Chicago Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours and More

This post reviews and compares the many different Chicago bus tours, hop-on, hop-off and more, available to you. Chicago has several excellent bus tour companies that offer a variety of full service and hop-on, hop-off trips around the windy city! Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to decide which one is best for you or your family. With that in mind, we’ve made it even easier for travelers by compiling a list of our favorites below. Most of these services are very highly rated, so you can rest assured in one of the following choices. Tickets for these tours typically cost between $30-$50 for adults and $15-$30 for children.  

SIGHTSEEING NON-STOP TOURS

GANGSTER TOURS

COMBOS + DISCOUNTS

HOP-ON, HOP-OFF BUS TOURS

NIGHT TOURS

BEER + DISTILLERY TOURS

 


Tip: Depending which tour you choose, the Chicago Go Card or City Pass, two tourist discount passes, may be great options to save money on popular attractions, tours and exhibits in the area.  You might also get discount bus tour tickets by searching Living Social.  


HOP-ON, HOP-OFF CHICAGO BUS TOURS

A popular option for bus tours is the hop-on, hop-off tour variety. All the buses in this section run continuously along mapped routes, and riders have the option to board at several predetermined locations throughout the city. Travelers can get off the bus at any of these stops and discover the landmarks for themselves. Many of them complement well our more in-depth guided walking tours of Chicago.  After exploring various areas of Chicago, hop back onto the bus and continue your journey! Each ticket will be valid for a certain amount of time (typically 24-48 hours) and you can come and go as you please. Ticket prices range from $35-$55 for adults and $18-$27 for children.  

 


BIG BUS TOURS

This premium double decker bus tour allows you to visit an extensive portion of Chicago’s most popular attractions at your own pace. Live commentary and convenient pick-up stops makes Big Bus Tours a popular choice for Chicago tourists. Advance online reservations save on standard pricing, and E-tickets are sent straight to your phone with the convenient app.

Big Bus Tours Chicago has earned a 4 ½ star rating on TripAdvisor. There are a handful of negative reviews, but they don’t seem to have much in common. Complaints focus on mechanical problems that couldn’t be avoided, which will happen from time to time with a company this large. With over three hundred 5 star reviews, it’s difficult to put much stock in the negative comments. A majority of the guests who take this hop-on, hop-off bus tour enjoy themselves. Many reviewers say that this is an excellent way to see the city and that the guides are very informative.

Big Bus Chicago Routes

Pass holders can conveniently board or depart at any of the Big Loop’s 14 stops.  Click the map to enlarge.

  1. Big Bus Chicago MapFort Dearborn
  2. Chicago Theater
  3. The Willis Tower & Skydeck Chicago
  4. Palmer House Hilton
  5. Art Institute/Millennium Park
  6. The Chicago Hilton/Grant Park
  7. Adler Planetarium
  8. Shedd Aquarium
  9. Field Museum
  10. Sheraton Towers & Loews Chicago
  11. Navy Pier
  12. The Water Tower
  13. The John Hancock Center
  14. Hard Rock Cafe

 

Standard Pricing

Big Loop Standard 24 Hour Pass

Big Loop Deluxe 48 Hour Pass

Big Loop Premium 72 Hour Pass

Big Bus also offers several combo tickets that include hop-on, hop off service, a boat cruise and tickets to one of Chicago’s observation decks.

Departure Times

Buses leave the first stop daily at 9 am, with the last shuttle departure at 4 pm. Ticket holders can board the bus to begin their tour at any stop.The full circuit takes between 2 and 2.5 hours.

Tickets

Buy tickets online here in advance to save up to 10%. Tickets can be purchased at any of the 14 stops from Big Bus staff members for full standard price.

  • The 48 and 72 hour passes offer 10% discount on Chicago’s famous Giordano’s pizza, as well as free treats for your ride!
  • Advance online ticket purchases can save 10% on standard pricing.  

