Get To Know A Tour Guide – Ellen

1. How did you become a Chicago Detours guide?

I was an independent tour guide during graduate school to make extra money, so Chicago Detours had always been on my radar. Fast forward eight months after graduation and I was still looking for that elusive full-time job in my field. I was attending IndieWed, a wedding trade show, along with my friend and her fiancé. The event showcases quirky and cool vendors from all over Chicagoland, and Chicago Detours had a table to discuss private tours for bachelor/bachelorette parties. I fell into conversation with Amanda, and she mentioned they were looking for tour guides during peak season. When I got home I sent in an application thinking, why not?! Around May 2018 Amanda invited me in for an interview which then led to my becoming the Private Tour Coordinator as well as a tour guide for Chicago Detours.

2. What’s your favorite public tour?

sub sandwiches from jp graziano deli fulton market food tour walking
The sandwiches at J.P. Graziano’s make it Ellen’s favorite tour to lead.

My favorite public tour to lead is the Factories to Calories Fulton Market Food Tour. It definitely keeps me on my toes as a tour guide, because that neighborhood never looks the same week to week. More importantly, I demanded to learn this tour after eating the Mr. G at J.P Graziano’s for the first-time so I could have it every week during the summer.

3. What’s your favorite private tour?

As the Private Tour Coordinator this is like asking me to choose my favorite child, but I have a soft spot for our new Architecture of Money and Power. It’s a brief but comprehensive overview of the history and architecture along LaSalle St and stories of finance history in Chicago, something I didn’t know much about before experiencing the tour. Plus if I was a building I would want to be the Rookery, which is featured on the tour, so there’s that.

4. What downtown building do you most love taking tour guests into? And outside of downtown?

fun tours chicago father's day
Guiding people to the Chicago Temple is one of Ellen’s favorite parts of the job.

I love taking guests to the First United Methodist Church on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, usually because no one has ever thought to go to that space, even locals, so it’s always fun to take people someplace they never thought they could enter. Outside of downtown, I would have to say Holy Trinity Polish Catholic Church in Noble Square. I have never led the tour that goes there, but I remember the experience of going to this space as a guest and being gobsmacked. Apparently I have a thing for old churches!

5. Is there a Chicago building that’s been demolished that you wish was still around?

I’m sure the original Billy Goat Tavern near what is now the United Center would have been a good time. I’m curious what it would have been like to hang out there!

6. What’s your best memory as a tour guide?

I led a Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour one Friday night last winter with two couples from New Zealand. When the couples introduced themselves to one another, we soon discovered that they had a common link–their children were engaged to be married! They were planning to meet at another date, but somehow the universe conspired together to have them meet ahead of schedule, completely by coincidence, on my tour. I couldn’t believe the coincidence.

7. A Chicago book or movie to recommend?

If you are a fan of Sandra Bullock, cheesy Christmas movies, and debating with friends over questionable choices made by movie characters, I recommend the seminal rom-com classic “While You Were Sleeping.” Although now that I live in Chicago, any romantic set-up featuring a near death experience on the ‘L is horrifying instead of fodder for a “meet-cute” moment.

For more serious fare, the Frank Lloyd Wright mini-series by Ken Burns is worth a view if you can get your hands on it.

8. What’s next on your Chicago reading list?

I read William Leach’s Land of Desire in graduate school, so I am curious about A Shopper’s Paradise by Emily Remus (as featured on our 2021 Holiday Gift List.)

9. What’s your second-favorite city?

Ellen just loves London at the holidays. Photo by ddouk via iStock.

I love London and would find any excuse to visit it, especially around the holidays.

I usually try to make it up to Milwaukee at least once a year to do a major shopping spree of the vintage stores. You can’t beat Chicago for sheer volume, but in Milwaukee you’re competing with fewer people!

10. Neighborhood or suburb you’d like to explore more?

I would like to explore more of the South Side. I live in Rogers Park so it’s hard for me to get the initiative to get down there. I recently went to Bridgeport and had some life-changing ramen at Shinya Ramen House and I can’t wait to go back.

11. Favorite local brewery or distillery?

I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Haymarket Brewery (featured on the Fulton Market Tour).

My favorite place for local spirits is Koval in Ravenswood. Plus the bottles are real purty!

You can meet Ellen on several of our tours, or if you book a private tour, she will help you out.


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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.”


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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.”


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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.


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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.


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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.”
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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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