You don't need to own a boat to view the Chicago skyline from the water this summer
Skip the hassle and expense of boat ownership, and rent one instead.
Tourists to Chicago are often struck by the sheer immensity of Lake Michigan. As one of the world's largest freshwater bodies of water (it's the size of Massachusetts, Maryland, and Delaware combined), it can be hard to believe a lake this beautiful exists in the Midwest.
And the lake is an ideal spot for finding a different view of Chicago. With the fresh air and natural social distancing, a boat excursion might be the best way to experience the reopening of Chicago this summer.
If you don't want the work and cost of owning a boat, and even if you know nothing about operating one, you can still enjoy a day on the lake when you rent a boat with a captain.
There are several options to find a boat to rent in Chicago. You can rent from a traditional Chicago-based business or you can find a boat for rent by the owner through websites similar to Airbnb rentals.
Chicago Boat Rentals
Chicago Boat Rentals is one of the traditional ways to rent a boat. Rent a pontoon from them, and skip the need for a captain. As long as you are 21 or over and you have a driver's license, you can drive one of their pontoons. They provide you with training, so you know what you are doing.
Pricing will vary. The website is currently advertising discounted pricing for Memorial Day weekend, morning sail trips for $395, and morning powerboat rides starting at $599.
Similar to Airbnb, you can go to the GetMyBoat website or app and rent a boat directly from the owner. There are many options when you put Chicago in for your search destination. You can find rentals with captains or boats that you drive yourself.
When searching for a boat to rent, if you'd like a top-rated one, look for Super Owners and Best of Badges. Super Owners provide consistent service. The Best of GetMyBoat badge is an annual award where the highest-rated owners and tour operators are recognized based on responsiveness, communication, flexibility, and customer service.
Troy's Pedal Boats offers a 14 passenger party boat with a crew. Fees begin at $500 with a minimum three-hour tour time. Trips include cruising down the Chicago River, watching the Navy Pier fireworks, or a jump in the lake for a playpen swimming trip.
Rates vary for Chris's Boat Charters, and their prices do not include a captain. You must hire one and pay them directly. Chris's Boat Charters offers two large boats for groups of up to 12 each. Contact them directly for a custom price.
If you're not looking for a party, but desiring a quiet boat ride with just your family or a few friends, you can find many options on GetMyBoat. For example, Captain Joey is a Super Owner, and he offers a 31 foot Pearson Cruising Sloop for parties up to 6 people at $150 per hour.
Airbnb for boats
GetMyBoat is one of several boat renting websites. There is also Boatsetter and ClickandBoat. Just like renting from Airbnb, when you rent with one of these websites, be sure to check reviews and read all of the fine print. Each owner will have certain requirements and amenities offered.
Make sure you know what's included in the price. Does the cost cover a captain, or will that be a separate charge? Do you need to bring your own food and drinks, ice, or coolers? Or is any of that provided?
Whether you want to splurge for the day or get some family and friends together to share the price, there is nothing like a day cruising around the waters of Lake Michigan.