Cinco De Mayo on Uno De Mayo here at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown

Mark your calendars and get ready for a celebration! The Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown will be hosting a fiesta in honor of the upcoming Cinco De Mayo holiday from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. The reception will take place on the Outdoor Terrace, located on the 2nd floor via the Pool or Fitness Center. All clients and affiliates are invited to attend.

The Cinco De Mayo Fiesta will take place on the Terrace, May 1, 2012 from 5 to 7pm

The Cinco De Mayo Fiesta will take place on the Terrace, May 1, 2012 from 5 to 7pm

Guests attending the event can expect refreshments of Cerveza, Signature Margaritas, and Virgin Strawberry Daiquiris. For those needing a little sustenance, a make-your-own nacho bar filled with fresh beans, sour cream, cheese, fajita chicken, chili, salsa, sliced black olives, guacamole, jalapenos and more will be available. Not to mention large portions of Southwestern Salad catered by NYC Bagel will be on hand for those Salad Lovers. Have a taste for seafood? Passed shrimp will be served courtesy of our Hampton employees.

Finally, what Cinco De Mayo fiesta would be complete without a piñata? Candy will fill a pink horse and blue bull piñata for nostalgic charm. Attendees can take a whack and attempt to break the piñata for sweet treats! Cookies and fresh fruit will be provided, also.

If you plan on attending the event, please RSVP directly to Kristen at 312-396-5234 or kreeves@fhginc.com no later than Friday, April 27.

Gracias!

 

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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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Metro Chicago, a Chicago tradition in Music

As the resident independent music lover in the office, I attend a concert at least once a month. I love seeing live shows, hearing new bands and usually end up traversing around the city of Chicago in search of good tunes.

One of the earliest venues I visited (even before I became a Chicago resident) was Metro Chicago. Metro Chicago is housed in an 85 year old building that used to be a Swedish Community Center. The exterior architecture is unassuming, unpretentious; even in a neighborhood populated by CUBS fans and young urban professionals. Since 1982, Metro Chicago has been cranking out good music and introducing some heavy hitters in the musical forefront. Namely, Chicagoans The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Local H, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt. All of whom began their careers on the Metro stage.

Today, great artists and upcoming new talent showcase their skill set at Metro Chicago. Some of the shows I’ve personally seen there include: Catfish Haven, Dan Deacon, The Psychedelic Furs, Die Antwoord, Hot Chip, Girl Talk and more than I can remember. I enjoy climbing to the 2nd floor and having an aerial view of the stage, the band at work.

Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er performing at Metro Chicago February 15, 2012

Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er performing at Metro Chicago February 15, 2012

During the Die Antwoord concert I was witness to crowd-surfing twice and glad for the safety and security of the 2nd level! During less enthusiastic shows, I prefer to be front and center on the lower level where close proximity to the artists is relatively easily.

Metro Chicago boasts 2 bars, one on the lower level and one on the 2nd level. Metro allows a more intimate experience than the larger dome entertainment centers, such as Allstate Arena or the United Center. A bird’s eye view or front row accessibility are pros to this smaller venue.

Metro Chicago is located on Clark Street, a short train ride from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown. Simply hop on the EL at the Red Line Grand Stop and head North towards Howard. Exit at the Addison Red Line Stop and walk 2 blocks north of Wrigley Field. If you get the chance to visit this iconic Chicago music venue, please do! Odds are you’ll see some great upcoming artists or maybe an old favorite.

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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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Hank the Tank the Traveling Hampton Bear

Hank the Tank scouting out his next trip

Hank the Tank scouting out his next trip

As some guests may have noticed, the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown is home to a loveable, large size bear that resides in the lobby. No, you’re not seeing things. This over-sized teddy-bear is the Hampton’s very own traveling mascot and his name is Hank the Tank!

