An Electric Boat Ride in Chicago

Both of my parents turned 60 this year, which coincided with the rare occasion of the whole family being in the same postcode at the same time. To celebrate, my (newly married!) sister snapped up a $99 Groupon for the Chicago Electric Boat Company. For two hours, our group of seven could cruise the Chicago River in style, eating and drinking whatever we wanted to bring along.

There were questions. Did the boat run on a track? (No.) Would a ‘crew member’ from the company have to tag along? (No, as long as we didn’t try to sneak into Lake Michigan.) How fast could we go? (Not very.) What if it rained? (The whole boat was covered by a canvas roof.)

It felt…reckless of the Electric Boat people to let a bunch of complete novices onto a boat and send us out to do battle with the many ferries and architecture cruises that roam the waters. But that’s exactly what they did.

The brothers-in-law were assigned the task of driving, which they took very seriously:

Chicago Electric Boat Company Drivers

As they did that my parents, sisters and I busied ourselves with how to take a picture that best represented our hand tattoos:

Chicago river boat
Dino tats.

The boat company staff gave us a map with a suggested route for our 2 hour time span – first go up the river to Chinatown, then turn around and go towards Navy Pier. I didn’t even know Chicago had a Chinatown, so I was happy to check it out. We climbed on board with our snacks, sandwiches, water, and Prosecco and the adventure was underway.

Chicago skyline
I always forget how much I love Chicago until I’m there.

The Electric Boat people compare driving the boat to driving a golf cart – basically anyone can do it. I’d say our speed was comparable to that of the ducks in the water, and our strategy for avoiding ferries was similar, too: hug the wall and do your best to stay afloat when you’re hit by the wake. It took about half an hour to reach Chinatown, our turn around point.

Chicago River Chinatown
Guess how we figured it out?

“Gun it,” we shouted to Alex. “Let’s see what this baby can do!”

“I am,” he said. “That’s top speed.”

We turned our attention instead to more important matters, like trying to take a selfie stick picture without overturning the boat and experimenting with the iPhone’s slo-mo feature. We succeeded on both counts.

Chicago electric boat selfie stick
That’s right, no one is at the wheel.

The city rose up in front of us again, looking stunning as always. We tried to get close enough to hear the commentary from the architecture boat but no luck. The river was busier, pulsing with kayakers, ferries, seagulls, and various bits of driftwood. Alex’s sunglasses sailed over the edge in the excitement and sank immediately.

Chicago architecture
Either the Hancock Building or the Sears Tower. I *still* cannot remember which is which.
Drinks on the Chicago River
Prosecco toast.

We ended up with a little bit more time than expected, so we cruised back and forth in front of the dock for about 10 minutes to get our full money’s worth. And was it worth it? With the Groupon, definitely. Though you would probably have to ask my sister Megan for the most honest answer, since Kate and I completely forgot to pitch in our share. #SisterFail

Even without the Groupon I would recommend it – the regular price is $150 to $200 per hour, depending on the boat size. If you divide it among a group (and don’t forget to BYO snack and drinks) it is money well spent.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with the Chicago Electric Boat Company. This was an independent activity, and as always, all opinions are my own.

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  1. neither! It’s the Willis Tower now (formerly Sears). This is how I always still feel about sweater and sweatshirt, so now you get it.

  2. it is such a joy to see a family that enjoys being together. Your mom and dad are wonderful and it shows in the family they created. The sons-in-laws are great additions to the family! You ladies chose well.

  3. Great boat ride! If you have people in town or are visiting its a great way to spend two hours! We had a groupon so it was definitely worth it! I would for sure do it again if they put more groupons out. Jack H was great and a ton of help! Really fun 2 hours on the River!  Brought our lunch and went up and down the river.  Much better than being with 200 others on one of the tourist boats.

    1. Agreed! I was pleasantly surprised at how independent we were for the whole boat ride. Would definitely do it again and the groupon made it fantastic!

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