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Chicago Insider Secrets

January 8th, 2014

  • Author: Melisa Wells

Being a Chicago native (and the author of a Chicago family travel guide!), I have experienced countless sights, sounds, and tastes all over the city—the entire city—and suburbs. That said, everybody knows that the Loop has the highest concentration of entertainment and dining options per square mile in the Chicagoland area.

Whether you’re a local who wants to take a little staycation or a tourist on vacation, the Loop is where you want to be in order to make the most of your time. Staying at a hotel on South Michigan Avenue, specifically the Essex Inn, is a great idea for several reasons:

  1. You are SUPER close—walking distance, or a quick cab right in the deep winter—to famous attractions like the Museum Campus (home of the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium), Grant Park, Millennium Park, and the Art Institute.
  2. You are VERY close—still within walking distance in good weather—to the Magnificent Mile if you want to do some shopping or experience some fantastic restaurants and, at the north end, the original Water Tower and the John Hancock Observatory.
  3. If you have somewhere else to go in the downtown area that requires a longer cab ride, like the Museum of Science and Industry or Ed Debevic’s? You’re still less than ten minutes away!
  4. The Essex Inn is much more reasonably priced than hotels closer to the Gold Coast, which allows you to spend what you save on FUN. (They also have an attached parking garage with discounted overnight parking for guests—with in and out privileges!)
  5. If you’re staying in the winter, you can enjoy the indoor pool at the Essex Inn, where it’s balmy all year ‘round!
  6. I love the special deals offered by the Essex Inn that allow you to “stay and play”. Packages include a room for two and tickets to local attractions like Blue Man Group, the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, and lots of other options.

Now that I’ve provided you with some “public information”, I have some insider secrets for you: there are all kinds of free things to do in the city of Chicago. Whenever I recommend activities to visiting friends, I provide a mix of “famous” and “not widely known”. Here are some of my Free Favorites, all indoors and within walking distance of the Essex Inn:

  1. The Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) building was the city’s original library. The books have been moved to the Harold Washington Library but the gorgeous glass, mother-of-pearl, and stone mosaics (along with the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome) bring in lots of beauty-appreciating visitors every year.
  2. The Chicago Model City (224 South Michigan Ave.) is an up-to-date, 320-square-foot, three-dimensional model of the city, created by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. It’s a great way to see the city in a different way.
  3. Macy’s (formerly Marshall Field’s) on State Street (111 N. State St.) is home to the iconic Great Clocks, the Burnham Fountain, and the Tiffany Ceiling, which is the largest unbroken example of Tiffany Favrile glass in the world, and SO worth the trip. (Make sure to look at it from the ground floor and then take the elevators to the 5th floor to see it up close!)

These are just three examples; there are so many more! No matter how you plan to spend your time in Chicago, the Essex Inn is the perfect home base for your adventures.

Melisa Wells
Co-Producer at LTYM Chicago:
National LTYM New Cities Mentor:
Social Media Researcher:
Find me on Twitter @melisalw

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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