About Margaret Hicks

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


Open House Chicago – Closer to Home

Open House Chicago is maybe the coolest thing ever.

It happens over one weekend in October. The Chicago Architecture Foundation gets over 200 buildings to open their doors, and the people that love this city and the buildings in it, get to see things they’ve never seen ever before.

It is impressive. And it’s free, so it’s REALLY impressive.

I am always working during Open House. Saturdays and Sundays are my busiest days, so I never get to OHC. But this year, I had some time on Sunday afternoon.When I wrapped up my morning tour downtown, I just couldn’t do it. The lines for things I truly wanted to see were too long. My instinct when I’m done with tours downtown is to get out of dodge.

But see, the great thing about OHC is that it’s ALL over the city, so I hopped on the train, took it back to my hood and saw things in my neighborhood and it was the best afternoon ever.

Preston Bradley Church at 941 W. Lawrence

I’ve been past the church one zillion times exactly and I’ve never gone in, I’m always on my way somewhere right? I finally went in and it was really neat and peaceful and simple.

Preston Bradley was a Chicago preacher who had a radio ministry, very famous. The church was built in 1925 and it was designed with a purposeful simplicity. There are no frills, no naves, no tower, as Bradley put it, it’s an “open room, airy, warm and inviting fewllowship and the breezes of fresh ideas.”

The mural was done in 1959, it’s Christ greeting the crowds but they’re in their contemporary clothes.




Bridgeview Bank Building

The bank sits right on the corner of Broadway and Lawrence in Uptown. It is BEAUTIFUL. It was designed by Benjamin Marshall (who also did the Drake and the unfortunate Iroquois Theater which you’ve heard about on my Disaster Tour). Finished in 1924, it is the recipient of magic light almost every night. It really has this stately presence on the corner there. One can always go into the bank, but one can’t always take photos and one usually can’t GO INTO THE VAULT.




The Buddhist Temple of Chicago.


That was so neat too, I have Buddhist leanings but white, western girl fear, so I tend not to go into the temples because I feel don’t like I don’t belong enough, I know, it’s weird. The thing I love about Buddhist temples is just how simple, airy and quiet they really are.


It was so great wandering my neighborhood and seeing places that are so familiar to me and yet so unknown.
Spectacular weekend! Thank you OHC!!




why we don't put ketchup on our hotdogs

Why We Don’t Put Ketchup On Our Hotdogs

The Chicago hot dog consists of: a Vienna beef hot dog, yellow mustard, chopped onions, bright green pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers and celery salt.

What is missing from this list of condiments? That’s right, ketchup.

Everyone who is anyone knows that in this city, we don’t put ketchup on our hot dogs.

Why though? Why?

The idea is that the Chicago dog is a finely tuned machine – it’s a Stradivarius, a Model T, the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack – it is a perfect thing. And when one puts ketchup on a Chicago dog, what does the hotdog now taste like? That’s right, ketchup.

My husband and I were recently discussing how delicious a bit of mustard is. We discussed how yummy mustard was on beef, how it has a real reaction to it and how just delicious and under-the-radar mustard is.

My husband thought deeply for a moment and said, “ketchup is really the boss of mustard.”

Then I chimed in, “it’s like mustard is the second city of condiments. Mustard is Chicago.”

And then we both agreed why it is really, that Chicagoans don’t put ketchup on their hot dogs, it is more obvious now than ever before:

Ketchup is New York.


Gather – Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Gather Millennium Park

A few months ago, I was reading an article about Tristan Hummel, the man who started Activate. He sets up cool art “pop-ups” in alleys; he’s all about bringing art to the public in the public’s spaces.

The article on Saturate Chicago was so pretty. It was also really reasonable and easy to read and the questions were good questions and his answers were good answers. And it looked pretty.

Right at the top of the Saturate website it says “If you’re interested in working together, send us an email.” I was feeling particularly sociable at the moment, so I did.

Olivia and I met for coffee and I loved her ideas about bringing creatives of different arts together. That we’re all inspired by each other, chefs are inspired by painters and painters are inspired by oboe players and oboe players are inspired by…well, tour guides of course.

We wanted to do something together, but something more interactive than just a tour. We both agreed it should be about seeing more of what’s around you.  We all walk around this beautiful city every day, how often do we see it with new eyes?

So we came up with Gather. On October 15 at 3PM, we’ll head over to Millennium Park with treats and notebooks and coffee. I’ll tell you a little bit about each “room” of the park and then we’ll all sketch, or dance or make up a story or hum a tune or make a diorama, HELL I DON’T KNOW, but whatever inspires you right? And then we’ll all come back together and share what we made.

Then off to the next room and we’ll do it there. It’s casual, it’s creative, it’s social and it’s educational – who doesn’t love all those things?

If you’re interested in joining us, click here. We’re keeping the group small, so I’d buy in if you’re up for it!



chicago winter tour

The Badass Chicago Winter Tour

Why Margaret? Why are you doing this?

Well, see, I have a brother who lives in San Francisco and once every few months – during some horrifying weather scenario – he’ll ask me, “Why do you live there? Come move to California,” he’ll say, “it’s insanity that you live there.”

Maybe it is big brother, maybe it is, but I love it. I LOVE WINTER. I’m not ashamed to scream it from the freezing cold rooftops! I LOVE WINTER!!! And Chicago is so pretty in winter, it is, it really is.

So, the Badass Winter Tour is for those of us who giggle at our “cold” friends. This is for those of us who want to put on our snowpants and our boots and our hats and scarves, get all geared up, and head outside when no one else will.

What Will We See on The Badass Chicago Winter Tour?

This is a walking tour, it’s a park tour, it’s a beauty tour and a sad-story tour. It’s entertaining, educational and active. AND! It is not for the faint of heart.

We’ll start at The Fairmont Hotel. The lovely Fairmont is connected to the Pedway, so if you don’t want to go outside after our tour, you don’t have to! The Fairmont is warm and has bathrooms and tea and coffee! We’ll get suited up there and then head out to see:

The 3rd tallest building in Chicago, one of my favorites, people look at me funny when they hear that – until we get right up close to the thing, then you’ll get it.

We’ll hear a sound sculpture that sounds wimpy and sad in summer and fun and crazy in winter. Then to Millennium Park to see the Bean (with a little pat of snow on the top? Precious!) and walk the wintry wonderland that is MP in winter. We’ll get a warm up spot at the Art Institute and then I’ll tell you the SADDEST CHICAGO STORY EVER before our walk to the Lake. Our lake time is short (ever hear the phrase “cooler by the lake?” Imagine it when it’s already cold!) just long enough to take photos and listen to the sound of ice creaking.
Then we’ll cruise back to the hotel through Maggie Daley Park. Maggie Daley Park is such a trip, it’s a kids park in the summer, but in the winter, it’s pretty much just us badass adults! Then back to the warm and cozy lobby of the Fairmont.

And I promise when we are done, you will feel like a total Chicago badass. And it feels really good to feel like a badass.

BA Chicago Winter Tour Times (The tour starts 12/1)

Thursdays at 1PM

Fridays at 4PM

Saturdays at 1PM

Sundays at 9AM


20$ per person for a 90 minute tour.

What to expect:

Expect it to be cold. (!!!)

Myself and two of my friends went of the Chicago Elevated – Winter Walking Tour, our guide Margaret was awesome, interesting, and accommodating. I learned fun facts and one sad fact about Chicago that I would have never known otherwise – I believe it is a must do in Chicago. – Becca



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