 


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CHICAGO TROLLEY AND DOUBLE DECKER COMPANY (Now CitySightseeing)

The Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company (now City Sightseeing) provides a year round 2 hour adventure covering 13 different stops in Downtown and The Loop on their Red and Green Trolley or Red Double Decker bus. They also offer a variety of excursions and seasonal tours to Wrigley Field and The Museum of Science & Industry. These additional trips are only available to passengers who purchase the 48-hour ticket, and they are only offered during the summer months.

 

 

Reviews

This tour company has received a 4 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews), with a majority of their reviews being positive. Negative reviews mention unreliable tour guides and buses, but there are far more comments suggesting that this isn’t the case. Several of the 5 star reviews indicate that the tour guides provided by Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company are very knowledgeable. One local reports that they always use this service when their friends are in town to help them discover the city. Most guests enjoy their experience with this hop-on, hop-off bus tour, so chances are that the unhappy few simply had an uncommonly problematic trip.

Ratings for the trolley tour were also quite good, and there were a few notable comments. One guest suggested that the trolleys can be less comfortable, indicating that these vehicles are a bit colder than a tour bus. Even though some passengers weren’t pleased, it’s hard to ignore all of the glowing reviews from people who enjoyed their trip with Chicago Trolley and Double Decker company. Some visitors even went so far as to recommend the trolley over their bus tours for sightseeing, stating that it’s easier to see out the windows. Whichever option you choose, it would appear that most customers enjoyed their experience with this company.

Schedule 

  • Downtown Tours operate daily, year round, every 10 minutes from 9 am to 5 pm at 12 popular stops.
  • No transportation provided Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or instances of inclement weather.
  • Greektown, Wrigley Field, Museum of Science & Industry, Night Tour, and more run from the end of May (Memorial Day Weekend) through October only.

Standard Pricing

Downtown Tour (pictured) runs year-round and allows travelers to hop-on and off any of the 12 stops for the duration of the pass.

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Map24 Hour Pass

  • Adult $33
  • Child $18 (ages 5 thru 15)

48 Hour Pass

  • Adult $43
  • Child $18 (ages 5 thru 15)

72 Hour Pass

  • Adult $46
  • Child $18 (ages 5 thru 15)

Purchase tickets here.

All Tours Tickets (available May through October) allow travelers to hop-on and off any tour for the duration of the pass, and you get a free t-shirt!

Ticket prices for the All Tours Tickets have not yet been posted for 2016 season.

Perks

Free t-shirt with an All Tours Ticket purchase.

Online reservations made 24 hours in advance save $2 on adult and $1 on child tickets.

Groups of 15 or more receive a 20% discount off standard price.

 


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CHICAGO SIGHTSEEING TOURS 

Although hop-on, hop-off bus tours can be very informative, they are designed for exploring the city at your own pace. On the other hand, sightseeing tours are all about guiding you through the area and explaining the historical significance of several important landmarks. While some trips are focused on how Chi-town became such a bustling city of industry, other tours center their attention on the architectural history of the Windy City. Most of these services are very highly rated. Tickets will cost between $30-$50 for adults and $15-25 for children.

 


See It All Mini Bus Tour

Winner of the Concierge Favorites Award 2015, See It All offers a two hour experience that allows you to experience a large part of the city, with three great photo stops! If you want to see everything that this city has to offer, this is a great way to discover Chicago. Expert guides will provide information about the interesting past of the windy city while you take in the various sights and sounds. This company offers hotel pick-ups at most locations downtown. Simply select your hotel (or the hotel nearest you) at the time of booking.

This tour company has a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews). They are one of the most trusted services in Chicago, and a majority of reviews are 5 stars. Several comments suggest that the See It All tour is a great introduction to the city for visitors who may not be familiar with their surroundings. Positive reviews often mention that the tour is very informative and the guides provide a lot of information about Chi-town and its history. Discover all of the most significant locations and feel free to take pictures at three interesting stops!

