Visitors coming to Chicago who want to get an insider’s view of the city can choose from several free personalized tours.
The Chicago Office of Tourism’s free visitor service called Chicago Greeter can match a guide for a two or four-hour informal orientation to the city. Their 180 volunteer greeters represent dozens of languages and can show visitors over 40 special interest areas and more than 25 neighborhoods. Interested parties sign up for this service online, where they are matched with the greeter that best meets their particular interests, language and dates/times they are visiting the Windy City. Upon arriving in Chicago, visitors connect with their greeter in person, who will show them the city and demonstrate how to use the public transportation system.
Those who didn’t plan in advance but would still like a free tour can check out Chicago Greeter’s InstaGreeter program, which offers a guided one hour free downtown walking tour. To get connected to an InstaGreeter, stop by the Visitor Information Center at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph Street, on Friday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. These tours, which are available on a first come, first serve basis are designed for small groups of six people or less.
A free tour of Millennium Park is available courtesy of the Millennium Park Greeter Service. Tours depart daily from Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.) at 11:30am and 1pm from mid-May to mid-October. Those who wish to tour this 24.5 acre park on their own can download a self-guided audio tour that connects visitors with some of the creators such as architect Frank Gehry, and artists Anish Kapoor and Jaume Plensa, whose work is on display in this park.
Blues enthusiasts can explore Chicago’s musical roots with “Home of the Blues,” an audio tour narrated by Buddy Guy. This free 50-minute tour can be downloaded and then viewed via a personal media player). These tours are available in English, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. This blues tour includes an interactive map and tour stop directions for ten historic locations that include Chess Records, Maxwell Street, and Muddy Water’s former home. This audio tour also includes archival photos, video and music clips and profiles of five Chicago blues innovators: Jimmy Yancey, Tampa Red, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Koko Taylor. Those who cannot get to the Windy City can sample the sounds at home from their PC or laptop computer.
Additional information to aid one in planning a visit to Chicago can be found at the Explore Chicago website.