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Illinois

Signature City Chicago

Program No. 2818RJ
We’ve packed the best of Chicago into six unforgettable days. Join world-class experts at renowned art institutions, historic parks, iconic skyscrapers and more!
Length
6 days
Rating (4.9)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,699

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To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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climate
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Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 11 - May 16, 2023
Starting at
1,699
May 25 - May 30, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Jun 15 - Jun 20, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Jul 27 - Aug 1, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Aug 24 - Aug 29, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Sep 7 - Sep 12, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Oct 12 - Oct 17, 2023
Starting at
1,699
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 11 - May 16, 2023
Starting at
1,999
May 25 - May 30, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Jun 15 - Jun 20, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Jul 27 - Aug 1, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Aug 24 - Aug 29, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Sep 7 - Sep 12, 2023
Starting at
1,999
Oct 12 - Oct 17, 2023
Starting at
1,999

At a Glance

If you have always wanted to experience Chicago, but didn’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. This introduction to the “Windy City” is brimming with expert-led visits to Chicago’s gems. Discover glittering skyscrapers, fine dining, revitalized lakefront, an urbane cultural scene, celebrated museums and the tony Magnificent Mile on an exceptional adventure that draws back the curtain on Chicagoans and “their kind of town.”
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to one mile per day.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Examine Chicago’s growth on a professor-led field trip through the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
  • Experience the city’s new waterfront parks and visit the renovated Chicago History Museum.
  • Explore the Chicago River and learn how Chicago grew from a settlement into one of the world's largest cities.

