World Class Chicago

This post is part of The Heart of Chicago Series that will be running on South of I-80 for the month of March. I am so excited to bring you this this post by travel expert Colleen Kelly of Family Travel with Colleen Kelly. She has been all over the world and still is going to tell us why Chicago is World Class.

World Class Chicago by Colleen Kelly

I’ve been fortunate over the past eight years to live out my dream of developing informational television programming. First, I worked with my sister, Catie Keogh, to create “24/7 City Secrets,” a weekly NBC5 Chicago show. Then a few years ago, I partnered with producer and friend Tricia Fusilero to develop a national show devoted to helping families plan unforgettable vacations.

Making this show a reality has been a long, sometimes challenging road, but the journey has been so worth it. I’ve had adventures in many must-see destinations throughout the U.S. and abroad, and I’ve met smart, creative people who have helped make everything come together. The end result: Family Travel with Colleen Kelly is a show that, I believe, shares great travel ideas and helps families plan vacations filled with once-in-a-lifetime memories. I’m truly proud of how far we’ve come.

When we were developing the idea of the show, one of the first things on our endless to-do list was deciding which destinations to approach about being featured in an episode. For me, one part of that decision was easy: CHICAGO! I just knew we had to do a show about Chicago, and not only because it’s my hometown, but in my humble opinion one of the best travel destinations in the world. I’ve traveled extensively, and I’ve always thought Chicago stands out as one of the top places for family-friendly fun. As a mom and frequent traveler, I’m all about family friendly!


Photo courtesy of Colleen Kelly

"24/7" provided an insider's view of all that Chicago has to offer, and I was able to become familiar with many of these great places. I had a list a mile long of the attractions I hoped to feature in our Chicago episode. I think that what we ended up with gives viewers who plan to travel with kids the perfect snapshot of our city which is a rich variety of attractions and activities for all ages, from the iconic to the largely unknown.

What is largely unknown about Chicago is the Chicago Greeter program. One of my favorite things about working on this show is that I’m always learning something new, even about my own city. It turns out this wonderful program matches visitors with locals who give tours of the city’s diverse neighborhoods. The 200 Chicagoans who volunteer to be greeters have a passion for the city and are eager to share their expertise with families. What a cool idea! Each tour with a Chicago Greeter can be customized based on the visitor’s interests and language.


Photo courtesy of wikimedia

On the show, we featured the Andersonville neighborhood, and a Chicago Greeter gave a visiting family a tour of this classic enclave with Swedish roots. He provided context that the family never would have gotten if they simply walked around the area on their own. It turns out there are greeter programs in New York and Houston, as well as places like China, France, Germany, Greece and Vietnam. Who knew?! I highly recommend using a greeter if you travel to a new place where these services are offered.

In addition to the Andersonville tour, our Chicago episode featured Willis Tower (of course!), Navy Pier, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Emerald City Theatre, shopping on the Mag Mile, Gino's East, Millennium Park, the Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium and a behind-the-scenes tour of Wrigley Field. Whew! Yes, we were exhausted after covering so much ground in 30 minutes.

As we closed the show, I had a quintessential Chicago experience . I took a nighttime cruise along the Chicago River. It was so peaceful, even with a camera in my face and TV crew surrounding me! Chicago's skyline is always a work of art, but especially when viewed at night from the water.

Photo courtesy of wikimedia

Photo courtesy of wikimedia

Those of us who live in Chicago (or nearby) can be pleased to know that our city is increasingly called "world class." Chicago has earned this distinction. Consider this statistic: there was a 14 percent increase in international visitors last year, improving Chicago's nationwide rank to No. 9 (according to the U.S. Department of Commerce).

I'm proud to call Chicago home, and I was especially proud to make it part of my new show and give viewers across the country a feel for the heart of our magical city.

To watch the Chicago episode of "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly," as well as other episodes, visit


Colleen Kelly is the host, co-creator and Emmy-nominated executive producer of American Public Television series "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly," which airs in nearly 90 percent of the country. It is written and produced by Travel Film Productions, LLC, a Chicago-based, multi-media production company specializing in travel-based programming for television. As a parent, travel writer and seasoned traveler, Colleen grew up exploring the world. She has experienced the United States from coast-to-coast and has explored more than 25 international countries. Her vast knowledge of travel brought her to realize a need for a new kind of travel experience and focus -- one that is centered around the family. Colleen also is the Emmy-nominated executive producer, co-creator, travel expert and correspondent for NBC Chicago’s successful "24/7 Secrets of the City" series, which has won three Emmys and been nominated eight times. She is the featured travel expert for "You & Me This Morning" on WCIU-TV in Chicago. Colleen is a national speaker for the Travel & Adventure Show, the largest travel convention in the U.S., a Family Travel Ambassador and featured speaker for the State of Illinois Office of Tourism, and a freelance travel journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Colleen is available to share her travel expertise via satellite media tours.
Colleen lives in Chicago with her husband, two young daughters and, adding more to her already full plate, a new puppy.



If you liked this post, you may also like: Chicago TriviaMy American Dream, My Chicago,  Sweet Home Chicago as Told by a Southern Californian, or The Bonds of Chicago are Unbreakable.

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