Chicago behind the scenes

The Chase Bank building downtown might seem to be just another glass-faced skyscraper in the ranks of the Loop. But when you’re looking at it with Chicago Detours, all of that changes.

Having lived in Italy as a tour guide and worked as a researcher for Rick Steves’ travel guides, Detours founder Amanda Scotese created cultural tours because she realized people were missing out on great history in their own city here at home.

On our Inside the Loop: Expect the Unexpected tour, we wound through various buildings in the Loop and into the underground Pedway. I was amazed at all the things I’d never noticed before.

As we walk, Scotese points out older buildings, a courtyard hidden from street level, and small spaces nestled beside gleaming giants, drawing out observations and opinions from both adults and children.

Four adults in our group hold iPads and open up photos and videos at different points in the tour.

“We build the tour by digging through archives and newspapers, old stories and photos,” Scotese says. “And then we use the media to help bridge the gap in time to connect with the past.”

There are three young people in our group: my 12-year-old son, a younger boy and a teenager. All of them listen as intently as the adults and participate in the group discussions.

My son was fascinated by the curve in a modern building’s architecture that gives the illusion he could run right up the wall and he joined in a lively discussion about the Picasso in Daley Plaza.

This is really the sort of experience that depends on the kid-if you have a history buff, they are sure to have fun. But even restless kids will get a good walk in during the two-hour tour and pick up some fascinating Chicago history on the way.

We ended beneath the dazzling dome of the Chicago Cultural Center. Walking almost reverently through the gleaming space, we took photos and watched the sun setting over Millennium Park.

My husband, son and I all agreed that this was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon together. My son can’t wait to try out his complimentary map of the Pedway routes in the Loop and we’re already planning our next tour.

Chicago Detours offers both public tours and private group tours. For information on public tours, visit or call (312) 350-1131. For information on private group tours, email

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