Chicago's lodging options can accommodate any traveler, and even those on a modest budget can stay in the heart of the action. Most of the gay hotels are located close to the Boystown bar scene. Travelers will find that the city's premium hotels are in the heart of downtown, a.k.a. "The Loop," and scattered along Michigan Avenue and throughout River North. Because of plentiful public transportation and taxis, however, no lodging in central Chicago is ever too far from the action.
Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. the Magnificent Mile, is Chicago's famous boulevard of shopping and dining. Many old hotels and opulent newcomers crowd the city blocks. Peninsula Chicago (108 E. Superior St.; 312-337-2888; $475+) has been rated by Conde Nast Traveler as the No. 1 luxury property in the world -- and yes, this is where celebrities like Madonna and Jennifer Aniston stay whenever they are in Chicago.
The W Chicago City Center (172 West Adams St.; 312-332-1200; $279+) is another decadent destination. Located in the middle of the Loop, the W Chicago City Center is steps away from Sears Tower, Millennium and Grant Park, and the downtown theater district.
Hotel Allegro (171 W. Randolph St.; 312-236-0123 or 888-672-6143; $149+) is one of downtown's hip addresses and was the first Kimpton Group hotel east of the Rockies. Rooms are well appointed in a whimsical yet sophisticated style, and the surrounding neighborhood continues to flourish, thanks to the revitalized theater district.
Also in the Kimpton lineup, is Hotel Monaco (225 N. Wabash St.; 312-960-8500 or 866-610-0081; $139+), where unexpected amenities include "tall" rooms for the vertically over-challenged, accommodations for your accompanying pet, and even a goldfish companion for lonely travelers. Additional rooms feature "meditation stations," with wide, deep window seats and comfortable cushioning and CD players. The intimate lobby invites pleasant guest interactions with lots of comfy chairs, Art Deco flourishes, and a glowing fireplace.
The most dramatic Kimpton property is Hotel Burnham (1 W. Washington St.; 312-782-1111 or 877-294-9712; $149+) in the spectacularly renovated 1885 Reliance Building. Built with then-new steel reinforcement by Daniel Burnham, John Root, and Charles Atwood, it was the direct predecessor of the modern skyscraper. The hotel space was painstakingly retrofitted and many original features refurbished, including heavy mahogany doors (with actual keys and locks!), lacy wrought-iron details, and the quirky floor plan. Modern conveniences include whimsically decorated rooms, huge double-paned windows, voicemail, data ports, bathrobes, and other perks.
Three gay-popular boutique hotels are marketed as the Neighborhood Inns of Chicago. Visit their website at www.cityinns.com. Rooms at all three are comparable, and all rates include concierge, honor baskets, luxury robes, data ports, complimentary morning newspaper, and a continental breakfast served in the hotel lobby. The crown jewel of the Neighborhood Inns is The Majestic (528 W. Brompton Place; 773-404-3499 or 800-727-5108; $199+), with 52 rooms featuring modest English country estate decor. Six of the rooms have enclosed sun porches on the front of the building. The Majestic is on a shady residential street a few minutes north of the heart of Boystown. City Suites Hotel (933 W. Belmont Ave., 773-404-3400 or 800-248-9108; $229+) is steps away from the Boystown strip on busy Belmont Avenue. The hotel's location one block from the El is both a blessing and a curse if the sound of passing trains bothers you. But in many rooms you might not even notice them, and this property has the largest gay following by far of the three. Willows Hotel (555 W. Surf St.; 773-528-8400 or 800-787-3108; $199+) is a European-style hotel with 55 rooms. It is a few minutes south of the heart of Boystown.
In Boystown, the Hawthorne Terrace Best Western (3434 N. Broadway St.; 888-675-BEST or 773-244-3434; $190+) is located just blocks from shopping, dining and nightlife. This small hotel is quite unlike most of its Best Western counterparts, thanks to a stone facade and courtyard, and 59 tastefully appointed rooms and junior suites in various price ranges. The hotel offers a cardiovascular and weight training equipment with a sauna and whirlpool. It's only two blocks from Lake Michigan's bike and in-line skating and jogging paths, golf courses and tennis courts. Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is a few blocks away.