Courtesy Ace Hotel
Rate: $179 per night
We recommend: A travel mate you want to have sex with.
Is the beach not in the plans this winter? Then think counter-intuitively about what it means to rejuvenate this time of year—we submit the concept of the “hunker down” weekend. Go someplace cooler than your house, then burrow in and relax. The best place in Chicago for this is the Ace Hotel, a hip boutique that has cozy wool Pendleton blankets and smart TVs for a Netflix binge, and enough stuff to do right on site that you can effectively go out without putting on a winter coat.
The Ace comes from the new mold of boutique hotels that don’t feel like hotels at first. You walk in to a buzzy neighborhood hangout, formed from the blurred boundaries of a Stumptown coffee shop, lots of couches and tables for working, and a relaxed restaurant with Scandinavian-modern inflections. You can’t tell who’s a guest, who’s on a break from the Google headquarters next door, who’s working a shift at the Ace in their own street clothes, and who’s popping in for the Winter Solstice Sound Bath mat class in the hotel’s fitness studio. Everything just looks and feels and sounds cool—but not intimidatingly cool; wedding-guest lists ensure some range in that regard.
The rooms? Samesies. Chrome platform beds. Pine built-ins. Concrete ceiling. A record player and a little radio. Design magazines. One of the better mini bars around. Peg board as closet doors. Big walk-in shower. They’re warm, modern, quiet, and sexy (if style turns you on), not sterile spaces you can’t wait to leave.
You’ll sleep in, then take your bedhead downstairs for brunch at City Mouse, helmed by a James Beard Award nominee. The Gas Station Sandwich has the audacity to pile up hashbrown, egg, cheese, grape jelly, and sausage, though it’s just one of many comforting choices, including housemade pastries and mimosas by the pitcher. Maybe you’ll do yoga or whatever self-care class is going on, then wander in to the mercantile boutique to see what’s new in artisanal charcoal grooming products and macramé. Read the newspaper while sunken into the cushions of a couch by the coffee shop, and tell your Chicago friends to come hang out with you so you’re not schlepping around in the slush. If you’re feeling perky later, simply head upstairs to The Waydown, a happening live-music bar with deejays in heavy rotation. When you can walk from your bedroom to a full-blown cocktail scene in about three minutes, going out isn’t a hassle.
You can easily spend two days under the Ace’s roof, but the location is also perfect if you’re feeling restless. The laidback West Loop area has enough restaurants and shops to feel interesting. Do-Rite Donuts, ohmigod. Both of celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s restaurants (Girl and a Goat and Little Goat Diner) are nearby. At Bluemercury, a beauty emporium, you can get the latest face mask to use at the hotel. The Fulton Street Market, a trendy food hall with both table and counter service, will give you a preview of what’s to come at Bottleworks. There’s also an El stop two blocks from the hotel, if something in the Loop beckons—although nothing will entice as much as that Pendleton blanket on a wintery Chicago day.
ACE THIS TRIP
Check: The calendar of events before booking, to see if any interesting fitness classes or art exhibits are scheduled.
Request: A room on the south side of the hotel, distanced from The Waydown.
Splurge: For valet. The garage isn’t attached, and this is a no-schlepping weekend.