1893 World's Fair Tour with Chicago Detours

***I approached Chicago Detours and they provided a free tour in exchange for a post. We paid for Kevin's tour. All opinions are my own. ***

Over the summer Kevin and I booked the 1893 World's Fair Tour with food and drink by Chicago Detours. I had been eyeing this tour for a while, in addition to the perfect tour for my 101 list task who wouldn't want to go on a tour that involves food and drinks?! Let's be honest everything is better with food and for me it's even better that it's historically related food. Since Kevin was such a good sport and let me drag him along (I tease, he was excited for the tour as well!) I thought he should be able to share his thoughts as well. You'll find his thoughts verbatim in the green.  

We originally booked in August but with a sick tour guide Chicago Detours made the rescheduling really easy, the customer service staff was great. Sometimes it can be a pain when stuff like that happens but there were no issues or hassles. 

So finally this past week we headed downtown and met up with our tour at the Congress Plaza Hotel. I was thinking the whole time why in the world are we doing an 1893 World's Fair tour in the Loop? The Fair was held in the south side neighborhood of Hyde Park. Our guide, Elizabeth, quickly started to show us exactly why! I knew that the Fair had an impact on the city but I didn't realize how widespread it was throughout the entire city.

The Congress Plaza  was built especially for the Fair to house many of the people who would come to Chicago to visit the Fair. One unique aspect of the tour was the use of multimedia. I'm not sure I've ever been on a tour like this where multimedia is used as much as it was. For me that was great because there were great historical images (found in archives and museums!) that really put more of the story into context.


We quickly entered into the food part of our tour! What fair doesn't include delicious foods on sticks? Followed up by some Chicago style popcorn, caramel corn and cheddar all together in one delicious bite. Now you're probably saying but Betsy popcorn was around long before the 1893 World's Fair. My thoughts too! Elizabeth quickly put our minds to ease and shared that we were enjoying our tasty confection because it represents the technology that was found at the Fair. There were many new advancements shared and one of them was the steam powered popcorn maker. 

 Kevin really enjoys food on sticks. So much so that he forgot the first rule of doing anything with me. Wait until I take the photo for the blog.

After finishing our first drinks and grabbing one more handful of popcorn we were off to our next stop.

Walking around Chicago while learning is key - it helps reinforce the concepts and makes learning a lot more fun.  Rather than standing around and suffering from "information-overload", there was a good mixture of learning, walking around, and visually experiencing sites we were talking about.

The beautiful Auditorium Theater! We didn't go into the theater itself but I mean come on the lobby was just as beautiful.

We headed to the Fine Arts Building next. This is where things got a little crazy. We were informed that this would be where we were going to play our first game. Game you say?! Prizes!? Bring it on!

We enjoyed the sites, rode 10 floors up in one of the last human manned elevators.

Enjoyed the view a little more. 

Then it was time for our photo scavenger hunt. Kevin and I were joined by our new friend Katie from Boston, Team Purple Pilgrim was born and determined to win. We had 8 minutes to find and take architectural features that related to 5 clues given to us on floors 9, 3, and 2. Which meant we were rushing around several floors and running down stairs. Needless to say we felt pretty good about our results but found out that there were definitely several questions we misread haha. We vowed the next game we'd do better!


On our way to the Berghoff Restaurant we stopped at Pickwick Place which is home to the now Asado Coffee which is in what is thought to be the oldest and smallest building in the Loop. If you're not familiar with Chicago history the Great Fire of 1871 took out pretty much all of 1871 Chicago seriously google Great Fire of 1871 map it's pretty insane. So the fact that this building, which was built just a couple years later is still around is pretty darn cool.

Heading to the Berghoff is not a new thing for me, we all know I love my German food, but many of the stories that Elizabeth shared were new.

We learned why a German restaurant has chili con queso on it's menu. Thanks to Berghoff's visit to the Fair and enjoying that delicious treat at the San Antonio booth it was quickly added to the menu of his new men's only saloon.

Best brat I've ever eaten. Seriously.

Fun fact #2 that I didn't know. After Prohibition the Berghoff received liquor license #1 because he played by the rules and didn't serve liquor.

Between the Berghoff and our last stop we stopped at the Carson Pirie Scott building, which is now home to Target. This is where Team Purple Pilgrim would dominate! We were tasked again with running around the store and taking images. This time of products that were introduced during the 1893 World's Fair. We were all over the place! Since it was such a quick 7 minutes I didn't have a chance to get any photos. We came up with a couple of ringer items, like the bottle of blood since this is where we first get the whole serial killer thing. Yup that's how we roll on Team Purple Pilgrim.    

Lastly we ended up at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel to see how the other half lived during the Fair. Originally a gentleman's club this hotel has maintained many of the original historical aspects. In the first photo above you'll notice the blue tiles, they are where they original pool was located and was tiled in when it was turned into a hotel because of the disrepair.

You'll notice the delicious local candies in our hands, that's right Team Purple Pilgrim for the win! By one point too. This tour was awesome. As a museum and history person I love it when history comes to life and Chicago Detours totally delivered on that. The games were my favorite part. Who doesn't love making a memory by running through the Loop Target trying to find items that were first found in the 1893 World's Fair?

The scavenger hunts were a wonderful addition to learning.  I liked the fact were able to move around and apply knowledge we had gained.  It reinforced the material and allowed our minds to relax while having fun.  Doing this twice was well worth it and made you pay attention to the history around you.  Without doing this, so many small items would have been missed and not appreciated.  

At the end of the night Elizabeth shared more about Chicago Detours as a company and shared probably the most surprising information. One thing that is really important to Chicago Detours is giving back to their community, more specifically their architecture and archival community. For an area that tends to get the ax funding wise this is awesome. They feel that since they work so closely and benefit so much from the historians, archivists and museum professionals they work with they should give back. Music to this museum professionals ears. They have given donations, set up a scholarship and have plans for more similar things in the future. With a fantastic scholarship like that out there maybe I should go back for that MLS degree!

I enjoyed the tour overall.  I loved seeing the photos from ages ago and standing in nearly the same spot they were taken.  Amazing to say the least.  

Would I do it again?  Darn right I would! 

As you can see Kevin really enjoyed this tour! I loved it. I cannot wait to experience another one of their amazing tours. I'm already eyeing several of their other tours like the Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour or their Old Polonia & Wicker Park Food tour this Sunday 10/30. They tell me there are still openings so you should really get on that right now! With how amazing the 1893 World's Fair Tour was I can only imagine that these will be just as delicious. 

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