Gas is expensive, the airports are packed, flying with the family is a huge hassle…blah, blah, blah. Nothing’s changed: Holiday travel still stinks. This year, why not opt to plan your getaway closer to home? We’re talking, like, right here—many of Chicago’s nicer downtown hotels, including the three below, go out of their way for families with special amenities and packages. And with gas and airfare out of the picture, chances are you can afford to splurge a little.
The Four Seasons
Fun for kids Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s the hotel’s hot-chocolate cart, which arrives at your door brimming with three kinds of whipped cream, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks and loads of candy condiments to doll up your cup of cocoa. Adults can order theirs spiked. Little guests can also go behind the scenes at Allium, the hotel’s restaurant, where a chef helps them make their own pizzas, which are then sent up to your room to enjoy. Thoughtful touches such as a plate of welcome cookies with milk, toys and games, and a Roman-style swimming pool—one of the most beautiful in town—make the Four Seasons a top luxury pick for staycationing families.
Fun for grown-ups While the Four Seasons’ 50-foot pool is a fave for the whole family, the hotel’s whirlpool, sauna and fitness center offer great relaxation for parents. If that doesn’t cut it, there’s always the spa, which offers massages, body treatments and seasonal facials in a luxurious setting. If that doesn’t do it…well, you’re on your own. 120 E Delaware Pl (312-280-8800, fourseasons.com). Winter rates from $395.—Martina Sheehan
Palmer House Hilton
Fun for kids You may not think your kids will want to lounge around in their bathrobes all day. But things change when Palmer House’s Peacock Club affords them the suite life, with their own robe and slippers, special bath accessories and toys, crayons, a stuffed penguin and a lollipop the size of their head. Young guests are greeted with a backpack filled with goodies at check-in, including a disposable underwater camera, so you may be able to coax them to the hotel’s pool and hot tub (they can wear the robes on the stroll over). Dinner at Lockwood Restaurant is free for any kid under six, and on Friday nights, the hotel sets up a large-screen TV by the pool for fun, aquatic viewing.
Fun for grown-ups That hot tub isn’t just a big hit for the kids. And aside from that classic, ornate, ready-for-the-spotlight lobby, the hotel is home to Balance Spa for massages and other vacation-like treatments. 17 E Monroe St (312-726-7500, palmerhousehilton.com). Winter rates $199–$249.—Jonathan Messinger
Fun for kids Child-friendly suites at this hotel with sweeping views of Navy Pier and the Mag Mile are tricked out to the nines. You choose one of three themes: Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium or Field Museum. Then step into a spacious suite with adjoining rooms, one tastefully appointed for adults, and one overflowing with stuffed animals, video and board games, toys and bath accessories tied in to your theme. (Think underwater creatures for the Shedd, dinos for the Field and outer space for the Adler.) The room rate includes four passes to one of the three museums, plus free breakfast for the kids at the adjacent Geneva restaurant, goodies such as coloring books at check-in, and an in-room snack when you arrive.
Fun for grown-ups The spacious suite also includes a common room with a sofa, work desk and bathroom, giving everyone plenty of breathing space. Kids will of course love the heated pool, but its penthouse views from the 42nd floor, dry sauna and jacuzzi mean you won’t mind it a bit, either. 323 E Wacker Dr (312-565-0565, swissotelchicago.com). Winter rates from $395.—Judy Sutton Taylor