I know that as an editor at a travel magazine I really should have more refined tastes. But secretly, I’ve always wanted to ride a Segway around a city. Whenever happy tourists have whizzed past me in D.C. or San Francisco, I’ve been a little jealous, but my travel companions are generally of the type who would rather walk barefoot on burning asphalt than be caught dead on the funny-looking two-wheeled contraptions.
So perhaps it was fate that led a Segway tour guide to zip past me near Millennium Park in Chicago a few weeks ago... when I was wandering around aimlessly, looking for something fun and different to do, and was actually alone for once! Without hesitation I dialed the number on the back of his T-shirt and learned that an afternoon tour was going to begin in half an hour. Unencumbered by too-cool travel buddies, I ran over to the Bike and Roll Chicago stand on Randolph Street to sign up.
After a few important questions (“Am I going to die?” “How safe are these things?” “Can I back out at any time?” “Are you sure I’m not going to die?”—I’m a little bit of a fraidycat), I donned a flowered helmet (I was beginning to see why my friends are prone to mocking this activity) and joined a group of a dozen other aspiring Segway-ers in Grant Park for a lesson with two tour guides.
I got the hang of it far quicker than I’d expected, and before I knew it I was zipping along myself at breakneck maximum speeds (a whopping 12 mph) past Buckingham Fountain, Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and all along the waterfront. The highlight was a peaceful, uninterrupted 10-minute glide through Northerly Island, with its gorgeous scenery. All along the way, our awesome guides gave us tidbits of Chicago history and fun factoids (Northerly Island’s beautiful parkland was once the site of an airport—who would have guessed?). It’s not a comprehensive enough tour for people just getting to know Chicago, but for those of us who have been many times and are looking for a new adventure, it was perfect.
So while it might not be the most sophisticated way to explore a city, it is fun, and different. On a beautiful day in a beautiful place, there’s nothing like the feeling of the wind in your helmet.
Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @BySarahKhan.