I highly recommend going on Chicago Detours' indoor walking tour of the Loop (www.chicagodetours.com). It has a real educational angle that teachers would love, and it digs into most main points of Chicago history. You even get to share iPads with cool pictures and maps and short bits of films. I would put this as a must-do for anyone visiting Chicago.
Climb the stairs up to the elevated train somewhere in the "Loop," our downtown, and just take brown line going north to Ravenswood. You don't take it to the end of the line, maybe just Belmont. Get off at Belmont and you'll be in a vibrant real city environment. Have a fabulous breakfast, lunch or dinner at Anne Sather's, only a few door east (towards the lake) on the south side of Belmont. Or maybe go to "Bittersweet", two blocks the other direction at 1100 West Belmont. Oh is that place great! Deserts to die for! You must go there! A tiny, tiny bit of Paris. All around the area are crazy shops: used CD's and hi fi equipment and clothes, etc. This area has a number of alternative threaters and music venues.
You really don't need to get off. Just stay on the platform, and take the red line south back into the loop. This one goes under ground after a while. Get off at Chicago Avenue and walk east toward the lake and you'll be going to the chic Michigan Avenue shopping area.
Stay on and get off at Madison and you'll be in the center of the loop.
If you get really lost, there is alway a cab you can grab and he will get you back to where every you are staying or to an el stop to catch the train back, assuming you have a map and know where it is you want to go!
It was horrible. 1. We started late because one guide was busy chatting and the other was just late. 2. We were told our tour (Archer Ave) was not the Resurrection Mary Tour, but over half of it was. We went down Archer Ave, with very little history provided. The first 2 stops were really bad urban legends, although both guides, Troy Taylor and Ursla Bieleski both said they had investigated many businesses and homes on Archer Ave. We went to Chinatown and were told that all the houses were haunted and that things moved and people saw spirits- no story with it. Fourty minutes later, we arrived at Resurrection Mary's cemetery and then to Chet's for 30 minutes of booze. Onward to the Grimes sisters area (we didn't get to see it because they forgot to stop). We stopped at a cemetery and were scared off by cops, at Maple Lake (and almost got chased by cops as we were told had happened many times), dangerously on the roadside to talk about yet another cemetery. Then it was on to the Willowbrook Room and Rico D's (both part of Resurrection Mary) for 45 min of boozing and waiting for Troy and/or Ursla to grab some takeout. After, we were told about how the first time they gave the tour they didn't know how long it was going to take and that they almost crashed a bus of 55 people and missed their second tour. From there we went to Archer Woods cemetery where we got out and were told that they had witnessed someone burying something that looked like a body but didnt report it. This tour and these guides were the poorest storytellers I have ever been forced to endure for 4 long hours. They told us all about Resurrection Mary on the way to the first couple of stops and then told us the SAME stories on the way back. They kept saying how the places we were going were "odd places" but really didnt tell us how they were "odd" vs haunted. Oh and on the way back, we dropped a group of Troy's friends off at the train station, which made the rest of us late in getting back to our own business.
Eli's Cheesecake is one of the very few factory tours left in Chicago (presumably due to liability issues).
We toured this weekend as part of the Great Places and Spaces weekend but their website talks about the various options to tour this facility. We got to try a slice of new cheesecake flavors (pumpkin praline-yum!) and decorate our own 7" cheesecake (alas, probably not part of regular tours). For once I am being kind to my husband and not publishing the photo of him in his apron and hair net. But I still have it on my hard drive should I ever have to blackmail him :-)
According to the owner, 18,000 cheesecakes are made here a day. Saturday and Sunday are non-production days so the tours appear to be mostly on weekdays.
10/25/03 update: We had a taste for cheesecake so we stopped in at the factory outlet store. As we were peering in the factory windows, one of the workers asked us if we wanted a tour so we went on a second private tour, this time production was in full swing and we got to see the cheesecake preparation from start to finish. It was awesome seeing the huge quantities of ingredients-buckets of cream cheese and sour cream, buckets of eggs. The guide told us that they only use the finest quality ingredients and you can certainly taste it in the product.
Stop after the tour and I dare you not to at least try one of the slices offered at the cafe or one of the many first or second quality offerings at the factory outlet store.
To get there via public transportation: Blue line (el) to Montrose, bus #78 to MOntrose and Forest Preserve stop. Located at 6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr.
The walking architecture tour of downtown at noon. A deeper glimpse into the fascinating history of the City of Big Shoulders. Mies Van Der Rohe & Frank Lloyd Wright are just two of the many famous architects who left their mark on Chicago.