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Illinois

Signature City Chicago

Program No. 2818RJ
We’ve packed the best of Chicago into five unforgettable days. Join world-class experts at renowned museums, historic parks, iconic skyscrapers and more!

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 9 - May 14, 2024
Starting at
1,849
May 23 - May 28, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Filling Fast!
Jun 13 - Jun 18, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Jul 25 - Jul 30, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Sep 5 - Sep 10, 2024
Starting at
1,849
Oct 10 - Oct 15, 2024
Starting at
1,849
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
May 9 - May 14, 2024
Starting at
2,269
May 23 - May 28, 2024
Starting at
2,269
Jun 13 - Jun 18, 2024
Starting at
2,269
Filling Fast!
Jul 25 - Jul 30, 2024
Starting at
2,269
Sep 5 - Sep 10, 2024
Starting at
2,269
Oct 10 - Oct 15, 2024
Starting at
2,269

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, a diverse 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 three miles per day, getting on and off the coach multiple times per day.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Examine Chicago’s growth on a expert-led field trip through the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
  • Experience the city’s Millennium Park and visit the Field 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
Zbigniew Banas has been a resident of Chicago since 1976. He is currently an instructor at Loyola University in the department of modern languages and literature. He is also a radio host and reporter with WPNA and WEUR. He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his M.S. from Brown University. He has been involved with Road Scholar for over 15 years.

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

Profile Image of Brian Murray
Brian Murray View biography
Brian Murray is a graphic artist and educator based in Chicago for over two decades. Combining his local experience with his passion for art history and community organizing, Brian leads thought-provoking explorations of the art forms that adorn the walls of the city and the various perceptions and historical contexts around them.
Profile Image of Zbigniew Banas
Zbigniew Banas View biography
Zbigniew Banas has been a resident of Chicago since 1976. He is currently an instructor at Loyola University in the department of modern languages and literature. He is also a radio host and reporter with WPNA and WEUR. He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his M.S. from Brown University. He has been involved with Road Scholar for over 15 years.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 4 L 3 D
DAY
1
Registration, Hotel Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Chicago, Illinois
D
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Walk four blocks to dinner and back

Afternoon: Program Registration begins at 3:00 p.m in the hotel lobby. Please join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. Hotel check-in is at 4:00 p.m. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. In addition to our experienced and knowledgeable Group Leader, we will learn from a series of local experts who will give lectures and lead field trips. Program-related travel and transfers will be via private motorcoach unless noted otherwise. Meals will feature local cuisine in a variety of settings. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach multiple times throughout the day; walking up to 3 miles; driving through the city, approximately 2.5 hours total riding time.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: At the hotel, we will have an expert-led lecture on the history of the Chicago area from the early indigenous people through the Great Migration. We will then board our motorcoach for a city field trip. 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 go on a motorcoach exploration to learn more 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.

Lunch: At a popular local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch we will visit the DuSable Museum of African American History. Founded in 1961 by Dr. Margaret Burroughs and her husband, Charles, the DuSable is the oldest museum of African American history in the country. We will return to the hotel in the late afternoon.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Lecture, Wrigley Field, Millenium Park, Chicago History Msm.
Chicago, Illinois
B,L
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving 15 miles, about 75 minutes hours total riding time. Walking and standing at museum is dependent upon personal preference; up to two hours.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: We will start the day with an expert presentation on the fascinating world of Chicago Politics. Then we will take the motorcoach to explore more of Chicago. 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, including Millennium Park which won the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.

Lunch: Lunch at the Chicago History Museum.

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

Dinner: On your own to enjoy local fare.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking 2 blocks to/from the boat. Getting on/off a boat; cruising approximately 1.5 hours. 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 one of the world’s largest commercial buildings. 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. We’ll learn about all this and much more during this cruise with expert commentary. Afterwards, we will depart the dock for lunch at the Field Museum.

Lunch: Lunch at leisure at the Field Museum. Vouchers will be distributed.

Afternoon: The Field Museum of Natural History is widely regarded as one of the finest natural history museums on the world. It originated in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago. The name was later changed to honor the generosity of benefactor and department store founder Marshall Field, and to better reflect a focus on the natural sciences. During a self-directed exploration, we’ll learn about the museum’s work and collections. Please note: The Field Museum does not have docents except for school groups. Please use the supplied map to direct your independent exploration. You will have ample time to delve into exhibits that interest you. Among its collections, you can learn about gems, dinosaurs, mummies, Africa, the Pacific, the Ancient Americas, Native Voices, 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. The motorcoach will depart the Field Museum at 4:00 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: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Mural Exploration, Art Institute
Chicago, Illinois
B,L,D
SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown/River North

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to two miles on the Mural Exploration; Walking and standing a minimum of 1 hour at the Art Institute.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: We are joined by a local expert as we visit the some of the extraordinary street art in Chicago. Along the way, we’ll learn unique details about Chicago’s history and discover uplifting elements about the artists and the city. This is an upbeat exploration that shares how artists have improved neighborhoods one mural at a time.

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

Afternoon: After lunch, we will go on an expert-led exploration of the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago, where we will hone our 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 an art educator, we will have an introduction to key galleries, followed by self-led exploration to explore the museum in greater depth. Return to the hotel in late afternoon.

Dinner: At a neighborhood restaurant. Share favorite experiences and enjoy camaraderie with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

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.