About Margaret Hicks

I'm Margaret. I'm an author, a tour guide, a traveler and a whole bunch of fun.

Chicago Walking Tours 2016

Chicago Walking Tours 2016

YES! Chicago Walking Tour Season, it’s here, it’s here! It’s officially here.

I’m so excited. My legs are itching to move, my skin is drinking in the sunlight, the city is getting greener and greener and maybe someday soon, the warmth will catch up too!

This year I’m doing things a little differently, I like to try new things with my business and see how they do – so you’ll all let me know right? By buying tickets right!?!?

I’ll be running the Pedway Tour three times a week like always. What amazes me most about the Pedway Tour is how much I love it. It’s been six years and that place still surprises me. The tour changes as my knowledge and familiarity with it changes. I have mad respect for that pedway, lately I’ve been calling it one of my best friends and really, that’s pretty true.

I’ll also be doing ONE outdoor tour this year – the In The Loop Tour. This is everything all rolled into one. It’s a little Disaster, a little Binoculars, it’s a little Riverwalk and it’s A TON OF FUN. Instead of spreading thin with too many tours, I’m focusing on making this Loop Tour the best one out there. It’s two hours, which is a big deal for me! But it’s a beautiful tour, for tourists and locals alike – all will enjoy the In The Loop Tour.

Pretty much every tour I do goes in this building...want to see?

pretty much every chicago walking tour goes in this building…want to?

I have been very much enjoying the Private Tours you have all been booking. I’m looking forward to having more time in the tour schedule to accept more private tours. Do you know how fun you all are? You’re so much fun, in groups with other people and then on your own with your families or friends. Private tours are so great – book one if these times or tours don’t work out for you – or if you’re looking for the Disaster, Binoculars, Riverwalk or even a neighborhood tour – book it privately! We’ll rock it out.

And then the other thing I’m focusing on this summer is the Second City Tour. I’ll be doing three Second City a week and I’m really excited about this, I love the Second City tours and I’m excited to put them a little more front and center. If you’re interested in those – you buy those through Second City and you can do that here.

City In A Garden – Eventually

With the arrival spring, so comes the arrival of my inner-monologue “NATURE, I have to get to some NATURE.” Usually when I feel the pull of nature, I go to the lake. It’s not far from where I live and work and it’s pretty and quiet and expansive.

But this time, I craved trees, like a forest. My feet ached to walk on something that wasn’t hard. Do you know how much walking I do? A lot. And it’s all on hard, hard concrete. I needed the city to fade away and I needed more than a park or the lake. The honest-to-goodness Forest Preserves were too far for my car-less soul, something closer…

A year or so ago I did a tour for Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium on the North Side. I knew that they had a nature park but I had never gone in there. PERFECT.

Now I can’t say it was easy to get to the park, it wasn’t.

First I left my pretty little neighborhood. It’s hard to tell tourists just how pretty our neighborhoods are:


Then to the bus, then a half-mile walk down a nondescript street:


And then I made it! The North Park Village Park. Now only about a 1/4 of a mile more to the actual nature center….IMG_2806

Then I spoke with Eileen, Eileen? Eileen at the office, she gave me some nice advice after I practically screamed at her that I NEEDED SOME NATURE:


Oh and it felt so good, it felt so good to not be walking on concrete.



And I saw deer!!!


And then after finishing the loop, which is maybe a mile at the most – I walked back to the bus and went straight east, and in little less than half an hour (Princess Bride thank you very much), I was back at the lake:


And then I went for pizza, flat pizza, cut into squares, you know – REAL Chicago pizza.

All in all an amazing day, although it took me a bit to get to nature, I could get to it, and once I did it was amazing and everything I needed.

You can read and find out more about the North Park Village Nature Center here.


I Went to Graceland

Graceland Cemetery is where it’s all at.

It used to be that Lincoln Park was a cemetery, early planners believed it was far enough from the city that all those cholera vapors would stay far away. Of course, pretty quickly, the city encroached on the cemetery. The bodies were dug up and moved (yeah, sure they were) and many moved to the brand new Graceland Cemetery that sat 4 more miles away and was almost, somewhat, on a hill.

