Maybe we're overthinking this whole tour thing. I've been on running tours, biking tours, Segway tours and more boat tours than should be allowed legally. But, until last week, I'd never sauntered my way through a guided tour of Chicago. Not once. Well, Free Tours by Foot, as the name would imply, is bringing sightseeing back to its most basic form of transportation, no helmet, lesson or life jacket required.
The experience is very much in the hands of the tour guide. We started on the bustling Magnificent Mile, made our way to Millennium Park, and concluded with pieces of public art in The Loop. We explored Tiffany glass domes in the Chicago Cultural Center and at Macy's, paused for a photo opportunity in front of Cloud Gate (AKA The Bean), and ended on the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago. The route acclimates visitors to the lay of the land while, simultaneously, providing a Facebook album's worth of stops in front of signature Chicago landmarks.
Free Tours by Foot takes the swap shop approach to commerce, meaning you're allowed to name your own price. I wish movie theaters worked this way. Like, if I saw something awesome...Hulk Hogan's No Holds Barred, for example, I could dap up the box office with $100 bill after the credits roll. But if I saw, say, The Smurfs 2, I wouldn't get tackled by security for not shelling out. Anyway, with Tours by Foot you grease the palm of your guide afterwards with whatever you think the experience was worth. If you had the time of your life, dig a little deeper.
Free Tours by Foot has several routes, including downtown Chicago and Lincoln Park. According to the company's website, bike tours and tours that focus on area food are coming soon. For a full tour calendar, click here.
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