Services for Groups

Donate! Click here for details.Brainsnack HomeAbout Brainsnack ToursContact usLinksOur servicesBrain snacks: you are here

Coach and Vehicle Tours: Specialty Tours, Duration, and Descriptions

HANDCRAFTED CHICAGO HIGHLIGHTS TOUR | Duration: variable; you tell us, whatever floats your boat!
Just tell us where you want to start and finish, what you want to see (or what sort of interests you have), and how long you want your tour to last; and we will create a tour specific to your needs and wants.
CHICAGO CINEMA TOUR | Duration: 2-4 hours

Take a trip though “Cinematic Chicago” past and present with CTPA certified tour guide Michael Corcoran who co-authored the book on Chicago and the movies, Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition.

Michael describes Chicago’s pivotal role in the emerging film industry of the early 1900’s; shows numerous buildings and locations where favorite Chicago films were shot [such as The Untouchables, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Negotiator, Soul Food, Return To Me, Stranger Than Fiction, The Weather Man, Wanted, The Lake House, Public Enemies, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight]; shares behind-the-scenes stories about the making of various films and other insights gleaned from the series of exclusive interviews he conducted for the book project and for his companion website,

In addition, Michael’s experiences as a writer, actor, industrial film crew worker, and professional stand-up comic provide him with a unique inside perspective on the Windy City film and art scene, which he shares with keen insight and humor. He also weaves his knowledge of Chicago’s incredible architecture and colorful history into the tapestry, creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for movie lovers of any age or background. And Michael's book Hollywood on Lake Michigan, 2nd edition, is now available for pre-order!

$175 for the 2 Hour Version, $225 for 3-4 Hours (Personal Tours and 2 Hour Walking Versions also available at prices TBD).
COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY TOUR | Duration: 1-5 hours depending on number of schools

A study was done recently to determine the largest college town in Illinois. The winner—The Loop area of downtown Chicago, with a combined university population of over 40,000! This may have surprised some, but Chicago residents are well aware of the dozens of fine schools located throughout the area.

Whether you’re the family of a high school student looking to scout out a place to attend, a professor or administrator thinking about moving to a more cosmopolitan “blue state” atmosphere, or just someone who enjoys the unique architecture and cool vibe that only a campus can provide, Michael can design a tour specific to your desires. From the gothic spires of University of Chicago down south in Hyde Park, through the Mies van der Rohe designed Illinois Institute of Technology buildings, all the way north to Northwestern University’s main campus in Evanston (or even farther afield if you have something in mind), Michael details the history, architecture, and claims to fame of Chicago’s many colleges.


The enormous undertaking of the World's Columbian Exposition was Chicago's proof to the world that it had recovered from the Great Fire. The defining event in 1890's America, the Exposition has recently been brought into the public's awareness through the best-selling book Devil in the White City.

This tour begins downtown at The Rookery building, where legendary architect and chief exposition planner Daniel Burnham had his offices. A brief circuit through the "Loop" area highlights some of Burnham's masterpieces, as well as a few of Louis Sullivan's brilliant designs. After passing Jane Addam's Hull House and the place where Mrs. O'Leary's barn ignited and began the Great Fire, we swing through the area where the notorious "Levee" vice district existed (an area almost as popular to visitors at the time as the Exposition itself) and then through the elegant Prairie Avenue Historic District, where Chicago's wealthiest citizens dwelled-circa 1893.

Then it's on to Jackson Park, the location of the actual Exposition grounds, and down the Midway Plaisance (where the term originated) to Washington Park and Lorado Taft's spectacular "Fountain of Time." The tour ends at the magnificent Museum of Science and Industry, which served as the Palace of Fine Arts for the Fair.


This is the big daddy of them all! This intensive and fascinating "Masters Thesis on a Bus" provides an insight into virtually every significant ethnic group to emigrate to Chicago, and into the essence of the immigrant experience in America.

