Chicago Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Our Chicago Holiday Gift Guide 2017 is here! This year’s list runs through our favorite unique local presents for all the Chicagophiles in your life.

We’re going all out on the holidays this year! Not only is there this list, you can find last year’s gift list and our Virtual Holiday Stories Happy Hour.

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.

#1. Art of Words Chicago Prints

Chicago holiday gift guide 2017 word art skyline dan duffy
Dan Duffy’s Art of Words are charming pieces of local art.

Art of Words is the creation of Dan Duffy. He’s spent nearly a decade creating paintings of handwritten words relating to the subject. For the Chicago skyline, pictured above, he worked in the names of neighborhoods, streets, and landmarks. The overall effect is eye-catching and engrossing. Personally, I think it’d make a perfect gift for someone who’s just moved here.

#2. Membership at the DuSable Museum of African-American History

A lot of Chicagoans are likely members of the big downtown museums. And rightly so! Museum memberships are perfect for families or folks who have lots of visitors. But the city’s smaller and less-central museums provide more bang for the buck. Members of the DuSable Museum, for example, get admission and other benefits to one of the South Side’s great cultural institutions. But members also get complimentary free admission at the Chicago History Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Adler Planetarium, and National Museum of Mexican Art. Cha-ching!

#3. Discounted Train Tickets through Amtrak

Chicago union station head house Chicago Holiday Gift Guide 2017
Chicago Holiday Gift Guide 2017 says “Get outta town on Amtrak!” Image via Wikimedia

Chicago is a global hub for travel and transportation. Of course, most travelers these days drive or fly. But the original, and most authentic, Chicago travel experience is to ride the rails. Union Station, which is undergoing huge renovations, is still the biggest hub for cross-country Amtrak service. This could be a perfect spin on the mid-winter family getaway to spots like Los Angeles or New Orleans. Amtrak also offers discounts of up to 30% if you book early enough. Getting train tickets for your partner or your kids would certainly make for a unique stocking stuffer!

#4. Chicago Detours Gift Card

Cool Chicago gift card

You knew this was coming! After all, no Chicago holiday gift guide 2017 without our gift cards. 😀

With a Chicago Detours gift card, your loved ones get an exploratory experience of Chicago’s history, architecture, and culture. You can buy our gift cards in increments of $25, $35, $50, $75, $100, and $200. They’re good for any of our regularly-scheduled public walking tours. Outings like the Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour or Loop Interior Architecture Tour stay mostly indoors, so they can use the gift card year-round. Act fast and you can even spend one of these gift cards on our Holiday Tour of Drinks, Daleys, and Dead Guys, which runs until December 30th.

#5. Skyline Socks

It can be tough finding a Chicago-centric gift that doesn’t feel like tourist junk. Who wants a cheesy Blues Brothers t-shirt? Who needs yet another Cubs keychain? And God help us all if people are gifting “Chi-rish” gear from one of those Michigan Avenue storefronts. Thankfully, Skyline socks is here to save the day. These socks feature the Chicago skyline (naturally) in a variety of colors. It’s local and funky without feeling like overdone. Personally, I think they’re just-the-right-kind-of-kitschy and a fun gift for friends or cool cousins.

#6. Fragrances of Chicago Votive Box

Does your dad have an especially strong love for the Cubs? So much so that the smell Clark and Addison is something he knows by heart? Well, then consider your shopping finished. Waxman Candles offers a Fragrances of Chicago Votive Box. They claim to have captured “10 specialty fragrances representative of the iconic Chicago neighborhoods.”

Worth noting that, with the exception of the gentrifying South Loop, every one of these neighborhoods is a hipster or yuppie haven on the North or Northwest sides of town. Maybe not the most representative of the whole city! Still, there’s something sort of ludicrously appealing in the idea of a candle that makes your home smell like Halsted Street in Boystown on a hot August night.

#7. Chicago History Books

chicago history books the dial Chicago independent bookshop
The Dial, in the historic Fine Arts Building, is a great place to grab books off this list. Image via The Dial.

If you’re reading this blog post, then I feel safe in assuming that you and yours are into Chicago’s history. If that’s the case, then it only makes sense for the Chicago Holiday Gift Guide 2017 to mention our recent post about some of the best Chicago history books. Beyond the titles in that post, we’ve recently gotten recommendations to read Boss by Mike Royko and Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott. The former, written by perhaps out most iconic journalist, brings to life the rise and power of Mayor Daley I. The latter is delves into the famously scandalous Everleigh Club. It was the most popular brothel in the old Levee District and a hotspot for controversy and reform. Take it from us, a good history book is always a gift well given.

-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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