Chicago Eats & Sleeps

The insider's guide to the Twin Cities' favorite urban getaway

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Michigan Avenue


Chicago is a city of hotels both great and serviceable, but in the cold months it helps to strategize about just what part of the central city you want to be in, as the biting winds off the lake can render North Michigan Avenue less hospitable than colder Nicollet Mall. Here are four standouts, with dominion over completely different swaths of downtown:


It is hard to do justice to the Elysian, Chicago’s best hotel and arguably one of the best city hotels in the country. From the charming country house porte-cochère to the large and comfortable rooms and suites to the cosseting personal service (no tipping), lovely spa and restaurant, and complimentary downtown car service, this is truly a grand and gracious hotel. It is expensive, to be sure, but if you are considering the Peninsula, Four Seasons, or Ritz-Carlton, you owe it to yourself to give the Elysian a try. 11 E. Walton St., 312-646-1300,


Even with Chicago’s arrival as global tourist mecca, there is a surprising dearth of good things to do and neat places to stay in the central business district. The Wit is a relatively new Doubletree hotel at Lake and State streets, hard by the L tracks. The rooms are standard contemporary 3.5-star material, but the staff is sharp and affable, and the hotel’s public areas, including its rooftop bar, convivial restaurant, and compelling location on the precipice of both the Loop and River North, are all alluring plusses. Make sure you have a room with a view of the L—watching the trains silently make the curve at Wabash and Lake on a foggy night is hypnotic, the ultimate Chicago vista. 201 N. State St., 312-467-0200,


Location, location. The Affinia is a remodel of a mid-century hotel on a quiet stretch of Superior just steps from the absolute epicenter of Michigan Avenue shopping and people-watching. The rooms are pleasant in their neutral shades, those looking south offer nice views, and Marcus Samuelsson’s C House restaurant is downstairs (not to mention Gino’s East pizzeria and its attendant lines). The staff is friendly/clueless except for the top-notch concierge. But you’re here for the chance to stay on Michigan for two bills, a lot less than the big boys up the avenue. Great proximity to the lakefront is another bonus. 166 E. Superior St., 312-787-6000,


Millennium Park’s novelty value has worn off, but for many visitors, it remains the only place to stay in the city right now. The expanse of green and metal is more pleasant in the warm months, with bike rentals, outdoor dining, spouting fountains, and summer concerts, but winter’s ice skating followed by ducking inside Renzo Piano’s new Art Institute addition are fine substitutes. The USA’s only Swissôtel boasts large, luxurious rooms with picturesque views of the park, river, and lakefront, all a block off the green. Common areas are cramped (save for a spectacular aerie health club) and the staff often overtaxed. Sister hotel The Fairmont across the street offers the opposite experience, with a more sedate vibe and personal service, but smaller rooms and inferior views. 323 E. Wacker Dr., 312-565-0565,