2018 Year in Review – New Tours, Faces, and More!

Our 2018 year in review is a chance to look back and celebrate some of the successes we’ve had since January. Every year is full of adventures for a small, local company like us. Sure, there will always be some stresses and setbacks, but that certainly wasn’t the story of the year. Indeed, we got up to all sorts of fun and rewarding new stuff in 2018.

New Fulton Market Food Tour Launches

Fulton Market Food Tour Publican
Sampling some of the West Loop’s finest food on the new Fulton Market Food Tour. Photo by Pawel Skrabacz.

I’ll launch into the 2018 year in review with the new tour that I led most often. Our Factories to Calories Fulton Market Food Tour got off to a smashing public debut this past summer. We built this neighborhood walking tour with private tour groups over the past few years. The time seemed right to open it up to the general public last spring.

I spent most Saturday afternoons this summer sauntering around this former meatpacking district. Interestingly, a ton of locals joined the Fulton Market Tour, whereas our downtown tours tend to see just as many visitors. I’m already looking forward to heading back over there in late spring to see what has changed. Fulton Market transforms so quickly, the neighborhood will not look the same two summers in a row.

Free Monadnock Building Tours

Monadnock building Chicago 2018 year in review Chicago Detours Alex Bean
Ugh, what a pretty building!

The Detours team is perpetually delighted to work in the historic Monadnock Building. Coming to work inside a landmark early Chicago skyscraper is very appropriate for a bunch of history and architecture geeks. We wanted to share that experience with everyone, so our intrepid guide Marie led free walking tours of the Monadnock every Friday in November.

It gave us a great deal of satisfaction to partner with Preservation Chicago on the Monadnock Building tour. The venerable non-profit received 100% of the gratuities from the tour. It was our little tip of the cap to one of the great Chicago architectural institutions.

The New Northwest Side Bar Crawl

Another new tour outing in 2018! Our fearless leader Amanda designed this tour as a holiday team-building event for a private corporate group. The tour differs from our downtown tours with drinks. We loaded guests onto a bus and shuttled them out to the Northwest Side of town. Out there, the guests popped into authentic neighborhood watering holes, Amanda shared some neighborhood history, and the guests broke into teams to play interactive games.

The result? Take it from tour guest Mark, who wrote on TripAdvisor:
This is our fourth time using Chicago Detours for company outings. And their new Northwest Side Neighborhood Bar Crawl was a great way to explore some hidden gems. With so many neighborhoods changing — there is still so much history to learn. 

It was so much fun that we’re turning into a new part of our private tour offerings. (FYI, we also spent a good deal of time revamping our private tours catalog this year. Over 15 different offerings available for you and yours!) The outing is perfect for local corporate or friend groups who are looking for a unique detour. Guests get to share drinks and socialize while learning a bit more about Avondale, Irving Park and Albany Park. Win-win!

New Faces!

Hi, Ellen!

2018 marked my third full year with Chicago Detours. Each year it’s been a delight to welcome new faces onto our team of nerds. The big addition this year was Ellen, who joined us as a tour guide (of course) and Public Tour Manager over the summer. She did so well in that role that we just slid her right over to managing Private Tours when that slot opened up at the end of the year.

A Redesigned Website

Chicago Detours’ products are almost entirely real-life experiences. You’ve got to be there with our tour guides to explore Chicago with us. Despite that, it is the year 2018, so we need an up-to-date web presence in order to stay visible. So that’s just what we did!

The new design of our website launched last summer. The new site does all the things Google likes, faster load speeds, updated SEO, etc. For us, the biggest appeal was its mobile-friendliness and streamlined layout. We hope you’ve noticed and enjoyed the update as well!

Special Events

audience den theatre chicago women history 2018 year in review
Some of the guests at our Badass Women of Chicago History event back in March. Photo by Amanda Scotese.

I’ll wrap up our 2018 year in review by highlighting two of the special events we hosted this year. The first was the inaugural Badass Women of Chicago History storytelling event for Women’s History Month. Held at the Den Theater back on March 26th, the event highlighted some lesser-known femmes badass who did everything from wrestle to saw with their feet. The Badass Women event was so much fun that we’re doing it again this upcoming March.

We closed out 2018 with even more fun. The Detours staff hosted our second annual Holiday Happy Hour on December 11th. Friends and guests were invited up for an evening of drinks, frivolity, and (of course) tours of the Monadnock. Big hats off to Marie, Ellen, and Amanda who worked hard turning our humble office into a wintry wonderland that evening. Also, as my friend Zach learned, hot cocoa and mezcal is a holiday drink straight from heaven.

Onto 2019!

Looking back, it surprised me to see just how much we did in 2018. I was here for all of it, yet the 2018 year in review seems to have more in it than a 7-person company should be capable of. Which only makes me more excited, actually. Onto even more fun in the new year!

– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
Robert
GetYourGuide

Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
Heather
TripAdvisor

Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
Lorit
TripAdvisor

Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K
TripAdvisor

Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K
Yelp

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F
Yelp

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