Historic Bar Tour Makes for Good Times

Bar tours of any kind are an all-around fun experiences. You get to meet new people, see new things, and drink! When I started as Editorial Intern for Chicago Detours, I came on the Good Times Historic Bar Tour with my boyfriend and found that this walking tour of Chicago is all that and more. I’m just being honest–not trying to be promotional at all. I swear!

We started our journey inside the lobby of the Tribune Tower, a neo-Gothic building on the Magnificent Mile. Often tour guides just throw facts at you, but this is not the case for a Chicago tour with Chicago Detours. We were asked to engage with the architecture around us and to really think about why it’s there.

For instance in the lobby of the Tribune Tower we were asked to really look at the architecture. From the group there were a number of answers, all of them correct in some way. Tour Guide and Executive Director Amanda (she usually does the weekday tours) explained how the features of the architecture can reveal clues to ideas from history. It was already an interesting and thought-provoking space, and it became even more interesting to take a moment to really talk about what we were seeing. One fun little fact was that the huge relief map of the United States on the wall is not just plaster but made out of a very surprising material, and that in the exterior there are 149 stones from different famous buildings from across the world.

We then stepped outdoors for a few minutes. We walked a block down the Magnificent Mile to take a look at the exterior of the InterContinental. It was an abrupt change of scenery as we had just been in this beautiful, warm, cathedral type space, then suddenly are outside feeling a light chill of the evening. We gazed at this skyscraper covered with strange iconography, symbols and other architectural decorations. Again, we were asked about what we see in the architecture. Someone said Egyptian, another said Roman, and I looked up and saw three dreary, ancient-looking stone men peering down at me and I thought, “What in the world kind of building is this?”

South side of the InterContinental building

I’m not going to spoil the surprise of this skyscraper’s fascinating history, but it’s pretty interesting. We hadn’t had a drink yet but it had all been eye-opening so far. Now we headed under the Magnificent Mile to…

Billy Goat Tavern! We’re again thrown for another interesting loop and taken for our first drink at the most famous tavern in town. We’re treated to samples of “cheezeborgers” and beers (or wine for those who prefer) and began to relax and take in the story of how a man named William Sianis became known as “Billy Goat.”

Billy Goat Tavern in neon lights

From there we headed off to Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush to learn about its jazz history and grab another drink with some pretty abundant appetizers (this pub crawl tour is practically a food tour). Then we stopped by Lawry’s the Prime Rib to check out their surprising architectural history. For our final drink we played a game that isn’t exactly trivia, but more like a logical guessing game that helps us learn about things people did for fun and entertainment in the neighborhood in the 1960s. For the stops on the rest of tour, I’ll leave you in suspense.

The tour group after three beers and a whole lot of architecture and history.

This was the Good Times Historic Bar Tour on a very small nut shell as I skipped a lot of the history and don’t have room to ramble about the sparkling conversation with the very fun guests that came on this Chicago tour. In short, I promise that in addition to having a few drinks, you’ll start to look at Chicago architecture in a new way!

-Jenna Staff, Chicago Detour’s Editorial Intern

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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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