Originally opened in 1871, the Palmer House hotel burned down in the Great Chicago Fire after just 13 days in operation. It was re-opened in 1873 and has remained so ever since, making this the granddaddy of Chicago hotels. Once considered the most luxurious hotel in the country, the Palmer House's colorful, renaissance-style lobby and three ornate ballrooms are proof of the hotel's fancy-pants pedigree.
Although the 1639 guest rooms aren't nearly as impressive as the lobby, they are remarkably budget-friendly and conveniently located near the Art Institute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Millennium Park and Grant Park. Off-season rooms can be had for less than $100, but big spenders can reserve one of 88 suites or a room in the "Executive Level," which has its own private check-in, lounge and evening hors d'oeuvres. In-towners should consider a weekend "getaway" via the Romance package, complete with sparking wine, late checkout and a full-breakfast for two in-room.
For wining and dining, the Big Downtown's 1940s theme attracts martini-sippers for lunch and dinner. The French Quarter offers New Orleans-inspired breakfast and lunch buffets, and guests can grab a nightcap and a stogie at Windsor's Lounge and Cigar Bar, located near the lobby. A 10,000-square-foot fitness center includes top of the line equipment, sauna, Jacuzzi and an indoor pool. If that's not enough luxury for you, make an appointment for a massage or a tanning bed before heading out for the night.
Centerstage Reviewer: Aimee Hall