One of the most beautiful views in the city

It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit us, if you have a clear day, you need to take the time and visit the Willis (formerly “Sears”) tower Skydeck. On a clear day you can see Indiana, Michigan, Illinois (of course) and Wisconsin.  Sitting 108 stories in the air, at the time it was completed it was the tallest building in the world.

The Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor and has 360 degree views of the city. In 2009 they added “The Ledge” which is a retractable glass box. You can stand out over the edge of the building in these glass boxes looking south and west. It is a bit of a rush with your head saying you should be falling and your feet staying right where they are.

Prices are reasonable for standard admission

  • Adults 12 and up is $17.50
  • Children 3 – 11 is $11
  • The Hampton Inn & Suites also offers a Skydeck Package for an all inclusive option!

If you are here from Labor Day to Memorial Day, go when the sun is starting to set. If you are here during the summer months, go and watch the fireworks. It is a spectacular site.

Another tip: if you are looking for a romantic date night, try going to the Skydeck then hitting the Metropolitan Club on the 67th floor. The only catch is that you have to make your reservations through opentable.com.  Either way it’s a good time.

Enjoy!

The fomer Sears Tower, also known as Willis Tower

The former Sears Tower, also known as Willis Tower

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Go CUBS Go!

Holy Cow! Baseball season is finally upon us and for we die hard cubbies fans that means another chance to be the World Series Champions. Last night, in preparation for the home opener on April 5th 2012 vendors were out setting up their stands, Clark Street was flooded with people, and Wrigley Field’s Stadium lights were shining brightly. Early this morning on my way to work, there was an eerie silence that swept over Wrigleyville, almost like it was the calming before a big storm.

That storm hit around 9:00am this morning when every news station was buzzing about opening day. Wrigley was already swamped with fans waiting outside the stadium ready to watch their beloved cubbies play the Washington Nationals at 1:20pm. With the first crack of the bat, first hot dog of the season, and an ice cold beer in hand; we hope our Cubs can bring home a win and wave that “W” flag.

Tickets for today and this weekend’s game are still available. If you want to get in on the action, feel free to visit the Cubs website here.

Also, if you would like to support your cubbies and a good cause, sign up for the Race to Wrigley 5K Run on April 14th 2012 at 8am. This race is the kick off to the Baseball Season and proceeds go to Children’s Memorial Hospital. The course route will take you thought Lakeview neighborhoods and back to Wrigley Field, where you get to run through the stadium. Online registration is available until 4/12/2012 for $35 dollars. You can purchase your race packet and t-shirt at http://www.race-cubs.com.

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America’s Second City is top for entertainment

Joe Shooman, a Travel Writer for The Observer in the Cayman Islands, stayed here at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown and wrote an article on his experience in Chicago. I am re-posting below for your enjoyment.

America’s Second City is top for entertainment
Travel and Leisure
By: Joe Shooman | joe@cfp.ky
25 March, 2012

Snow. I’d forgotten all about it. But it’s beautiful, it’s soft and it’s very, very cold. But that’s what you get when you decide to visit Chicago in February, I guess. And whilst the rest of the Chi-town population is wrapping up against more days of the blimmin white stuff, Suzy and me are like kids cause we’ve not seen snow in four years.

Chicago is a city with seemingly endless possibilities for entertainment, sight seeing, eating and drinking and it’s great to land somewhere where nobody knows your name.

After a quick trip up the Willis (formerly Sears) tower we spend our first evening in the Illinois city watching the Chicago Bulls at the mighty impressive United Center along with 20,000 other people. Whilst we may be up in the gods at least we’re near the beer; that, allied to the fact that the Bulls ease past the challenge of local rivals Milwaukee Bucks by 110 to 91 with a triple-double from Joakim Noah, makes a very happy bunch of visitors. And whilst Derrick Rose remains the team’s star, I’ve got a new hero – Carlos Boozer. We return to our brilliant, centrally-located Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown in the River North district, the choice of which proves a smart move on our part due to it being right in the heart of downtown, just north of The Loop.

It’s also near the Red Line of the easily navigable El Train underground railway system; we buy day passes and start to make our adventures the next morning. It’s always much easier to get an idea of a city’s layout and size during the day and so it proves.

 

Checking the bean

We end up at Millennium Park, which is something of a centre of entertainment, nature and art. Because it’s winter there’s an outdoor ice rink and we toy with getting our skates on, but we have more important things to do, one of which being checking out the famous Cloud Gate.

