December 2nd, 2013
- Author: Nicole Brady, Bettendorf, Iowa
After living in Los Angeles for so many years, small town life can get a bit… well… boring. With the investment of a few hours in the car, we can break up the monotony even if for only a weekend.
Chicago is our big city of preference. It’s only a few hours away and has everything we could want for entertainment. All the major sports are represented, theatre and concerts, conferences and trade-shows, museums of all types and shopping, shopping, shopping.
Whenever we go, we make the most of our time and plan things for the entire day. We often end up getting a hotel for at least one night. This particular trip was focused on the kids beginning with a morning at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair followed by a trip to one of the museums.
The Essex Inn on South Michigan Avenue had just what we needed: an overnight package designed with the kids in mind. We reserved the Kids Rule package which includes accommodations for four in one of their family suites, a choice of passes to select family attractions and a welcome bag for the kids.
When we were done with the toy and game fair, we headed over to the hotel to see if our room was ready. Check-in was 4 but we arrived earlier than anticipated: shortly after lunch. Although our room wasn’t ready, they had our VIP passes to Shedd Aquarium right at the desk. The friendly staff parked our vehicle, stored our bags and requested a rush on our room so it would be available whenever we decided to return.
Shedd Aquarium is a short 15 minute walk away with the majority of it on a lovely pathway. Admission into Shedd Aquarium is NOT cheap but it is well worth it. The show is excellent and the exhibits are breathtaking. Seriously… look at the jelly fish! Aren’t they so pretty?!
The passes we received with our package included all the exhibits and shows, excluding the 4D movie. If we were to factor OUT the passes because we would have purchased them anyhow, that leaves the net cost of our hotel room far less than any other hotel we’ve looked into downtown.
While at the aquarium, I was notified that our room was ready so after we had seen everything we wanted, we headed back to the hotel to finish checking in. My kids were excited to each receive a welcome back filled with snacks and other goodies – each with a different game and snack than the other.
As for me – I was thrilled to see that the kids’ room was separate from where we would be sleeping. Those nice comfy, cozy beds you see in that picture are in a room adjacent to where the parents sleep.
Did you catch that? A different room. With a different TV. With a door that closes. They have their own privacy (and early bedtime followed by cartoons in the morning) while parents have a bed, TV, fridge and coffee pot in the room attached to the entrance door.
Our day was pretty exhausting but we were still tossing around the idea of heading to the Magnificent Mile to go shopping. The American Girl store was our destination of choice and someplace that has eluded us on prior visits. The Essex Inn provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the shopping areas so we didn’t even have to worry about parking or grabbing a taxi.
Of course, we did have to worry about the parade and other festive activities happening that we forgot about. Because of the street closures, the closest the driver would be able to get us to where we needed to be was a few blocks. In the frigid cold (and following a 15 minute walk from the Shedd), we opted to just hang out at the hotel. The American Girl store will have to wait for our next trip.
The hotel offers a beautiful view, a nice restaurant, a sizeable fitness area and a rooftop pool. The fitness area included free weights, various machines and TVs to help pass your time.
While deemed “rooftop” pool, it isn’t open to the cold winter air. It’s in an atrium area adjacent to the fitness room and boasts a cozy sauna. The Essex Inn offers one thing that really stood out: a lifeguard on duty. Of all the hotels we’ve ever stayed at in various cities, I can honestly say I have never seen a lifeguard on duty at one. There’s always a sign that says something akin to “swim at your own risk”.
After a good night’s sleep, we opted to cash in our “One Free Child’s Breakfast with the Purchase of an Adult Breakfast” tickets that came with our package. We had looked at the menu the night before and the kids’ menu alone made me want to dine there. I couldn’t get past the Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast and Chocolate Hazelnut Crepes. Whether the kids planned on ordering them or not, they were getting one of those so I could have a bite.
While we received a paper menu, I just loved the posted menu. It was a giant blackboard that covered one of the walls.
There were a lot of choices that sounded fantastic for breakfast; I opted for savory crepes. The plate didn’t look huge but it was extremely filling and delicious.
Following our great breakfast, we checked out and headed home. Overall, our stay was excellent with only a few hiccups that were no big deal. Every staff member we encountered was extremely friendly and helpful, including one of the cleaning staff who overheard us trying to decide whether to grab a Coke from one machine or a Pepsi from the machine on the floor below. We’ll certainly be looking at the other packages at The Essex Inn when we’re ready to make another trip to Chicago!
Oh yeah… In case you’re wondering, our 10 year old daughter ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast and yes, I did steal a bite. It was to-die for. She wants to come back just for THAT!
Disclosure: Complimentary accommodations were provided in order to provide feedback on our visit. All comments, photos and opinions are my own.
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