Tour Highlights

  • Millennium Park
  • The Loop
  • Museum Campus
  • Soldier Field
  • The Willis (Sears) Tower
  • Grant Park
  • Wrigley Building
  • Water Tower
  • John Hancock Building
  • Gold Coast
  • Lincoln Park

Schedule

  • January-March: 1 pm Tuesdays-Sundays
  • April-December: 10 am and 1 pm Tuesdays-Sundays

Standard Price and Tickets

 


Gray Line Panoramic and Scenic North Side Tour

Looking to experience Chicago’s most beautiful buildings on the busiest streets? Gray Line offers guided tours that provide a first-hand look at the Windy City at an affordable cost.  Discover a lot of the most notable scenery in Chi-town while learning a lot about its history. This company has high quality tours all around the world, and you can typically rely on them to provide excellent service. This is not a hop-on, hop-off tour, but there is a twenty minute stop at the beautiful Lincoln Park Conservatory!  This tour is included for free on the Explorer Pass, a tourist attraction discount pass, and another bonus is free downtown hotel pickup.

Unfortunately, Gray Line may be the poorest rated service on this list. They currently sport a 3 star rating on TripAdvisor, and opinions on their tours appear to be mixed. Several passengers appear to have enjoyed themselves on this Chicago bus tour, while others have taken issue with their experience. Some customers left glowing reviews focusing on the quality of their tour guides, but just as many guests were unhappy with their trip. Families and couples were pretty much just as likely to leave either a positive or a negative review, so it’s difficult to say whether or not the lower ratings warrant more attention than the positive comments.

Route Highlights

  • Business Section
  • Richard J. Daley Plaza
  • Pablo Picasso sculpture
  • Wrigley Building
  • Magnificent Mile
  • Water Tower Place
  • The Loop
  • Lincoln Park Conservatory (20 minute stop)

Schedule/Tickets

Tours operate twice daily, year round, at 10am and 2pm

Ticket Office & Main Departure Point*: 17 East Monroe, Arcade Level of Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, IL 60603 *Downtown Hotel pickup available, see website for details.

Duration

  • Tours are two hours in length, with one 20 minute stop at Lincoln Park Conservatory.

 


Grayline’s The Grand Tour

In addition to their tour of the north side, Gray Line also provides a bus tour that takes you around several of the most beautiful parks in the city. The Grand Tour takes you past Lincoln Park, Washington Park and Grant Park. While on your journey throughout Chicago, you’ll travel alongside the outer drive in order to get excellent views of the lake. Discover the most charming locations in the entire city as you enjoy stops at both the Lincoln Conservatory and the Museum Campus. Find out what makes the windy city so alluring on the Gray Line Grand Tour! Gray line also offers this tour in combination with tickets to Chicago 360, one of Chicago’s 2 observation decks, with a small discount.

 

 

Ratings and reviews for this tour are all over the place. While some really enjoyed their experience, others found it to be a chore. It would seem that some passengers are ending up with bad tour guides. That being said, a lot of guests have said that their guides were very helpful and informative. It’s hard to say which reviews you should trust, but it looks like this might be a bit of a mixed bag. At 4 hours in length, this is a longer tour than most options on this list, and that might have something to do with the unhappy customers. If you’re not looking for a longer trip around Chicago, consider something else.

Ticket Prices

Combine this tour with a small discount to Chicago 360.  (more info)

Tour Details

  • Hotel pickup is available
  • Stops will be made at Lincoln Conservatory and Museum Campus
  • Photography is invited and welcome
  • Food and beverage are not provided, but may be available at various stops
  • Also available for free with the Explorer Pass. Combine tours and attractions to save on normal ticket prices!

 


CHICAGO’S FINEST TOURS

What makes this company the finest in the windy city? Well, their bus tours are definitely different from other sightseeing adventures in Chicago. Rather than visiting the same old locations here and there, Chicago’s Finest Tours provides trips to sites such as the World’s Fair and the Pullman Monument. Some of their tour options also take guests around to the most essential hot-spots in the entire city. Learn all about this city’s most notable history and see where it all took place with the help of this well liked tour company. Go on an adventure with Chicago’s Finest and discover a side of Chi-town that is rarely explored!

