Five minutes after settling into my first hotel in Chicago, I posted this Facebook status:
Chicago > NYC
For the most part, the status went over swimmingly with tons of “I agree!” comments and 70+ likes by my friends and family. In my opinion, the Windy City doesn’t get quite the travel cred it should. It has everything a gal could want and makes for the perfect weekend with any of your favorite girlfriends – whether you’re there to go dancing and hit the clubs, venture into numerous sporting arenas, hit up a foodie lover’s ideal itinerary, or a shopper’s paradise – Chicago has it all. And then some.
Girl Getaway Night # 1 at the Hotel 71
Located an easy .2 miles off the orange line (walkable even with a suitcase), Hotel 71 was not only accessible, it was chic and fun and full of good service and vibes. It was the absolute perfect hotel to start our weekend trip off. The little touches inside Hotel 71 really set it apart from your standard chain hotel in the midst of a popular city.
The hotel was memorable and catered to any discerning traveler, especially two Texas gals looking to let loose in the city. Little things like the in-room Keurig’s, the rainfall shower-head, and the incredibly friendly staff (Brandon the Bellman was by far one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the industry) who went above and beyond to ensure we had the best possible experience. With a happening bar scene on any given night, a tasty menu and a great location to all that downtown Chicago has to offer, Hotel 71 is a great choice to lay your head for your next girls weekend in Chi-town, not to mention the rates are some of the best you’ll find in the city.
The view from our room captured all that you’d imagine should be captured in this great city. All the guestrooms have either a view of downtown Chicago or the infamous Chicago River complete with water taxis and barges. One of the biggest issues when traveling with a companion (especially girls who are notorious for over packing) is space, not only in the room but in the bathroom as well. Luckily the floor plan at Hotel 71 easily and comfortably accommodated two Texas gals (where everything including suitcases is in fact bigger) and the bathroom had plenty of share space. Another plus for a girl’s trip: the hotel boasts the rare full-length mirror.
Dinner: Table Fifty-Two
In a city as diverse as Chicago, it was a nice surprise to run into a quaint little restaurant located off Elm Street. Table Fifty-Two, a signature restaurant by Julie Latsko and Chef Art Smith (who used to be Oprah’s personal chef by the way), is the perfect place for a divine dinner before hitting the Chicago nightlife.
This fine destination of Southern hospitality features daily specials that make you want to come back every night just to sample them all and the Chef’s devotion to sticking to local and organic goods can be tasted in every last bite. Once seated you’re greeted with friendly service and one of their signature parmesan cheese biscuits, which is not a bad start to any meal. You can’t go wrong with the Pistachio-Crusted Chicken Breast or the Duck ConfitCassoulet for dinner (remember, us Texas girls love meaty entrees) and for dessert, try to talk Chef Rey into letting you have one of everything because the taste far outweighs the calories, pun intended. Table Fifty-Two can easily serve as a romantic date spot for any occasion as well as the beginning to a great girl’s night.
Tip: reservations highly recommended.
Going out: Chicago’s Old Town
Visiting a new city, it’s always hit or miss deciding which part of town to venture into on a Friday night. After asking a number of locals and hotel staff, all signs pointed to Old Town, so we decided to give it a whirl. We enjoyed the festive bar scene (with lots of boys in every direction) so much that we went back the next night.
Tip: Get to the bars early as the lines will be out the door and if you know Chicago cold, you don’t want to be stuck in it.
Girl Getaway Night #2 at the Acme Hotel
Located in another great part of downtown Chicago, Acme Hotel has a bright and fun vibe; it’s the perfect location (2 ½ blocks from the Magnificent Mile) for the trendier traveler. Again, you can’t beat the price, the location is about as perfect as you can get and the fun marketing touches throughout the property make it a truly unique and enjoyable experience. Love taking pictures while traveling just to brag to your friends? Then this is your spot. Each guest room has a chalkboard on the outside where you can leave a note (ours read GO TEXANS), which was a fun way to create your own little vibe inside an already awesome one. Talk about an irresistible challenge!
By all definitions far and wide, this is definitely a boutique hotel, or a hotel alternative as they call themselves. The hotel claims they will “blow your mind, not your budget,” which is exactly what they did. By booking directly, guests also enjoy an extra perk: Knocked and Dropped Breakfast at your door! The hotel also has a Morning Joe service next to the lobby, which offers complimentary coffee and pastries to enjoy before venturing out into the Windy City.
