What’s a Chicago Segway Tour Like?

chicago segway tour dog
Dante the dog welcomes us. Photo credit: Amanda Scotese

Recently, the Chicago Detours team took a night off and went on a Chicago Segway tour. It may seem more touristy than our “Detours” style, but none of us had ever done a Segway tour before. Plus, we spend so much time as tour guides, that being tour guests sounded fun.

We toured with our friends at Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours. Led by mom-and-daughter-duo of Timmie and Brittany, the Absolutely Chicago Segway office and tour starting point is beneath the edge of Millennium and Maggie Daley parks. Our Architecture Walking Tour for Design Lovers concludes almost directly overhead! We were greeted by their friendly dog named Dante. He’s their office pet, welcoming us to a fun night gliding around Grant Park.

Learning to Ride a Segway

Our Chicago Segway tour started with a lesson on how to, well, ride a Segway. The basic idea is to keep both feet planted and then leave the rest of your body loose and relaxed. You accelerate by leaning forward, slow down by leaning back, and turn by leaning the handles and your body. Easier said than done, but within a few minutes we all figured it out.

I spent the first few moments riding like anything might send me flying. It’s just an odd sensation to control a motorized vehicle by leaning. It lacks the sense of kinetic balance that riding a bike has A few test laps in the underground tunnels made me feel much better. Within moments, all five of us from Chicago Detours were ready to ride.

Chicago segway tour Absolutely Segway Chicago Detours pedway training
Our tour guide, Rusty, teaches Sonny, Elizabeth, Pawel, and Amanda how to ride a Segway.

Where Do You Go on a Chicago Segway Tour?

We went on the Lakefront and Museum Campus tour. From Maggie Daley Park we went south through Grant Park, including a break for photos at Buckingham Fountain. With a few other stops along the way, it took us about an hour to get down the lakefront to Museum Campus. We took a break and climbed off our Segways in front of the Shedd Aquarium. At this point we realized that a side effect of riding a Segway is that your feet and legs get a little sore since you’re using muscles you might not be used to.

That soreness comes from keeping your feet firmly planted the entire time you’re on a Segway. Even when you’re not moving, lifting a foot or stretching a leg could send you careening away. Our tour guide, Rusty, told us that it usually takes guides about three months to develop “Segway Feet.” The Chicago Detours team is used to being on its feet for hours at a time on our walking tours, but two hours of keeping my feet planted on the Segway was brutal. It made me realize just how much I shift my weight while standing normally.

The break at Museum Campus also presented a great opportunity to take some photos. Our tour was at twilight, so the downtown Chicago skyline was beautifully back-lit by the setting sun throughout the first half of the tour. We’re downtown at night all the time for our evening tours, like the Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour. But since those tours mostly stay indoors, we rarely see the skyline it from a distance. The views alone made the tour worthwhile. Also, only serves to reinforce why we take folks to Museum Campus on our Detour 101: Chicago Highlights tour.

Chicago Segway Tour Chicago Detours Absolutely Segway Buckingham Fountain sunset
I was so caught up in taking a photo of Buckingham Fountain at sunset that I didn’t notice Amanda in the shot. Photo Credit: Alex Bean

Navigating Traffic on a Chicago Segway Tour

After our little tour break, we made some stops around Museum Campus before turning back to the north. The navigational differences between riding a Segway and walking really became apparent as we careened down the big slope that connects Museum Campus to the tunnels below Lake Shore Drive. Our top speed was only about 10 miles per hour, but it feels like the speed of light when you’re zooming downhill past pedestrians and joggers.

In hindsight, I was probably just overthinking, especially since our group attracted plenty of stares from passersby. It’s hard not to notice six Segways as they whir past in a group. Several folks shouted or pointed at us while we rolled through the park. Near the skatepark, a young skater couple spotted us and burst out laughing. I joked with Pawel that his Statue of Liberty helmet must have made him look like the coolest person around.

Wrapping it Up

We paused the tour at the haunting Agora sculpture which dominates the park’s southwest corner. The work is a forest of 106 pairs of legs made of iron by the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. It’s based on her experience of being a young child in concentration camp during the Holocaust. Her primary visual memory was seeing the legs of the grownups in the camp. Most of them, of course, were walking towards their doom. Hauntingly, the installation is designed to rust and will eventually disintegrate into dust – just like human memory.

By this point, it had been more than two hours since we started learning to ride the Segways, so our time was up. We zipped back up Michigan Avenue to Congress, where my overzealousness at my confidence with the Segway caused me to nearly collide with our Executive Director, Amanda. I avoided it though! Turns out, it’s hard to lean back to slow down while you are on an incline.chicago detours absolutely chicago segway tour

Having luckily avoided a crash, we shortly arrived back at Absolutely Segway and disembarked. After thanking Rusty we headed back up to the street. In a brief discussion, we agreed that our Chicago Segway tour had been a really great time. Before the outing, my biggest association with Segways was laughing at the sight of them because of memories of GOB from Arrested Development. But our Chicago Segway tour proved to be a wonderfully quick way to explore the city and glimpse its beautiful sights. I’d highly recommend it as a compliment to a Chicago walking tour, but of course we are biased!

-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
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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
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