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LGBT Chicago History on the 1893 World’s Fair Walking Tour – June 13

Explore how gay and lesbian Chicagoans met and made their voices heard in the Gilded Age.

For this special LGBT Chicago history tour, you will hear stories of gay and lesbian history from the 19th-century buildings we visit on the 1893 World’s Fair Tour. The tour digs into how and why the World’s Columbian Exposition still captures imaginations more than 125 years later, while illuminating the LGBT history of Chicago. 


On this LGBT Chicago history tour, you’ll venture into beautiful architectural spaces from the era of the 1893 World’s Fair. While the main focus of the tour is the 1893 World’s Fair, this version is a special event for Pride Month. As you learn about the fair’s impact on Chicago, your tour guide will also share the stories of some gay and lesbian men and women from turn-of-the-20th-century Chicago. Several of the buildings on the tour have strong connections to both the World’s Fair and LGBT Chicago history, which your tour guide will describe throughout this 2.5-hour tour.

Along with guide commentary, your professional tour guide will use shared iPads to show you archival images that illuminate the World’s Fair. In addition, we’ll highlight the ways in which gay and lesbian Chicagoans met and made their voices heard at some of these historic locations, like the Fine Arts Building and the Chicago Athletic Association. While this won’t be a comprehensive LGBT history tour, we wanted to shine a light on this under-appreciated aspect of the past.

This downtown Chicago walking tour visits some of the few beautiful downtown buildings that still remain from the time of the 1893 World’s Fair. Beyond just looking at buildings from outside, our mostly indoor walking tour sees the beauty of architectural details within. You will play a few thoughtfully designed interactive games, like visual scavenger hunts to really connect with the history of the World’s Fair. Plus, we’ll stop for a round of drinks at one of the oldest bars in downtown Chicago.

You can think of this 2.5-hour-long Chicago history walking tour as being 10% outdoors, 75% indoors, 20% clue-based games and visual scavenger hunts, 15% LGBT history, 10% drinking time, and 100% awesome historical tour time. We know the math doesn’t add up – we hope you get the idea!

This LGBT-themed Chicago History tour will be led by Chicago Detours tour guide Marie. She studied gender and sexuality in Chicago history at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s doctoral program. She developed the queer history content for this tour by drawing on the work of Gregory Sprague, Sukie St. De La Croix, Tracy Baim, Jennie Brier & Jill Austin.


Who wants to listen to a volunteer tour docent rambling a bunch of memorized facts and figures? Not us! Our professional tour guides are highly trained, smart, fun and passionate about Chicago history and architecture.

Now celebrating our 10th anniversary, Chicago Detours is one of few tour companies with five-stars on Yelp and TripAdvisor, and was a finalist for Chicago Reader’s “Best Tour” in 2019. Many of our Chicago architecture walking tours integrate historic bars, food, and music history. We hope you’ll join us to explore stories and places locals don’t even know, both downtown and in Chicago neighborhoods!

Got a time conflict? You can always sign up for the regularly-scheduled 1893 World’s Fair Tour.

This Chicago architecture tour is also available as a private tour, great for families or as a corporate team-building event.


2.5 Hours


.9 Miles



  • Days & Times

  • Saturday, June 13


  • View colorful mosaics in a hotel built for the 1893 World’s Fair
  • Enjoy a German-style lager in a century-old historic bar
  • Ride one of the downtown's last human-operated elevators
  • Discover a secret building hidden in an alley
  • See the Monadnock Building, a landmark early skyscraper
  • Step into the opulent Chicago Athletic Association, once an exclusive men’s club

Stories & Ideas

  • Gay and lesbian Chicago history at the turn of the century
  • The 1893 Fair’s array of foods and even food sculpture
  • Parlor songs of the past
  • The roots of consumer culture and advertising
  • Amusements on the Midway at the 1893 World’s Fair

Tour Includes

  • Professional tour guide commentary
  • Shared iPads with historic photos
  • Light snack
  • Game prizes and gifts

Reservation Does Not Include:

  • Drinks: At the tour meeting spot, we welcome you to get a drink at the bar before check-in. To streamline the tour, we take your order and cash for your second drink at check-in ($8 for beer, $10 for wine, includes gratuity). Our tour ends inside a building with several drinking options for after the tour.
  • Tour guide gratuity: Not included.
  • Dietary restrictions: One tiny snack is included. It is vegetarian and gluten-free. If you have other food restrictions, we have no substitutions.

Tour Location

Walking tour begins inside the main lobby, Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S Michigan
We end inside the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Ave.

Book Now


Call: 312.350.1131
E-Mail: [email protected]