Chicagoans volunteer to greet visitors

Chicago Greeter is a free tour offered by the Chicago Office of Tourism. It matches visitors with city-wise volunteers. This tour started at the Cultural Center.
July 20, 2010 8:03:28 AM PDT
Locals show their love for Chicago by giving free tours to tourists.

On a sunny, warm morning, the Fari?as family walks into the Chicago Cultural Center to meet Joe Hollenkamp.

Hollenkamp is one of many volunteer residents who shares his time and knowledge about the city with Chicago's tourists. The Fari?as family heard about Chicago Greeter through some friends in Florida that had done the tour.

"Everyone I spoke to that has been on this says it's the best way to see Chicago," said Jesus Fari?as.

Chicago Greeter is a free service provided by the Chicago Office of Tourism. Visitors can select from more than 25 neighborhoods and 40 interest areas. The most popular tour is the Hyde Park neighborhood, however, this family chose a film tour.

"I just graduated in digital cinema, so film history definitely interests me," said Albert Fari?as.

Hollenkamp pointed out various buildings featured in "Batman: The Dark Knight" and showed them Lower Wacker Drive where a scene from "The Blues Brothers" was shot.

"From about the 80s on we became a film friendly city," said Hollenkamp.

The Greeter also covered a bit of history, architecture, and landmarks. The tour lasts anywhere from two to four hours and is on foot and public transportation.

"I show them the city like if I were showing my family from out of town. Every Greeter does their own tour. There are no set guidelines we have to follow or a practiced script," said Hollenkamp.

Tourists should reserve 7 to 10 days in advance online at www.chicagogreeter.com.

"We did the boat tour, but this is also great because we can walk and see the buildings up close," said Dominique Orihuela Fari?as.

Visitors who don't have time to pre-register can take advantage of a free, on-the-spot Chicago Greeter service called InstaGreeter. It is available on a first come, first served basis from Friday to Sunday. The newest outpost is in Old Town and leaves out of Second City on Saturdays.

The Hyde Park InstaGreeter is also available on Saturdays and includes a look at President Obama's house, University of Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. All InstaGreeter's last from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.

Although the service is usually reserved for out-of-town visitors, Chicago Greeter will be available for local residents from June 1 to July 31.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer Greeter you must first fill out an application.

For more information on Chicago Greeter log on to www.chicagogreeter.com.


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