9 Replies Latest reply: Jul 24, 2014 10:14 AM by erc RSS

Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"

erc Platinum
Currently Being Moderated
  
Back in February, circumstances arose where I would need two rooms in downtown Chicago, midweek in JulyHot Sauce Pain  ouch!
I knew the rates would be painful as Marriott always does terrific business in the summer. I secured the best rate in the city for one of my favorites, SpringHill River North for $225 (I often get a $89 rate for Thanksgiving week or in the dead of winter). Most of you know that I love me some Chicago Marriott, having stayed at virtually every non CY Marriott downtown, four of the two airport hotels, and several suburban properties, enjoying excellent service every time.

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Either property on Dearborn is a great stay   

As I watched the rate increased to $240 to $250 to $299 and finally being sold out, I tipped my hat to Marriott for the success of their demand oriented pricing. But I have evolved (hear me roar) and no longer just blindly give my heart and money to Marriott. As a Lifetime Plat from the very beginning of the status over 10 years ago and a Rewards member in all of its forms from the very first month, this was initially a difficult transition, but each time I've ventured away and observed travel life outside the 'family', I've grown more and more confident of my options.
     
  
  

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                                     A nice welcome gift


  In April I was able to land a TravelZoo deal for the Millennium Knickerbocker, just down the block from the Residence Inn on Walton Ave. across the street from the Drake and just around the corner from Michigan Ave., that saved me over $900 pre-tax for the two rooms over three nights. Not only that, but I have Marriott to thank for my enhanced "schmooze" skills (as we jockey for upgrades) which served me well when I called the hotel to reserve the dates for my voucher. Breakfast and a bar credit was part of the deal, but lucky guy that I am, I was fortunate enough to have internet included and a pleasant surprise welcome package (see photo). No lake view, it was similar to my terrific stay at the NY Lexington, landlocked among the tall buildings and in a way, several aspects of this hotel (artwork, lobby, bar) were somewhat similar to the vibe of the Lexington. Nothing special about the routine 300 sq. ft. rooms, but everything worked, staff were all personable and helpful and of course, the location was excellent.
  
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        A nice, warm piano bar reminding me of the
           former I Lounge at the JW New Orleans
  
  While I actually got some work done, I also was able to dine with my daughters and enjoyed several good meals using my "what's the deal?" approach (they're twenty somethings, so the Wednesday night Outback deal for $11.99 would have been just fine; the Outback attached to the SpringHill O'Hare, btw, is great for this);
  
  
  Dinners
  
   Mity Nice Bar and Grill - at Water Tower Place - a quiet place to dine (tucked deep in the bowels of the food court) with a broad range of choices, all well prepared and moderately priced. This is part of the Lettuce Entertain You chain and if you'll recall, yours truly snagged a $25 bonus for every $100 certificate.
  
  Seasons 52
- Grand Ave. diagonal from the Mag Mile Marriott. Reserved with OpenTable and captured 1,000 points (worth $10) because we ate at 6 pm (which was 7 pm East Coast stomach time). I've enjoyed Seasons 52 in Orlando, Tysons, and now Chicago and it's as reliable as Bandera, which similarly, has restaurants throughout (Newport Beach, Scottsdale, and Michigan Ave. across from the Marriott, to name a few).
  
  Crossroads at the House of Blues
(down the street from the combo SpringHill/Residence Inn on Dearborn) - joining some of my daughters' friends so I can stay in touch with the Millennial mindset, I executed a $50 restaurant.com certificate (bought for $8) and we had a great time. The food was good enough not to distract from the camaraderie of two generations exchanging ideas and enjoying the blues.
  
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   Millennials can quickly Google Lead Belly and Howlin Wolf on phones


  Lunches - both very close to Magnificent Mile Marriott
  
   Eataly -  I was with some big dogs from New York who just had to see if this was like the New York operation (similar except smaller and no outdoor dining). My turkey breast sandwich was good, but a TKY at Potbelly would have been $5 cheaper and 15 minutes quicker!
  
   Purple Pig - went with a business associate and boy, I thought I was in Andrew Zimmern territory. The place has an excellent reputation and prepares essentially every part of the pig, but with an afternoon meeting, I couldn't really chance that a heart, ear, intestine, or neck would disagree with me, so I went with the relatively safe pork brisket sandwich, which was excellent and my friend liked the ham and cheese.
  
