Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Winters in Chicago have a bad reputation. Even Bravo made a reality show called “100 Days of Summer,” which follows 6 hard working Chicagoans who have less than 3 months to accomplish their personal and professional goals before the brutal winter approaches. Apparently after summer ends and the first snowflake falls, the city and the people living in it go into hibernation. This perception couldn’t be more false. Actually, winters in Chicago give us time to focus on our goals, boost our motivation, and challenges us to find the perfect balance between staying warm and looking trendy. So don’t let the TV shows and weather reports scare you from traveling to this beautiful city during the winter months. Below is a list of activities and events you can experience while visiting ChiBeria:
Chicago Restaurant Week – January 24-February 6th – Everyone loves a deal, especially when it comes to dining out in Chicago. Make your reservations now to enjoy a pre-fixed lunch or dinner menu at one of 286 finest restaurants’. Reservations must be made in advance. Check out http://www.choosechicago.com/things-to-do/dining/chicago-restaurant-week for the Restaurant Week lineup this year.
Chicago Auto Show- February 8th – 17th- If you are looking for a fun indoor activity, check out the 2014 Auto Show at McCormick Place. You will get to “oh and ah” at all of the newest cars that are so hot right now. Don’t miss out; go get your tickets to the car show.

Auto Show

Auto Show

Ice-skating in Millennium Park- Late November to March 10am-8pm- You don’t have to be a Chicago Blackhawk to twirl around at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park. It is a fun, exhilarating, activity for families, friends, or even a date night. It is free if you bring your own skates and $10 for rentals.

Millenium Park

Millenium Park

Museum Free Days- January & February- If you want to stay warm and toasty during your time in Chicago, check out the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Art Institute, and Museum of Science and Industry to see when their free admission days are. There is nothing better than a free education.

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

 
If you have a love for the arts, come see the following shows that are running January – March:

Phantom of the Opera: Cadillac Palace Theater- January 6th – March 3rd
Disney on Ice: Allstate Arena and United Center January 22nd – February 9th
The Joffery Ballet: Auditorium Theater February 16th – March 12th
Chicago- The Musical: Bank of America Theater February 25th – March 2nd
Rock of Ages: Bank of America Theater March 11th – March 16th
Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat : Cadillac Palace Theater March 18th – March 30th

For a full list of productions in Chicago, visit http://www.chicago-theater.com

Chicago is still a wonderful place to visit, even if it is under snow. So pack your snowsuit and stay with us in one of our warm and toasty king or double bed rooms. To make a reservation, please call 312-832-0330. We will have the hot chocolate waiting for you!

Share

Christmas Time in Chicago

Each year, people from all over the world visit the Christkindlmarket Chicago. The outdoor market in the Chicago Loop has become so popular and loved by everyone that any Chicagoan will tell you that they could not imagine the city without it. Christkindlmarket Chicago is no longer just a German tradition; it has become a Chicago institution.

Christkindlmarket 2014

Christkindlmarket 2014

Every year, the traditional-style German Christmas market brings in vendors from the old country to serve sauerkraut, sauerbraten, potato pancakes and sweet candied almonds. The wooden huts also brim with candy, blown glass, European Christmas decorations and other delights. The market runs through Christmas Eve, so get your sauerkraut early and often.

The unique shopping experience, typical German food and drinks, as well as diverse holiday entertainment make the Christkindlmarket Chicago a preferred and popular destination and admission is FREE!

Christkindlemarket

Christkindlemarket

A little history of the Christkindlmarket, it is inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, which began in 1545. The Christkindlmarket Chicago brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago.

Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival was first held on Pioneer Court in 1996. By special invitation of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a staple event on the plaza ever since. Christkindlmarket Chicago has grown to become one of the most popular winter attractions in the heart of the city.

Stop on by to the Christkindlmarket Chicago have some spiced wine and enjoy some wiener schnitzel, you know you love that schnitzel.