The tour begins downtown where Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable built the first permanent non-Native American dwellings in the Chicago area. We then head southwest as Michael describes the mixed French/Indian/Anglo society that characterized earliest Chicago before the city was incorporated (and the population exploded from 3,000 to over 1 million in less than 60 years). Starting with the first of the "Great Numbers"—the Irish, Germans, Czechs, Poles and Italians—Michael discusses Chicago's role as a haven for the persecuted and oppressed and how the particular circumstances of each ethnic group effected how they assimilated into American society and moved up the economic ladder.

Learn how the Jewish experience in Chicago varied widely between different Jewish immigrants (e.g., Urban Secular German Jews vs. Rural Orthodox Russian Jews) as we pass through the remnants of the Maxwell Street area and how tensions between subsets of ethnic groups influenced settlement patterns in the city. Immigrants both past and present are highlighted as the tour continues through Pilsen (a 19th & early 20th Century Czech enclave that is now the main port of entry for the city's Mexican community), Chinatown, Bridgeport (the first Irish neighborhood), Bronzeville (the legendary African-American community), Kenwood and Hyde Park.

Then it's up to the North Side (after a brief leg stretching and skyline viewing at the Museum Campus) for a tour of more recent immigrant communities: the Southeast Asian enclave of Argyle Street, the Indian/Pakistani community along Devon Avenue, the immigrant Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Rogers Park, and the vibrant Korean/Arab/Central and South American/Eastern European polyglot that is Albany Park. The tour continues through Lincoln Square, an historically German area whose population is in transition and heads back downtown through areas where several ethnic communities were and are being displaced by that most powerful and disruptive urban immigrant of all, the "American Yuppie."

Time: Approximately 4 hours (perhaps a little more, but I only charge for 4).

SEMI-DELUXE ETHNIC CHICAGO TOUR | Duration: Variable; you decide
We can trim the Deluxe tour to suit your needs. Interested in a particular ethnic group or have a side of the city you'd rather see? Don't have enough time for the full-shebang? Just let us know and we can craft the size and shape tour you desire.

The abandoned (and working) steel mills, factories, chemical plants, rail yards, ports and refineries of the far south side, while ominous and forbidding, possess a stark and haunting beauty. Although the area has a justified reputation for its sprawling industrial wasteland, it also contains places of startling natural beauty. Wolf Lake is the site of Chicago’s only State Park (William W. Powers State Fish and Wildlife Area) and there are several other forest preserves, lakes and natural areas nestled within the smokestacks and warehouses. This tour will wind its way through the vast contrasts that comprise the far south and south-east section of Chicago (and bits of Northwest Indiana) as Michael details the history of the region and describes the changes that the area is undergoing as developers and civic groups attempt to reclaim and to heal what was/is some of the most polluted land in the US. Whether you’re a photographer with an affinity for industrial landscapes (and natural ones) or just looking to learn more about an overlooked yet fascinating part of Chicago’s history and present, this tour will provide an eye-opening and entertaining excursion.

Time: 2-5 Hours.
ODD CHICAGO | Duration: 2-4 hours

Even before it was a city, Chicago was a home for rebels, oddballs and nonconformists. Some examples:

  • Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, a gangly fur trader who once walked 70 miles in one day and undoubtedly earned the name given him by the local Indians of "Swift Walker"
  • Circus promoter George Wellington Streeter, who beached his schooner near the shore of Lake Michigan, began living on it, charged builders to dump dirt and refuse around it, then claimed the resultant land as his own

Michael recounts tales of Chicago's mad dreamers and crackpot schemers while pointing out the locations where their colorful and madcap deeds occurred. Hear the stories of the most eccentric citizens of a city that prides itself on its eccentricity—told by an actual eccentric Chicagoan (who prides himself on his eccentricity).

Time: Approximately 2 hours, more or less, depending on how odd you want to be, but this is a pretty odd town.

