The Chicago Architecture Foundation

Chicago Architecture Foundation Scale Model of Chicago

Discovering the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) was a total and complete accident.

Our hotel, the Hilton Downtown Chicago, sits on Michigan Avenue just a short walk from almost every activity we wanted to do while in Chicago. The hotel’s location is convenient and easy — and it’s close to an abundance of restaurants too.

We don’t like to dawdle in the mornings and prefer to get up, get food, and get on our way, especially when we’re on a touristy vacation — and this family travel adventure was no different! Thankfully, we found a Corner Bakery Cafe just a few blocks from our hotel, where we could grab a quick and delicious breakfast or early lunch, and Carter could get as much toast and butter as his heart desired!

After breakfast the first time we visited, I made a quick trip to the restrooms around the back of the cafe and saw a scale model of the city of Chicago that looked incredible! I quickly grabbed Brian and the kids, telling them I had something cool to show them, and when they first saw the model, I actually heard a couple Ooohs and Ahhhs.

Visiting The Chicago Architecture Foundation

By this time, we had already been in Chicago for three full days, experienced magnificent panoramic views from Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, rode the train a few times, and learned a bit about the buildings in the city. The kids had fun circling the free CAF scale model of Chicago with more than 1,100 buildings, pointing out buildings they recognized and others they wanted to see up close. Brian and I enjoyed reading the history and facts associated with the city’s architecture.

When we were done viewing the scale model of Chicago, we popped our heads in the colorful ArcelorMittal Design Studio to get a peek at the Lego building events you can participate in, and then visited the Chicago Architecture Foundation store, a total oasis for design lovers. We didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring the store, but at least I did find a few colorful pieces for our home!

About The Chicago Architecture Foundation

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) is a nonprofit cultural organization with tours, exhibitions, programs, and events for all ages. For more than 50 years, 450 volunteer docents and educators have shared the stories of Chicago architecture with millions of Chicagoans and visitors. In 2016, CAF served more than 670,000 people.

As the only organization in Chicago with year-round tours, CAF shares the stories behind Chicago’s famous buildings and iconic skyscrapers, its diverse neighborhoods, and the legendary houses of Frank Lloyd Wright. With more than 85 different Chicago architecture tours, led by foot, boat, bus, and train, there is truly a tour for every architectural interest.

Take a River Cruise aboard a luxurious tour boat, Chicago’s First Lady, and travel along the river as you learn about the people who designed and built Chicago. Walk along the streets of Chicago, learning about the historic skyscrapers, Art Deco design-style, Tiffany glass domes, and mosaics. Ride the downtown L Train for an elevated look at Chicago’s architecture from the train and the station platforms. Take a food and architecture tour to see and taste Chicago’s history. Hop on a bus to discover Chicago’s historic neighborhoods or immerse yourself in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Know Before You Go

  • The Chicago Architecture Foundation, with a scale model of Chicago, an incredible design-focused store, and an interactive Lego activity in the design studio, is located at 224 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60604.
  • CAF is open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.
  • Admission is free to view the scale model of Chicago, with 1,100 buildings.
  • The dock and ticket window for the CAF Architecture Cruises are located on the SE corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at 112 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60601.

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