Share

Ruth’s Top 5 things to do in Chicago

Whether you are visiting Chicago or from Chicago there are always things to do:

1. Visit Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a bustling 1.5 mile-long boardwalk that will please every member of your family. Attracting well over 8 million visitors per year, Navy Pier is lined with restaurants and studded with small shops selling everything from apparel to toys to Chicago souvenirs. While the shops alone can keep you occupied for hours, there are plenty of other activities at Navy Pier to fill your day.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

2. Go to the “Taste of Chicago”.

While Chicago is host to dozens of festivals each year, the Taste of Chicago is easily the most widely attended. What was once a small food festival on July 4, 1980, has grown to be the biggest festival in the city. It is hailed as the world’s largest food extravaganza, attracting 3 million people annually.

Taste of Chicago

Taste of Chicago

3. Take a tour of the city.

One of the best ways to see Chicago is by tour; you get a unique perspective of the city, often with an expert guide who will tell you the history and story of each place you encounter. You can tour by boat and carriage or by foot. You can take a tour with a theme; some tours take you through certain historic or ethnic neighborhoods, such as Old Town or Greektown.

4. Visit a Museum

Chicago is a cultural city. You can find museums dedicated to every interest and every passion. In addition to the major, well-know ones, there are a number of smaller but excellent choices available. Chicago’s Museum Campus is a somewhat recent addition to the city’s lakefront. In 1996, the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were moved so that the three museums in the area, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, were no longer separated by a median and were brought onto one campus and joined by a lush green field with a view of the lake.

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

5. Shop!!!

Just a few blocks from our hotel, you will find Chicago’s Water Tower Place, a perfect location for shopping. With 7 different levels, you certainly have a wide selection for you and your loved ones. One of my personal favorites is CUSP by Neiman Marcus. They always have a wide variety of styles, from everyday relaxed fit clothing to a dresses for a girls night out. For the in between shopping, Water Tower Place, also offers dining options. This will allow you to relax and enjoy your meal and continue to shop all in one convenient location.

Water Tower Place

Water Tower Place

Share

Chicago Marathon Weekend

It’s that time of year when you need to unpack your fall fashion collection, Bears football jersey, and grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte, because it is officially fall in Chicago.  It is also that time of year thousands of people from 50 states and over 100 countries have dedicated their blood, sweat, and tears in preparation for the Chicago Marathon.

The race starts at Grant Park and loops through the beautiful downtown neighborhoods. If you have friends or family running in the race, the course map will help you navigate through the city.

Times of each wave are as follows:

Location- Grant Park, Columbus Dr. & Monroe St.
Marathon Wheelchair Start – 7:20am
Marathon Hand-cycle Start – 7:21am
Wave 1 Start- 7:30am
Wave 2 Start – 8:00am
Spectator Access to Grant Park- 8:30am

If you are staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown this weekend, to either run in the Marathon or to cheer someone on, we will have a station set up in the lobby filled with bananas and Gatorade. This will be available starting at 5:30am. While you are there, check out each poster every department of the hotel staff created to root on the runners. We also have a complimentary full American breakfast starting at 6am in our Daniel Burnham room on the second floor of the hotel. If you have any questions or need any information regarding the Marathon, please don’t hesitate to ask a front desk representative.

Good luck runners as you concur 26.2 miles on Sunday. You are an inspiration to us all!

For those of you who didn’t run the Marathon this year, but are determined to try it in 2013, download Nike’s 15-week Bank of America Chicago Marathon Training Program to get you started. As my General Manager, Andrew Scarlett always says when we are working our way toward a certain goal “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

Share

Upcoming Summer Events

June 20th was the official date that we could say it was “summer” in Chicago. Of course with the change of season come temperatures over 100 degrees and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife.  If you want to beat the heat, there are many places you can visit that will be blasting their air conditioning. However, for those who are willing to defeat the heat check out some of the “cool” outdoor events going on in this sweltering City.

