Looking for a quick and easy getaway? Chicago’s just a short, smooth train ride south and whether you’re traveling with kids, as a couple or on your own, the possibilities are endless. So endless that it might seem a little daunting to plan.
Don’t you worry, sit back and let us do the work. Here are three quick and easy Windy City overnights that will make for memorable little getaways.
Sometimes you need a little downtime. A little time to get your head together, maybe wander the city a bit, untethered.
Dinner: Current, 644 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Rule No. 1: Remember, you’re never alone if you have a book. But, really, at this lively and casual restaurant in the newly renovated lobby of the W Chicago Lakeshore Hotel, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, from the view out toward the lake to the action in attached the lobby bar and billiards area. Plus, there’s the menu of Chef Gregory Elliott -- who briefly lived in the Milwaukee area and attended Brookfield East. Elliott puts a fresh spin on Italian cuisine with house-made pastas, pizzas, a spicy grigliata mista with seafood and sausage, and some sinful desserts so you can treat yourself while no one’s around to judge. Suggestions: the gnocchi is among the best I’ve had in Chicago and the crispy focaccia di Recco is addictive.
Hotel: Acme Hotel Co., 15 E. Ohio St.
Hey, now, you’re an all-star, so treat yourself like one. Or at least like a rock star, which Acme’s hook. The rock and roll themed hotel located in the heart of River North (two blocks from the Mag Mile) has album covers in the elevators, a "caged" gym on the lower level and glam touches like illuminated lipstick swaks on the bathroom mirrors and zippered walls. The design is most definitely eye-catching and savvy guests with a view out the back will look for the trapeze artist suspended in the air shaft. Use the knock and drop breakfast service to wake up to breakfast and piping hot coffee delivered in a thermos. There’s a chalkboard on your door, too, presumably to let housekeeping know if you do not want to be disturbed. But I used mine for propaganda purposes, which seemed a more rock and roll thing to do. Tip: If you want to spread out a bit, reserve a king suite, which has a sitting room with a wet bar.
Play: "David Bowie Is," through Jan. 4, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.
Everyone is raving about the sprawling Bowie exhibit in Chicago and it is indeed a one-of-a-kind multimedia experience that seeks to capture what makes one unique artist tick. Because the headphones aren’t optional if you want to really experience the show, it’s an exhibition that’s best viewed solo. All of Chicago is raving about the exhibition, but how much you love it may depend on your devotion to David.
Two’s a charm
Spark your relationship -- or a new relationship -- with a surprise getaway. Here’s one that takes place all in a single building, allowing you plenty of alone time together, but also the chance to see and be seen.
Dinner: Pizza East, 113-125 N. Green St.
This West Loop pizzeria is the first U.S. outlet for a trio of U.K. pizzerie -- all located in Soho House clubs (more about that below). Blazing hot wood-fired ovens create perfect pizzas with a wide range of fresh toppings. Don’t miss the veal meatballs, prosciutto crudo and cream pizza or the equally good San Daniele prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella and parmigiano pie. Like most of the rest of the club, Pizza East is dressed up in reclaimed wood and low light, creating a warm and intimate mood. Advice: Do. Not. Skip. The. Garlic. Bread.
Hotel: Soho House
Soho House opened with a bang this summer in Chicago and although it’s a private club for creatives -- $2,000 a year includes gym access and other perks -- anyone can eat at the two lobby restaurants, patronize the Cowshed Spa or stay in the hotel, which offers tiny, small, medium and medium plus rooms.
Play: Soho House
Hotel guests are, in effect, temporary club members, affording access to everything the club has to offer. There’s that swanky gym with a boxing ring, those restaurants and the spa in the lobby. Upstairs there’s a small cinema, a space for bands to play, an incredible rooftop with a pool, lounge chairs and a bar/restaurant with some amazing views. Other floors -- all decorated with the work of dozens of local artists -- are home to a library, work spaces, meeting rooms, another restaurant and bar and more. A full-time events manager works up an unmatched slate of events, including movie screenings, PPV boxing matches and more. There’s no reason to leave ... ever.
For the whole family (even the dog, if you want)
Chicago is more than nightlife, it’s a town full of attractions for every age group. Here’s a fish-themed jaunt that parents and kids will both enjoy.
Dinner: Mercadito Fish, 10 E. Delaware Pl.
With outdoor tables -- if you go before the weather really heads south -- and a bright, cheery dining room, Mercadito Fish works well for families. Mom and dad will love raw bar options, a tender, flaky pan roasted halibut that can’t be beat, all you can eat fish and chip Fridays, and a jumbo Maryland crab cake that is, in fact, jumbo (at nearly five ounces) and loaded with tasty crab meat. And it’s crusted with filo dough to add a satisfying crunch. There’s no kids menu, but the little ones will love the mac and cheese. There’s also a burger, fries and grilled corn on the cob if your little ones are picky eaters. My whole clan loved the deviled eggs appetizer with chopped mushrooms hiding inside.
Hotel: The Talbott, 20 E. Delaware Pl.
The newly redecorated Talbott has it all. It feels luxurious but is family friendly. It’s on a relatively quiet street but just a block from the north end of the Magnificent Mile, where -- I don’t need to tell your kids -- there is a ginormous American Girl store located right next to a LEGO Store. While new furniture and other touches have refreshed the Talbott, the hotel’s warm English vibe survives, as do -- much to the kids’ delight -- the paintings of dogs. Speaking of which, The Talbott also offers packages for your pooch, so you don’t even need to find a dog sitter back home. Advice: If the budget allows, take a horse-drawn carriage ride -- they pass right outside the door and kids love them. After dinner, head around the corner to the Argo Tea shop in the park and have a froyo nightcap.
Play: Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Milwaukee’s got pretty much everything, except a world class aquarium. The zoo and Discovery World offer some glimpses below the water’s surface, but not in the way the Shedd can. Opened in 1930, the aquarium is home to 32,000 animals representing more than 1,500 fish, reptile, amphibian, invertebrate, bird and mammal species from around the globe. There’s an aquatic show, a stingray petting pool (like at Milwaukee County Zoo), a 4D theater and dozens of exhibitions. Advice: Prepare to spend a fair amount of time oohing and aahing in the "Jellies" exhibit.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.