2019 Chicago Detours Holiday Gift Guide

Our annual holiday season gift guide is back, chockfull of recommendations for the Chicagoans on your nice list.

While you’re here, check out our Badass Women Journal and Virtual Holiday Stories Happy Hour. The former is perfect for gift-giving and the latter is a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends this holiday season.

Chicago Detours Gift Cards

Chicago holiday tour palmer house holiday things to do in chicago
Grab a gift card soon and you can use it on the annual Holiday Tour of Drinks, Daleys and Dead Guys.

Starting off with the hometown favorites (of course). Chicago Detours gift cards are excellent stocking stuffers, even if you are nowhere near the stockings in question. Available in several different increments, these gift cards enable you and yours to book a spot on any of our tours of Chicago’s history, architecture and culture. You can also apply gift cards towards booking a private tours. Don’t forget that we can create custom tours for private groups, too!

Some early gift-giving would enable you to use these on our Virtual Holiday Stories Happy Hour.

“El: The Chicago Transit Adventure” Board Game

El chicago transit adventure board game holiday gift guide
We can’t help loving the nerdiness of “El: the Chicago Transit Adventure.” Image courtesy of Transit Tees.

We featured local favorites Transit Tees in last year’s gift guide. Seemingly determined to be in all such Chicago-centric listicles, they just debuted a new CTA-themed board game. “El: The Chicago Transit Adventure” challenges players to strategically ride the bus or the ‘L’ (that sound was your author coughing pointedly about the correct spelling of the elevated train system’s name) to see Chicago’s sights and return to the State/Lake stop before anyone else. A perfect gift for Chicagoans who love trains, games or all of the above.

Chance the Snapper Swag

Okay, first things first, the cold-blooded tropical monster that we all fell in love with has the wrong name. Chance the Snapper is cute and has a nice local touch, but Snapper connotes turtles, not gators. The proper name should have been Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alligator von Humboldt. Obviously.

Anyway, Chicago loves its now-departed gator (and his bearded captor), so show some local pride with Chance the Snapper swag, like these t-shirts. Such gear has the added bonus of becoming completely inscrutable to most people within a decade.

Dearborn Denim

The Detours office’s resident fashionista, our Private Tour Coordinator Ellen, is all abuzz about Dearborn Denim. This local company creates all of their products, made from American materials, in their Chicago factory. No out-sourcing or fast fashion–these are jeans that come straight from the hard-working folks of the Windy City. Incredibly, Dearborn Denim also custom hems every single order. They take your personal measurements and produce a pair of locally-made jeans tailored directly for your body. An ideal gift in the City of the Big Shoulders.

Adopt a Catfish (!)

Chicago Detours holiday gift guide 2018 adopt a catfish
The Adopt a Catfish program is a great program and delightfully surreal. Image courtesy of Friends of the Chicago River.

We’re big fans of Friends of the Chicago River, an advocacy group that has done tremendous work restoring our eponymous waterway. They also run one of the best off-the-beaten path museums in the city! This holiday season, they offer one of the most unique additions to our gift guide: Adopt a Chicago River Catfish.

God bless us, every one.

Your adoption fund will support one of the most important creatures in the Chicago River system. According to FotCR, “Adoption kits include a personalized certificate with a photo of your fish, a welcome letter, catfish stickers, fact sheet, a Friends’ membership, and more.” Perfection. Get one for all your friends.

Chicago Public Library Online Shop

The Chicago Public Library, whose early history and fabulous former homer we explore on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, is one of the great institutions in the city. It’s also not the sort of place one expects to show up in a gift guide since, ya know, you can’t buy library books. That’s where the CPL’s online shop, full of branded clothing and other swag, comes in. A perfect spot for all the local bibliophiles in your life who need a new shirt.

A Shopping Spree at the Broadway Antique Market

Located in Edgewater, the Broadway Antique Market is two floors of vintage goodness. Countless treasures from decades past, including some very fetching retro-modern furniture, beckon history lovers and hipsters alike. The market also has a huge collection of antique postcards, which have been slowly filling up the margins of the Detours office. A shopping spree at BAM, especially if you’ve just moved or are redecorating, is always a surprising adventure into the past.

Celebrate the Season with Us!

The holiday gift guide is only the start of our seasonal offerings. You can book a spot on our annual Virtual Holiday Stories Happy Hour, which runs through the end of December. Check back in the next few weeks for Chicago book recommendations and more posts about local holiday traditions.

– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide


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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.”


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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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


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

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

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