Did you know that some people think a meteorite, not a clumsy cow, is what started the Great Chicago Fire?
That's just one crazy fact you could learn on the new trolley tours from the Chicago History Museum.
The Family Trolley Tours, for families with kids in grades K-5, are led by guide Josh Eisenberg. He says his goal for the tours is to "start a conversation" that continues for days to come.
He designed the tours around topics kids find interesting. So this month's tour examines "Chicago above and below," while July's tour focuses on the theme of water. August emphasizes the biggest, tallest and best in Chicago.
The open-air trolleys are ideal for summertime (tours happen rain or shine) and allow visitors to get on and off to see the sights.
"I don't want people to get the idea that we're going to sit for two hours; I'll point and you'll look," Eisenberg says. "We want interactive."
He uses some simple motivation-sticks of Juicy Fruit gum, invented right here in Chicago-to get riders to answer questions and to think a little more about the city's past.
That's where the Chicago History Museum comes in. The tours begin at the museum with a brief discussion of kid-friendly artifacts, and visitors are encouraged to spend time there once the tour concludes.
As for moms and dads who think "been there, done that" when it comes to touring Chi-town? Eisenberg says even you could learn something new.
And although there's no clear answer to what really started the Great Fire (Eisenberg's most commonly received query), the next time your kids point at some obscure landmark and ask "What's that?" you might actually have an answer.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.