Absolutely Segway Tours - a great way to see the sights of Chicago
Okay, I was a little reluctant. I mean, we've all see those people rolling about various cities on those silly-looking Segways. And, let's face it, they look like mall cops.
But, at the same time, they look kinda cool, right? I mean, we might not ever make it to the Jetsons but a Segway is at least in the same area code; all futuristic and such.
So, yeah, I had mixed emotions when the folks at Choose Chicago, the city's tourism board, suggested my wife, Barbara, and I take a two-hour tour through Millenium Park and environs the other day.
We started with a safety video that's mandated by government, and it was hilarious. There were illustrations on how to step on and off (probably the trickiest part), but the funniest bits were the stick figures that tried rolling down hills as steep as the CN Tower, only to fall off and smack their pointy little heads on the pavement. Ditto for the numbskulls who attempted to ride sets of stairs.
I think all of us in our group were smart enough (barely) to understand that these things aren't meant for the Spanish Steps or Lombard St., but it's a good safety lesson.
After the video, we took turns getting one-on-one lessons from Brittany, our wonderful and enthusiastic tour guide.
A Segway isn't even remotely hard to handle. The balance bit looks tricky but it's not hard at all. To go forward, you simply lean forward towards the handlebar/stick. To stop/slow down, you lean back. Dead easy. Turning is also simple and these things can spin on a dime.
Top speed is maybe eight miles an hour. Which doesn't seem like much but it's enough to breeze past joggers, and you can cover a lot distance in a short time. Like, oh, eight miles in an hour or something.
We started out at the north end of Millenium Park and checked out the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion, with its cool, Frank Gehry design and multitude of overhead speakers for outdoor concerts. We then zipped past Cloud Gate, the mirror sculpture known as The Bean, and down past the wonderful Art Institute of Chicago. More on that later, but suffice to say it's a hugely surprising and absolutely marvellous museum; hands down the best I've seen anywhere outside of the Louvre.
From there we trekked down Michigan Avenue, past the gorgeous, old hotels and office buildings, to check out the rose gardens and the giant spray of water at Buckingham Fountain. Then it was down through the Museum Campus, that wonderful collection of public installations that includes the Field Museum of Natural History (see photo above), the renowned Shedd Aquarium (hugely popular, so go early if you want to visit) and the Adler Planetarium. All the buildings are in newly renovated park spaces with luscious lawns and greenery and awesome views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline (see photo at left).
Owing to some far-sighted city fathers, Chicago has something like a 30-mile beachfront with hardly a condo in sight. It's outstanding, but also kinda depressing for someone who works at 1 Yonge St. and looks out at a series of waterfront condos that shut Torontonians off from Lake Ontario...
Anyway, we zipped back in no time. My wife was probably more reluctant to try the Segway than I was. But last time I saw her, she was far ahead of me up near Millenium Park, moving at a fast clip and practising her ski moves by swaying back and forth on the pathway as if tackling moguls at Whistler.
So thanks to Timmie and Brittany (I hope I spelled that right) at Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours. You can find them online at www.ChicagoSegways.com or by calling 312-552-5100. Their offices are a touch hard to find but they're at 337 E. Randolph St. Look for the bright orange signs on Randolph and you'll be fine.
A two-hour Museum Campus Tour is just $60, and they run every day in season. They also do art and architecture tours, a fireworks tour, a haunted tour and a haunted/Halloween tour. All tours range from $60 to $65, and they'll also arrange private and corporate events.