I did it!

You are all reading the blog of a CERTIFIED tour guide. Pretty cool right?

About a year ago I joined the CTPA – the Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Association. This is a group started by local tour guides for community, etc. It falls under a national association umbrella, but this is a local thing only. The association is one of the best I’ve joined as far as associations go. It’s inexpensive, the benefits are HUGE (free passes to most museums, quarterly meetings and so much information and soundboarding, it’s really great) and it’s just been a really positive experience to be a part of it.

SO! They have a certification program, again, this is not national or through the city or anything like that. I didn’t HAVE to get certified to be a tour guide in Chicago, no one does, it’s really just for you…and them, if they get job orders in, etc.

Anyway, I signed up to take the three part certification test. People seem fascinated by this, so I thought I’d tell you how this goes:


Written test. Mostly multiple choice and fill in the blanks and stuff. This was the least scary part for me. I like reading and answering on my own time you know? I did pretty well on this test, HOWEVER, and remember please, I do not drive…we had one part where we had to match the expressways numbers with their nicknames. So like…94, which one is that? Edens, Dan Ryan, Ike…etc.

Um, I got every one of those wrong. Every one. And I have lived in this city my whole life. Heh. I know. I’m working on it.


The dreaded slide test. This is where you come in, pick up a random envelope that has 10 slides in it. The slides include sculptures, buildings, art, locations – whatever – and then you have to talk about that slide in a reasonable way for three minutes. This  one we had to get get 8 out of 10 right. I was really nervous for this one. Certainly I knew I could talk for 3 minutes on something I know, but I was terrified of getting something that I just really didn’t know. See, I’m a north-sider, always have been and Chicago south of Roosevelt gets really confusing for me. I just don’t know it as well. So I crammed and crammed getting sculptures and buildings and churches I didn’t know into my vocabulary.

But, I passed that too, only really biffed one sculpture that honestly I had never seen before in my life. So…alright.


The route test.

Now, this is what really scared me. The route test consists of getting in a car and giving directions. Something like ” get me from the United  Center to Hull House.” Go.

AHHHHH! Let’s all remember, I give walking tours. WALKING tours. I have no car. I can tell you how to get pretty much anywhere on the bus or the train, but drive you there? And, if you give me a location south of Roosevelt – I may not even know where the start location is at all! I was really, really nervous about this part. But, there were two other guides going through the test and had passed the first two parts. So the three of us started going out on Sunday mornings, driving all around, figuring out routes, etc. And we talked. And laughed. And talked about Chicago and tour-guiding and history and man oh man it was really great.

So for my test I got the Sheraton Hotel, the Hyatt Hotel and the Shedd. Now, I know where all these are, that’s not an issue, but um, let’s see you get from the Sheraton Hotel over to the Hyatt. Seems easy. It’s not. Because of dum, dum dum dum…Lower Wacker Drive. And trust me, I really can figure my way around this city even if I don’t know where I’m going, but Lower Wacker Drive will remove all levels of confidence, joy and possibly even your soul. Heh.

Let’s just say I got us lost for about 15 minutes under Lower Wacker. But, my proctors (and the other guides in the car!) were totally cool about it. I mean, anyone can get lost on Lower Wacker.


I PASSED! I passed. I am a certified guide and it feels really great. It’s nice to be tested on my knowledge and to come out on the successful side of it. And I made some great friends. And I’m more involved with the association and now I can take you to the Hyatt if you need me to!

5 thoughts on “Certifiable

  1. Just wanted to let you know we have a 4th person joining us for Monday. ANy suggestions on where we can have lunch? We like out of the way ethnic places if possible. Thai?? We will be coming in on the 0:45 train. See you at 1:00

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