Four Architectural Things to Do for the Holidays

chicago-theatre-tourWith friends and family visiting town, you have your standard Chicago holiday traditions, but how about something new? How about some architectural things to do? It’s always nice to look at the windows of Macy’s on State Street, shop on the Magnificent Mile, go ice-skating in Millennium Park, or fill up on a giant bag of Garrett’s popcorn, or join our annual Holiday Tour of Drinks, Daleys and Dead Guys. But we would like to share with you some less traditional, and particularly architectural activities for something new this holiday season.

“Chapel in the Sky” tour of the Chicago Temple Building

This activity is perfect to pair with a visit to the Christkindlmarket because it’s just across the street from Daley Plaza at 77 W. Washington. Every day at 2pm you can go up to the 26th floor to this intimate space, commissioned by the Walgreen’s family. The tour guide for your Sky Chapel tour will open up a window so that you can see awesome skyline views of downtown Chicago. The tour takes a little less than a half hour and it’s free!

The Chicago Theatre “Marquee Tour”

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Ornate baroque Chicago Theatre interior architecture. Photo credit: Amanda Scotese

Step into early cinema-house glitz and glam to experience the grandeur of one of the last standing 1920’s movie palaces from Balaban and Katz.  Tours of the beautiful French Baroque interiors are offered in December: Mondays through Thursdays 12pm, Saturdays at 11am & 12:30pm, and also this Thursday, December 19, 6pm. Go backstage to see historic autographed walls or walk on the famous stage of the Chicago Theatre and imagine the faint sounds of Duke Ellington, who graced this stage, playing jazz piano.

Driehaus Museum “Meet the Servants” Holiday Tours

In the late 1800s, some railroad moguls and bankers were making obscene amounts of money. So what would the holiday’s have been like at a Gilded Age Chicago mansion? Find out with costumed servants at the Driehaus Museum, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December, from 11am-3pm. They will share holiday customs, including cookie recipe and special fashions of the time.

Indoor Architectural Tours with Chicago Detours

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Exploring the Chicago Temple Building on the Loop Interior Architecture Tour. Photo credit: Kate Joyce

Our Loop Interior Architecture Tour or Chicago Historic Bar Tour are great activities for groups of family or friends. If you have eight or less in your group, just register for a regularly offered tour for a great architectural thing to do. Tour dates are filling up close to Christmas. For bigger groups, we will schedule a private group tour for you. Remember, both tours keep you mostly indoors so that you don’t have to freeze.

Second Presbyterian Church Tour

This Gothic Revival Church is bedecked with beautiful stained glass windows, many by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Many of the movers and shakers of Chicago once worshipped here, before much of the neighborhood moved to the North Side, such as the where the Driehaus Museum is today. You could pair an architectural and historical tour of the church with a visit to Chinatown for dim sum since it’s right around the corner. Tours are Wednesday 1pm-3pm, Saturday 1pm-3pm, and Sunday 12:15pm-2:15pm.

— Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director


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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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