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




The City I Never See – Following the Chicago River

A month or so ago, my buddy Holly (I KNOW, I know, I will only do it the one time) and I were chatting about the Chicago River. She asked me if I had ever walked the river from the northside to downtown. I had never done this and Holly had never done this, so we decided that on July 26th the two of us would have breakfast (we had to bulk up you know) and walk downtown along the river.

Well, that was the plan anyway.


Our day was beautiful, just past the heatwave and sun was shining, gorgeous. We started at Belmont and Damen as this was the spot where our familiarization with the river became foggy.

Here we are, ready to go, fresh from breakfast and assumptions:



We realized pretty fast that there’s no real “Chicago Riverwalk” into the city. Pretty much as soon as we started, in some back lot of industrial warehouses, a guy drove up in his car. He and his lanyard told us this was private property and that he “knew what we were doing” looking for the riverwalk. He warned us about some sketchy parts and then took off. WE WERE NOT AFRAID.

Much of any riverwalk that there is looks a lot like this: big strip mall buildings and short stretches of riverwalk behind it:


There were lots of places to view how close (or not, there was definitely backtracking) we were to the city:


At one point, I was spinning all around trying to figure out where we were and Holly figured it out real quick, “We’re by Vienna Beef! We know where we are!” We laughed that whenever a Chicagoan is unsure of where they are, Vienna Beef will always provide the answer:


We came across quite a few cool bridges:



Somewhere around North ave we see this mountain of metal in the sky. There were huge cranes and moving piles of steel. We were so confused. Upon closer inspection, we discovered we were at the Recycling Center of Chicago! We wandered around for awhile, no one seemed to mind and it was REALLY cool and weird:


And this (for me, this was the coolest thing we saw the whole day, the whole Recycling Center was pretty cool):


Right around the corner from recycling, we smelled/found a leather tannery! SO WEIRD AND COOL. It really smelled like leather and we could feel the heat oozing out the windows:


We were so close to the city at this point and we were so hot. We see we’re on the opposite side of the riverwalk but we can’t figure out how to get over there! But nevermind because here we are! (After many years of wondering what was going on here, now I know, CONCRETE) Prairie Material Yard 32:


Across the river! THERE! Montgomery Ward buildings! Accessible riverwalk! Almost there! Holly and I were so hot at this point. We were excited that we were done, but we still yearned for some actual riverwalk. We finally made it to the east side and to some actual public access:



After deciding we were close enough to downtown to satisfy us, we ran through a forest of sprinklers which changed everything about our hot lives. We walked across the street for slushies and hopped up to the brownline to head home roughly about three hours after we started:


So, I wouldn’t say our walk was “lovely” although, parts of it were. It wasn’t easy, or relaxing, or calming. But it was a hell of a walk, I put my feet on parts of this city I’ve never put them on before and that alone pleases me. Holly and I talked of ducks and terns and wildlife on the river. We marveled at the city we never see and we talked and laughed, ran through sprinklers and drank all of the cold, sugary drinks we could find.

It was a great day, a really great day. And I’m sunburned…really sunburned. Heh.




Burnham V Sullivan Recap

After countless hours of research, at least a few hours at Mariano’s going over the order of the tour, 15 minutes on WGNRadio and two hours of actual touring – the Burnham V Sullivan Tour has resulted in a definitive winner: Uncle Dan Burnham

The Tour Duel was hilarious and fun and educational and passionate.

We had eight voters on the tour, a fine mixture of other guides, photographers, interested parties and one person who wasn’t quite sure what was happening but I think had a good time anyway.

The Tour was broken down into sections:



Best Department Store


Style or What is Beautiful?

Worlds Fair





The question of the tour is: Who’s Better? Not even who was a better architect, but who’s better in general? We took a pre-vote and it was 5 Sullivan, 3 Burnham. At each stop along the way (Marshall Fields, Carsons, Auditorium, Santa Fe Building, Grant Park) Wendy and I would each make our argument and everyone in the group voted after each section. There were a few rebuttals, but they were not official! There were also a couple of “mic drops” – that generally meant one of us (or the tour guests at one point) just dropping a piece of paper they were holding on to the ground – but it was no less powerful!


What I love about Ms. Bright is that she is very different from Ms. Hicks. We laugh and giggle so, so much, but we are very different tour guides. Wendy is technical and lovely and Margaret, well, technical and lovely are not really words that have been used to describe me in the past. Each of us was passionate about our choice and I think you could see it in our arguments. What I also loved is that lots of times the group got into the action. There was so much knowledge on our tour that each and every one of us helped the others argument! It was so fun.


Well, there was the fun of working with each other. We tour guides are pretty independent, so it’s a treat to work with someone else and Wendy and I had a ton of fun setting it up. And I think we really worked on debunking some generalities about these two guys. And that to me was the purpose, to get to some bigger truths. And to also laugh a lot. And we did that.

If you missed this time around, it’s entirely possible we might do it again, my idea? Switch parts, I take Sullivan, Wendy takes Burnham.

Would that change it!?!?!?




Chicago Elevated Got Some Press!

It’s always, always nice to get a little boost for the walking tours. It just is. I try not to take it to heart too much, but there’s no denying that it’s helpful! Here are three places where you can see Chicago Elevated:


I am so pleased and proud to be a part of Chicago Magazines “Five Oddball Chicago Tours.” Oddball is a HUGE compliment always, so I’ll take it. Plus, my buddy Asa who does Fossil Tours, is on the list with me and that’s the best part! Fine company I keep!


I have been trying for YEARS to get into Thrillist. I think because it’s cool and young and I am not that cool or young and I really wanted to be seen as young and cool. So I am pleased and proud to be in their “Best Chicago Tours for Visitors You’ll Actually Want To Go On.” Again, compliment! Check it here.


And I love this one, I got an email from a lady at ZipCar, they were doing a blog post about unique walking tours and they found me! And that is spectacular! When I got the article I saw it was unique tours from around the country! HOW COOL IS THAT? I am really, really happy and proud to be a part of this one, these other tours looks so awesome. You can click here to see that one.

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