At the onset of summer I resolved to explore my own backyard — Chicago — as if I were on vacation: taking the tours, knocking around the famous buildings, rediscovering the museums. And having lived here nearly 10 years to the day, this summer has been my best summer yet.
One weekend I totally immersed myself in my tourist roleplaying and stayed at the Hilton Chicago, a grand dame of a property that finished construction (to the tune of $30M) in 1927. Two years ago it underwent a $150M renovation.
Location, location, location – Conrad Hilton
I primarily chose the Hilton Chicago for its South Michigan Avenue location: no other hotel in the Windy City is better situated for delving into Downtown’s wealth of cultural offerings. The property lies within a 20-minute walk of:
- The Museum Campus
- Grant Park (do not miss the summertime Grant Park Orchestra series)
- Buckingham Fountain
- The Harold Washington Library Center
- The Art Institute of Chicago (Monets and Cézannes and Woods, oh my!)
- The Chicago Cultural Center (you must not miss the ceiling) and the
- Chicago Symphony Center
And I could easily take the Red Line there from my condo in Lincoln Park.
THE CONRAD HILTON SUITE
Where do I even start to describe the Conrad Hilton Suite? It’s Chicago’s largest and most expensive ($7,000 per night) room and the 5,000-square-foot space encompasses two floors. It includes 16-foot lakeview windows, a baby grand piano, a billiard table, three balconies, three bedrooms, and a helipad.
Unfortunately I did not stay in the Conrad Hilton Suite! I only dreamed of staying in the Conrad Hilton Suite! One day, though.
THE DALEY SUITE LIVING AREA
I did, however, stay in The Daley Suite and had access to the concierge floor, which serves complimentary beer, wine and appetizers at happy hour; as well as breakfast. The food and drink is not haute dining but, hey, it’s free.
The Daley suite living area is spacious (maybe 40-feet in length?) with tasteful decor (silver, beige and violet) and attention to detail: rugs, textured wallpaper, satin pillows, books, decorative accents, books, etc. I especially liked the dark wood floors. Carpet in hotel rooms is kind of nasty when you think about it.
The floor-to-ceiling windows (that open) are the space’s best feature, offering a view of Lake Michigan and Grant Park that stretches from Lake Point Tower and Navy Pier on the left…
…to The Museum Campus on the right.
DALEY SUITE BEDROOM
The view extends into the bedroom. The bedroom lacks for nothing: comfortable bedding, robes, safe, mini-fridge, outlets near the bed (a detail that sounds minor, but a lack of outlets within reach of the bed is the number one complaint of travelers over on the Flyertalk Hotel Pet Peeve conversation), full-length mirror, and flat-screen TV: pretty much what you would expect from an upscale hotel. Do I detect the scent of almond?
The bathroom boasts marble surfaces, Restoration Hardware fixtures, and a large shower.
EXERCISE ROOM, POOL AND OUTDOOR DECK
There’s absolutely no excuse for working out or swimming indoors during the Chicago summer when the Lakefront Trail, Magnificent Mile and North Avenue Beach await you. However, I concede that our winters are a little rough and that this pimped-out exercise room and pool may come in handy from December through March. Hell, from November through April.
This Hilton Chicago secret rooftop deck was a pleasant surprise, a little oasis I had no idea existed. I can justify lying around here during the Chicago summer.
Having organized, like, a million medical meetings in my lifetime in sterile, fluorescent-lit basements I especially appreciated the beautiful function space with its murals, gold leaf, marble and ornate staircases. The Hilton Chicago is a heavyweight, historic hotel and even if you’re just staying there for pleasure you’ll find exploring the common areas and meeting floors, including the hotel mini-museum on the south side of the lobby, worthwhile.
I also applaud the Hilton Chicago for providing several common areas for lounging, working (wi-fi is free in the lobby), sipping a cocktail, and/or people-watching (I’m usually guilty of all at once).
Sure the Hilton Chicago offers several food outlets — a bar and grill, Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Pub, a gourmet market (serving gelato made fresh daily) — but do you think I ate at them? No! I did not! Instead, I wandered around The Loop: sucking the marrow out of Chicago — picnicking in Grant Park while listening to the orchestra, munching on popcorn, red hots and pizza — just like I vowed to do this summer. The season was wonderful, and I’ve gained the pounds and likely hardening arteries to prove it.
The Hilton Chicago was the ideal base for canvassing my very own, beloved Chicago cultural scene and you know I will be carrying on about my hometown discoveries in future posts right here. Stay tuned.