Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HERITAGE TOUR DESTINATION: ENIGMATIC CHICAGO - GOTTA LOVE IT!! - Review: 4 stars

Snobby Tours®, absolutely LOVES Chicago.  It's been romanticized for its colourful past and notorious 1920's and 1930's "Prohibition Era" when its South Side was frequented by gangsters and bootleggers like Al Capone, John Dillinger and "Bugs" Moran.  


Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
(reprinted with permission)
Chicago is also known as "an architect's city".  It was first determined during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition to be one of the world's great centers for culture, architecture and commerce.  Some of the most outstanding architectural masterpieces from the late 19th/early 20th centuries built by Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham and others grace Chicago's urban landscape and surrounding area  


Tiffany Dome at Chicago Cultural Center
(reprinted with permission)
The Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust provide many of the architectural tours around town.  One of our favourites is the "Tiffany Tour", a guided walking tour of Chicago's most magnificent art glass and mosaic installations in the downtown area, including the breathtaking lapis dome in Macy's on State Street.


And we can't overlook the restaurants!  Chicago is definitely a "restaurant town".  Chicago’s inclusive environment encouraged ethnic groups including Germans, Italians, Greeks, Irish and Polish to gravitate toward the city in the early part of the 20th century. These groups are strongly integrated into the city’s fabric today, providing countless ethnic, culinary and cultural experiences for travelers.  


There are several "foodie" tours, too.  We particularly enjoy starting in the morning at a German bakery, continuing on to an Italian deli for sandwiches on freshly baked breads, and finishing off at a Greek market for sweets -- stopping at a "spice house" along the way, where just walking in the door and inhaling the aroma of spices and herbs is intoxicating.  We had no idea there were so many varieties of cinnamon, vanilla or paprika!

One of our all-time favourite Chicago tours is "The Untouchables Tour" -- complete with "gangster guides" and taken in an old bus with "bullet holes" in the glass.  The tour goes to all of Al Capone's Prohibition Era "haunts" both famous and infamous.  It's especially fun in the evening -- more exciting!  We started the evening with Chicago-style pizza at a family-owned Italian restaurant on the South Side, where we were met by our "gangster guide".  What a hoot -- and such a crowd pleaser with our travelers!

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
(reprinted with permission)
We can't come to Chicago without visiting Oak Park, a nearby community.  It's filled with Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, particularly down the street from Wright's Home and Studio, which can be toured with guides from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.  Oak Park also has the birthhome of Ernest Hemingway and the Hemingway Museum located in an old municipal building, and the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of Tarzan.  Oak Park definitely spawned a lot of remarkable creativity.
Lobby of The Palmer House
(reprinted with permission)

We love Chicago so much that we are going back in October, 2011 -- at the height of Fall Foliage in the Midwest -- and staying at one of its great historic hotels, The Palmer House

The only "downside" we've experienced in Chicago has been regarding chartered land transportation for Chicago-area sightseeing.  There haven't been many choices for tour groups requiring 15-29 passenger charters -- either in availability or in pricing.  We're at a loss as to why this might be because Chicago is a "convention town".  However, for larger tour groups, City cabs and "The EL" are not options.

More info about our upcoming Fall, 2012 custom-created Chicago itinerary is featured at http://www.snobbytours.com/EnigmaticChicago.html



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