Taste of Chicago offers a variety of Chicago cuisine to be sampled

Taste of Chicago. This epic food festival brings in over 1.2 million people to the Chicago to experience all the amazing food and entertainment this city has to offer. This year, Huffington Post said that “attendees consumed 17,600 slices of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s, 15,000 funnel cakes from the Churro Factory, and 30,000 rainbow cones.” Along with the food, there were many performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park that hosted bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Jennifer Hudson, Dierks Bentley, and Chaka Khan. If you ended up missing the Taste of Chicago this year, don’t worry it will be back in full force next year.

Lollapalooza, 2010
Lollapalooza, 2010. Image courtesy of PBS

Lollapalooza. This 3 day music festival turns Chicago into a mini Woodstock. This event started back in 1991 and established its territory in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2005. Lollapalooza means “an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event.” Over 16,000 people of all ages come to Chicago to take park of this wondrous music event to check out their favorite bands and to discover new ones.  You have the option to purchase a 1 day pass for $95 or a 3 day pass for $230. With 8 stages and over 100 bands to choose from, each day you will be exposed to a different type of music from Rock, Indie, Punk, and Techno.  This year you will see performances from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath, Avicii, The Black Keys, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, and Kaskade. For more information on Lollapalooza and the lineup, check out their website at http://www.lollapalooza.com. If you need hotel accommodations, please contact the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown direct at 312-832-0330.

Chicago Air and Water Show

Chicago Air and Water Show, Image courtesy of the CCTB

Air and Water Show. Pack your lawn chair, a cooler, some sunscreen, and ear plugs if you plan on heading to Chicago’s Lakefront to watch the Air and Water show.  This show attracts millions of prospectors each year to check out the amazing tricks performed by aerobatic teams and the U.S military. A cool factoid about the show is that most of the planes fly to and from Gary Jet Center in Gary, Indiana. They have to time their flight down to the second so they can fly over the show at an exact moment. The show is from 10am-3pm on Saturday August 18th and Sunday August 19th at North Avenue Beach. Since it is free to the public, if you have trouble finding seating at the show center then head to Ohio Street beach or Oak Street Beach and bring your binoculars. You can also check out more information about the Chicago Air and Water Show on Explore Chicago’s website at http://www.chicagoairshow.com.

Share

Lincoln Park Zoo

As a tourist coming from outside of Illinois the most common idea of sight seeing is the main Chicago sights: Willis Tower, Hancock building, Magnificent Mile, the Lakefront, etc. The last thing that one thinks about is going to see something that you can do back home, like going to the Zoo.

Every city has their own unique Zoo, where the residents are able to escape reality and spend some time with our furry friends from all over the world. Over the 4th of July holiday I spent the day at the Lincoln park Zoo. After living in the city of Chicago for the last 6 years I thought that it might be about time that I visit this magical place. I don’t know about most of you, but I turn into a 5 year old when I get past the gate. I literally drug my boyfriend around the park going “ooohhhh and awwweeee”. It was a very hot day, I recommend that when you visit you try to go around September. Or if you do decide to venture during our hot Chicago summers, take a lot of water!!

I have to say that my first Zoo experience at the Lincoln Park Zoo was great! We took the red line up to the Zoo as parking is generally a little pricy for my taste. For those of you staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites, it is so easy to get there, just take the Red Line at the Grand Stop headed North and get off at Fullerton. Then walk east until you reach the Zoo. Very accessible and easy route from the downtown location. When you get there, no need to take out your wallet as the Zoo is completely free!!! Not a bad deal, huh? But of course they always accept donations, so feel free to give a little back as it goes toward making the Zoo a better home for the animals. They are just too cute to refuse! So…my first stop was  the Pygmy hippopotamus. He was such a cute little guy, check out my photo:

Hippo at Lincoln Park Zoo

He was so excited to see us there, that he kept trying to push his way through the glass. He would swim up and down trying to find a way out. But aside from his cuteness, I did find out some information about this type of Hippo. It seems that due to habitat loss, the Pygmy Hippo is endangered. This particular species is solitary and a nocturnal mammal. The population has dwindled and we don’t know the exact numbers, but from the information provided by the Zoo, scientists estimate that 3,000 of the animals may live in the wild. At this time, The Lincoln Park Zoo cooperatively manages Pygmy Hippopotamus populations with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Some cool facts about this species that I was able to find out, courtesy of the Zoo webpage: Special Adaptations

  • The pygmy hippo’s skin secretes a red substance, giving rise to the legend that the species “sweats blood.” The substance isn’t blood, but its function is unknown. Scientists believe it may serve as an antibiotic or help block excessive sunlight.
  • The eyes, ears and nose are located on the top of the head, enabling the species to see, smell and hear while the rest of its body is underwater.
  • The pygmy hippos’ ears and nostrils pinch tightly shut when the animal dives underwater, making it easier for them to stay submerged.

You don’t have to be so excited about the animals to go to the Zoo, just enjoy the nice walk and the fact that you get a chance to explore a different side of the city. It is a nice break from being around so many people when walking down the Magnificent Mile or when seeing the amazing sites the Willis Tower has to offer. Check out the Zoo next time you are in Chicago, you won’t be disappointed!!

Share

A city in love with its lake & river

Every spring once it starts warming up, we start seeing a ton of boats migrating from the cold storage docks out to the lake. Every once in a while you will get the opportunity to see all of the bridges rise while the sailboats make their way through the locks.

Of course one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago is the Chicago River Boat Tour. Whenever I have family and friends come in to town this is always one of my top three that I suggest, besides the Skydeck & one of the Museums. The tours will take you up the north and south branches of the river and give you full history of the buildings and the history of the river. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and encourage interaction. Most of the tour guides I have spoken with in the past are former architects, architecture students or big time history buffs. Every one of them have an amazing passion for what they are talking about.

The Chicago Line Architecture Cruises run about every hour  and the 2012 costs are:

  • $40 for adults
  • $32 for seniors 65 and older
  • $22 for youths ages 7 to 18
  • Children 6 and younger sail free

Two tips that I encourage you to do:

  • See my front desk team at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown before you head out, they can call ahead and make reservations for you with a deposit. That will save you time waiting in line.

Wake up a few minutes early and take the 8a cruise, it’s $10 off each person.

Share

Mystic Blue in Chicago

Gone are the heavy jackets, gloves, snow boots, and frozen faces of Chicago winter. Summer is upon us and citizens are wearing shorts, sporting flip flops and even, dare I say, getting sunburned! Recently I had the opportunity of experiencing one of the best kept secrets in Chicago tourism. An attraction that is perfect for summer, especially with this lovely weather we Chicagoans have been having as of late. The Mystic Blue Boat Cruise allows an exciting, fresh perspective for exploring the city.

The Mystic Blue Boat cruise departs from Navy Pier. I boarded the Mystic Blue on a Saturday evening for a friend’s birthday party. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I had never been on a cruise of Lake Michigan. I was immediately greeted by the Captain and Crew and knew it was going to be a fun night! The Mystic Blue has 3 enclosed, climate controlled decks, with dinner and dancing on the main level. Dinner was served buffet style and consisted of a specialty fish entree, pasta, potatoes, vegetables and more. On this particular cruise there was a cash bar for any Guests looking to “wet their whistle.” Guests are free to roam about the ship and are advised to eat at their leisure. Shortly after the majority of patrons dined, a dessert buffet was set with everything from cheesecake to fondue with marshmallow’s and rice krispies on skewers. All the while, a DJ played music and encouraged guests to dance, the Crew even performed a special choreographed number, which was very entertaining. Later in the evening, fireworks from Navy Pier were seen by all. The observation desk upstairs provided a great view of the city skyline at night. It truly was a unique experience that I would recommend to any guest or visitor to the Chicago area.

