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How to use transit to explore the Chicago region’s architecture

September 28, 2022

Architecture Blog 1110x545 Marina Towers1

Chicago is one of the world’s great cities for architecture and designed landscapes—and the birthplace of the word “skyscraper.” The region is home to an unmatched array of historically diverse structural wonders begging to be explored. The most cost-friendly means to visit these sites is by using public transit. Take the CTA, Metra, or Pace and immerse yourself in the region’s rich architecture.

Architecture Boat Tours

Experience Chicago’s legendary architecture on one of the many architecture boat tours offered in the city. These guided tours detail the 130-year-long history behind Chicago’s iconic skyline and provide a unique view of the city’s architecture from the water.

Where: 112 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60601

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #60 (Randolph and Michigan stop) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Bus #3, #4, #6, #20, #26, #66, #143, #146, #147, #148, #151, #157 (Michigan and South Water stop) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles).
  • CTA Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, or Purple Line (State/Lake stop) and walk for 8 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Red Line (Lake stop) and walk for 8 minutes (0.4 miles).
  • CTA Blue Line (Clark/Lake stop) and walk 12 minutes (0.5 miles).
  • Pace bus #850, #851, #855 (Michigan and South Water stop) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles).
  • Metra Electric or South Shore Line (Millennium Station) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).

Learn more

Brick of Chicago Neighborhood Tours

Get to know Chicago neighborhoods like never before, and you’ll never look at the built world (or the humble brick) the same way again. These walking tours usually begin near a transit stop and cover about 1.5 miles on foot. Explore historic neighborhoods like Logan Square, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, and more.

How to get there:

  • Logan Square: CTA Blue Line (Logan Square stop)
  • Hyde Park: Metra Electric or South Shore Line (55th-56th-57th St stop)
  • Bronzeville: CTA Red Line or Green Line (47th St stop)
  • McKinley Park: CTA Orange Line (35th/Archer stop)
  • Old Town: CTA Brown or Purple Line (Sedgwick stop)
  • Rogers Park: CTA Red Line (Loyola stop)

Learn more

Chicago Architecture Center

Recognized as one of the most significant cultural organizations in the region, the Chicago Architecture Center is committed to celebrating and advancing the city as a hub for architectural innovation. Visit the CAC and traverse through its two floors of exhibits featuring the largest scale model of Chicago, with more than 4,250 miniature buildings.

Open House Chicago

Every October, the CAC hosts Open House Chicago, a free public festival that offers a bounty of self-guided history and architecture trails throughout Chicago and behind-the-scenes access to historically and culturally significant architectural sites.

The Chicago Architecture Center is open daily from 10 am-4 pm.

Where: 111 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60601

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #60 (Randolph and Michigan stop) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Bus #3, #4, #6, #20, #26, #66, #143, #146, #147, #148, #151, #157 (Michigan and South Water stop) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles).
  • CTA Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, or Purple Line (State/Lake stop) and walk for 8 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Red Line (Lake stop) and walk for 8 minutes (0.4 miles).
  • CTA Blue Line (Clark/Lake stop) and walk 12 minutes (0.5 miles).
  • Pace bus #850, #851, #855 (Michigan and South Water stop) and walk for 2 minutes (0.1 miles).
  • Metra Electric or South Shore Line (Millennium Station) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).

Learn more

Central Geneva Historic District

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the Central Geneva Historic District encompasses 102 buildings and structures, of which 68 contribute to its historical integrity. Use transit to explore the commemorated neighborhood and learn more about its structural history.

Where: Bounded by Fox River, South, 6th and W. State Sts., Geneva, IL 60134

How to get there:

  • Metra UP-W Line (Geneva stop) and walk for a minute.
  • Pace Bus #801 (State and 5th Street stop) and walk for a minute.
  • Pace Bus #802 (Geneva Metra stop) and walk for a minute.

Learn more

Fort Sheridan

Established as an army post in the late 1800s, Fort Sheridan is the site of 94 historic buildings covering 640 acres on the North Shore of Lake Michigan. The area is designated as a US historic landmark property, and was recently selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois.

