Whats and Whys of Chicago Sister Cities

This week, Daley Plaza is unveiling something quite different. It’s definitely less enigmatic than our ink-blot-test-of-a-sculpture, The Chicago Picasso. The Chicago Sister Cities International Festival! (We have a tantalizing view on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, btw.)

Origin of Sister Cities

Flags on the tents in Daley Plaza

The idea of sister cities began when Toledo, Ohio committed to a partnership with Toledo, Spain. Sister cities, sometimes called twin cities soon arose in countless other metropolises across America.

The programs came out of a spirit of diplomatic, cultural, and commercial goodwill between diverse cities. Chicago’s sister cities partnerships were one of many additions to Ike’s soft-power Cold War arsenal. He also boasted 2400 other sister cities, People to People Initiatives. Remember, dear readers: Levi’s and The Beatles broke the commie yoke, not the anti-aircraft missile batteries that were posted at Promontory Point and other lakefront promenades!

Chicago Sister Cities Today

Richard J. Daley would be happy to see the program alive and well in its 51st year.  If his son’s reign were to have continued into 2011, he might even have take a step out of work at City Hall around lunchtime this week.  Maybe a fresh fruit tart from Shokolad’s to scratch the Ukrainian itch, some Serbian skinless sausages (chevapki) from Sandy’s and a trinket for the missus at the open-air bazaar?

The Chicago Sister Cities International Festival is now entering its sixth year. Funding comes from the corporate largesse of companies that both Richie “J” & “M” Daley assiduously courted to lure them to call Chicago home (cough cough, United, cough, Boeing, cough cough). And what would these courtship rituals be? Offers of tax incentives and other financial offerings. And then as they moved corporate headquarters here, all those corporate income tax revenues the city gets ultimately funds such a program as the Sister Cities. Summer is flying by, so why not head on over to Daley Plaza, take a longer lunch hour, and bask in the sun a little this week?

— Nick Fraccaro, tour guide


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

be a



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

Book a chicago event

Let’s Connect!