The name of the company doesn’t appear to be false advertising, as Chicago’s Finest Tour Company has a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. Although they have had a few unhappy customers here and there, over 600 reviewers have given them 5 stars. When it comes to their bus tours in particular, they haven’t received any negative reviews at all. Most comments seem to suggest that you will learn a lot more about Chicago on these tours than on any other. Several guests have said that this is a very informative and fun tour company, and we see no reason to believe otherwise.

Tour Prices and Availability

  • $30 for Adults/Children/Seniors
  • Save $10 by ordering two separate tour tickets
  • Tours typically run on Sundays and availability depends on schedule
  • Check schedule for each individual tour to see if the one you wish to take will be available soon!
  • More information

 


Chicago Architecture Foundation Architectural Highlights Tour

Chicago is world-renowned for its architecture, and you can see the best of it on this bus tour! Learn about the earliest built establishments and the modern innovations on this 3.5 hour exploration that covers 30 miles of Chi-Town! CAF has been the cultural ambassador of Chicago architecture since 1966, and is the world’s largest public architecture organization.

With a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is one of the highest rated attractions in the city. They offer a lot of different tour options, and ratings for their bus tour are just as high as every other excursion. There are a few negative reviews, but most of them are extremely positive. Many guests report that you will also learn about the history and politics of the city, as they are important to understand in order to fully appreciate the architectural structure of Chicago. Several reviews suggest a sightseeing bus tour during the winter because it can get very cold. If you want to avoid problems with the weather while experiencing as much of the city as possible, the Architectural Highlights Tour from CAF is an excellent choice.

Bus Route Highlights

  • The Loop
  • Hyde Park and Southside
  • Gold Coast and lakefront
  • Mies van der Rohe’s IIT campus
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House
  • Museum Campus

Stops with guided interior tours occur at The Loop, Mies van der Rohe’s IIT campus, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, and the Museum Campus.

Schedule and Address

Buses depart from CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Avenue, daily at 9:30am. Tours last approximately 3.5 hours.

Standard Pricing

  • $37 CAF members
  • $45 non-members

Perks

  • Members of the Chicago Architecture Foundation receive an 18% discount off tour price.
  • CAF has a huge database of Architecture Facts, which you can view before or after your tour  

 


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NIGHT BUS TOURS 

As with most cities, Chi-town really changes when the sun goes down. All of the buildings begin to light up and the city really starts to shine. Thankfully, some of the bus tour companies in the area provide services during the night. This can be a great, safe method for getting around town and discovering some of the more notable locations in the city after dark. Night tours in Chicago are very highly rated. Most of these options are offered for free with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Expect ticket prices to range from $30-$50 for adults and $15-$20 for children.

NOTE: Many companies’ night tours are only run during warmer months.

 


BIG BUS NIGHT TOUR

Just like their competition below, this tour company also provides night tours in Chicago. However, unlike Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Company, the Big Bus night tour is a nonstop trip around the city. This is intended as a panoramic experience that will allow you to see Chi-town lit up at night. The entire ride will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and you’ll travel from the Magnificent Mile to the Cultural Mile in one loop. Discover how the windy city changes when the sun goes down while on this memorable night bus tour!

Reviews of the night tour from Big Bus Tours are mostly positive. There are a few negative comments, but they all take issue with different problems that do not appear to have anything in common. Many of the positive comments mention that the tour guides are very informative and make the experience even more fun. Some guests were happy with the comfort of their air conditioned buses, while others were simply pleased that this was a live guided tour rather than a pre-recorded informative trip. Although it may be short, it looks like most people enjoy this night tour of Chicago.