General Notes

You may enjoy a Small Group program with more free time "Winding Through the Windy City: Art & Architecture in Chicago" (#21908).
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Zbigniew Banas
A Polish-born graduate of the University of Chicago and Brown University, Zbigniew Banas is a well-known local journalist and scholar. He maintains a dual interest in politics and cinema, providing radio commentary and teaching classes on both subjects. For more than 20 years, he's been active in various adult education programs of the Jewish Community Center of Chicago. At present, he is also a lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Loyola University, and a Master Teacher for the Princeton Review test preparation company.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of  Zbigniew Banas
Zbigniew Banas View biography
A Polish-born graduate of the University of Chicago and Brown University, Zbigniew Banas is a well-known local journalist and scholar. He maintains a dual interest in politics and cinema, providing radio commentary and teaching classes on both subjects. For more than 20 years, he's been active in various adult education programs of the Jewish Community Center of Chicago. At present, he is also a lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Loyola University, and a Master Teacher for the Princeton Review test preparation company.
Profile Image of Marshall Jacobson
Marshall Jacobson View biography
Born and raised in Chicago, Marshall Jacobson knows the Windy City! He graduated from South Shore High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from the University of Illinois-Urbana and a master’s degree in social service administration at the University of Chicago. He is a Chicago Greeter and was a volunteer for five years for the Chicago Architecture Foundation as an award-winning docent. Marshall served as the vice president for development at the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, and is an active supporter and visitor to the Chicago History Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Marshall actively participates in a variety of liberal arts classes, with favorites in art history and film, at Northwestern University. Besides being a bon vivant and Renaissance man, Marshall is an actor and has performed in several productions around Chicago.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Chicago: A Brief History
by Vook
"Chicago: A Brief History" presents a comprehensive look at the city’s transformation from a fur trade outpost to America’s Second City. This compact digital compendium helps you track the diverse forces that shaped the city as we know it. You’ll explore the exciting history behind the city’s cultural, economic, and architectural mainstays. You’ll also gain valuable insight into groundbreaking Chicago events and major figures down through history, including: The Birth of a Major Trade City The Great Fire of 1871 Construction of the Sears Tower Chicago’s “Public Enemies” The University of Chicago ...and more.
The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History
by Libby Hill
An Intimate Biography of the Heroic Creek that Chicago Made When French explorers Jolliet and Marquette used the Chicago portage to access the Mississippi River system, the Chicago River was but a humble, even sluggish, stream in the right place at the right time. That's the story of the making of Chicago. This is the other story--the story of the making and perpetual re-making of a river by everything from pre-glacial forces to the interventions of an emerging and mighty city.
Chicago Days: 150 Defining Moments in the Life of a Great City
by Chicago Tribune
Journey back through time to relive events that shaped the Chicago metropolitan area and contributed to its world-class reputation. Chicago Days is a collection of 150 essays and 500 dramatic photographs compiled from the voluminous files of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Historical Society, and other important collections.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
by Erik Larson
Erik Larson intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.
Chicago Blues: The City & the Music
by Mike Rowe
Chicago has always had a reputation as a ”wide open town” with a high tolerance for gangsters, illegal liquor, and crooked politicians. It has also been the home for countless black musicians and the birthplace of a distinctly urban blues—more sophisticated, cynical, and street-smart than the anguished songs of the Mississippi delta—a music called the Chicago blues. This is the history of that music and the dozens of black artists who congregated on the South and Near West Sides. Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Tampa Red, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson, Junior Wells, Eddie Taylor—all of these giants played throughout the city and created a musical style that had imitators and influence all over the world.
Presumed Innocent
by Scott Turow
Hailed as the most suspenseful and compelling novel in decades, PRESUMED INNOCENT brings to life our worst nightmare: that of an ordinary citizen facing conviction for the most terrible of all crimes. It's the stunning portrayal of one man's all-too-human, all-consuming fatal attraction for a passionate woman who is not his wife, and the story of how his obsession puts everything he loves and values on trial--including his own life. It's a book that lays bare a shocking world of betrayal and murder, as well as the hidden depths of the human heart. And it will hold you and haunt you...long after you have reached its shattering conclusion. Biography Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970, receiving a fellowship to Stanford University Creative Writing Center which he attended from 1970 to 1972. From 1972 to 1975 Turow taught creative writing at Stanford. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating with honors in 1978. From 1978 to 1986, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, serving as lead prosecutor in several high-visibility federal trials investigating corruption in the Illinois judiciary. In 1995, in a major pro bono legal effort he won a reversal in the murder conviction of a man who had spent 11 years in prison, many of them on death row, for a crime another man confessed to. Today, Scott Turow is a partner in the Chicago office of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal an international law firm, where his practice centers on white-collar criminal litigation and involves representation of individuals and companies in all phases of criminal matters. Turow lives outside Chicago
Lost Chicago
by David Garrard Lowe
The City of Big Shoulders has always been our most quintessentially American—and world-class—architectural metropolis. In the wake of the Great Fire of 1871, a great building boom—still the largest in the history of the nation—introduced the first modern skyscrapers to the Chicago skyline and began what would become a legacy of diverse, influential, and iconoclastic contributions to the city’s built environment. Though this trend continued well into the twentieth century, sour city finances and unnecessary acts of demolishment left many previous cultural attractions abandoned and then destroyed. Lost Chicago explores the architectural and cultural history of this great American city, a city whose architectural heritage was recklessly squandered during the second half of the twentieth century. David Garrard Lowe’s crisp, lively prose and over 270 rare photographs and prints, illuminate the decades when Gustavus Swift and Philip D. Armour ruled the greatest stockyards in the world; when industrialists and entrepreneurs such as Cyrus McCormick, Potter Palmer, George Pullman, and Marshall Field made Prairie Avenue and State Street the rivals of New York City’s Fifth Avenue; and when Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Frank Lloyd Wright were designing buildings of incomparable excellence. Here are the mansions and grand hotels, the office buildings that met technical perfection (including the first skyscraper), and the stores, trains, movie palaces, parks, and racetracks that thrilled residents and tourists alike before falling victim to the wrecking ball of progress.
Chicago Then and Now
by Elizabeth McNulty
The latest installment in the popular Then and Now series showcases the capital of the Heartland and one of the premier cities in the nation and the world: Chicago. Chicago's change and growth over the last century is captured in this photographic history. Modern color photos sit side by side with black and white archival photographs. Every important building, avenue, neighborhood, and point of interest is documented. It covers all of Chicago's landmarks from Navy Pier to the Stockyards and from the Southside all the way up the Magnificent Mile. Take in a game at Wrigley Field, then take it all in from the top of the Sear's Tower. The Water Tower and all the other architectural features that make Chicago great are also included.
Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone
by John Kobler
The public called him Scarface; the FBI called him Public Enemy Number One; his associates called him Snorky. But Capone is the name most remember. And John Kobler’s Capone is the definitive biography of this most brutal and flamboyant of the underground kings—an intimate and dramatic book that presents a complete view of Al Capone and his gaudy era. Here is Capone’s story: his violent childhood in Brooklyn, his lieutenancy to Johnny Torrio, his rise in the ranks of the underworld, the notorious St. Valentine Massacre, his eventual control of the entire city of Chicago, and his decline during his imprisonment in Alcatraz. Capone was the ultimate gangster, and Capone is the ultimate in gangster biographies—a classic in the literature of crime.
Death at the Fair
by Frances McNamara
The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition provides a vibrant backdrop for this exciting new mystery. Emily Cabot is one of the first women graduate students at the University of Chicago, eager to prove herself in the new field of sociology. While she is busy exploring the Exposition with her family and friends, her colleague, Dr. Stephen Chapman, is accused of murder. Emily sets out to search for the truth behind the crime, but is thwarted by the thieves, corrupt politicians, and gamblers who are ever-present in Chicago. A lynching that occurred in the dead man's past leads Emily to seek the assistance of the black activist Ida B. Wells. Rich with historical details that bring turn-of-the-century Chicago to life, this novel will appeal equally to history buffs and mystery fans.
Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago
by Mike Royko
This is the story of the late Richard J. Daley, politician and self-promoter extraordinaire, from his inauspicious youth on Chicago’s South Side through his rapid climb to the seat of power as mayor and boss of the Democratic Party machine. A bare-all account of Daley’s cardinal sins as well as his milestone achievements, this scathing work by Chicago journalist Mike Royko brings to life the most powerful political figure of his time: his laissez-faire policy toward corruption, his unique brand of public relations, and the widespread influence that earned him the epithet of “king maker.” The politician, the machine, the city—Royko reveals all with witty insight and unwavering honesty, in this incredible portrait of the last of the backroom Caesars. This new edition includes an Introduction in which the author reflects on Daley’s death and the future of Chicago.
Loving Frank
by Nancy Horan
I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current. So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives. In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney’s profound influence on Wright. Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan’s Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah’s is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel’s stunning conclusion.
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 3 L 4 D
DAY
1
Hotel Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Chicago, Illinois
D
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 4:00 p.m. rogram Registration. After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get any up-updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived.

Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant

Evening: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet you with a warm welcome and introduce everyone. We will review the up-to-date daily program schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. During free time, the Group Leader will often be available to guide informal excursions, activities, or meals not included in the program. You are welcome to join if you wish, with any associated costs (if any) on your own, or explore independently. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. The remainder of the evening is free to continue getting to know your fellow participants. Settle in to your room and get a good night’s sleep for the full day tomorrow.

DAY
2
Lecture, City Field Trip by Motor Coach
Chicago, Illinois
B,L,D
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Travel by motor coach, stairs on & off the coach for lunch and at sites throughout the day.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning, before heading out, we will have an expert-led lecture based on the 1893 Columbian World Exposition, its impact on Chicago and the United States. We will board our motor coach for a city tour. Mark Twain wrote in 1883, “It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them.” Led by an expert, we will have a motorcoach exploration to learn about Chicago history, the immigrants and neighborhoods who gave it a rich culture and texture, and the movers and shakers whose influence made it a world-class city. We begin our journey north along Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive and up to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. As time and traffic allow, we will stop at various locations along the way.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a popular local deli.

Afternoon: Continuing our motorcoach introduction to the city, we ride through Chinatown and down past U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park), home of the Chicago White Sox, to the Hyde Park neighborhood, home of the University of Chicago and longtime personal residence of President Obama. We continue to Planetarium Point and conclude in the city’s “front yard” -- Grant Park -- at the fabulous Buckingham Fountain inspired by Versailles. We will end our day with a visit to the Chicago Cultural Center and a short walk back to the hotel.

Dinner: We will have dinner tonight at a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities in the Information Packet. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions, give directions, and will also lead an informal excursion or activity you are welcome to join at your cost (if any).

DAY
3
Field Museum of Natural History
Chicago, Illinois
B
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Transfer by motor coach to museum, walking and standing at museum minimum 1 hour

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning we will transfer by coach bus to begin a day at the world-class Field Museum of Natural History. It originated in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago. The name was later changed to honor the generosity of benefactor Marshall Field and to better reflect a focus on the natural sciences. During a self-guided exploration, learn about the museum’s work and collections.

