- Series: Walking
- Paperback: 264 pages
- Publisher: Wilderness Press; 1 edition (September 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0899974163
- ISBN-13: 978-0899974163
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Walking Chicago: 31 Tours of the Windy City's Classic Bars, Scandalous Sites, Historic Architecture, Dynamic Neighborhoods Paperback – September 15, 2008
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About the Author
Ryan Ver Berkmoes has written more than 40 books, including The Official Chicago Bar Guide and the first edition of Lonely Planet's Chicago guidebook.
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Based on her close perspective in her Brooklyn walks, I downloaded "Walking Chicago" (by a different author, I should clarify) onto my Kindle for a free day on a business trip. Staying in a downtown hotel above the river, I chose two walks for one day that were doable. I did a walk combining the Gold Coast and Old Town, and I also did one combining the Loop and a small section called Printer's Row.
I was impressed with what I saw on the Gold Coast/Old Town tour, it provided a lot of variety... but I couldn't help but feel that there were a lot of details and architectural insights which were being omitted. (I was wondering if I shouldn't have tried buying something like an American Institute of Architecture guide to complement.) And as another reviewer mentioned, there were some inaccuracies in directions and names, as well as verbs I was unfamiliar with (twice I was told to take a "jog;" should I trot off through the park to find the street whose sign I couldn't see?) I also couldn't help but wonder if the Gold Coast portion couldn't have been longer: the two neighborhood walk, together, was only two to three miles long. But all in all it helped me through a neighborhood I really wouldn't have known how to tour otherwise, so kudos.
The tour through the loop was pretty good at covering the basics I knew from prior visits, and while it did meander, I thought that was part of the point, enabling me to see a wide variety of special buildings. And a lot of the buildings which a tourist such as me SHOULD see.
I should also add, I was surprised at one effort at humor. In describing failed building projects at one site in the loop, a snarky comparison was made to failed rebuilding efforts in the recent Iraq war. I thought this was surprisingly out of place, even if you agree with the point.
Long and short, I haven't done enough of the walks in this book to be committed to it. I've already seen some pluses and minuses though, and unlike "Walking Brooklyn," I don't think this is for the resident; I think it's more for the tourist. I really don't believe that a resident would need this book to spark their interest in visiting Oak Park, for instance.
UPDATE, 2013: This served my wife and me very well on a second trip. We did three or four walks out of it and really appreciated its details. But one failure was in the Pullman walk, which is centered on the neighborhood surrounding the old Pullman rail car factory. For this one walk it was kind of a critical fail. That chapter should have led with "Do some advance planning for this walk. Call the local historical society and find out when they tour the factory." We enjoyed the walk without an abandoned factory tour, but had we known in advance to go there when we could tour the factory, I kid you not we would have rearranged our visit's schedules to do so. But if you read this, don't let it dissuade you from buying the book, just make this mental footnote if you want to do this walk.
It has 31 tours, more than a typical visitor can do in a few days, but does not offer effective ways to prioritize/connect. The walks are poorly indexed (yes, they are numbered from South to North and there is a "per theme" index, and a minimalistic "connecting walks" line at the end of each tour, but that is all).
I've tried to use 5 different tours during a short first time visit and not once I finished the walk as recommended (because the routes are not efficient in covering the interesting parts of the city).
There are enough typos and mistakes (swapping "right" for "left" and "51st St" for "55th St" - try to follow the Washington Park or Hyde Park tours, for example) sprinkled all over. Not a big deal in a regular guide, but crucial in a walking tour.
Try to walk half mile across Washington Park "in the Southeast direction", without any reference and a bad map and end up exactly where the tour picks up on the other side (where the book assumes you are at a very exact place, but you have no idea where it is).
The access/transit info is mostly correct, but minimalistic enough to be useless.
Even when the author is "witty", it is at the expense of function. Millennium Park is one of the most touristy places in Chicago (no need for directions) but he spends several pages making up names for the landmarks and mixing real and "funny" names. What does the reader win in exchange for the confusion? Viagra fountain jokes. Then, in the same walk, crossing Grant Park, when there is opportunity for a guide book to add real value, the text is vague and sparse.
I don't mean to say it is all garbage. But the purpose of a walking tour book is to be read while you use it walking the city. For that purpose, in a city as easy to walk as Chicago, you would be better off with regular travel book and common sense than trying to follow the tours in this book.