The Chicago branch of Gray Line's global sightseeing operation organizes a wide variety of tours and excursions throughout the Windy City, from architectural tours that send passengers coasting on the river and lake for sun-drenched educational cruises to shopping odysseys at Chicago Premium Outlets, where travelers can zip through more than 100 stores and restaurants after being shuttled to the retail utopia. Blues outings treat music lovers to raw licks, soul food, and real tears at celebrated concert venues such as Buddy Guy's Legends and Rosa's Lounge.
Gray Line's cherry-red trolleys transport visitors and residents alike to famous Chicago sites. Just north of the river, the vehicles idle before the Wrigley Building's sparkling white terra cotta façade, which in the 1920s stood as the first major skyscraper outside of The Loop. From there, the trolley may motor north to the John Hancock Center, where elevators to its observatory sweep guests 96 floors in 39 seconds. The trolley could also steer south to the Willis Tower, which lost its maiden name of Sears after being charmed by a passing cumulus cloud.
Most people don't associate lemon-pepper sauce with the need to chug down cooling drinks. But at Buffalo Wings & Rings, it's an option. That's because the chefs made the decision to separate their 11 signature wing sauces from heat levels. They do this by offering five separate heat sauces, ranging from mild to atomic, which can be blended into the wing sauce of choice for just the slightest kick or tear-worthy hotness. But this isn't the only way chefs can customize wings. They offer their signature dish in three styles, from the traditional bone-in wing to boneless wings and chicken tenders. With any of these options, chefs can fry the wings in a batter or grill them to create a healthier snack. For an extra kick, they can even smother wings in extra sauce. Finally, they serve wings with a choice of bleu cheese or ranch dressing, both of which take the edge off of spiciness.
True to their name, Spice of Life Tours leads exciting expeditions into the diverse cultural landscape of West Rogers Park, Chicago. Their walking trips take visitors through Devon Avenue, an area rich with South Asian influence. Guests stop at numerous Pakistani or Indian eateries to sample local flavors, and explore boutiques. Along the way, company owner, guide, and teacher Mohammad Ali shares his knowledge about the neighborhood, pointing out unusual architecture and perhaps divulging the name of his favorite historian.
Chicago Helicopter Express’s certified pilots eschew wings when they take to the sky. Instead, they depend on the whirling rotors of their Robinson R66 turbine-powered helicopters. The crafts comfortably seat up to four passengers and one pilot in a climate-controlled cabin. They soar over the city, conveniently transporting guests and their luggage from one location to another or providing bird's-eye views of Chicago’s skyline and some of its most famous landmarks.
Designed for mature audiences, Realm of Terror's maze winds past zombies hovering over hospital patients and masked madmen adorned in scarlet-stained clothes. A creative team of filmmakers, makeup artists, and set designers collaborates on the gory, over-the-top attraction, which uses actors, strobe lighting, startlingly loud noises, and whispered Danzig lyrics to spook guests as they duck, climb, and crawl through. While waiting in line to enter the critically lauded haunted house, guests can sip beverages from an onsite bar, which is stocked with soft drinks and alcohol for visitors of drinking age.
In 1914, the spacious Mineral Springs Hotel opened its doors to overnight guests seeking its namesake mineral treatments. Though designed for relaxation, the hotel and spa became the unwitting host of homicides and suicides to mysterious, accidental deaths. These days, in its 100th year, the only people spending the night are attendees of Mineral Springs Haunted Tours' "Haunted Overnights," where brave souls camp out inside the hotel's basement pool, or other areas of the building. As the hours pass, they might detect signs of spirits such as the "Jasmine lady," who took a fatal tumble down the hotel's steps.
Those on the walking and overnight tours scour the hotel with ghost-hunting equipment at the ready before launching into a poolside séance and tarot card reading. Besides exploring the hotel, walking tours visit upwards of 10 other haunted Alton locations, including tunnels under the old Enos Sanitarium. In addition to leading paranormal treks, the Mineral Springs team of paranormal investigators teach the tricks of their trade to aspiring ghost hunters at its Paranormal Research Center, where there have been six documented ghost cases. For winter tours, the company even unveils its private collection of over 50 historically-accurate torture devices, whose origins span across the globe from ancient times to present.