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This Chicagoan Wants To Give You A Tour Of The City’s Christmas Traditions

Tour guide Mike McMains is hosting both in-person and virtual tours of Chicago's best holiday traditions.

Mike McMains hopes to be the Santa Claus of Chicago tour guides.
Mike McMains
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DOWNTOWN — A Chicagoan who takes people on tours of the city’s ugliest buildings and underground to check out its many rats has a new project: spreading Christmas cheer.

Mike McMains, who operates Tours With Mike, hopes to bring the city’s most unique Christmas traditions to all those who can’t celebrate in-person.

The tour guide is organizing free virtual tours of five festive hubs: the Marshall Field and Company Building, Lincoln Park Zoolights, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, Christkindlmarket and the Riverwalk’s lights and “The Nutcracker” performances.

Each virtual tour will have at least two time slots around the holidays and are bookable online. McMains said he’ll also do private Christmas tours for companies.

Chicago is known for its Christmas innovations, McMains said. The Marshall Field building was the first to have a holiday window, with its famous State Street display. Marshall Field’s retail magnate, Harry Selfridge, is said to have invented the Christmas shopping season with his countdown-to-Christmas sales, McMains said.

McMains said his tour business, which he operates solo, has taken off because of its unique offerings — and he’s ready to “go all out for Christmas.”

“I want to give everyone a chance to participate in Chicago’s wonderful Christmas traditions,” McMains said. “The holidays are a unifying experience for Chicago, it brings people together, and that’s something I really love about it.”

Credit: Mike McMains
Christmas digs at the Marquette Building, 140 S. Dearborn St., are a stop on Mike McMains’ “Incredible Interiors” walking tour.

McMains will also host in-person Incredible Interiors holiday tours, which will take people through historical buildings — built between the 1880s and 1930s — that get decked out for Christmas, including the Marshall Field building, Chicago Cultural Center, Marquette Building and the Palmer House, “which usually has a Christmas tree that reaches through the second floor,” he said.

Incredible Interiors walking tours are $30 per ticket and can be booked online.

For those you can’t get enough of city rats, McMains is still running those tours, too.

“This my dream job,” McMains said. “It’s been really exciting to innovate with the tours. It’s my solo company, so I got to be pretty scrappy. But I just love showing my city to people around the world.”

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