Lunch: Lunch this afternoon is on your own. You may choose to have lunch in the museum café and continue your exploration of this iconic Chicago museum, or returning to the hotel by motor coach, enjoy lunch on your own at one of the many restaurants in the area. Your group leaders will be happy to help with suggestions and give directions.

Afternoon: Continue your exploration of this iconic Chicago museum, with free time to delve into exhibits that interest you. Among its collections, you can learn about gems, dinosaurs, mummies, Africa, the Pacific, the Ancient Americas, Pawnee Indians, and much more. The lakefront campus is also home to the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, together regarded as among the finest of their kind in the world. Bus will depart the Field Museum at 1:00 p.m. You are welcome to stay and continue exploring or you may return to the hotel for an afternoon and evening on your own. If you choose to remain at the museum, you will need to find transportation back to the hotel, at your expense.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy the foods of your choice. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. You may also join the Group Leader for dinner at your own cost if you like. Please see attachment to preparatory materials for a full list of area restaurants.

Evening: At leisure. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities in the Information Packet. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions, give directions, and will also lead an informal excursion or activity you are welcome to join at your cost (if any).

DAY
4
Architectural Boat Tour, Chicago History Museum
Chicago, Illinois
B,L,D
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Transfer by motor coach for distances less than 2 miles, walking 2 blocks to/from the boat & walking and standing a minimum of 1 hour in the museum.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning we will enjoy an architectural boat cruise on the Chicago River. None other than Frank Lloyd Wright said, “It [modern architecture] all started here…" Our study cruise this afternoon presents more of Chicago’s extraordinary architecture and related social history. By necessity due to geographical limitations, Chicago’s business leaders had to look upwards to expand after the devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Within less than a decade, new building techniques pushed the city’s skyline ever higher. Some of the world’s greatest architects, supported by visionary business leaders, built not just higher but sleeker and more sophisticated. And it was not only skyscrapers that forged a unique identity. Debris from the great fire created the base of Grant Park. The Merchandise Mart -- once the epicenter of high design and luxury goods, owned for half a century by the Kennedy family -- is the world’s largest commercial building. Chicago also has more moveable bridges than any city in the world including an engineering wonder, the Michigan Avenue Bridge, one of the city’s foremost thoroughfares. Learn about all this and much more during this cruise with expert commentary. We will depart the dock for lunch at the Chicago History Museum.

Lunch: You will have the opportunity to enjoy lunch at the Chicago History Museum in a private room.

Afternoon: After lunch we will enjoyable an expert-led field trip of the Chicago History Museum. This institution houses 22 million historical artifacts and documents from Chicago and U.S. history, with an emphasis on five main areas: Living, Working and Governing in the Metropolitan Area, the Built Environment, and Individuals and Ideas. Gain a better understanding of Chicago’s past, its present, and prospects for the future.

Dinner: At a local restaurant within a short drive of the hotel.

DAY
5
Chicago Politics, Chicago Architecture Center, Art Institute
Chicago, Illinois
B,L,D
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Transfer by motor coach, stairs on and off the coach, walking and standing a minimum of 1 hour at the Art Institute.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning, at the hotel, we are joined by Professor Zbigniew Banas to learn about the History of Chicago Politics, past and present, whose influence has made the city what it is today. Professor Banas will also discuss the notorious, flamboyant political history of “the windy city” (so called, legend says, for loud, long-winded politicians and the many conventions hosted here). After the lecture, we will transfer by motor coach as we head to the Chicago Architecture Center explore the exhibits including Chicago Gallery and learn about the 5 neighborhoods and how they came to be and the From Me to We: Imagining the City of 2050 where several local architects offer predictions for the future of Chicago.

Lunch: At a restaurant within a short drive of the Art Institute of Chicago

Afternoon: After lunch, we will have an expert-led exploration of the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago where you will hone your knowledge of and appreciation for art. Highlights of the permanent collection -- comprising more than 300,000 works in different media -- include “American Gothic,” the famed Chagall Windows and the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Led by art educator Joe Cunniff, we will have an introduction to key galleries, followed by free time to explore in greater depth on your own.

Dinner: Enjoy a tasty farewell dinner at a neighborhood restaurant.

DAY
6
Program Concludes After Breakfast
Chicago, Illinois
B

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.