Ticket Prices

  • $29 for Adults
  • $15 for Children
  • Save 10% by ordering online
  • Tour is included for free with 72 hour ticket

Tour Hours

  • Tour starts at 8 PM every night
  • Departs from stop #1 at Michigan and Wacker

 

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. Night Tour (May through October)

In addition to their standard hop-on, hop-off tour during the day, they also offer a bus tour at night. This is a separate excursion from the daytime trip, and it runs until 10:30 PM. Sadly, this service is only offered between May and October, so it’s a bit more limited than other night tours. In addition to limited summer hours, this trip is only available for guests who have purchased either a 48 or 72 hour ticket. For more information on their other services, check the hop-on, hop-off section above. There are a total of 9 stops during the night tour and you’ll find them all listed below.

Reviews

An overwhelming majority of ratings for this night tour are very positive. There are a few negative comments, but thankfully these reviews do not indicate any common issues with the service. Many customers expressed their appreciation for the tour guides provided by Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company (now CitySightseeing Tours). Other guests were simply happy with the price they paid, stating that this bus tour is worth every penny. Families and couples were the most likely audience to enjoy their experience on this trip.

Scheduled Stops

  • Navy Pier
  • The Magnificent Mile
  • 360 Chicago
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Skydeck Chicago
  • Michigan Avenue Bridge
  • Hilton Chicago/Grant Park
  • Maggie Daley Park / Millennium Park
  • Sheraton Hotel

Ticket Prices

The night tour is included for free with both the 48 hour and 72 hour pass.

  • 48 Hour Pass: Adult $45 | Child $18 (ages 5 thru 15)
  • 72 Hour Pass: Adult $48 | Child $18 (ages 5 thru 15)
  • Purchase here.

 


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GANGSTER TOURS

Chicago has a noted history with criminal organizations. Unfortunately, the tales we’ve heard from Hollywood don’t often tell the whole story. In order to learn more about what really happened in the windy city, it’s important to learn the history from an expert. Several bus tour companies in the area provide trips around some of the more historically relevant sites in the city, detailing some of the more infamous events that took place. These bus tours are typically rated very well, and guests enjoy learning a lot about Chi-town’s disturbing past. Ticket prices range from $30-$40 per person.

 


Weird Chicago Tours

“Ghosts, Gangsters, Murder and Mayhem” is what Weird Chicago promises their customers! These coach bus tours are offered year round, with a variety of eerie themes and spooky subjects that are always being updated! Reviews agree; you’ll never take the same tour twice!

Weird Chicago Tours has earned a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor. A majority of the reviews for this service are either 4 or 5 stars. A lot of guests describe their tour guides as informative and full of energy, stating that they actually learned quite a bit while on their trip. It would appear that most people find these gangster tours very enjoyable, but there are a few negative reviews. Thankfully, the negative comments are all different enough to suggest that they probably don’t represent the typical experience. Several reviewers agree that this is a trustworthy tour company.

Prices (+taxes and fees)

  • Adults $35
  • Children $25 (12 and under, not recommended for children under 10.)

Duration

  • Approximately 3 hours. These bus tours may exit and re-board at various stops, so we recommend that you dress appropriately for the season. All buses are air-conditioned/heated.

Times/Tickets

To see what Weird Chicago is offering, and to reserve seats online in advance, click here.

Route

  • Due to the variety of the themed tours provided, Weird Chicago does not publish a specified route for any of their tours. Just another way they keep their guests on their toes!

Perks

The website offers stories from the company’s book Weird Chicago. Read some articles about Chicago’s dark history and get yourself excited for your tour!

 


Untouchable Tours

Step into the 1920’s with this 2 hour themed, guided-tour! Known as the original Gangster Tour of Chicago, you’ll listen to the guides talk in slang as you learn about the true 1930’s Windy City. There is no walking, so you’ll see all of the infamous spots from the comfort of the climate controlled bus.

 

 

TripAdvisor has given this tour company a 4-star rating. Most reviews for this service are in the 4-5 star range, suggesting that Untouchable Tours is quite reliable. There are a few negative comments, but most of them seem to come from people who didn’t really want to take a tour like this. It’s important to keep in mind that your guides on this tour are acting a part to both entertain and inform you about the city’s history. If you’re more interested in the information, this might not be a good tour for you. However, if you’re looking for a fun time that most guests have enjoyed, this is an awesome experience.

