Meet Amanda Scotese: She’s a professional tour guide in Chicago, who has a passion for local architecture. She’s been showing people around the Windy City since 2010, but her love of travel began nearly a decade earlier. “I actually got into being a tour guide in Italy. I had traveled there and a friend told me about the job,” she says. “That’s how I got my start: In Italy, working with groups of Americans.”
Amanda may have grown up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but she always felt equally at home in Chicago. The two cities are a two-hour drive apart and her family is originally from the Chicago area. “As I traveled the world and came to know other American cities, I kept finding that no other city was quite as amazing as Chicago,” she says.
“Chicago is the world’s biggest small town,” Amanda says. “While there are all the amenities of a big city, there’s a personal feel to the city that I think is really different from other large cities around the world.”
Exploring Chicagoland: The Musts
Amanda says one of the most incredible things about Chicago is the architecture. “I would recommend the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour,” she says. “It highlights the most interesting elements of the city’s history and culture and gives people valuable insight into why Chicago is so famous for its architecture.”
One of Amanda’s favorite stops in the entire city is the Chicago Cultural Center. It was built in 1897 as Chicago’s first central public library. The building features sparkling Tiffany mosaics and the world’s largest Tiffany stained glass dome. “You always see a mix of people there — people taking breaks from their downtown jobs, college students, families and seniors,” Amanda says. “It’s a truly public place in the city.” The building houses rotating exhibits on art and architecture, as well as free music, theater and dance performances.
While her tours focus primarily on the history and architecture of Chicago, there’s plenty to see and do outside the heart of downtown Chicago. Amanda always advises visitors to go out and explore the city’s different neighborhoods. “It’s where we live, and that’s where all the culture is.” To experience Chicago's local culture firsthand, Amanda recommends visiting these four must-see neighborhoods: