ticket. There’s always someone wanting to come out here in the rain or the cold.”

What’s the best time of year (or day) to go?

It depends on when exactly your favorite time of the year is, and what you’re hoping to see.

For Sargis, it’s late summer. “There’s this point of time in September when the weather is beautiful, but there’s not that summer rush.”

There are other times that Chicagoans may want to consider, too.

“St. Patrick’s Day Celebration when they dye the river, and any Wednesday or Saturday night [over the summer], watching the fireworks over Lake Michigan, especially if you’re local” Sargis said.

During the summer months, Wendella’s tours run start as early as 9 a.m., with the day’s final tour not ending until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., Scheffle said, “so if you want to come for a ride to see the city lights, you can come late, and it’s also beautiful, just a little more difficult to see the colors on the buildings if that’s what you want to see.”

Laura Pubins, who lives in a suburb outside of Chicago, agrees.

“My favorite one was when we were on a boat at sunset,” Pubins wrote to Breaking News Of World on Facebook. “It was an awesome new view of the city.”

What’s the most photogenic spot on the tour?

For Sargis, it’s “anything out on Lake Michigan,” with the skyline in the background.

On the river though, there’s one moment that captures the city best, Scheffle said, no matter what time of day you’re taking the trip.

“The best place to take a photo on the 90-minute river tour is when we come up the south branch from Chinatown,” Scheffle said. “That’s the best place because you get the whole skyline from the south. It’s really beautiful.”

For locals though, it may not be what you’re looking at, so much as how you’re looking at it.

“You’re looking at [the city] from underneath,” said Chicago resident Nick Pappas, 55, who recently found himself on a 90-minute river tour. “It’s just a different perspective on the river that you don’t get on the street level. As amazing as that sounds, you’re only, like, 20 feet down, but it gives you a whole different perspective.”

What does the training for a tour guide look like?

According to Sargis, all Wendella tour guides are trained in-house — and the spots are competitive.

“There’s high demand,” Sargis said, of the position. “There are more people that want to be tour guides than space available. It’s certainly a popular job, and people want to do it.” While the tour guide of any given architecture tour isn’t made public, many people do request certain ones for private events, Sargis said.

For the tours, there’s a general script, with highlights that must be mentioned, Sargis said. But improvisation, along with sharing personal history is encouraged, too.

“All of the tour guides have their own experience in the city, and will add parts of their history in it,” Sargis said. “We have a tour guide that is a retired police officer, and he will interject anecdotes form his career. We have a tour guide that’s a Vietnam War Veteran, and when we go by the Vietnam War Memorial, he will always discuss the importance of it to him.”

For Scheffle, the training included joining multiple tours a week for two weeks and flashcards.

“For a while, I, just drove Uber and Lyft,” Scheffle said. “And then, I remembered that I really liked Chicago. I like learning fun facts about it. And there are people in the city that have that as a job — to tell people fun facts about Chicago and I started looking into tourism jobs in the city.”

What’s the most common question tour guides get?

Believe it or not, it’s not always about The Great Chicago Fire, or Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, at least on Scheffle’s tours.

“My favorite thing on the tour that happens is probably when little kids ask questions,” Scheffle said. “The common question that a kid will ask, because I talk about the tallest building, second tallest building, third tallest building, a lot of times a kid will ask what’s the shortest building in Chicago? Which I don’t have a good answer for.”

Are you supposed to tip your guide?

“It’s up to the discretion of the client,” Sargis said. “I would say a lot of our passengers do tip our tour guides.”

What’s the absolute best part of the tour?

Sure the tour is photogenic, and the city’s history is fascinating. And though some may go on the tour to find out what buildings are new, others prefer to think about the old.

“My favorite building to talk about is probably the Board of Trade building,” Scheffle said. “Just because I remember walking by it much younger and always, I remember, really being impressed by it, thinking was such a cool big city building.”

For a local on the tour, the memories are nice. But a day out on the water in Chicago is just hard to beat.

“It’s great. I don’t have to work,” said Pappas, who has lived in the city for 55 years. “Every time, it’s a little treat to go down the river.”

Soruce : https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/chicago-architecture-boat-tour-guide-wendella/3193400/

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