Best Stops for Student Performance Groups in Chicago

We often play host to big student performance groups in Chicago for their annual trip. It’s always a kick to guide these student groups. Hanging out with them often feels like time travel, since I’m a former high school drama kid and marching band groupie myself. I’ve also grown to appreciate just how hard it is to plan student group field trips like this. Tour operators and chaperones want to know they’ve picked awesome sights and fun activities for their groups. We’re here to help with a list of the best stops for student performance groups in Chicago.

chicago theater marquee tour student performance group in chicago
The Chicago’s Theater’s Marquee Tour is a must for student performance groups in Chicago. Image via Wikimedia.

#1. Marquee Tour at Chicago Theater

Few spots in Chicago are more iconic than the Chicago Theater marquee. But your student performance group can go beyond taking selfies out on State Street! The Marquee Tour whisks your young musicians and actors backstage to get a glimpse at Chicago’s entertainment history. You’ll get to see the famously fabulous architecture, of course. But tour guests also get to gaze up at the signatures of immortal performers like Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton.

#2. See a Performance at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a must for all theater groups. Located out on Navy Pier, it’s one of the most renowned professional theater companies in the United States. “Chicago Shakes,” as my friends affectionately call it, has built its reputation on lively stagings of the Bard’s classics updated to settings which enrich the plays’ eternal themes. Right now, for example, their production of “The Taming of the Shrew” is set during the push for women’s suffrage. They host special student matinees and even a Shakespeare slam-style competition that are perfect for student performance groups in Chicago. Plus a visit to Navy Pier is a must for student performance groups. Then you kill two birds with one stone!

Chicago blues tour with jazz Chicago Detours musician bus student performance group in Chicago
The Jazz, Blues, and Beyond Bus Tour is perfect for student performance groups.

#3. Our Jazz, Blues, and Beyond Bus Tour

Never hurts to toot our own horn. Our Jazz, Blues, and Beyond Bus Tour is almost always the choice when we host student performance groups in Chicago. This 2.5-hour expedition takes students from downtown to historic neighborhoods on the North and South Sides of Chicago. There, we’ll visit historic clubs and record studios associated with the rich musical legacy of Chicago. The tour guide ties this into the wider social history of the city, with a special focus on entertainment history and the Great Migration. This step-on guided bus tour can even end with the students getting a harmonica lesson from a live blues musician. It’s terrifically fun and educational. We have many student performance group that we do this for on an annual basis.

the second city chicago student performance group in Chicago
A workshop at the Second City is like training with the comedy gods. Image via Wikimedia.

#4. Workshop at The Second City

The Second City is probably the most renowned comedy club on the planet. Generations of comedians, actors, and writers have cut their teeth at the Second City before going on to fame and fortune. Maybe not every kid in your student performance group in Chicago is the next Bill Murray or Tina Fey, but they can all learn a ton from the Second City’s educational workshops. These sessions, taught by professionals, improve student skills like improvisation, character-building, and communication. Plus, they’ll all get to claim they’re Second City-trained performers!

#5. Field Trip Visit to the Old Town School of Folk Music

The Old Town School of Folk Music has been teaching guitar, banjo, singing, and dancing for sixty years. It was founded in 1957, just as the folk music scene began to boom. While there have been plenty of aspiring Woodie Guthries and Bob Dylans, the school has widened beyond the stereotyped sound of folk music. They embrace and teach all types of indigenous and folk musical traditions that can be found in Chicago. It makes for an eclectic and equality-focused environment where students and teachers thrive. Their student field trips include musicians and styles to match any performance group’s interest.

We hope you have an excellent student trip to Chicago with these recommendations! Please reach out if we can help with any other walking tour or bus tour needs for your student performance groups in Chicago, too.

-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.

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Jen

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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