Where: Fort Sheridan, IL

How to get there:

  • Pace Bus #472 (Waukegan/Walker stop) and walk a minute.
  • Metra UP-N line (Highwood stop) and walk a minute.

Learn more

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour

Constructed in 1889, this historic house was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright who played a crucial role in shaping the architectural movement of the twentieth century. The structure, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, houses original Wright-designed furniture and textiles. Take a tour of the home and studio through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, and consider their “Inside and Out” tour, which includes an audio tour of the home’s historic Oak Park neighborhood.

Where: 951 Chicago Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302

How to get there:

  • CTA Green Line (Oak Park stop) and walk for 15 minutes (0.8 miles).
  • Pace Bus #311 (Oak Park Ave and Chicago Ave stop) and walk for 5 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • Pace Bus #307 and #318 (Harlem Ave and Chicago Ave stop) and walk for 6 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • Metra UP-W Line (Oak Park stop) and walk for 12 minutes (0.6 miles).

Learn more

Marina City

An engineering wonder composed of two “corn cob” shaped towers, Marina City was envisioned as an urban experiment to draw Chicagoans into the city following decades of outward migration. The site represents one of the most successful early uses of a mixed-use development featuring residences, a theatre, offices and retail spaces.

Where: 300 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60654

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #22 and #36 (Dearborn and Wacker/Lake stop) and walk for 4 minutes (0.2 miles).
  • CTA Bus #2, #10, and #29 (State and E. Wacker stop) and walk for 4 minutes (0.2 miles).
  • CTA Bus #20, #56, #60, #J14, #124, #157 (Washington and Clark/Dearborn stop) and walk for 10 minutes (0.4 miles).
  • CTA Bus #147 (Michigan and Hubbard stop) and walk for 9 minutes (0.4 miles).
  • CTA Blue Line (Clark and Lake stop) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, or Purple Line (State and Lake stop) and walk for 5 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Red Line (State and Lake stop) and walk for 5 minutes (0.2 miles).

Learn More

Riverside Historic District

Riverside Historic District represents one of the first planned communities in the United States. Designed by renowned architects Calvary Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, the district is recognized as one of the unique areas in the region. Visit the district and enjoy its historic and picturesque architecture.

Where: Village of Riverside, IL 60546

How to get there:

  • Metra BNSF Line (Riverside stop) and walk for a minute.
  • Pace Bus #307 (various stops on Harlem Avenue between Addison Road and Ogden Avenue).

Learn more

Rookery Building

Designed by two of the most prolific architects in the United States, Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root, the Rookery is the oldest standing high-rise in Chicago. The building features a unique construction style representing a sophisticated blend of old and new building techniques.

The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 1970, and listed as a National Historic Landmark on May 15, 1975.

Where: 209 S. LaSalle., Chicago, IL 60604

How to get there:

  • CTA Bus #7, #126, #130 (Adams and Clark stop) and walk for 2 minutes.
  • CTA Bus #20, #56, #J14 (Washington and LaSalle stop) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Red Line (Jackson stop) and walk for 6 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • CTA Blue Line (Monroe stop) and walk for 4 minutes (0.2 miles).
  • CTA Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple Line (Quincy stop) and walk for 3 minutes (0.1 miles).
  • Metra Rock Island Line (LaSalle St Station stop) and walk for 7 minutes (0.3 miles).
  • Metra UP-N, UP-W, or UP-NW Line (Ogilvie Transportation Center stop) and walk for 14 minutes (0.6 miles).
  • Metra Electric and South Shore Line (Millennium Station stop) and walk for 15 minutes (0.7 miles).

Learn more

The region is home to structures designed and planned by some of the greatest architects in the world. Check out the following resources to discover the diverse design and engineering innovations across Chicagoland.

Chicago City Guide: 23 Buildings You Shouldn’t Miss

National Historic Landmarks in Illinois

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