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Chicago River architecture tour second only to Vatican in popularity, travel website says

TripAdvisor released the Travelers’ Choice awards for Experiences on Tuesday.

Shoreline Sightseeing’s architecture river cruise boat Skyview
Shoreline Sightseeing’s architecture river cruise ranked second in the Travelers’ Choice awards for Experiences for 2019.
Shoreline Sightseeing

Other cities have rivers and big, shiny buildings, but none, apparently, that can quite measure up to Chicago’s.

So say customers who book on, which bills itself as the “world’s largest travel site.” Only the Vatican beat out Shoreline Sightseeing’s architecture river cruise in the top 10 of Travelers’ Choice awards for Experiences for 2019.

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has to entertain out-of-town guests, but it’s perhaps worth noting that Boston, Anchorage and Tulsa, Oklahoma, all featured in a 2018 TripAdvisor list of top pizzerias in America — with Chicago nowhere to be found.

The latest list was compiled using an “algorithm based on reviews and ratings for bookable experiences over a 12-month period,” TripAdvisor said in a news release.

Amy Hartnett, a spokeswoman for Shoreline, said it’s not just water and buildings — or even boats — that explains the river boat appeal. It’s the guides.

“When you get on one of our boats, you’ll remember what you learned because it’s not just giving you dry facts,” Hartnett said. “They are telling you stories that connect the buildings and the history.”

Midwest hospitality helps too, she said.

Dan O’Connell — a spokesman for Chicago Architecture Center, which also offers river tours — says Chicago offers something a little different than other big cities with rivers.

“Part of it is the range of different styles we have in a very close proximity — from the late 1800s to today, ... and they are all viewed from a nice, tight vantage point along the river,” O’Connell said. “You can see them close up from top to bottom. It really is one of the most unique urban landscapes in America.”

Other entries in the TripAdvisor list include tours offered in Paris, Las Vegas, Okere Falls, New Zealand, and Amsterdam.

For the complete list, go to:

Passengers take in the sights as they head down the Chicago River during an architectural boat tour.
Associated Press