Disclosure: I received a media rate from the Renaissance Chicago Downtown hotel.
My maternity leave was about to end and I needed to take a trip before I headed back to work…really badly. We were still too nervous to fly with a very active Baby R (yes, that’s first time parents for you), so a driving trip to the U.S. sounded like it would be the next best thing. The plan…head to Chicago to explore a bit and then visit friends in Indiana.
We were only in Chicago for a day and a half, so we needed to make the most of it with baby in tow. Traveling with baby is certainly different but with the right stroller (yay for our City Mini Baby Jogger) and a bit of advanced planning, it’s definitely doable. Add in a great hotel and you’re all set. Here’s the best of Part 1 of our trip – Chicago, Illinois!
The Renaissance Chicago Downtown was smack dab in the middle of the city and within walking distance of tons of restaurants and shops. We really couldn’t have asked for a better location. Add to that the fact that the hotel just completed $27 million dollar renovation of their lobby and guest rooms and we couldn’t wait to check it out.
I don’t know what the lobby looked like before their renovations but it looked amazing after the renovation. High ceilings, great art and a bar with an open kitchen came together to create a great vibe. The lobby was lively and people seemed to be happy and having a good time, which was nice to see. They have an espresso machine and pastries available for purchase in the lobby, so we grabbed a snack on our way upstairs.
When we got to our room, we were greeted with a tasty welcome surprise from the hotel (yum!) and we were happy to see that Baby R had his own little bed in the form of a stylish Pack ‘n Play with nice bed sheets in it. For those non-parents who are reading this, it’s a portable crib/containment device, I mean play area, that’s perfect for use when traveling. Baby R didn’t feel like hanging out in his Pack ‘n Play, so he made himself right at home on the king-sized bed while I wandered around the room. The room was a great size for us and even with the Pack ‘n Play in it, we still had quite a bit of space for the three of us and the assortment of luggage and other paraphernalia needed to keep a baby fed and happy.
The room had been updated in the hotel’s recent renovation project and it looked fresh and modern. My husband and I both thought the decor was cool and contemporary and the artwork had a great city vibe to it. The king-sized bed was very comfortable for the both of us and we had more than enough room for my son to sleep in between us when he got fussy that night (phew!).
The hotel has a full service spa, fitness center and a pool, which hopefully I’ll have a chance to check out on a future visit. Guests we met in the lobby told us the pool was terrific but sadly we just didn’t have the time to enjoy it. Definitely a great reason for us to come back again!
Overall, we enjoyed our visit and we look forward to staying at the Renaissance hotel again next time. We definitely needed more than one night in this city! Between dealing with traffic, baby’s feeding/sleep times and a general desire to otherwise take it easy, we didn’t make it to too many places on this visit. Note: I am leaving out an unfortunate experience with an Asian restaurant…sadly, not all food is perfect in Chicago! Here are a few of our favourite shops and restaurants from our short visit:
If there’s an Eataly in the city I’m visiting, you’ll bet that I’ll head there. After talking my hubby’s ear off about Eataly New York (which he hasn’t been to yet), I knew I had to take him to the Chicago location. With two floors of food goodness, this store can’t be explained in words or photos, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. We decided to have a late lunch there and enjoy their fresh pasta. Hubby had a pappardelle in a Bolognese sauce which he was swooning over and I had their spinach and ricotta ravioli in a lemon butter sauce with pistachios. The sauce was so delicious, I wanted to lick the plate. I took a photo of some chocolate chip cookies that looked incredible and I posted it to Facebook while I was in there. Several people then asked if they tasted as good as they looked but I didn’t buy one as I was trying to be “good”…but in the end, I caved in and I was so glad that I did, that cookie was one of the best I had ever had! I wish I had one right now actually…
Yes, I know what you might be thinking…popcorn? Why do I need to buy popcorn in Chicago? Garrett Popcorn is a hot spot in Chicago and it’s not just the tourists who are in line to buy from their shop, the locals go there too. The signature item is their Garrett Mix popcorn, a mix of their CaramelCrisp and their Cheesecorn popcorn flavours. It’s an interesting combination that is a bit of an acquired taste but once you try it, you’ll be addicted. My husband’s favourite flavour is the Cashew CaramelCrisp and I love their Almond CaramelCrisp. Both of these are specialty flavours, packed with whole nuts. They are absolutely delicious and we actually prefer them to the bestselling Garrett Mix (yup, we said it!). We were only in Chicago for a little over a day and we went to Garrett Popcorn twice….that’s how much we love it there : )
The breakfast places we wanted to go to all had HUGE lineups so I pulled out my trusty phone to see what our fends on Yelp had to say. Eggy’s Diner popped up and it was within walking distance so we decided to check it out. We were so glad we did! The restaurant had a funky, relaxed vibe and bonus points, they had a high chairs for Baby R!
We started off with some pancakes, because I always have to try the pancakes at a breakfast restaurant. The verdict….they were delish, so we knew we were in good hands. Next up, I had the Benedict Florentine, a toasted English muffin topped with sautéed spinach, two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, complete with a side of breakfast potatoes. I threw some hot sauce on that bad boy and I was in my happy place. Hubby had the Corned Beef Hash and he too was in his happy place. Baby R enjoyed a lovely breakfast of milk and bits of pancakes, so he gives the place a thumbs up too : ) We will definitely have breakfast here again next time we visit! P.S. They have really cute mugs for sale with their logo on it. We bought one and we know you’ll want one too.
Once again Chicago, we only visited you for a short time! Hoping for a longer visit next time around. Until we meet again…. : )
Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel
1 West Wacker Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60601 USA
The Shops at North Bridge
43 E Ohio St.
Chicago, Illinois 60611 USA
Garrett Popcorn Shops
26 W Randolph St.
Chicago, Illinois 60601 USA
333 E Benton Pl
Chicago, Illinois 60601, USA