Quick trips: Chicago

Where to sleep on your next stop in the Windy City


Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

I grew up in Chicago and still go there often. But since I’m visiting my family, I rarely stay in hotels.

Friends post on Facebook about their weekends at the historic Burnham or the boutique James, the bargain Days Inn or the glitzy Wit; it all sounds very “downtown” and exotic compared with my mom’s suburban townhouse.

Recently, overcome with envy — and “on assignment” — I booked rooms at three Chicago hotels, all opened within the last year. Each of these newcomers has its own style, price point and charm.

It was a hectic trip, what with changing hotels each day, but it turned out to be a great way to experience three distinct parts of the city — Lincoln Park, with few hotels; the east Loop, which is thick with ‘em, and the walkable River North district.


Vital stats: 1816 N. Clark St., at the bottom of the “V” where Clark and Lincoln converge, across the street from Lincoln Park and its famous zoo; 184 rooms. 312-254-4700; www.hotellincolnchicago.com.

Vibe: Retro, with a healthy splash of kitsch. Garage-sale paintings adorn a lobby stairwell, and Chicago-specific photos and art decorate the rooms.

Details: The lobby, which adjoins Elaine’s coffee shop and Perennial Virant, chef Paul Virant’s farm-to-table restaurant, makes an appealing hangout.

My 10th-floor room was small but nicely appointed, with zillion-thread-count white sheets, 27 pillows, flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi and comfy rolling office chair. Its single window overlooked Lincoln Park and the lake. A gorgeous Sunday afternoon lured me outside, where the hotel has free bikes for customer use.

Pocketbook issues: Total bill for one night in my single-king-bed room was $406, with no room service or minibar raiding. I’ve seen online offers at about half that rate, which is more in line with what it’s worth. At $406, it’s drastically overpriced, especially for a non-Loop location.


Vital stats: 221 N. Columbus Dr., just east of the Loop and south of the river in the massive Lakeshore East development above the old Illinois Central rail yards; 334 rooms. 312-565-5258; www.radissonblu.com/aquahotel-chicago.

Vibe: Spare and clean, with sizable splashes of elegance and contemporary design.

Details: Bribe someone to get yourself booked here for an expenses-paid convention. Or simply splurge for a couple of nights with your sweetie. It is the first Blu in North America; the second is set to open at the Mall of America in Minneapolis next March.

The hotel occupies the first 18 floors of an 82-floor apartment tower by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, one of the more beautiful tall buildings in a city with an outsized share of the world’s tall buildings. You will run down your camera’s battery shooting the wavy, shape-shifting balconies of the exterior from every angle and in every light.

A sleek blue-and-white check-in area at street level gives way to a giant bronze-and-gold fireplace lobby that doesn’t seem to fit with the hotel’s name, but which makes a lot of sense in a city with long, blustery winters.

My corner room had floor-to-ceiling windows and a walkout balcony with views of both the city and Navy Pier. Inside, the bare wood floors, blond built-in cabinets and giant, glassy, white bathroom made me think I was in a luxe condo in Copenhagen. You’ll need to fight the temptation to stay in your handsome room.

Hit the second and third floors for a fitness complex that includes indoor and outdoor swimming, a half-basketball court, sauna and steam rooms, locker rooms, cardio rooms and weights. A massive outdoor seating and walking area includes barbecue grills and windproof love nests. I did my morning run on the 1/5-mile cushioned outdoor track, with unmatched views of tall buildings and sun-struck Lake Michigan.

Pocketbook issues: Total bill for one night in a corner room with walkout balcony was $458, which included a lavish, so-worth-it, room-service breakfast priced at $26. For Chicago, this is an expensive option, but it’s a splurge you won’t regret.


Vital stats: 15 E. Ohio St., in River North, two blocks from the Magnificent Mile shopping district on Michigan Avenue; 130 rooms. 312-894-0800; www.acmehotelcompany.com.

Vibe: Funky, arty, with lava lamps in the lobby and logo bathrobes fit for the boxing ring.

Details: This old-building conversion was the least expensive of my three hotels, and it showed in things like an AmericInn-style breakfast and a “workout center” that was a cage in the basement with a vending machine nearby. My room, though small, had a comfy bed and was nicely decked out in the now-common “Ace-like” manner: masculine, industrial fixtures mashed up with retro lamps, midcentury office chair, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and non-corporate artwork. Location-wise, however, the Acme puts you in a very desirable and walkable area.

Pocketbook issues: Total bill for one night in a room with a king bed was $221, which included no extras.

Read more Quick Trips stories from the Miami Herald

Buffalo, the city that brought us hydraulic power, the grain elevator and spicy wings, has been undergoing a makeover.

    Quick trips: New York

    In Buffalo, an elevated feeling

    Ready for this one? It’s all in Buffalo.

Some of the best food in Puerto Rico can be bought from roadside vendors like this one selling pinchos (grilled meat kabobs) and empanadillas (fried meat turnovers) beneath a Flamboyan tree.

    Quick trips: Puerto Rico

    Surfing beckons visitors to Rincon

    When the World Surfing competition came to Puerto Rico in 1968, Rincon wasn’t even a dot on most maps of the island. But that November, competitive surfers from around the world descended on the tiny west coast town, along with film crews for ABC-TV’s Wide World of Sports, which was covering the sport for the first time.

Tallahassee is a rooted place with a sense of history, more genteel and dignified than any of the state’s other urban centers, and infinitely more Southern.

    Quick trips: Florida

    Visit Tallahassee for fine and funky food (and football)

    Boiled p-nuts. Sometimes “boiled” is spelled wrong, too. There are stands that dot the back roads of the rural Florida Panhandle, fronted by hand-lettered signs that tout the glories of the green peanut. The outskirts of Tallahassee are P-nut Central, the stands’ proprietors hunkered over burners at the back of rattletrap trucks in the hot sun. So you stop.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category