Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our Downtown Chicago Staycation

Our Downtown Chicago Staycation // Bubby and Bean

Last Friday evening, Robbie, Essley, and I checked into the gorgeous W City Center hotel in the heart of downtown Chicago's Loop for a weekend staycation. Our three year wedding anniversary was two days earlier, so it was perfect timing for a celebration - and for the first time, as a family of three. For how much traveling we do, we have admittedly spent very little time playing tourist in our own city (especially right downtown where all the action is), so this was pretty exciting for us. We ended up having a really wonderful weekend that was the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure, and we've already decided that we need to make this an annual event.

Our room at the W was beautiful (my favorite part being the rad typographic lamp art that read, "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - spot on!), so we decided to spend the first night in with a pizza from good ol' Chicago staple Lou Malnati's. We are terrible Chicagoans in that we never order deep dish pizza, but since we were playing tourists and all, we went for it. (And thank goodness we did, because omg you guys. So good.) We spent the evening sprawled out on the massive chaise lounge in the room gorging ourselves and relishing in the luxury of doing nothing. (In truth, Robbie watched baseball playoffs and I went back and forth between playing with Essley, experimenting with the delicious smelling Bliss body products from the W's bathroom, and reading, but this was as close to doing nothing that we've gotten in a long time. And it was glorious.)

On Saturday morning, we awoke to discover that it was unseasonably cold and rainy outside. But we were determined. After leisurely sipping on coffee and eating a late breakfast, we bundled up, were greeted by the W's super friendly elevator carpet (had to snap this picture), and headed outside toward Michigan Avenue with plans to check out the Magritte Exhibit at the Art Institute. The Art Institute is one of my favorite places in the world, and was one of the things I missed most during the 14 years I left the area. Despite our lack of making time for tourist things around here, I do try to make it here about once a year. I have not, however, ever visited on a weekend, and wow was it busy. I'm so grateful that we had a member card because the line to get in stretched around the block and we were able to bypass it. Sadly though, the Magritte exhibit was way too crowded to navigate with a 9 month old baby, so we had to give up after a few minutes and instead headed toward the Modern Wing, which is my favorite area of the museum. I'm especially smitten with the Contemporary Art After 1960 galleries, and it was pretty cool to see Essley react so positively to some of my favorite pieces. (Lots of bright colors and contrast and simple lines make for visually pleasing stuff to babies.) This was her first visit to the Art Institute (outside the womb, anyway) and aside from some jolly-but-intense high pitched screeches in line for the Magritte exhibit, she behaved really well and seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. I can't wait to bring her back when she's a little older.

After a few hours at the museum, we headed across the street to Millennium Park. And here is where I become completely transparent about what a really bad Chicagoland native I am: this was the first time I'd ever visited the bean. To be fair, it didn't exist until 2006 (and even Millennium Park itself didn't while I was growing up), but I've spent enough time in the park (Chicago's fashion week runways shows are held there, among other events I've done for work) that it's a little silly that I've somehow repeatedly missed what is arguably the most famous part. So for our first stop, the bean it was. It was drizzling and Essley has fallen asleep in her stroller during the short walk, so we let her sleep, snapped a few photos (the sculpture is pretty bad ass in person), and took a stroll around the park. The leaves were just beginning to change and many of the gardens still had flowers, so there was a lot of lovely things to look at as we walked. From there we explored for a while, mainly just to be present and look at things we normally forget to appreciate (there really is some seriously stunning architecture in this city!) and eventually, headed back to the hotel to regroup and figure out dinner.

We ended up getting a little too comfortable in our room (the beds at the W City Center are like clouds, dudes) and dozed off for a few minutes next to Essley. It felt decadent to stop our busy lives for even a brief moment to just relax together. After waking up hungry, we did a little online searching for closeby dinner options.  (We had brunch reservations at the hotel's restaurant, IPO, for the following morning or we would have eaten there as the dinner menu looked stellar.) Our goal was to find something casual that was kid-friendly but not a big chain, and somewhere that offered some good vegetarian options for me. So I may have let out an audible scream when I realized that Native Foods, a seriously scrumptious vegan restaurant, was right around the corner. We put Essley in the Ergo and just a few minutes later, were sitting a table awaiting what ended up being one of the best dinners I'd had in a while. I had a vegan reuben sandwich and an Ebel's Weiss beer; Robbie had a vegan gyro health bowl, sweet potato fries (which Essley sampled as well and seemed to adore), and a lavender lemonade. And we shared the best vegan buffalo wings I've ever eaten.

