Aug 29, 2022 - Things to Do

How to rent an electric boat on the Chicago River

Chicago River
Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

👋 Hi, it's Justin. Summer fun is winding down, but there's still time to head to the river and charge up … a boat.

  • Renting boats by the hour has become all the rage, letting you experience the Chicago River's renaissance while working on your tan.

What's happening: Chicago Electric Boat Co. offers use of its fleet, from pontoons to Duffy boats.

  • With just a driver's license and a basic understanding of water safety rules, you can fulfill your dream of piloting a boat.
  • You could hire a captain instead, and even a tour guide.

How it works: They rent by the hour, so I chose the Duffy boat — closer to a gondola than a speedboat — for a two-hour family trip to enjoy both the South and North branches of the river, as well as downtown.

  • You can't go into Lake Michigan.
  • The boats are not fast.

The experience: Nothing beats looking up at the majestic buildings along Wacker Drive.

Yes, but: It's busy. If you aren't already stressed by the huge boats conducting architecture tours, the kayakers will positively freak you out.

The bottom line: $179 an hour is totally worth it for the memories, people-watching and Instagram stories.

People on an electric boat
Captain Justin helms the vessel with his family. Photo courtesy of the Kaufmann family.
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