About Margaret Hicks

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


Why Traveling Makes Me a Better Tour Guide

Below is a repost from Lost and Found Travel – follow our travels in China if you like! And it should provide a bit of an explanation of why there are no tours in March!

“Wow! A month? In China? You must have some kind of job that you can take a month off to travel to China. You’re so lucky.”

Yes, I suppose I am. I do have the best job ever in the world. I’m the proud owner and sole (and soul) tour guide for Chicago Elevated. Part of starting my own business was that I had the ability to take a month off to go to China. It’s important to me to travel. It’s a priority. And honestly, Chicago in March? Not too much going on, it’s a good time to go.

And leaving my business for a month is not easy because I am passionate about my work. I love Chicago Elevated and I’m good at my job. I am a good tour guide, I count on it, I pride myself on it. I am a really good tour guide.

Partly because I travel see.

I know in my heart, and more importantly in the pit of my stomach, how it feels to be in a new place where nothing makes sense. I know the confusion, how hard it is to find your way around, how everything that was familiar to you in your life is now switched up and moved around. It’s really shaky and hard to deal with when I get all turned around like that.

I know how it feels to get tired and not want to listen anymore. I know how it feels to be scared and un-trusting. I know taking a city bus can be the single most confusing thing I’ve ever had to do. And I know being with a confident and awesome guide can make me feel safe and protected and special.

I’ve had great tour guides, like the only lady tour guide in Fez, Morocco, tough as nails that one. There was Gabar in India, who just picked us up off the street (which you’re really not supposed to do) but we ended up spending the whole day with him, eating and walking and laughing. And I’ve had some not so great tours. At Angkor Wat in Cambodia I heard over and over and OVER about the “milk of life.” There have been lots of guides with no passion at all or guides who did nothing but give me the party line.

And when I get home and back to work, it helps me to explain myself better. I know a little humor can go a long way in breaking up tough information. I know people need to see my personality, especially if English is their second language. I know taking the city train is no small feat and I will go to great lengths to make sure you understand completely and never talk down to you. Most importantly, I know one tour guide can split a city wide open and get to it’s heart with just a few words and a smile.

I’m going to China for all kinds of reasons, some that aren’t even fully formed in my brain yet. But one thing I do know, when I get back I’ll be a better tour guide than I am now. That I can promise.


Chicago Elevated loves the Pedway!

City of Chicago Pedway Map – Our Downtown Pedestrian Walkway System

The city has made a few updates to their Chicago Pedway Map.

It’s our favorite of the publicly available maps. Stay warm this Chicago winter – locals and travelers to Chicago alike. This PDF map makes a great jumping of point for those of you who want to explore Chicago’s secret underground. Our maybe you you’re just looking for a heated underground walkway to get to the Red Line…

City of Chicago Pedway Map — Downtown Pedestrian Walkway System.


The Chicago Pedway as Neighborhood

People often say that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. Something I’ve been mulling over with tourees on the Pedway Tour is that the Pedway (our underground walkway) is not just a place to move through, but that the Pedway itself is one of our neighborhoods. Chicago, depending on who you ask, has 77 distinct neighborhoods. Well, I’m calling it 78 neighborhoods.

The American Planning Association has a list of qualifications as to what makes a great neighborhood. Now I’m not saying that the Pedway is a GREAT neighborhood, but I think from these questions we can see that it is, indeed, a neighborhood

I’m including ONLY the Pedway in this, but I’m also including it’s connection to great buildings, transit and all of that just as if it was a sidewalk or a neighborhood street.

Does it:

Accommodate multiple users and provide access (via walking, bicycling, or public transit) to multiple destinations that serve its residents.

Most definitely the Pedway does this. It’s origin point is the connection between the Blue Line and Red Line at Washington. It also connects all of the elevated lines and it connects to the South Shore Metra.  Obvs it provides access via walking and there is a guy in who rides his electric scooter up and down under Macy’s, so there are multiple forms of travel even in the Pedway itself.

Foster social interaction and create a sense of community and neighborliness?