Highlights

Get the insider scoop on the windiest politicians, the red light district, and the notorious crime scene of the Prohibition Era.

Schedule

The tour schedule varies month to month, so please check the website for current scheduling.

Departing Location

Tours depart from the 600 block of North Clark (Clark and Ohio) in front of the two-story McDonalds. Guests are asked to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled tour time to check in. Tours leave promptly on time.

Standard Pricing/Tickets

Tickets are $30 per person, and can be purchased by phone 773-881-1195, or online here. Service fees may apply. Groups of ten or more are encouraged to call for discounted rates.

 


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Chicago Crime Tours

Curious about the world famous mobsters, crime lords, and gangsters from the 19th century on? Take a ride in style with the climate-controlled Black Limousine Bus and see the underworld of Chicago in an hour and a half guided tour.

Tour Highlights

  • Al Capone
  • The Untouchables
  • H.H. Holmes
  • St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
  • Biograph Theatre
  • Holy Name Cathedral

Schedule

The bus operates Thursday-Sunday at the following times. The websites advises guests to arrive 10 minutes early to check-in. Tours last one hour and thirty minutes.

Monday   12PM, 2PM

Thursday 12PM, 2PM

Friday   10AM, 12PM, 2PM

Saturday   10AM, 12PM, 2PM, 4PM, 6PM

Sunday   10AM, 12PM, 2PM, 4PM

Pricing/Tickets

Standard Price is $39.95. Tickets can be purchased by phone (312) 888-6224, or online here. Walk-up sales are based on availability.

Departing Address

Tours depart from 163 East Pearson across from the Water Tower Place mall. Please arrive ten minutes before the scheduled tour, and look for the black limousine bus with crime scene tape on it!

 


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BEER AND DISTILLERY TOURS

Discover the history behind Chicago’s finest alcoholic beverage by taking a bus tour. These companies will actually drive you to a variety of different breweries and distilleries in the Chi-town area. Each location you visit will typically offer a variety of free drinks and taste testing opportunities. These trips will last for between 3 and 5 hours, giving you plenty of time to explore each of the stops on the tour of your choice. Expect to pay $65-$75 per ticket.

 


The Barrel Run

Last but certainly not least, this tour provides samples of local brews and offers three types of tours! Whether you want to explore Chicago’s Breweries, Distilleries, or see the hotspots of the Gangster Prohibition, Barrel Run has a tour for you. Did we mention you ride around in a large barrel-shaped bus? 

Tour Highlights

Brewery Tour:

Tour 1, taste 3, and 45-55 ounces of craft beer:

  • The Hair of the Dog
  • Hit On All Sixes
  • The Bees Knees

Distillery Tour:

Tour 1, taste 3, and sample 9-12 spirits:

  • FEW Spirits
  • KOVAL
  • Rhine Hall

Gangster Prohibition Tour:

  • Al Capone’s Hideouts
  • Holy Name Cathedral
  • Biograph Theatre
  • St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
  • Union Station
  • City Hall
  • Courthouse Place

Standard Prices and Tickets

  • Brewery: $65
  • Distillery: $65

Tour Lengths

  • Brewery: 3.5-4 hours
  • Distillery: 4-4.5 hours
  • Gangster Prohibition: 2 hours

Schedule

Please visit the website for current schedules of all tours available.

Location

For all tours, the pickup and drop off location is 600 N Clark Street.  

 


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COMBOS AND DISCOUNTS

Several Chicago tour bus companies offer packages that combine bus tours with boat cruises and attraction tickets. These combinations can really add up the savings for travelers who are looking to experience more than a few activities in the Windy City. In addition to combo deals, there are also several discounts offered by various tour companies in the area. You can typically save anywhere from 20%-40% or more. To learn more, please visit our tourist discount page.

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