It’s a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, a British artist born in India, and it’s a masterful, huge, distended, polished steel jelly-bean blob in which the downtown scenery is beautifully reflected. The skyline looks quite extraordinary and lends the city a contemporary regality. Of course, the colloquial nickname is The Bean, which shows the humour of the locals. But it’s a brilliant piece that plays with perception – so much so that my wife Suzy clonks her head into it whilst trying to take a video. Oops! But no harm done, so we skip through the rest of the park – no music on the Great Lawn today, but in the summer you can tell that open-air concerts would be awesome there. It gets lovely and warm come July here, with temperatures kissing the 80s with some ease.

Back to the frozen icicle dripping from my chin, however. It seems we need to warm up which we duly do with a visit to the excellent Art Institute of Chicago which for 150 years has presented the good stuff.

It’s a comprehensive museum with Old Masters alongside plenty of contemporary, decorative and visual arts and the one million square feet make it the second-biggest in the States (only the Met in NYC is bigger). Of the many famous works, Edward Hopper’s study of aloneness, Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic are highlights as is the ancient Egyptian gallery. Best of all, I buy an awesome pen in the shape of the heavy metal salute on the way out.

There’s one thing you have to eat in Chicago and that is pizza. Famous for its deep dish, buttery crust, this is a long way from the mostly traditional Italian thin crust style. It truly is a wonder to behold and a wonder to eat, too. We round off the evening with a visit to the cinema to watch The Artist; a couple of post-movie drinks and we’re done – despite planning to head to one of the many awesome blues clubs which are just getting started. But that will have to wait for another visit.

Despite my best efforts, our third day is spent downtown shopping on the Magnificent Mile – every store you could want is here for clothes and stuff apparently. I’m more interested in trying to find a decent set of darts to bring back to Cayman, but sadly I fail. I do, however, manage to snag a pretty sharp set of Nike trainers that I didn’t know I was looking for until I saw them, so it ain’t all bad.

 

A bit about food

We lunch at Crisp, a North Broadway eaterie that is famous for its Korean-tinged fried chicken. I’d seen it on one of those celebrity cooking shows previously and if it’s good enough for Guy Fieri then it’s gotta be worth a shout. And it comes up trumps; the Seoul Sassy adds a great ginger/garlic slight heat to the very tender chicken which, yes, is crispy on the outside. The salad that comes with it – Buddha Bowl – is a mix of vegetables with rice and topped with a fried egg. Strange, but outstanding nonetheless. A quick trip to the ace Myopic Books yields brain food that afternoon and we round off our trip with a final-evening visit to another awesome food place.

The Purple Pig is located on the Magnificent Mile and can be best described as a kind of pig-worshipping tapas-type bar. We’re a little late due to unforeseen wine, so we have to wait, salivating, for half an hour before the table is ready. But by god it’s worth it; plate after plate of extraordinary dishes are brought out for us to sample and share. There’s fried pig’s ear with crispy kale, braised pork shoulder and mash, turkey leg confit and the absolute star of the show – roasted bone marrow. The interior of the bone is a buttery delight; smeared on brioche it is delicate, rich and something that everyone needs to taste at one time in their lives. The Purple Pig’s menu is great but this is something very special.

And so, a quick few beers later, we’re packing to come back. Yes, it’s cold in the winter, but that’s no bad thing in itself; when you live in beach paradise it’s great to get a dose of opposites once in a while. Chicago is as fast and furious as you want to make it, the inhabitants are friendly and the food is great. With the direct Cayman Airways flight taking around three hours, it could well be the ideal city break.

To see this article in its entirety, click here!

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Streets of Chicago

 

 

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

 

― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

 

 

Marina City

 

It wasn’t until moving to Chicago did this ring so true. Until you experience the majesty of street life in a big city, it is hard to truly understand it. You definitely can feel it visiting, you may even notice that there is something different, but can’t quite put your finger on why. I noticed that my vacations from my home town of Memphis were always large cities: Chicago, LA, New York, London… I knew that I wanted to be in the cauldron of street life. Its being part of city life that you are actually shaping the city.

 

The built environment has a lot to with the vibrancy of street life as well. Think of a typical suburban strip mall. There is a lot of activity, but walking down the sidewalk you don’t get a sense of lively cohesion.  One of the most important parts of this built environment in modern North American cities is the Grid.  Chicago is one of the largest cities with a continuous grid throughout the city.