Graceland is a who’s who of Chicago history and it is really glorious. For me, it feels like this is the closest I’m ever going to get to these heroes of mine. Some highlights:

This lady, I just thought she was pretty and she’s right by the entrance so you get in the mood:


How about these cemetery row-houses? It’s like: Real World – Graceland.


This is Getty’s Tomb, some consider this the apex, the epitome, the best of Louis Sullivan’s work. The reason why is because of all of the joy and life within the design and ornament. How alive it is and joyous it is:


And just in case you were worried about him, Louis Sullivan is buried here. When he first came to Graceland in 1924, his grave was barely marked. Now, he has a lovely tombstone:


Buried not really near Sullivan, is the man who tried and failed to protect his buildings, Richard Nickel. I have a lot to say about Richard Nickel and finding his grave was the whole reason I went to Graceland in the first place:


The guy who gets the best spot is Daniel Burnham. He’s got a whole little walkway out into the pond all to himself. His tombstone is simple, but what surrounds it is not.

This is the bridge to the Burnham grave, you can see Burnham’s rock right at the end of the bridge there:


Here is it us up close:


This view of the pond from his grave highlights the very toned-down (not) eternal home of Potter and Bertha Palmer, that’s the columned structure you see to the left:


Now, I walked all around Graceland, a few hours and I missed all of these:

John Root, William LeBaron Jenney, Mies van der Rohe, Fazlur Kahn, George Pullman, Marshall Field

And so many more!

It’s a great way to spend a morning, wandering the history of this city in a whole new way. Here is more info on Graceland.

The Freedom Center – Chicago Tribune Printing Press – Extra Extra!!

When I used to do river tours I would never talk about the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center. I was way too excited to tell my Montgomery Ward stories, his huge buildings on that part of the river are lovely and amazing and he is one of my historical boyfriends, so I would just jump right in. The poor Freedom Center got no love from me, the only thing I knew about it was that it was the printing plant for the Trib and that it was called the Freedom Center from a company vote, the name referencing “freedom of the press.”

Recently I got the chance to tour the Freedom Center and I’m always up for learning something, so I took that chance, but I had no big dreams about it. How interesting could this be? I mean, a printing press?

Silly rabbit, you think I would know better by now. THE TOUR WAS AWESOME!!

There were maybe 15 people there, they offer this tour at the most once a month, so it’s a treat. We started the tour by hearing from a few different people; a guy who works the line , we got to hear from one of the editors and ask all kinds of questions.  Then our tour guide Bert, who works pulling all the inserts together (wait till I show you the “insert room”) started us off. Classic Chicago guy, interested and interesting.

We started off in the Willy Wonka room (that’s my perceptive name for it), it’s where the paper goes ’round and ’round to eventually be mounted on the presses, it was so cool in here and peaceful. We saw few humans, we were there in the morning and the Freedom Center doesn’t really get rolling till the afternoon:


Then around to the room that actually holds all the freaking paper. Each roll weighs 1,700 pounds, rolls out to 7.5 miles of paper and lasts about 20 minutes on a press. I can’t stress to you the size of everything, how BIG everything is. The Freedom Center itself is 115,000 square feet.


There were all kinds of crazy machines around with big yellow buttons that looked like they were from Lost in Space:


Then we got to see the printing presses – they are HUGE (UGE!) and fast and amazing and HUGE:



And there’s not just one press, obvs, there’s a gajillion:



Then, the “insert room,” it was AMAZING. The insert rooms have just so much paper you can’t believe it. It’s all organized by color and week and from who and this was the only place where we actually saw people running around although you can’t tell that from the photograph.


What I thought would be a relatively ho-hum tour turned out to be really exciting. We all kept exclaiming how cool it all was. And our tour guide, Bert, and everyone else we talked to were so interesting and SO PROUD. I mean, we as Chicagoans are proud, but the Freedom Center folks? So, so proud.

I am so glad I went on this tour and would highly recommend to anyone, it will excite you, it will astound you and it will make you proud that they’re so proud.



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