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The Big Chill: Chicago Style

By  Diana Scherr

 Chicago tThe Big Chill Hilton Chillcations

Chicago is my kind of town. 

Call me a cliché, but I am all about a cold beer on a hot day at Wrigley Field, riding bikes up and down the shores of Lake Michigan, and viewing the cityscape from the top of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel with an ice cream in hand.

A thousand things to do… in the SUMMER. 


Chicago is about as high on the destination wish list as what the thermometer reads in the middle of January.  Who wouldn’t need a little convincing? 

Enter the Hilton Hotels of Chicago and their beat-the-winter-blues “Chillcation” packages.

If unwinding in the Windy City’s “off season” isn’t yet on your radar, hear me out.  The lights, the action, the lack of laundry… a weekend inside the Loop can chase those doldrums away. 

Whether you come to chill out or to chill in, there’s a plethora of options.  All the Hilton packages come with reduced (or even free) self-park options; discounts at their fabulous, on-site restaurants; complementary in-room Wi-Fi & access to hotel fitness clubs and pools; and Chillcation mugs with endless refills of house-brewed coffee or steaming hot chocolate.   Each of the properties has their own signature style, so pick your fancy and go! 


Hilton Palmer House

 The Palmer House

Hands down among the most beautiful hotels in the nation, this historic landmark was originally built by rags-to-riches entrepreneur, Potter Palmer, as a wedding gift to his young bride, Bertha, in 1871.  It was heartbreakingly destroyed just 13 days later in the Great Chicago Fire.  No matter that this is now the third version of the place; the location is firmly stitched within the nubby fabric of Chicago.

You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy the Palmer House, but you certainly will be one by the time you leave.  Ken Price, the hotel’s 32-year Director of Public Relations, has officially moved into the new role of Hotel Historian and there is no better man for the job. His high-energy, animated “History is Hott” tour will leave you – and the older kids in your clan - enthralled and a whole lot savvier.  Make sure you take time to have a drink - and to drink in - the gorgeously ornate hotel bar at The Lockwood and be transported back to another era.  It’s a bustling scene of locals, international business travelers, and families alike.  And don’t forget to get a signature Palmer House brownie… Bertha Potter’s staff invented them! 

The Chillcation package includes:  

·  $20 Self-Parking (more than 50% off regular pricing)

·  Breakfast Buffet for 2 at Lockwood Restaurant

·  30% Off - Balance Spa Services

·  Buy 1 Get 1 Free - History is Hott! Tour (based on availability & existing schedule) 

Chicago Hilton

The Hilton Chicago

No slouch in the history department, The Hilton Chicago is located on the South Loop, oozing elegance from every nook and cranny.  Grant Park is right across the street, so if crisp, early morning runs are on your agenda, this is the place for you.  Every room on the property is a suite (plenty of elbow room) and the hotel is pet-friendly so Fido can come along as well.

Consider a lakefront suite for your clan……

there is something so magnificent about watching the sun rise and the city lights sparkle in the reflection of the water from 20 floors up.  The Hilton Chicago has done well anticipating the needs of families with the addition of SNAX, the grab-n-go café that has everything: fresh fruit, handmade deli sandwiches, wine & craft beers, jellybeans in bulk, and a 21st century soda foundation full of fun. Make sure and stop by Kitty O’Shea’s for authentic fish n’ chips, too! 

The Chillcation package includes:  

·  Complimentary Self-Parking (a $48 savings)

·  25% Discount on Drinks & Dining at SNAX, Kitty O’Shea's, 720 South Bar & Grill, & in-room dining

The Conrad

The Conrad makes it easy to keep the whole family happy.  Make your reservation and ask for the “Camp-In” set-up.  Then, be prepared for squeals of delight when your little campers open the hotel door to find a pitched tent on top of the queen size bed, complete with sleeping bags, flashlights, a knapsack full of games, and “fireside” treats. 

For the shopper, world-class retail is literally right INSIDE the door: The Conrad is attached to Nordstrom via a pedestrian bridge and located smack dab in the heart of the “Mag Mile”.

ft tent photo chicago photo

For the epicurean, feast upon low country cuisine at The Terrace restaurant – a modern twist on southern comfort food that hits the spot on a cold winter evening.  And all ages can be pampered each night by indulging in the creative “Sleep Menu” pillow collection - offering soothing aqua thermal masks, night caps, sleep elixirs, and a deluxe aroma turn-down service with chocolate moon and stars. 

The Chillcation package includes:  

·  2 Sleep amenities from Sleep Menu

·  25% off Drinks & Dining at the Terrace Restaurant & Bar and private dining

·  2 signature Chillcation cocktails

·  American Breakfast for 2 at the Terrace Restaurant 

navy pier chicago


For those who need to get out to chill out, all three Hiltons serve as great jumping off spots for a plethora of family-friendly winter activities in the heart of the city. 

At Navy Pier you can ride the 150 foot ferris wheel (yes, year round), spend hours exploring at the Children’s Museum (complete with a sock skating rink for the winter), take in an IMAX movie, or grab a “cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger” at the legendary Billy Goat Tavern (of Saturday Night Live fame). 

The Art Institute of Chicago is always free for kids 14 and under, and has an ever-changing line-up of special events.  Visit the Artist’s Studio in the Ryan Education Center to work on an art project to take home, or enroll your offspring in a Mini-Masters workshop.  The Vitale Family Room features hands-on activities with books, blocks, and puzzles of classic masterpieces.  Or, meander in the museum itself, using the interactive audio tour, especially designed for kids ages 5-10. 

Just down from the pier is Millennium Park.  Its trademark sculpture, affectionately called “The Bean”, is a must see, if not for the sculpture itself, but to witness the sheer joy it brings to all ages.  Walk under its belly (and test the echo properties), or take pictures of yourself and the skyline in its never-ending reflection.  The park is also home to the McCormick-Tribune Ice Rink, free and open to the public all winter long.  Free ice-skating lessons are offered Fridays through Sundays, one hour before the rink opens.  Skate rental just $10. 

And then again, there are a thousand things to do in Summer. But, that’s another story.


Chillcation packages are available now through April 20th, 2014.  For rates & specific hotel package details, go to


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