Walking is one of the best ways to get to know a city. It forces you to move slowly, taking in every weathered brick, intriguing alleyway, and door marked with the sign "Do Not Look At This Door." There's also a good chance it will lead to adventure. At least, that's the belief at the heart of Stinky Onion Tours' walking excursions. With a love of walking rivaled only by local pride––as evidenced by the company's name, a nod to the legendary mistranslation that gave Chicago its name––the company uncovers forgotten moments in Chicago's past through a combination of food and historical fact. Tours include Truckin' Along, which introduces the history of the city's food trucks and makes stops for a bite at several. Hobohemia explores the city's long-ago hobo and bohemian culture, and the Old Town tour winds through the historic venues and restaurants of the neighborhood of the same name.
Chicago Elevated, run by effusive improv veteran Margaret Hicks, leads curious charges on eclectic group, private, and custom tours of the city. Jaunts lead natives and tourists alike through the city’s oft-overlooked nooks and crannies as Hicks’s jovial voice narrates every step, shedding light on secret areas and easily overlooked historic sites. Her pedway tour sojourns into Chicago’s tiled subterranean antecity, where retailers, restaurants, and mole people mingle. Tours explore sites of famous disasters, visit the ghostly red-light district that once stretched below what is now Printer’s Row, and gaze at downtown’s ornate architecture from the riverwalk.
Stationed in Wrigleyville after college, Hicks accrued the healthy sense of humor and comedic timing that pepper each tour at Second City, iO, and other theaters. Though she attempted a move to New York City, Hicks soon discovered she couldn’t stay away from Chicago’s majestic skyline or the skyscrapers’ subtly receding hairlines. A stint in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s docent program, as well as acting as a tour guide for six years, arm her with insider’s knowledge that soon transfers to listeners’ brains.
Helmed by husband-and-wife team Al and Sima Bovali, Corner 41 Bar and Grill welcomes diners with a stylish, homespun ambiance. From an open kitchen, wafts of gourmet American fare escape pans to greet guests at their tables, where menus harbor the tasty details of elegant entrees, burgers, and sandwiches. Exposed-brick walls unify with dark hardwood floors to augment the restaurant's intimate airs, and high ceilings create an acoustically sound backdrop for rustic ducts and yodeling chandeliers. Diners can also enjoy sips from a favorite wine, draft beer, or martini, and midnight closing times on the weekends accommodate late-evening munchers.
Simply put, Players Sport & Social Group helps more than 60,000 people each year get together, meet new friends, and have fun. The two-decade-old company has more than doubled in size in the last five years, due in no small part to the wide variety of sports leagues and clinics that it offers at venues throughout the city. Teams or individuals can sign up for sports ranging from dodge ball to beach volleyball to games of "bags," otherwise known as cornhole. Players can check their weekly standings online and review each sport's rules, learning exactly what is considered a foul in kickball or how to dispose of a football opponent's captured flag by burning it in a respectful ceremony.
The company also hosts and sponsors social events such as happy hours, fundraisers, and the Luau: a 55,900-participant grass-volleyball tournament with DJ music, food, and beer. Similarly, The Big Dig volleyball tournament offers the same mix of munchies, brews, and live entertainment, but on the sands of North Avenue Beach.
When winter weather blows its way in off the lake each November, a Cubs parking lot situated in the shadow of Wrigley Field transforms into a full-size ice-skating rink, which remains in operation until the beginning of March. There, guests glide atop glistening steel blades, twirling around the icy expanse while taking in views of Wrigley Field’s iconic exterior and extremely delayed fly balls.
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Average Duration of Services: 1–2 hours
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
Handicap Accessible: No
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Chicago's architecture, 1880s thru today
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
What is the one feature of your business that you're most proud of?
The quality of my tours. I know from several years of experience, being told by [hundreds] of people (meeting thousands of people each season), that my way of organizing and delivering information is not only very engaging, entertaining, and interesting, but also -- and this is important for me as a former teacher -- very graspable and memorable for all ages. I'm very good at making information interesting to any "students," young to old.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
[I have a] passion for this subject and for teaching about this subject, and entertaining people in the process. People should learn, but enjoy it so much, the learning happens almost subconsciously.