Choose Chicago Announces a Relaunch of the Chicago Greeter Program

Just in time for the  summer 2021 season, the Chicago Greeter program will now showcase the city’s diverse neighborhoods through four different initiatives

Chicago, IL – June 17, 2021 – Choose Chicago announces a relaunch of the popular and world renowned Chicago Greeter program. The program now includes four different initiatives bringing the knowledge and passion of this network of 200 volunteer guides to locals and visitors alike in new ways, while remaining free to the public: the original In-Person Greeter experiences, Welcome to Our Neighborhood walks, InstaGreeter Downtown meetups and Self-Guided Greeter tours presented by Bank of America.

From Chinatown to Pilsen and Greektown to Little Italy, Chicago’s neighborhoods tell the stories of the people who made the city their home throughout history. Since 2001, Chicago Greeter has shown how these neighborhoods have remained just as vibrant today, with bustling cafes, restaurants, museums, public art and more.

“Choose Chicago is proud to relaunch and expand the renowned Chicago Greeter program this summer and share authentic Chicago neighborhoods with locals and visitors alike,” said Jason Lesniewicz, Director of Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago.  “We now have four great ways to experience fascinating histories, diverse cultural traditions, iconic landmarks and off-the-beaten-path gems.”

Chicago Greeter Experiences

A recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for over ten years, the original In-Person Chicago Greeter experiences offer deep dives of 2-to-4 hours of the Chicago neighborhood of your choice. Guests are paired with a friendly, local volunteer based on their neighborhood and subject of interest for a personalized experience. Tours are available in over a dozen languages and are available to book now.

Welcome to Our Neighborhood Walks

Explore Chicago’s neighborhoods with these new, free walks led by diverse community groups and neighborhood organizations. Walks will dive deep into the highlights of each community’s unique stories, top attractions and under-the-radar finds, all through the eyes of people deeply embedded in the community. The first of these tours to launch will be through Chinatown in collaboration with the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute on June 19 and July 17.   

InstaGreeter Downtown Meetups

The InstaGreeter downtown meetups, returning July 2nd, were designed with those who are pressed for time or looking for a more flexible option in mind. These free, hour-long tours of Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood operate Friday, Saturday and Sundays departing at 11:30 am. No reservation is required and InstaGreeters depart from the Chicago Cultural Center’s Welcome Center located at 77 E. Randolph Street.

Self-Guided Greeter Tours

The new Self-Guided Greeter Tours, presented by Bank of America, provide visitors and locals alike curated, virtual tours designed by local experts to showcase each neighborhood’s unique history, culture and hidden gems. 

Through the power of video, blog and social content, this series will shine a spotlight on six Chicago neighborhoods by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of the Chicago Greeter volunteers. Each part will feature a different neighborhood, including a unique Chicago Greeter itinerary and logistical instructions on how to best explore the neighborhood in person.

The digital content will launch this month, with a blog post highlighting a self-guided walking tour of Chicago’s South Loop. Additional content will follow on a monthly basis, with Kenwood, Bronzeville, Bridgeport, Pullman and West Ridge to follow. 

“Chicago’s neighborhoods are teeming with history and culture, and that deserves to be celebrated,” said Paul Lambert, President of Bank of America Chicago. “We’re honored to partner with Choose Chicago to spotlight communities across the city’s South and West sides, to encourage people to visit these local landmarks, and to drive economic activity where it is needed most.”

This self-guided program is an extension of the successful 2020 International Greeter Day “do-it-yourself” tours, which was created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual series highlighted Ukrainian VillageUptownPilsenHyde ParkChinatown and the Chicago Riverwalk.

For additional information about the newly updated Chicago Greeter program, visit https://www.choosechicago.com/chicago-greeter/.

# # #

About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit choosechicago.com. Follow @choosechicago on Twitter and on Instagram. Like us on Facebook.

Opening the Doors of Chicago’s Best Places & Spaces: Open House Chicago

Blackstone exteriorOpen House Chicago (OHC), now in its eighth year, is for anyone who has ever walked past a building, questioning what it was like inside, wanted to investigate a neighborhood and understand its history and visit spaces and places in the city never before explored.

