The first time I tried to show out-of-town friends around
Chicago was a complete disaster. We had just moved to the area and
I knew nothing about the Windy City besides Navy Pier and the
Magnificent Mile. It rained nonstop that particular October
weekend, so my plans of Ferris wheel rides, pictures at the Bean,
and cocktails at the top of the John Hancock were quashed. We were
forced to wing it, so we grabbed a taxi and tried to blindly
maneuver our way around the city.
We ended the day, tired, frustrated and grumpy. As the hostess,
I vowed to become a stellar tour guide. So I became a professional
tourist in my own town. I scoured websites, travel guides and
magazines for interesting, fun and out-of-the-way spots downtown.
And I discovered a handful of helpful mobile apps.
Even if you're a Chicago native who knows every hot spot and
shortcut around the city, you will enjoy these tour guide apps.
Not only do these apps point out must-see attractions in
Chicago, but some also offer unique stories, interesting tidbits
and games to play along the way.
Here are five apps to try if you're looking to play tourist (or
Stray Boots makes the top of my list. It was the most fun to use
because it played like a trivia game/scavenger hunt. Chicago
know-it-alls will enjoy touring neighborhoods trying to find clues
and the next stops on the tour. My kids (4 and 7) especially
enjoyed the Lincoln Park tour, where they learned that two swans
were the first animals to live at the Lincoln Park Zoo and that
Lake Michigan was 20 feet higher 8,000 years ago.
Developer: Stray Boots Tours
Price: Free to download. $5 for Magnificent
Mile introduction Package, $12 each for other tours: The Loop, Navy
Pier, Lincoln Park, Art Institute and the Perfect Chicago Date
tour. The Deep Dish Package (all tours) is $55.
Access by: iPhone or iPad app, online or by
A friend and I used MetroWalkz to explore Chicago's Gold Coast.
This app is only available on Android and I have an iPhone, but the
tour can be viewed online by a mobile browser. This was a fun jaunt
through the Gold Coast with interesting history, but probably more
of a tour for adults. Of course we posed for pictures outside of
the original Playboy Mansion and ogled the beautiful architecture
of the historic buildings. Touring the Gold Coast is relatively
easy, but MetroWalkz gave us some direction and history.
Developer: Prairie City Limited
Price: Free to download and use. Tours include:
The Loop/Architecture tour; Grant Park/Art Institute; Magnificent
Mile; Navy Pier; Museum Campus; Chinatown; Gold Coast; Old Town;
West Loop; and Near North. Printing hard copies of the tours costs
$2.99, or order a booklet for $5.99.
Access by: Android app, mobile browser or
This app is kind of like walking with an actual tour guide. It's
an audio walking tour that uses GPS tracking to determine your
location and describe your surroundings. The narrator takes you on
a walking tour, explaining how to get to each site while telling
interesting stories about that particular location.
Developer: GPS City Guide
Price: Free for online use; $2.99 for offline
use. Tours include Magnificent Mile; Navy Pier; and Grant Park
Access by: iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
While this app doesn't offer self-guided tours, it provides a
useful guide for everything Chicago-from restaurants and theater to
transportation and special events. You can search for the nearest
bathroom or Wi-Fi spot, or read reviews on restaurants and
Choose Chicago is best for searching for restaurants or
attractions near your location. The app provides a calendar of all
events in the city, as well as coupons and deals for museums, tours
or other attractions.
Developer: Choose Chicago
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