  
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Navy Pier cruises, like Jos. A. Bank, always on sale - don't dare pay list price.
This was a Groupon, but TravelZoo, AmazonLocal, and Goldstar deal year 'round
  

   Moral of the Story: Leisure travelers, consider signing up for TravelZoo.com. Deals (flights, restaurants, and activities as well) often provide weeks, if not months of availability for planning purposes and there are almost always 10-15 Marriott properties being offered at any one time. Usually Marriott.com (with points) matches the rates, but for non Plats and non Golds, often these deals offer breakfast and internet, so perhaps a deal for newer Rewards members.  I am now 4 for 4 when I've ventured from Marriott (not counting my six VRBO stays, but those weren't necessarily deals, just great places) and continue to hold Marriott in the highest regard, saluting their success (as a shareholder) and combining with them for wonderful times; but now I realize I also have reasonable alternatives when Marriott is red hot and will not miss my smiling face at their place of business.
  
  Keep on keepin' on Insiders. We're all in this together.
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

(For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
    pluto77 Alumni Steward Gold 25 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Thanks for the excellent read and valuable info, Ercster. 

     

    Sounds like you had a superb time, and nicely done!

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
    jerrycoin Alumni Steward Platinum 60 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc,

     

    Wonderful report and pictures!

     

    Your hotel really sounds appropriate.  A great location for dining, shopping and walking to everything!

     

    Good advice on "Deals"!

     

    Thank-you erc!

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
    iahflyr Platinum 26 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Great job filling us in on your travels and explorations in dining and sharing the pictures, looks like yet another wonderful trip.  The Purple Pig we just loved particularly sitting at next to the serving station we got to see all the wonderful things they offer, I just hope you at least thought of having the Roasted Bone Marrow!!!

     

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    Did you have a Chicago Dog?

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
      erc Platinum
      Currently Being Moderated

      I've had and enjoyed roasted bone marrow and have had and survived pigs feet, so I didn't want to toss a coin with an actual 'bidness' meeting to follow; "please excuse my chartreuse cheeks, my tripe is acting up !

      We liked the two sandwiches we ate. My pork brisket was like a reuben. If they had a pork charcuterie where I could sample the whole works and didn't see humans for several hours, I'd give it a go, because what I had was tasty.

      I didn't have a dog this time (but, trust me, I have, along with Italian beef sandwiches). I was trying to maintain my svelte figure for the Labor Day Speedo contest!

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
        iahflyr Platinum 26 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        Pigs feet and Chicken feet are both delicacies to be enjoyed if one can get past the concept, glad you could!

         

        Labor Day Speedo contest, where so I am far away?

        O148-speedos.jpg

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
    erc Platinum
    Currently Being Moderated

    Because I don't want the combination of tripe and Speedo contest as a mental image to be the last post on this thread; it's my own fault, I knew Speedo was a bad neighborhood to visit :

     

    Here are two decent travel sites I bumped into while planning a future trip. I used the info from them to help me ask and optimize the advice provided by our forum experts on my trip to Belgium. Check them out - pretty good stuff:

     

     

    http://www.triposo.com/

     

    http://amateurtraveler.com/

     

    PS - my daughter, neighbor to the Chicago Cubs in Wrigleyville, just sent me a note telling me what a great back to back time she and her millennial pals had sitting on her balcony listening to the Billy Joel (yes, IAH, the same piano man that you'll see at MSG) and Blake Shelton concerts. She lives close enough to clearly hear the tunes, but far enough away (three blocks) that they are outside of the 'drunken stupor' range of Cubs games. Wow, what a week for her, two free dinners from pops and two free concerts, now those are Elite benefits .

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
    painedplatinum Platinum 2 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc

     

    Catching up on some light reading...great write up.. I'm stuck with Marriott 1st, then check IHG. I haven't ventured to the darkside yet, but I'm sure I'll join you at some time, so keep the reports coming!

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
    ks77 Gold 23 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    erc Great post! Chicago is quite possibly my favorite city. I really like the Renaissance on Wacker. Seasons 52 is a pretty cool place. They just built a brand new one near me in NJ and I have been there twice and both meals were quite good. The wine list is good as well. I just have to ask...no Gibsons? no Wow Bao? No Italian Beef???

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: Chicago as a Travel "Free Agent"
      erc Platinum
      Currently Being Moderated

      ks77

       

      Those are excellent recommendations, I've heard a lot of good about both. It was a clash of ages though that ruled them out this time. We walked right by Gibsons during our walk, ol' Dad wasn't going to drop $50 a pop for my veggie loving 'girly girls' (we would have been more likely to head up to Lou Malnati's) and as far as Wow Bao, as you know, it's right when you enter Water Tower, but it was too chaotic at dinnertime for this dinosaur, so I sought refuge in a sit down .

       

      But both are on my list (I knocked off Del Frisco's last trip). Thanks for the idea - good stuff.

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

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