Whether you live in the suburbs or the city itself, a night or two with room service and a pool can be a refreshing mini-vacation close to home. But which among the hundreds of hotels are the most fun for kids? We’ve narrowed down the list of great options to five top-tier picks suitable for a variety of budgets.
Kids are treated like royalty at the #1 rated hotel in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler. At check-in, kids pick a toy from the Welcome Wagon. In the room, they’re greeted with juice, cookies, a coloring book and a cupcake ready to decorate with icing and sprinkles (teens receive movie-style popcorn and pop). The staff sets up the bathroom with a stool, child toothpaste and toothbrush and brightly colored soap confetti in the sink. After a good swim at the pool, kids can wrap themselves in child-sized bathrobes and then call their own concierge line for video games, board games, books, LEGOs and Megablocks. For younger guests, the hotel baby-proofs the room and offers cribs, bed railings, high chairs, and complimentary baby supplies like diapers and wipes.
The Ritz’s "Family Fun Slumber Party" package includes a Ritz Teddy bear and blanket in a blue tote, one complimentary children’s movie, six tickets to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hancock (located right next door), a gift at American Girl Place and hot chocolate delivered to the room. Plus, kids eat free from the room service menu. Kids over 4 won’t want to miss the fun cookie-making demonstration with the pastry team offered daily at 4 p.m.
Peak rates from $410 for the Family Fun package; off-peak, $285.
Valet parking: $43
The Pen Kids package makes kids feel welcome with a colorful backpack filled with a coloring book, Peninsula Teddy bear and a packet of information on the best Chicago attractions and restaurants for kids. Room service delivers a silver tray bedecked with a gummy bear martini, a shot glass of Jell-O, a bowl of popcorn and a ‘50s-style paper car stuffed with warm chocolate chip cookies. Next, head to the pool where parents can soak up the fabulous views of the city from the glass-enclosed deck while the kids swim.
For bath time, kids receive a duck- or frog-shaped soap dispenser and a matching animal loofah. They’ll love watching cartoons during their bath on the built-in television above the marble tub.
The Peninsula also offers an "American Girl" package, which includes a bed for your daughter’s doll to sleep in, a doll-size bathrobe and slippers for her to keep and tiny cookies and milk delivered along with her own treats.
Rates: Pen Kids or American Girl package: $570
Valet parking: $45
Sheraton Hotel and Towers
The Sheraton truly embraces families, from the friendly staff to the sprawling spaces for toddlers to explore to the kid-packed pool. The Sheraton offers several great packages, including the "Family Fun" package, which features cookies and milk upon arrival, one in-room movie per night and a 4 p.m. late check-out. Plus, kids under 12 eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. The American Girl package includes two cupcakes delivered to the room—one doll-sized—an American Girl bed your daughter can keep, free parking and a complimentary upgrade to a junior suite (based on availability).
Or, celebrate your child’s birthday (or your own) with the Sheraton’s new culinary packages. Spend time in the pastry kitchen designing elaborate candy artwork on sugar canvases, using icing, frosting, edible markers, sugary glitter, sprinkles, Skittles, marshmallows and anything else yummy. Other options include designing and decorating cakes and cookies or learning how to create three-dimensional chocolate masterpieces.
Cribs, Pack’n’Plays and even microwaves are available upon request.
Peak rates from $219; off-peak family packages start at $175.
For families on a budget, Embassy Suites offers great value. Large suites feature a living area with a dinner table, couch and TV, a kitchenette and a separate bedroom. With a grocery store across the street, families can stock up on cheap goodies. Embassy is known for its complimentary hot breakfasts with cooked-to-order omelets and pancakes, waffles and various meats. During the peak season, a kids’ table offers fresh strawberries, boiled eggs and French toast sticks.
The pool is smaller, but it’s open until 11 p.m., and the water is warm (in case you want to venture in too). Embassy offers a complimentary parking package and the hotel is located within a few blocks of kid-friendly restaurants like the Rainforest Café, Rock’n’Roll McDonalds and Hard Rock Café.
Peak rates from $249; off-peak, $119.
Avenue Hotel Chicago
Don’t be fooled, the Avenue Hotel Chicago is family friendly.
The hotel offers kid-friendly rooms stocked with games and activities and families can choose from several themed packages for their weekend on the Magnificent Mile.
The Something Wild package includes a stuffed "Avey the Avenue Zebra," Adopt-a-Zebra certificate and photo and 20 percent off at Lincoln Park Zoo shops. The Sports Rule package includes a gift card to ESPN Zone, Gatorade and pretzels upon arrival and an in-room Wii game system. The Dress-Up package offers a dress-up chest in the room, a mommy/daughter manicure and cookies and milk upon arrival.
Kids also can take a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel’s operations in the What Makes the Avenue Work Tour.
Rates for the packages are as follows: Dress-Up package, $279-$329, Sports Rule package, $259-$309 and Something Wild package, $219-$269.
If you go:
n Ritz Carlton, 160 East Pearson St. (312) 266-1000 fourseasons.com/chicagorc/
n The Peninsula, 108 East Superior St. (312) 337-2888 chicago.peninsula.com
n Sheraton Hotel and Towers, 301 East North Water St. (312) 464-1000 sheratonchicago.com
n Embassy Suites Chicago, 600 North State St. (312) 943-3800 embassysuiteschicago.com
n The Avenue Chicago, 160 E. Huron St. (877) AVE-5110 avenuehotelchicago.com
Kyla Steinkraus lives in Hinsdale with her husband and 2-year-old son.