Chicago Skyline

To get to Navy Pier and The Mystic Blue Boat Cruise from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, you may either take a cab, walk, or utilize the Free Shuttle service (inquire at the Front Desk for details). A cab will take about 5 to 10 minutes to reach your destination, or if it’s nice outside a leisurely walk is only about 1 mile from the hotel. If walking, head east on W. Illinois St. toward N. State St. Continue N. onto Streeter Dr. Keep right at the fork. By this point you will see Navy Pier. Turn right onto E. Grand Ave. Your destination will be halfway down the pier on the right.

Schedule and pricing can be obtained here.

Share

Memorial Day Weekend things to do in Chicago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And no, I am not referencing winter, since us city dwellers find nothing wonderful about the cold, snow, and everything in between. I’m talking about summer in Chicago! Now that the weather gods have finally stopped torturing us with the rollercoaster weather changes, we can now enjoy everything that this beautiful City has to offer.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 80 degree and sunny weather, like a 3 day weekend for Memorial Day. Since the NATO Summit has left the building, the City is now a favorable place to visit. So for those who are not skipping town or coming in from out of town, check out all the great things going on that will keep you busy this weekend.

If you are looking for a little R&R and to soak up some sun, head over to one of Chicago’s 23 beaches along the lakefront. Beaches open this Friday and lifeguards are on duty from 11am-7pm daily. The best part, they’re free!  One of the main hot spots if you are spending the day at the beach is Castaways Bar and Grill. This giant shipwrecked boat, looking North Avenue beach, serves lunch and dinner every day from 11a.m. to 11p.m. Drinks from noon to 11p.m. All weekend Castaways offers live music from noon to 6p.m.

For all you music lovers and foodies out there, go check out the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival in Wrigleyville and/or the Randolph Street Market Festival in the Loop this Saturday and Sunday. Spend your day jamming out to tribute bands, eating some delicious food from local vendors, shopping for vintage treasures, while enjoying a refreshing beverage on a hot summer day!

Now, let’s not forget the true essence of why we celebrate Memorial Day. To show remembrance for loved ones we have or for those who have served our country, head over to Daley Plaza to watch the Chicago Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade. This will be on May 26th starting at 11am. After the parade, head over to Navy Pier to watch the free firework show starting at 10:15pm.

However you decide to celebrate, everyone at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago wishes you a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day!

 

Share

What to do while in Chicago

As we gear into the wonderful Chicago Summer there are certain attractions that everyone must try at least once! The most common things to do in Chicago are going to Navy Pier, Millennium Park, city tours, The Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, the architectural cruise plus many more.

My personal favorite activity is the architectural cruise; the tour is 90 minutes and it will make you think twice about our beautiful city of Chicago. At first when I agreed to go on this cruise (took much persuasion from my friend who was visiting from out of town) I was hesitant about going. To spend $35 to ride around in a boat when I already live in the city seemed like money I didn’t want to spend. Eventually I put myself in my friend’s shoes about coming to a city she had not been before and I agreed to go on the cruise.

Cruise on the Chicago River
Cruise on the Chicago River

The tour will take you from the aftermath of the great Chicago fire in the late 1800s, to how the city chose to rebuild itself using the surrounding water to their advantage. From there you will see some amazing buildings, the Merchandise Mart; you will go under several of Chicago’s movable bridges and to Navy Pier. After I got off of the cruise I was really glad that I had decided to go. It made me have a different type of appreciation for Chicago.

View Chicago by water with an architectural boat tour!

My recommendations for the tour; go on a sunny and warm day, make sure that you wear a hat if you are going to sit on the part of the boat that is not covered, make sure you grab a beverage and watch out for the shooting fountain, you just may get more than you bargained for! The best way to book this would be to do it on line (as it is cheaper), if you are staying here at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, just ask one of our Front Desk Associates to book the tour for you and they will be happy to give you all the details and just let you know where it is that you need to show up! You’re here on vacation; let someone else do the work for you.

Share