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I’ve always been a natural hostess, someone who jumps at any and every chance to entertain my family and friends.  Yet, whenever I have guests in town, I struggle with my role as a “tour guide,” wondering how to put Chicago on display without succumbing to the ever-popular, though quite cliché options of shopping on Michigan Ave., taking pictures in front of the Bean, or eating our way through the city (a city that, mind you, boasts some of the best restaurants in the world).

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s website, home to a ton of interactive tours, which have definitely become a go-to form of entertainment for my out-of-town guests.  From boats, to buses, to bikes, and beyond, the CAF provides an unparalleled insight into the city’s internationally renowned historic and modern architecture.  The best part?  The tours are all led by real Chicagoans, with real knowledge about the city (and some even include bars on board!) – you won’t find anything cheesy or boring here.

Like most citywide tour organizations, though, CAF docents tend to focus their efforts on teaching excited attendees about the exterior of Chicago’s buildings.  So, while gawking at skyscrapers, admiring innovative construction, and reveling in the historic landscape that has molded this city, I constantly find myself wondering, what’s inside of that building?  What does that iconic theater’s auditorium look it?  What makes up the interior of that enormous home?

Well, for its second year in row, the CAF is giving curious people like myself a sneak-peek into some of the city’s most exclusive spaces.  On October 13th and 14th, Open House Chicago (OHC) will expose over 150 buildings in the city – from repurposed mansions, to private clubs and secret rooms, to world famous hotels.  Even better?  It’s totally FREE!  That’s right – no fees or registration, AND no lines or leaders.   It’s a completely self-guided experience, allowing you to explore the city’s hidden gems at no cost and with no real restrictions.  What better way to spend the weekend?

So, grab a friend, venture out into some of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods, and enjoy the open house.

Kara Blasquez

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