If you and the gals plan to do a bit of drinking, consider adding on the “Hair of the Dog” package, which includes 2 bottles of Powerade, two aspirin packets and a $10 certificate to MBurger for a juicy hangover cure to soak up all the remnants from the night before. After all, Chicago isn’t the kind of city you want to be holed up in your hotel room due to copious amounts of champagne, no matter how nice the room is.
Going Out: Public House
Not originally on our agenda, we were directed to the Public House, just a few blocks from Acme Hotel because friends of ours were partying there. A very fun vibe, loud music fit for dancing (or pretend karaoke) and strong drinks made this a great end to a fabulous Saturday night.
Tip: don’t let the line outside fool you, especially if you’re with a group of girls – the bouncers are very nice and will help make sure your entire party makes it inside without freezing to death.
Girl Getaway Night #3 at The Peninsula Chicago
Definitely the ritzier hotel of our trip, The Peninsula Chicago is proof as to why people put so much emphasis on “hotel stars” when booking. This Five Star, Five Diamond award-winning hotel’s service and amenities are second to none. If there is something you want, the staff at The Peninsula will find it and deliver it with a smile. That’s what they’re known for. Although the price point was considerably higher at this great Chicago hotel, guests are not only paying for a spectacular five-star room with plush amenities, but the service that goes the extra mile, which is well worth those extra pennies. It was a refreshing way to end our four-day trip in Chicago and really allowed us to live it up before heading back to Houston.
Voted “America’s Healthiest Hotel” by Health Magazine, The Peninsula offers over 30 complimentary fitness classes each week for hotel guests, including Power Yoga, Aqua Pilates, and Strength Training. It’s perks like these, right inside your hotel walls, that will convince me to book a room every single time.
When traveling so frequently, having easy and star-like fitness amenities to keep up your workout schedule are of utmost importance. The Peninsula also boasts a 25-metre heated indoor swimming pool with an outdoor sundeck overlooking the city, including the gorgeous views of Lake Michigan fit for a postcard. For the even more fit-friendly traveler, personal training classes are offered where instructors tailor the class and regime to fit your individual goals and help you stay on track.
Definitely a classy and Five Star worthy hotel, The Peninsula still had some fun things going on, like the hotel mascot which greeted us outside the revolving doors upon arrival.
Brunch at South Water Kitchen
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at a Kimpton Hotel, then you know how unique each property is, and the restaurants inside are no different. Before heading to tailgate for Sunday Night Football, we stopped off for brunch at South Water Kitchen, where the Bloody Mary options alone could warrant a visit.
The Challah French Toast, stuffed with lemon cream cheese and blueberries, was too good to pass up. If you’re a coffee lover like yours truly, you’ll love the fact that South Water Kitchen serves locally roasted organic coffee from intelligentsia coffee company. When you travel frequently, locally sourced foods and products really go a long way, not only in taste but in sustainability and adding that extra local flair.
South Water Kitchen is adjacent to Hotel Monaco Chicago and another easy walking spot from almost anywhere in Downtown Chicago. The staff was incredibly friendly and the big bar had plenty of space for you and all your girlfriends to stop by for mimosas or a Bloody Mary, but be sure to order it “Chicago-style” with all the fixins’.
A Few Extras
All three of our hotels were a max of six blocks away from each other and all in prime-time downtown Chicago territory. Everywhere we went was either a short brisk walk or a maximum of a $11 cab ride. As avid runners and outdoor girls, it was such a treat to head down to Lakeshore for a beautiful run with magnificent views and feel like we were in a much quieter and more peaceful place.
The main reason behind 99% of my trips is sports and sporting events. As a sportswriter at The Blonde Side, Chicago is always a prime spot to get some good work done both in the travel and sports industry. This trip centered on a Chicago Bulls game, my first time at United Center, and the Sunday Night Football match up of the Bears and the Houston Texans.
With an abundance of hotels and restaurants to choose from throughout the Chicago city limits, these were just a sampling of our favorites that all uniquely catered to a chic girl’s getaway inside the beautiful and glorious Windy City.
Jayme Lamm is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Houston focusing on travel writing and is in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side. Be sure to follow Jayme’s travel and sports adventures on Twitter @jaymelamm.