You bet! In the neighborhood where I live I wave to the taco guy every day. I don’t know his name or much about his life, but it’s this great urban neighborhood relationship, EVERY TIME I walk by the taco guy, we wave to each other and in all honesty, it’s one of the best relationships I have, heh. It’s the same way in the Pedway, I have all kinds of friends down there, some I know better than others, but I’m always waving to somebody: the guy who owns the Korean restaurant, Bill the Pedway Musician and the security guard in City Hall who every time I walk by with a group calls me “The Famous Tour Guide.” I love that guy. I love my Pedway friends.

Not a very good pic of my good friend Bill the Pedway Musician.

Promote security from crime and is made safe for children and other users (i.e. traffic calming, other measures)?

The Pedway is safer than the streets, there’s no doubt about it. When I first started the tour, I asked cops about the Pedway because I thought maybe I’d get some great getaway story out of it, not so much, they continually say that nothing ever happens in the Pedway. Each building is responsible for their secure Pedway and buildings in this town are pretty on top of security, so the Pedway itself is really safe. In five years I’ve never felt differently. And traffic calming? That’s it’s whole point. Calmest traffic around! Except for the guy on the electric bike.

Use, protect, and enhance the environment and natural features?

That’s the whole point of the thing, so you bet.  I’m not sure I could argue that it “enhances” the environment but it definitely protects natural features – meaning us.

Reflect the community’s local character and set itself apart from other neighborhoods?

Yes, I think it does. Since the Pedway reflects the buildings it’s underneath, it reflects so many aspects of the city. Just like any neighborhood, there are pretty parts of the Pedway, there are some not so pretty parts of the Pedway. There are icky parts of the Pedway with pretty things in them and pretty parts of the pedway with icky things in them. And it definitely does not look like other parts of the city. It’s distinct alright.


Has design and architectural features that are visually interesting.

Yes. Yes it does. The stained glass windows in Macy’s are unbelievable – there’s a Tiffany window down there! In the basement of Macy’s for petes sakes, A TIFFANY WINDOW. And of course one of the best parts of the Pedway is how different it is in it’s design and features. That’s the best part, just like the city neighborhoods up above, the Pedway changes from step to step to step.

The other last great thing about the Pedway is that everyone uses it, all colors, all ages, all classes – everyone is down there. Everyone who’s cool anyway…or warm as the case may be.





The Holiday Pedway Tour Extravaganza is Back!

TIMES: Starts 12/4 – Thursdays at 4:00PM & Fridays at 10:30AM. Tours are 90 minutes. Cost is 20$ per person.

DESCRIPTION: The Extravaganza is back. Holiday time is upon us!

Come with me as we traverse the Pedway in search of Chicago’s greatest holiday displays. We’ll use the warm and dry Pedway – a series of walkways that run underneath Chicago – to get into the spirit. And the best part is? We never have to go outside.

On this tour you’ll see the beloved Christkrindlemarket and I’ll tell you the saddest Christmas story ever. We’ll sing carols as we walk through urban winter wonderlands and see man-made reindeer drinking out of man-made streams.  We’ll immerse ourselves in the spirited throngs (no, not THONGS!) to see the holiday tree at Macy’s and talk about how Marshall Field tried to bully Montgomery Ward in the battle of the Christmas characters. The decorations at the Cultural Center are as pretty as a picture and we’ll end the tour at the Prudential Building where the lights hang down all around you.

START: 40 W. Lake, corner of Lake and Dearborn. Come inside the “Gallery of Shops” and I’ll meet you right there and I’ll have my fancy red baseball cap on.

FINISH: The Prudential Building – 130 E. Randolph

EXPECTATIONS: This tour is all indoors, kid friendly. About a mile of walking, stairs and escalators (both up and down) included.



This tour is also available for corporate outings, company parties or private tours as well, just send me an email at margaret@chicagoelevated.com or call me at 773.593.4873.

For reservations, either click the link below to purchase tickets online, or email me or call me at 773.593.4873 to make reservations over the phone.



Image from chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com
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