A Comparison of Chicago Hop-on Hop-off Tours

by Bridgette Redman  |  Published June 1, 2023

With so much to see in the Windy City over many neighborhoods, hop-on hop-off tours provide a way to experience a variety of Chicago’s best tourist spots.

(Photo: Big Bus Tour / Courtesy

From parks and museums to world-renowned pizza joints and hot jazz spots, Chicago offers attractions for people with many different interests. Hop-on hop-off tours offer a way to experience a variety of locales without having to just observe them in passing from a bus, train or boat. While there is only one hop on hop off bus tour provider, there are different ways to take these tours. We compare two of those options in this article, one of just the tour and another of the tour as part of a larger package.

Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Tour

Big Bus Tours operates the largest open-top sightseeing tours in the world. Available in tickets that give you 24 hours or 48 hours, this hop on hop off tour features double-decker buses on which knowledgeable tour guides serve as hosts. The route goes from the Magnificent Mile, over the Michigan Avenue Bridge and deep into the city. Stops include Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, Field Museum of Natural History, Grant Park, Adler Planetarium, Cloud Gate, Chicago Cultural Center, Wrigley Building, Water Tower Place, Holy Name Cathedral, Solider Field, Tribune Tower, Trump Tower, Chicago Architecture Center and Chicago Museum Campus. Audio guides are included in both English and Spanish. Ear buds are provided as part of the tour so you can listen to the expert commentary. Big Bus Tours’ downloadable app lets you track where the bus is and shares additional city information.¬†¬†From $49.

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Go City All-Inclusive Pass

(Photo: All-inclusive city pass / Courtesy

While Big Bus will get you where you want to go, the Go City All-Inclusive Pass gets you into more than 25 different attractions. The pass–which is available for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days–lets you save up to 45% off regular attraction tickets. It includes a one-day ticket for the Big Bus hop on hop off tour. The pass comes with a digital guide that can help you plan your itinerary and your route. It also lets you make reservations for those attractions that require it. Tourists who have purchased multiple-day passes recommend making careful plans and keeping in mind that you can only take one of the three included boat cruises each day. They recommend that you use your hop on hop off tour on a day when you aren’t planning to visit the museums since it is possible to spend an entire day at each of the museums. The pass includes admission to all of Chicago’s best-known museums and even some lesser-known ones such as the American Writers Museum and Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Home. The pass also includes a 4-hour bike rental, Lincoln Park Zoo Rides, a Chicago Theatre Tour, 10-pin bowling and pizza, 360 Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio tour and admission to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. The pass is delivered in pdf form with QR codes. From $114.

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