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.
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.
RADISSON BLUE AQUA
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.