City to Launch a Series of Saturday Tours of Neighborhoods

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BY JORGE SIDRON

Reed Travel Features

CHICAGO -- This city's visitors -- and even some of its residents -- often miss out on what makes Chicago special: its diverse neighborhoods.

Showing off Chicago's myriad neighborhoods is the goal of a new series of weekly excursions scheduled to begin May 17.

Departing from the Chicago Cultural Center on 78 East Washington St. every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the bus tours will visit a different neighborhood each week, with representatives from each com-munity serving as greeters and guides.

The three-and-a-half-hour narrated tours, priced at $25 per person, promise an in-depth look at the traditions, people and places that make Chicago the so-called city of neighborhoods.

"Not only is this a remarkable opportunity for people to experience the history and character that has evolved in Chicago's neighborhoods; it is also a way to extend the reach of tourism's economic impact into the many communities that make up this city," said Lois Weisberg, commissioner, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

The weekly tours are part of Cultural Chicago, a three-year, $6 million marketing campaign launched this month to promote Chicago's cultural attractions.

According to the Chicago Office of Tourism, attending a cultural attraction was the most popular leisure activity for the more than 26 million visitors to Chicago in 1995.

"Travel trends indicate that there is a high demand for these kinds of ethnic tours," said Jim Law, director of the Chicago Office of Tourism.

The May 17 excursion will visit the South Shore and Greater Grand Crossing communities.

Once a sandy marsh, these areas of Chicago were home to German, Irish, Scandinavian and Polish communities before World War I.

After the war, African-Americans moved to these neighborhoods from the South to work in the steel mills and stockyards.

Stops on the tour will include, among other things, a look at the New Regal Theater and a visit to the ETA Creative Arts Foundation.

Subsequent tours in the series will explore Uptown, Chinatown, Pilsen, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Prairie Avenue, West Town, Andersonville, Devon Avenue and the West Side.

Each tour will include visits to museums, restaurants and shops.

In addition to the weekly tours, customized group tours with lunch and dinner will be available by pre-arrangement.

For additional information or a schedule of tours, call the Chicago Office of Tourism at (312) 744-2400.

The state tourism bureau plans to create a homepage for the Cultural Chicago campaign on its Web site, which can be found at www.enjoyillinois.com.

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