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phoebe

IL Chicago Congress Plaza Hotel

in

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People either love or hate this old historic hotel.  My husband loved it but first a little background.  Years ago pre-internet he and other member of his dojo had to go to Chicago to complete testing requirements for their aikido belts.  One of the group picked out an inexpensive hotel.  Upon checking in they found the hotel made most of its money renting its rooms by the hour, so to my husband any hotel is an automatic 4 star compared to that one!

 

We are pretty low maintenance/lucky so did not encounter any of the problems others have reported (doorknobs falling off, peeling paint, brown water gushing from the shower, filthy rooms).  Our room on the 11th floor, north tower was pretty small.  It had obviously once been a larger corner room that had been divided in two.  It overlooked the El tracks where, as the old joke goes, the trains went by so often that you don't even notice.  The room held a queen bed, one small chair, one bureau, one small closet, and a bathroom with a shower stall only, no tub.  There was nowhere to sit except on the bed (my husband went down to the lobby anytime he needed to type on his laptop), and of course no microwave or refrigerator.  A small coffeemaker sat on the bureau.  That being said the hot water was plentiful and had good pressure and there were hints of the old glory days like the rather thin towels embossed with the hotel's logo.

 

There is no thermostat per se.  The only controls on the register were for fan speed so you had to accept whatever air temp was coming out of the vent.  For our trip in mid May we did have cool air, and the large windows could be opened for more circulation we were quite comfortable sleeping.

 

The hotel has two restaurants, one open for breakfast only, and the other (Raphael's) serving old standbys like caesar salad, hamburgers, chicken quesadillas, and steak.  The lounge has a sports bar vibe and is a bit shabby.

 

Parking is in an adjacent garage and is a steep $44/day. Hotel website promises free wifi but we didn't really use it so can't speak to the accuracy of that claim.

 

Now for the good points.  The lobby is absolutely gorgeous: high ceilings, chandeliers, plenty of seating, and pitchers of ice water infused with lemon slices.  There were also other seating areas with big windows for hanging out and people watching.

 

The two elevators were a big surprise.  The cars were small but surprisingly fast.  We only had to wait a few seconds after pressing the call button for the elevator car to appear, and we were zipped up and down quickly and smoothly with no jerking or shuddering.

 

The biggest plus is the location.  The hotel is right on Michigan Ave. and a perfect central site for the Chicago visitor; across the street from Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain, 4 blocks from the Washington Library El station (making for a direct shot to/from Midway on the orange line), 2 blocks from a Metra station, and walking distance from Willis Tower and Museum Campus.  We are big walkers and spent most of our time in and around the Loop so after commuting in from Midway we didn't have to spend one penny on transportation costs.

 

Yes, parts of the hotel are banged up (door frames on my floor could use some help) and areas away from public view are in sad shape (I peeked in a housekeeping closet--cringe inducing) but for the great location alone I would be happy to stay here again, especially as a visitor who is spending most of the day out sightseeing and not in the room.

 

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