When dinner was done, we walked back to the W, and spent a little while checking out the gorgeous lobby and their lounge (called the Living Room). If we'd been sans baby, we definitely would have spent some time chilling over cocktails there. It's a cozy space with a beautiful vaulted gold flecked ceiling, comfy couches, and the coolest oversized lamps. We then headed back up to the room and got Essley ready for bed, then settled into bed ourselves and watched a movie. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

On Sunday morning, we packed up our bags (boooo) and headed downstairs to the IPO Restaurant for brunch. The first thing I noticed (of course) was that the space was beautifully styled - I want a set of their hanging light fixtures for my house, and I think Essley does as well. We started off with coffee and a bakery plate filled with freshly baked pastries and sides of orange marmalade and Nutella.  (The croissant was to die for.) After much contemplation, I ordered the eggs benedict (with the canadian bacon on the side for Robbie, who loves his meat y'all) and breakfast potatoes, and Robbie ordered a cheddar, asparagus, and chorizo omelette. Our meals came out fast and were absolutely delightful. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what spices they used for the potatoes, but wow. Hands down, they were the best breakfast potatoes I've even had, and I will without a doubt visit IPO again for this very reason. We left full and happy (which when it comes to brunch, is the ultimate way to feel), said our goodbyes to our magical downtown staycation, and headed back to reality with some fantastic memories.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and are thinking about taking a staycation, I can't recommend the W City Center highly enough. The hotel staff is absolutely wonderful and the rooms are both comfortable and chic. The location is incredible for really experiencing the heart of the city, and the restaurant is more than just convenient - it's fresh, delicious, and interesting. And the overall vibe of the hotel is great as well - whether you're bringing the kids like we did, looking for a romantic atmosphere, or planning a fun weekend with friends. You can check out more about the W City Center for yourself right here, or via their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.  During your stay at the W, I also suggest paying a visit to the Art Institute and Millennium Park like we did - both are not to be missed. The Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower - but not to Chicagoans!) is also steps away, and both the Goodman Theatre and Cadillac Palace Theatre are less than a mile from the hotel. If you're in the mood for shopping, the famous Magnificent Mile is a short few block walk away. Or even if you just want to enjoy a luxurious weekend of lazy bliss in an exquisitely designed room with a heavenly bed - this is the place to do it. I hope you love it as much as we did. Thanks for following along!

This post was in collaboration with W Hotels/Starwood Hotels. I received a complementary stay at the W City Center, but was not monetarily compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. 



  1. gorgeous photos :) We are making the trip to Chicago very soon for our anniversary. You gave us some great tips!!

  2. Sounds like it was a fantastic and laid back weekend, I love your pictures!

  3. My mouth is watering just reading about the delicious vegan reuben sandwich and sweet potato fries! Yum! I usually visit the big city at least twice a year, but always mid-week as weekends are disastrous! Looks like you all had a fantastic weekend, and it's fun to see Essley exploring her surroundings :)

  4. Beautiful pictures! The hotel looks gorgeous and these are such fun ideas of things to do. I love Chicago and can't wait to visit again someday.

  5. looks like an amazing weekend. i love the art institute. the hotel looks fancy and fun!

  6. Love all the art photos (of course haha). We are out and about in our town all the time, but the one thing we haven't done (at least not since I was a kid, before I lived here) is stay in a hotel in DC. People are always asking us for hotel recommendations, and I have no idea. Ask a tourist for hotel recs, not a local! :P

    1. Mary, if you guys ever do stay in a hotel in DC, stay at one of the Kimptons! We used to go down for an overnight in DC every November because one of favorite bands would play back to back nights at the 9:30 Club. It was always our fun getaway weekend even though we could have just driven down to DC from Baltimore both nights anyway. Those hotels make you feel like you're rich and famous or something...haha. Totally worth the splurge once a year! :)

  7. What an awesome weekend! I'm super envious of the Magritte exhibit at the Art Institute. I haven't been to Chicago in waaaay too long (last time we were there we got engaged in Millennium Park!) and I miss the Art Institute. I used to go into Chicago very regularly for exhibits there as well as for music at various venues. Recently, when I visit my parents, it's for such a short time frame that I don't have an extra day just to go to Chicago. Sigh...

  8. What a wonderful weekend and a very beautiful photos!

  9. Sounds like a great weekend! Your hotel is just the coolest! And I love your family portrait in the bean :)

  10. Wow. Every little bit of that trip looks wonderful.

  11. So fun! Feels like our own personal tour guide. :-)

  12. Love these photos and we love stay-cations! There's an amazing five star hotel in Whistler (a close by ski resort) and we adore going there for easy getaways!! xo

  13. I'm glad you finally saw the Bean! I used to work across the street from Millennium Park (way back when I was still in radio) and that's where I'd go with my book when I had downtime. Isn't it funny how few tourist-y things people do in their own cities? Like you, I hit up the Art Institute every year, and I did see the Bean again after lunch with a friend in February, but I haven't been to Navy Pier since I was in high school, for example.

    Anyway, I'm glad you got to have a city weekend! Makes me want to do one, too. :-)

  14. So fun! It looks like you had a really awesome weekend. I love your photography so much, you are really talented.
    Ahh man I want to visit the bean so badly!

  15. how cool!
    we sure do love Chicagoland!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  16. What a wonderful family day! I've never been to Chicago but it - and almost everywhere else in the world ;) - is high on my list of places to see very soon and you've just given me so many more reasons for that with these photos. And the mention of Lou Malnati's, which I'm dying to try.


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