 

River North grid On Google Maps (Hampton Inn & Suites is marked)

Chicago’s grid is 1.3 degrees off true north.  If you travel northbound on a north/south street, you will travel just slightly west.  Not bad for the engineers that laid out the Chicago grid system using 19th century tools. You can actually see this on Google Maps! Take a look at the photo above, Find Chicago Ave in the upper left, notice how it jogs north the further east you go.

 

  • Some things to remember about the Chicago grid:
  • Every 8 Blocks equals 1 Mile & you will find an arterial Street
  • Every 4 Blocks is a major Secondary Street.
  • A Block is about 480 Feet. In downtown with the older blocks, it is closer to 400 feet
  • Even Numbered Addresses are on the West and North sides of each street
  • Odd Numbered Addresses are on the East and South sides of each street
  • Odd Numbered Addresses are on the East and South sides of each street
  • The intersection of State (0) and Madison (0) is the 0 / 0 block. If the original numbering system were done today, I am sure that the 0/0 block would be much further west. There are no east numbers north of North Ave because of Lake Michigan. I don’t think the 19th century planners could even to begin to imagine how much futher the city would grow. The city could only grow west because of the lake!

Look for the Chicago grid when you fly into the city.

 

 

 

 

 

The grid is part of street life in Chicago, but the grid would be nothing without the people that live in work in it. Think of the entrepreneurs with their business ideas, the actors & techs with their art in the theatres, the workers in the shops, the tourist with their cameras, the bar patron enjoys one last beer before getting on the train… The lively street life is why people come to big cities like Chicago. Just walk around River North for a few hours you see it all: world-class architecture (Trump Tower, Wrigley Building, Boyce Building, Marina City), fine dining (Sunda, Sushi Samba), the hippest of hip clubs that as so cool, they don’t even need a sign (Underground) & a lively street scene. This is why Chicago is always sure to surprise. 

 

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Winter Weather not a deterrent for Chicago Fun!

The frozen winter is now upon us. Well… kind of. It’s been an incredible holiday season, but the weather has finally started to drop down into the winter weather we are used to feeling. Everyone always feels that they have to stay away from Chicago during our sub-zero degree-a-thon days because there isn’t anything to do. ABSOLUTLEY WRONG! There are a ton of fun things to do during the winter up here in Chicago.

People from around the country come and visit our world renown museums during the peak of the summer, but why would you come here during the summer to spend the whole day inside? We have six world class museums that will entertain the kids and keep the parents learning: Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Science and Industry Museum and the Museum of ContemporaryArt.

Field Museum is my favorite and it is one of our largest and most historic museums. It sits overlooking on Lake Michigan overlooking our city. Check out their discount-days portion of the website and plan your visit to Chicago.

From the Field Museum’s website:

“The Field Museum was incorporated in the State of Illinois on September 16, 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with its purpose the “accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history.” In 1905, the Museum’s name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the Museum’s first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences. In 1921 the Museum moved from its original location in Jackson Park to its present site on Chicago Park District property near downtown where it is part of a lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. These three institutions are regarded as among the finest of their kind in the world and together attract more visits annually than any comparable site in Chicago.”

”"

And don’t forget to check out the world famous “Sue” the Tyrannosaurs Rex while you are there too…

”"

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Happy Hour at the Terrace at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown

Thursday, August 4th marked the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown’s very first Happy Hour Event at the Terrace, located on the 2nd floor.

Guests from Mesirow Financial enjoyed an urban, summer setting complete with a backdrop of exposed brick walls, tropical Bird of Paradise floral arrangements-compliments of Daniel’s Floral (http://www.danielsfloral.com/), the sounds of summer music, plus food and beverage to boot.

An Aerial View of the Terrace

Catering was provided by Big Delicious Planet (http://www.bigdeliciousplanet.com/) and consisted of a Mediterranean display of olives, meats, cheeses and vegetables, some favorites South of the Border and beef sliders. White Wine and Stella Artois were the crowd favorites for beverage selection.

The Terrace recently received new outdoor furniture from Classique Innovations , a vendor at nearby Merchandise Mart.

Classique Innovations Outdoor Furniture

 

If you are in the market to host a reception or  event at the Terrace, please contact the Sales Department at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown by calling 312-832-0330. Cheers!

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