TRAGIC CHICAGO TOUR | Duration: 2-4 Hours

Chicago has always had a unique relationship with catastrophe. Even before the Great Fire of 1871, the city had been no stranger to disaster. The Fort Dearborn massacre consecrated the area in blood before the city even existed. And after the Great Fire; the Eastland Disaster, Iroquois Theater Fire, and Our Lady of Angels Fire continued a tradition of horrible tragedies that spawned nationwide changes in laws and regulations. Michael even recounts some of Chicago’s more obscure calamities; such as in 1919, when a blimp caught fire over the downtown and crashed through the atrium of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank in the middle of a July afternoon, showing Chicago the dark side of the dirigible before the world even knew the name Hindenburg. The tour also passes the scenes of more contemporary misfortunes such as the Cook County Administration Building and the former E2 Nightclub. From the Loop to the surrounding neighborhoods, we’ll see the sites of some of the most tragic events in human history. A delightfully macabre tour that is perfect for a Halloween outing or for a group whose minds just ain’t right.

Time: 2-4 Hours, Depending on how tragic you want to be (even longer if you’re really twisted).


From the Pullman Strike to the Haymarket Riot, Chicago was at the center of the bitter, protracted, and often bloody struggles that marked the beginning of the modern Labor Movement. Haymarket Square, the gates of the Stockyards, the Pullman District, the grounds of the Columbian Exposition (Daniel Burnham's agreement with Exposition carpenters and steelworkers became the standard by which subsequent Union contracts were based), and "Bughouse Square" (the legendary park where radicals, anarchists, leftists, bohemians, freethinkers and just good old-fashioned crackpots would stand atop soapboxes and speak to the issues of the day) are all included. Plus, for hard-core scholars and lefties, you tell us what you want to see and we'll work it out.

Time: 2-4 hours. Perhaps longer depending on how much you want to see. Don't try to pin me down, I'm not some tool of The Man or a damn machine, man!


Constituting the dark underbelly of America’s promise of the “melting pot” society, ethnic strife and racial turmoil have long been part of the fabric of Chicago. But it was only when the great black migration brought tens of thousands of rural southern blacks to Chicago that the city gained a worldwide reputation for intolerance and racism. Michael traces the story of the black migration, starting with the points of entry at the railroad stations and moving on to the small area known as the “Black Belt.” After visiting the beach where the incident that sparked the Race Riot of 1919 occurred, we visit the neighborhoods on the edge of the Black Belt where the need for more black housing clashed with the forces of racial intolerance, creating the fuel for the conflagration. As we travel through what is now one of the largest black communities in America, learn how unethical real estate agents engaged in “panic peddling” and “blockbusting,” making fortunes simultaneously from white fear and ignorance, and from black desperation and hope. Continuing south, we visit sites where hate and fear flared into open violence throughout the 20th Century: Englewood, Rainbow Beach, Calumet Park, and Trumbull Park Homes. The route swings back north into Cicero, site of bloody riots which received television coverage and worldwide scorn in 1951.

This is a serious tour meant for Sociologists, Historians and Public Policy Makers and is not for the faint of heart. It is definitely not a “tourist” tour, but is more of a non-fiction performance piece which uses the locations of described events as its backdrop and medium. Keep in mind also that the route encompasses several distressed communities which are unused to and often resentful of outsiders, therefore making a typical “coach bus” tour inappropriate and inadvisable. I envision this tour as one for a group of no more than 6-8 in a nondescript passenger van or similar vehicle.

This piece (I hesitate to even call it a tour) is an outgrowth of an intensive research project which I undertook for a class at DePaul University and is not intended to be either sensationalistic or an indictment of the city or any group of people. It is my belief that only through the study of what really happened in terms of racial and ethnic strife in our history can we truly understand the underpinnings of our present situation and face it effectively. If you believe this as well, and have read such texts as The Slum and the Ghetto, Making the Second Ghetto, The Social Order of The Slum, Black Metropolis, Black Chicago, Race Riot and wish to see the places where the events described therein actually happened, then this tour might be for you.

Time and price to be determined upon ordering.

Motor coach/Vehicle Rates

Base Rate: $125 for 1 hour, + $25 per each additional hour (or portion of an hour) unless otherwise noted.

Page last updated: 4 July 2009


Site and images © 2004-2012 Michael & Kate Corcoran, some rights reserved.
Home | About | Contact | Links | Services | Snacks