“OHC is a showcase to understand the basic fabric of Chicago’s neighborhoods and what makes the city unique,” says Eric Rogers, Manager, Open House Chicago and Community Outreach for the Chicago Architecture Center.  “In choosing more than 250 sites we looked for those that are important to the city and wanted to have several in each of the neighborhoods. We wanted  diversity with what each has to offer.”driehaus-museum-michael-courier

Making it even more fun, OHC, which runs this Saturday and Sunday, October 13th and 14th, is completely free and requires no registration or tickets.

Blackstone1

Three new neighborhoods were added this year including Beverly where visitors can explore Givins Castle, Chicago’s only castle, a crenulated home built in 1887 at a cost of $80,000 and now the Beverly Unitarian Church. Also in Beverly, take a taste at Wild Blossom, Chicago’s first meadery and winery and the sole producer of honey wine on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail and then tour Optimo, the city’s  only custom men’s hat maker.  Here you can see hat making in action. The company, known for their straw Panama hats, trilbys, homburgs, fedoras that come in a variety of styles (who knew?) such as the classic, teardrop and fastback, even designs a limited edition hat modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature headwear.ericallixrogers-hpuc-web-12

“It’s a very unique working museum of hats and hat making,” says Rogers, noting that the old firehouse on 95th Street where the company is headquartered was renovated by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), consolidating  Optimo’s operations into one 7,500-square-foot space.Blackstone interior

In architectural speak, the building’s “design imparts an industrial aesthetic enhanced by a palette of refined, understated materials like blackened steel, walnut and cork.”

In nearby Morgan Park, another newly added neighborhood to this year’s OHC line-up, the doors of the Ingersoll-Blackwelder Queen Anne-style mansion, once home to both real estate magnate John Ingersoll and then Isaac Blackwelder, president of what was at the time the independent Village of Morgan Park. More notably, at least to me, Gertrude Blackwelder, his wife, was not only a founder of the Morgan Park Women’s Club but was the first woman to vote in Cook County.EricAllixRogers-stsvo-13

The home is filled with antique treasures and built-ins, many salvaged by another owner, artist Jack Simmerling who retrieved them from now destroyed but once imperial mansions in Prairie Avenue, Englewood and other tony Chicago neighborhoods.

The extravagant insides of the neo-Gothic facade Morgan Park Academy’s Alumni Hall are also available for perusal. Now a K-12 independent, co-educational school, Morgan Park was founded shortly after the Civil War and has served as a military academy and preparatory school for the University of Chicago. Unlike the schools most of us attended, its interior boasts dramatic spaces such as an upper school library featuring a vaulted ceiling, double staircase, grand fireplace and wraparound mezzanine. Other accents are wrought-iron chandeliers and ornate woodwork.driehaus-museum-debbie-mercer-original-03

Also participating in OHC is the Gold Coast neighborhood with its rich plethora of homes designed by well-known architects Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Dankmar Adler. Here such sacred places as St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church, St. James Chapel and Holy Name Cathedral. There are also cultural centers as the International Museum of Surgical Science, The Newberry Library, The Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts and The Richard H. Driehaus Museum and such cutting-edge hotels, style-wise, as the Millennium Knickerbocker and Fieldhouse Jones.ericallixrogers-mpaalumnihall-full-5

Neighborhood offerings include Garfield Park, Washington Park, West Ridge, West Town, Ukrainian Village, South Loop/Prairie Avenue/ South Shore, Downtown, Uptown and Hyde Park.rockefeller_chapel-eric_allix_rogers-full-16

OHC offers such programs as Live Painting Restoration, a LEED Tour of Rotary International, Free Stand-up Comedy at Lincoln Lodge, Artist installation outside Edgewater Beach Apartments, Live Piano at Ingersoll-Blackwelder House and family-friendly activities at the Chicago Architecture Center. All are designed to give visitors a wide range of experiences range different OHC sites.rockefeller_chapel-eric_allix_rogers-full-10

“We have a full list of those participating, programs and events,” says Rogers. “And to make it easy to decide what to do, our website is very sophisticated with tools that filter by sites and neighborhoods to make it simple to plan where you want to go.”

Ifyougo:

What: Open House Chicago, explore more than 250 cool places all over Chicago, from iconic downtown skyscrapers to hidden gems in the city’s diverse neighborhoods and suburbs.

When: Saturday and Sunday, October 13-14

Where: All over Chicago

Cost: Free

FYI: Visit their website to choose your itinerary. openhousechicago.org