Hank the Tank and the Team at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown

Hank the Tank and the Team at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown before shipping off to Hampton Inn & Suites Carson City, Nevada

Since his adoption to the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown Family, Hank has been hanging out with guests, taking pictures, sharing smiles and hugs and even been shopping on Magnificent Mile. One guest even dared to steal Hank away to his room exclusively-causing quite any uproar on Hank’s whereabouts. Thankfully the staff here at the Hampton was able to rescue Hank and with just that change of scenery from the lobby, Hank longed to see new things and travel to Hampton hotels all around the U.S. He details his travels via facebook, twitter and with pictures and postcards. Ever seen the movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?” Well Hank is to Hampton what a pair of jeans were to a few girlfriends. The friendly spirit of camaraderie and hospitality!

Hank the Tank and the Nevada Commission and Chinese Delegation

Hank the Tank and the Nevada Commission and Chinese Delegation

Nevertheless Hank has had some amazing opportunities to visit some awesome Hampton hotels, namely the Hampton Inn & Suites Carson City, Nevada, and the Hampton Inn Raleigh-Capital Blvd. North.  Currently, Hank is traveling to Hampton Inn Gretna/Altavista/Chatham. Do you work at a Hampton nationwide and wish to have Hank at your property? Email me at kreeves@fhginc.com for Hank opportunities!

The Team here at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown hopes you enjoy Hank the Tank’s travels across the United States. Don’t forget to check out pictures and more detailing his trips. If you have suggestions for his next visit, please let me know!

 

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The Best Online Shopping Sites for the Holidays

Tis the season to be jolly, right?

 

Tis the season to be Jolly, right? Well with the holiday cheer also brings some holiday stress with fighting the crowds, while trying to find the right gift at the right price. Its survival of the fittest. Well, if you are one of the many who prefer the miracle of online shopping, I have a few sites for you to check out that will get your creativity flowing for getting that perfect gift for someone special.

The first site I think everyone should check out is www.gifts.com. If you are a procrastinator like me, then you are scrambling till the week before the holidays to get your gifts. I frantically was searching every website trying to get an idea for what to buy this season and then I stumbled upon gifts.com. After visiting this site, my holidays were saved along with my sanity. I started to become slightly addicted and would spend my evenings searching though every gift imaginable. The best part about this site is the personality profiler, which allows you customize your search settings to narrow down the best gift. You can also select the amount you are looking to spend and it will bring up a schmorgous board of ideas for you to select from and the link to where you can buy them. Personally, I have become quite fond of Personal Creations which allows you to customize your gifts at an affordable price. I hate to spill the beans, but most of my family will be receiving gifts with their names all over them. This site has gifts for the the guys guy, outdoor adventurer, trendinista, fitness and health nut, and much more.

Another site that you could spend hours perusing through is www.pinterest.com. This site is creativity on steroids. If you are feeling ambitious and want to hand make your gifts this year, visit this site for some of the most crafty projects that will wow anyone in your family! This site is an online pinboard which allows you to post all of your favorite ideas and check out other peoples projects to recreate in your own home. From food to fashion, there is something for everyone. Here are some pins for you to check out which will really add pizzazz to your holiday’s.

 

Santa party mix: http://pinterest.com/pin/38351034296309962/

Handmade ornament: http://pinterest.com/pin/2814818486784659/

 

Until next time, shop on online shoppers and have a wonderful Holidays!

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Ras Dashen, a wonderful Ethiopian Restaurant on the northside of Chicago

Chicago as a city has so much to offer; fun sightseeing, good theatre, great nightlife and definitely some good eating! When you come to Chicago you are bombarded with an array of different cuisines that will blow you away. I try to venture out to a new local restaurant that I have not been to about once a month. Let’s be real guys, most of us are not billionaires, so like the rest of us I’m trying not to break the bank and still be able to enjoy what Chicago has to offer.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting some friends at ‘Ras Dashen’, an Ethiopian restaurant. It is located on the north side of Chicago on Broadway. If you are traveling from out of town and staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites, just take the red line at the grand stop and head north! This was such a great experience! Beware! If you do not like spicy food, this is probably not going to be for you. Since it was our first time there we did not know what to expect. Totally exceeded my expectations. As we entered the restaurant, there was a band playing which was awesome! Then, we were seated at a table that was not really a table (they have actual tables there too, but we wanted the full experience!). They had four chairs surrounding this tall basket in place of a table. As the table top, they used a round tray with Ethiopian art.

