Self-Guided Walking Tour of Chicago

The best way to see a city is on foot. To learn your way around an area, you must become familiar with the streets and the directions. From a very early age, my mother taught me about my “internal compass.” Google Maps, of course, is helpful, but there’s something deeply satisfying in figuring out which way is northeast by oneself.

While in Chicago, I insisted on walking every chance I got. Sure, I took the “L” train and I even Uber’ed it a couple of times. But, much to my shin splints and backache’s protest, I walked over forty-five miles during the course of my four-day vacation.

Admiring Mexican Art and Murals

One day, in particular, after touring the colorful galleries of the National Museum of Mexican Art and sampling piping hot churros at Xurro’s Pilsen neighborhood stake out, the skies appeared as if they were about to open up. I decided to walk the four and a half miles back to the hotel. I wanted to see the countless murals dotting 18th Street and the surrounding blocks.

Self-Guided Walking Tour of Chicago - Admiring the myriad of Street Art
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Chicago – Admiring the myriad of Street Art

I wanted to feel the coolness of dusk against my skin, to look into storefront windows at weary shop owners assisting eager customers. I wanted to smell the Midwest Summer I found so familiar for about eighteen years. The nasal nostalgia was intense. Lightning bugs were the icing on the cake.

I wanted to engage with the people, speak to them, smile in their direction, and listen to their various accents. I wanted to immerse myself in Chicago culture because, though American, each city, town, and state possesses their own characteristics. There’s a cadence or drawl in their speech, a body language, a mannerism unlike their neighbors. It’s truly fascinating and one of the best ways to connect with that is on foot.

National Museum of Mexican Art Day of the Dead artistry
National Museum of Mexican Art Day of the Dead artistry

Self-Guided Walking Tour of Chicago of Marathon Proportions

Walking over a marathon in a long weekend has the ability to deliver repeated scenes – like fountains in Kansas City or “Fuck Trump” spray-painted on garbage bins. One such scene in Chicago was smashed pizza on sidewalks with its lonely to-go box a couple of feet away. I had to imagine the scenario – what prompted the eater to decide the ground was better suited for their two a.m. slice of Chicago deep dish? Did a fight ensue? Was it simply not delicious like the vegetarian one I had at Labriola’s? The possibilities were endless.

Mural in Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood by Mexican American artist, Hector
Mural in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood by Mexican American artist, Hector Duarte

Walking a city’s streets enables the traveler to fully immerse himself or herself into the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that are unique to that particular locale. Chicago was truly my oyster! If I wanted to see the mural on the other side of the road, I didn’t have to make a U-turn or see it whiz by while aboard a speeding train. I could simply cross at the cross walk. If I wanted to smell some flowers in a park garden, I didn’t have to find parking. I didn’t have to pay for that parking in order to do so. Exploring Chicago on foot emboldened my imagination and recalled my past, as a much needed reflection.

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