Golden Grandeur: The Best Chicago Sunset Tour

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I had the opportunity to experience the Big Bus Chicago Sunset Live Tour that features a live guide who provides engaging (and hilarious) commentary as well as little known insights in real-time.

I’m obsessed.

And I’m spilling all the tea on this unique experience because this is a tour that should be on your list of things to do in Cihcago!

What is the Chicago Sunset Tour

This tour takes you on a journey through the city’s streets and most iconic landmarks, all while enjoying live commentary as Chicago’s skyline transitions from day into stunning views at the golden hour, and into the night.

It begins in a popular Chicago neighborhood where you’ll board a comfortable open-top double-decker bus, offering unobstructed panoramic views and the perfect vantage point to take in the sights.

What I Loved About the Tour


There is a booth to purchase tickets on the southeast corner of Ontario. We arrived at 7:00 PM but didn’t see anyone there. So, we made our way to the bus and were greeted by friendly staff who exchanged our vouchers for boarding tickets.

skyline view in river north chicago with buildings and hard rock cafe guitar sign

We made our way to the front row to take advantage of photo opportunities from the large glass window. Then I thought, “Wait, we don’t have earbuds” before realizing one of the best parts of the tour.

It’s LIVE !

That’s right, there is no need for earbuds.

In addition to English, the tour is also offered in Spanish on Fridays only from May through October.

Get your tickets, find your favorite seat on the open top bus, and get ready to roll through the Windy City!

Check tickets for the Chicago Sunset Live Tour

Before the tour began, I was taken in by the energy of the city.

The blend of towering skyscrapers, the buzz in the air, and the metropolitan feels of Chicago reminded me how great it is to live here.

Tour Guide

I’ve taken Big Bus tours in just about every city that I’ve visited, including Paris and New York and with all stunning views aside, a live tour guide is always the star of the show.

They are more than just narrators – they have a gift of storytelling, making you smile, and forgetting about the pile of work at the office.

Our guide, Matty, is a life-long resident of Chicago who captivated us with his wit, spot-on impersonations, and extensive knowledge of the city’s history and architecture.

After living in the Chicagoland area for more than 30 years, I learned a few things.

He’s amazing. And he knows everything there is to know about Lincoln Park Zoo without missing a beat!

The Tour

view of chicago skyline at sunset

I’ve driven in Chicago hundreds of times. Nothing is more impressive than a driver who can navigate a 45-foot bus through traffic.

This is the true beauty of a Big Bus Tour. You can take in everything without the hassle of driving and navigating through congested city streets or the stress of finding parking. Instead, you can sit back, relax, and fully enjoy yourself in the experience.

The ride was smooth, though we had to dodge a few tree branches. But as we say in Chicago, “Keep your head on a swivel” and stay alert no matter where you go or how you get there.

Are you a photography lover? This is the tour for you!

As the sun began to set, the tour took on a magical quality, with the sky turning shades of orange, gold, purple, and pink in the distance.

Chicago 728*90

We rode through Rush Street (great for nightlife), Lincoln Park, Lake Shore Drive, the Magnificent Mile, across the river where you’ll find restaurants on the Chicago Riverwalk, and then to the Downtown (Loop), Rt. 66, the Lakefront, and the Museum Campus — in about 90 minutes.

Seeing the city lit at night is thrilling. You won’t want to miss it on the riverfront, the lakefront, on State Steet, and in the theater district.

The Big Bus Chicago Sunset Live Tour is a must-do experience for anyone visiting the Windy City.

If you are a Chicagoan, keep this tour in mind for entertaining guests from out of town.

Tripadvisor Reviews

marquee at chicago theater

Perhaps I am biased but Chicago has some of the best tours in the country.

Don’t just take my word for it. Peek at the reviews from satisfied travelers on TripAdvisor, which highlight the engaging and entertaining nature of this sunset live tour.

Things to Know Before You Go

There are beautiful landscapes in Chicago, but be mindful of low-hanging branches and trees, especially when traveling through lush areas like Lincoln Park and residential neighborhoods.

There are a couple of places where the bus will stop for you to take photos. You will know in advance so that you can be camera ready. These photo opportunities are carefully curated to showcase the city’s most picturesque spots, bathed in the warm, golden light of the setting sun.

Check the forecast in advance and dress for the Chicago weather. The temperatures are cooler in the evening or a bit windy, especially near the lakefront. In spring season, you may need a wrap or light jacket.

Best Restaurants Near the Tour Stop

Before the tour, you may want to get your fill of some Chicago cuisine at one of the city’s renowned cafés or restaurants.

The River North area is one of my favorite hangouts for night life, so I highly recommend the signature dishes from these few local spots.

outdoor patio at frontera mexican restaurant

Frontera Grill

445 N. Clark | $$$ | Mexican

Tom NieradkaTom Nieradka
16:51 14 Jun 24
Really good Mexican food. It’s worth coming for the tortillas and chips alone, they have so much flavor. When you’re used to store bought tortillas the ones they make are like a completely different item.Everything is good.
Seth EssmeierSeth Essmeier
23:02 09 Jun 24
Food is good. I like the flavors but the texture of the pork was lackluster. I sat at the bar and the service was mediocre, long time to order, not good at bussing. They asked me to move in the middle of my meal, which I don't mind except they didn't offer any help to make that move. I was just expected to schlep everything over to the new location. Decor is dusty and needs a refresh.
Rachel FRachel F
22:15 09 Jun 24
Stale chips and mediocre food. Ambiance gets a negative score, with extremely loud music which did not match the vibe of the restaurant. Sound in the restaurant measured between 80 and 85db during our 45 minute meal. During a Sunday lunch, with a half empty dining room, very unnecessary to blare music.

I still remember ordering the Wood-grilled Portobello Mushroom Tacos on my first visit. The food was fresh and perhaps a tad pricey for Mexican food, but Rick knows his way around the kitchen.

Coffee enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that they will fill your cup with Dark Matter, and the menu is as diverse as the colors of a poncho.

What you should order: Carne Asada, Cerviche, Tortilla Soup

Hard Rock Cafe

63 W Ontario St | $$ | American

Hard Rock Cafe Chicago is easily recognizable by the huge, illuminated guitar outside. It’s loud, it’s large, and it’s legendary!

The cafe is famed for having the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia. The cafe’s walls display priceless items from music icons like Freddie Mercury, Madonna, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince.

Having dined here before, I remembered that the food was good, and the atmosphere was lively. However, when we arrived, we were informed of a 45-minute wait time and decided on Portillo’s.

What you should order: I am a fan of the Impossible burger and the onion ring tower. You can’t go wrong with their selections of simple bar food.

Portillo’s & Barnelli’s

100 W Ontario St | $ | American

What you should order: If you haven’t tried the famous Chicago-style hotdog, or one of our classic foods, here is your chance. The restaurant is pretty large and filled with antiques from the Chicago Stadium, gas stations, and factories.

Before the sunset tour, we stopped here to eat and I ordered the whitefish sandwich with cheese. The fish was moist, the dressings made it wet and messy, but was tasty!

What you should order: Italian Beef, Maxwell Street Polish Sausage with fries.

Chicago Raw

51 W Huron St | $$ | Vegan and Vegetarian

Vegan or vegetarian? I got you covered! Chicago Raw has some of the most innovative plant-based foods that look and taste fantastic.

I remember ordering a raw ravioli once that was made from thinly sliced turnips. Don’t leave without trying the carrot cake or lemon square; it’s hard to believe everything is raw.

What you should order: Collard Burrito, Garden Burgers, Spaghetti and “Meatballs

Maggiano’s Little Italy

516 N Clark St | $$ | Italian

This place serves classic comfort food and the garlicky flavors with marinara really hits home. The prices are not over-the-top, the portions are generous, and chances are you will end with a doggy bag.

What you should order: Stuffed Mushrooms, Taylor Street Baked Ziti, Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Piccata, Garlic Mashed Potatoes

There are other options, of course!

If you are looking for something quicker and cheaper, you can’t miss the McDonald’s sign on Clark Street.

For after-hour cocktails and a bit of nightlife after the tour, I recommend heading south on Clark Street where you find restaurants with outdoor seating and live entertainment at Blue Chicago. Redhead Piano Bar (16 w Ontario) and Howl at the Moon (26 W Hubbard) are also great spots for live music.

Final Thoughts on the Big Bus Chicago Sunset Tour

mural in river north neighborhood of Chicago

I had such a fun evening that I’m still smiling and reminiscing about the entertaining interactions and sights I experienced right in my own backyard.

Despite being a local, this tour allowed me to rediscover the magic of Chicago through a fresh lens, revealing hidden gems and new perspectives on famous buildings and familiar places.

The engaging guide’s witty banter and infectious enthusiasm added an extra layer of enjoyment that created an atmosphere that felt more like a lively gathering of friends than a typical tour.

I recommend this tour if you want to experience the city at night. Chicago is safe after dark and this just one of many ways to enjoy it.

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Safe travel.

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