The Dining Room at Ras Dashen

The Dining Room at Ras Dashen

We started off with some drinks. I ordered a Peach Martini, usually not a fan of very sweet martinis, but the restaurant recommended it, noting it was quite popular. I took a chance and it was delicious. For the appetizer we ordered the Sambusa, this is such a great dish. It was a little spicy but light and full of flavor. We all ordered our entrées and sides (with an entrée order every table gets a choice of three sides) with the thought of sharing in mind, and good thing too because they prepare the meal on one plate for the entire table. The preparation of the food is so unique. They use a very large round tray as a plate. At the bottom they put Injera, which is the traditional word for flat bread. Then they place the entrée on a section on the Injera in front of the person that ordered it. In between each entre, they place one of the sides in order to provide a little variety. Then you dig in! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that they do not use utensils. You use the Injera to grab the food and you eat with your hands!

Whether you are a local or someone that is visiting from out of town, I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone that is daring and likes spicy food.

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Lookingglass’ hit production of The Great Fire has now been extended through December 4th! See my earlier blog post for my review! Go see this show, you have 4 more weeks.

http://blog.hamptonsuiteschicago.com/?p=164

Even better, you can get exclusive  HALF PRICE TICKETS half price tickets for every Thursday 3pm matinee for the rest of the run.  To redeem, simply use code THUMATBOGO when buying online at lookingglasstheatre.org or by phone at 312.337.0665.

Half price, need I say more?

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Jersey Shore: The Musical

To be a Jersey Shore fan or not to be, that is the question? MTV has once again successfully hooked millions of viewers to the reality show which follows 7 (really tan) strangers from the east coast who try to live together in a ridiculous house on the Jersey Shore. Sounds like just another season of “The Real World” right? WRONG. The Jersey Shore has not only captured its audience with the intense arguments and dramatic “hook ups”, but they have made up their own nicknames and contagious vocabulary that has taken the nation by storm. If these words confuse you: GTL, Grenades, T-Shirt Time, Fist Pump, Juice heads, GFF, or MVP, than you have not tuned in on Thursday aka “Jersday” to see what shenanigans Nicole “Snookie” , Mike “the Situation”, DJ Pauly D, Vinny, Jenni “JWOWW”, Ronnie, Sammy “Sweetheart,” and Angelina are getting in to.

After the first season, the show just exploded and the cast became famous for doing absolutely nothing.  The demand for leopard print and big hoops skyrocketed; they are appearing on TV shows i.e. Dancing with the Stars, JERSEY SHORE Halloween costumes were a #1 seller, and our very own Hampton Brand is using Jersey Shore for their TV commercials. Just when I thought the pandemonium was over, the Jersey Shore Musical launched in Chicago.

 

Poster of Jersey Shore: The Musical

Jersey Shore: The Musical

Jersey Shore: The Musical is written by 4 Days Late with a hilarious tone and perfectly selected cast. Snookie had her poof, JWOWW had her extensions, Sammy and Ronnie had their fights, Angelina instigated those fights, Pauly D and Vinny had their “T-Shirt” time, and the Situation had his “Situation.” The Music was directed by Matt Griffo and definitely didn’t lack originality with songs like “We’ve got no shame” and “Snookin’ for Love.” Along with talented actors and creative songs, there were some impressive dance numbers which did not include fist pumping.

The show plays every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30pm at Studio BE located at 3110 North Sheffield. You can purchase tickets online at http://www.studio-be.org/buy-tickets or at the door for $23. The show runs about 2 hours and the venue is a BYOB. The show recently got extended to play until December 3rd so round up your friends, call a cab, and brace yourself for the madness at the Jersey Shore.

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