#630: The Partial Partial Guide Guide

May 6th, 2016

Sometime between selling out through September, appearing on WBEZ and getting interviewed by the French-Canadian press, I realized that the Chicago Corruption Walking Tour is a hit.

I don’t have plans right now to add dates, in part because I want to have a summer too, in part because I’ve been asked to toss out the first pitch at the Kane County Cougars’ Aug. 18 Political Corruption Night and I throw like a drunken toddler.

So while I laze in parks and learn to pitch, here are a few ways you can spend your summer learning more about the city. It’s an incomplete list of tourism workers I have a fondness or slight bias toward, so I decided to call it the Partial Partial Guide Guide.

You don’t get to be Boing Boing’s pick for “Chicago’s hottest tourist ticket” without being able to rock a pun. And speaking of rocks…

Fossils in Skyscrapers: Paleontological Walking Tour of the Chicago Loop

My friend Asa deserves a lot of the credit for the corruption tour. His downtown fossil hunt showed me it was possible for non-professionals like us not only to run tours, but to fill them with people far and wide fascinated by our particular areas of expertise.

In Asa’s case, the geologist teaches people about the ancient fossils found in the buildings that make up Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. I wrote about the tour in more detail for #484: The Man in the Dinosaur Hat, but trust me that you’ll no longer be able to walk downtown without peeking at the limestone after this.

You even get a fossil to take home.

His tour costs $15 through Dabble.co and lasts about an hour and 45 minutes. His next tour is May 28.

Shoreline Sightseeing

Chicago’s river rat community is full of different boat companies, almost all of which do a fine job, but it’s my blog and I can be a little biased toward Shoreline if I want to.

Yes, I used to work here and, yes, I’m still friends with a lot of the folks, but they legitimately do quality tours showing you around the river. See if you can get on one of Victor’s or Sarah’s tours.

Full pricing options, from architectural tours to charters to water taxis and the little blue boats that run between Navy Pier and Museum Campus, can be found at ShorelineSightseeing.com.

Chicago Detours

I took a Chicago Detours tour a few months back and was simply blown away. The sheer depth of experience and depth of, I’ll say it, nerdery were outstanding.

I took the iPad-infused Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, which had all the facts and figures you would expect, but framed them through concepts in a way I had never seen anyone do. We talked about the Marshall Field’s stores’ role in shaping the feminist identity, about the visual interplay of buildings over time, about Modern architecture’s conception of internal versus external space.

If I had to typify it, would describe as almost lyric.

They run a slew of tours and pub crawls covering topics from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition to the history of blues and jazz. Sign up at ChicagoDetours.com. You won’t be disappointed.

Chicago Elevated

I haven’t been on one of Margaret Hicks’ tours yet, but she and I are planning to take each other’s excursions over the summer. It’s sort of like “Strangers on a Train,” except with tours and less murder (fewer murder?) and it’s not going to serve as the plot device in a Danny DeVito/Billy Crystal comedy and… where was I?

Oh yeah, anyway. Margaret is cool and her tours look awesome. I’m going on the underground Pedway tour. Info at ChicagoElevated.com.

There are others, of course. The Chicago History Museum offers a number of outings, Jane’s Walk has some tours this month of South Side and other off-the-tourist-trail neighborhoods, plus you are literally online right now so can just type in a neighborhood or concept and the word “tour” to get everything from dates and prices to Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews telling if the tour’s great or if the docent will ditch you in an alley and scamper off with your wallet.

For a lot of us, our mental map of a place is no more than the quickest route between work, home and the grocery store. Be smart and be safe, but get out there and explore.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to practice my slider.

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