Chicago vacation includes Millennium Park, Fairmont hotel

Checking into the elegant Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park on a July afternoon, I looked like anything but the sophisticated traveler I imagine myself to be.

Our beat-up minivan pulled up to the Fairmont’s valet parking with lawn chairs, a shopping bag with snack food and wine bottles cluttering the rear seat. I was determined to have the Chicago staycation I’d been envisioning for years, but hadn’t actually put on the schedule. When you live in a world-class city like Chicago, taking advantage of your hometown’s charms usually comes in small bits, an evening after work, or a weekend day downtown. But when you can act like a tourist and set aside a few days to enjoy the sights without distraction, you come to an even greater appreciation of the place you call home.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park with its soothing green spaces is in the heart of Chicago's downtown. Photo by Terri Colby

I chose the Fairmont because it’s the Chicago hotel closest to the city’s Millennium Park, a hub of summer activity that can keep all ages occupied. On the Monday I visited the park, indie-rock favorites Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were performing in a free concert at 6:30 p.m. Earlier in the day a college jazz group performed. Other nights, the Grant Park Music Festival, the only outdoor, free classical music festival in the U.S., delivers world-class concerts that are even more magical as the lights of the city come on as the music progresses. And there are myriad activities at the park for kids, and places of special interest to gardeners, art lovers, architecture fans and fitness buffs.

For our park evening, we grabbed our lawn chairs, wine and snacks from the Fairmont’s parking garage and headed up the street to the concert. The music was fine, but that wasn’t the main draw for me. I was just happy to sit outside on a lovely summer evening, wine glass in hand and watch the people around me as the night sky darkened and white lights began to illuminate the cityscape around me. Visitors don’t need to have lawn chairs. There are free seats, but some concerts are crowded and you might prefer carrying your own chair to sit out on the great lawn to the rear of the concert space.

The Fairmont’s location is ideal for enjoying Millennium Park. But it’s also close to The Art Institute of Chicago, other museums, Michigan Avenue shopping, downtown beaches and all the Loop has to offer. It’s a fine place for a staycation for Chicagoans or a vacation for out-of-towners wanting some summer in the city.

goldlounge

The Gold Lounge on the 15th Floor at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park is a fine place for breakfast. Photo by Terri colby

We stayed in a gold level room at the Fairmont, which means you have access to the Gold Lounge of the 15th floor for breakfast and for appetizers and desserts later in the day. While it’s more expensive to have gold access, it can be economical, especially if you’re traveling with children, be they grade schoolers or young adults. Breakfasts are bountiful with choices of cereals, yogurts, fruit, pastries and a couple of hot dishes each day. We especially enjoyed the mini croissant sandwiches with eggs and cheese. My daughter and I made a dinner out of the extensive appetizer bar that included cheeses and crackers, a selection of cold meats and breads and a hot dish such as shrimp tempura. Water, juices, coffee and tea and soft drinks are complementary. Wine and beer are available for a fee. While the food and amenities like free computer access, magazines and newspapers, and board games, are what draw you to the Gold Lounge, the setting is what will keep you coming back. Wraparound views of Lake Michigan and the cityscape make it a delightful place to spend time relaxing. And a good cup of morning coffee tastes so much better with stellar views.

fairmontroom

The rooms at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park are spacious. Photo by Terri Colby

Rooms are spacious and decorated in neutrals with splashes of color. The room we had for our staycation also had a bench couch, offering extra seating, a desk/chair workspace area and a nicely outfitted bathroom with separate shower and a vanity space with seating that makes putting on makeup a snap. The beds were incredibly comfortable. I’m always surprised when I stay at a high-end hotel and the mattresses don’t measure up. It happens. But not here. These were cushiony and comfortable.

 One of the things I especially like about the Fairmont is that unlike many hotels these days, the windows in the room open to let in fresh air. Far too many times I’ve found myself in a stuffy hotel room, wishing for fresh air. You can get it at the Fairmont, even on the 30th floor.

Part of my staycation included a visit to mySpa at the Fairmont, where I had a facial that was truly transformative. Cleansing and moisturing

myspa

Myspa at the Fairmont Millennium Park in Chicago is a treat. Photo by Terri Colby

 and having several masques used on your face may not sound like much, but when it comes with neck, head and hand massages, soft music in the background, an hour in one of the spa’s treatment rooms definitely leads to bliss.

Hotel spa prices are always high, and it’s no different here. But if you’re in the mood and prepared to pay, you won’t be disappointed. The spa facilities are top notch, the estheticians pleasant and well-trained and the surroundings are soothing. The robes that are available in the spa are not the skimpy one-size-fits-all that really don’t fit all. Mine was plush and oversized so I felt comfortable drinking citrus water in the relaxation room afterwards. I didn’t want to leave, but the city was waiting for me.

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