Hotel Blake Chicago
Hotel Blake Chicago is our destination for this trip. I have only been to the windy city once before. So, I was excited to learn more and get into the history of this city.
Day One Arrival
Since I am on the East Coast in Virginia, I chose to fly into Chicago. Since Chicago has major airlines, the flight here is a bargain. I was able to get flights that were a straight shot for only about $100 each way.
The flight itself was not a bad one, although it was a little bouncy at one point. The flight itself was $89 before fees, and it was only a little over 2 hours of time in the air. This made the trip seem suitable for a weekend visit like mine.
The hotel itself is located at 500 South Dearborn Street, IL 60605. The drive from O’hare was only about 40 minutes. So, in about 3 hours of travel time, I was in what felt like a whole new world. Chicago is a giant city in every way. I have the Sears Tower (now named Willis Tower) which at 1,451 feet was the tallest building in the world until 1998. (Built in 1974, four years after my birth).
Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the United States. Its 2,716,450 residents live in about 100 neighborhoods. It also has 8 major league sports teams, including two MLB teams. That is a huge sports showing.
Here are the Major League Teams, if you are wondering.
Chicago Cubs – baseball
Chicago Bears – football
Chicago Bulls – basketball
Chicago White Sox – baseball
Chicago Blackhawks – hockey
Chicago Fire – soccer
Chicago Sky – basketball
Chicago Red Stars–soccer
The city also boasts over 7,300 hundred restaurants, including 7 that have earned the AAA Diamonds. I certainly look forward to the food here.
Checking into the Blake, you can feel it is a cut above. The lobby and staff are top-notch. The amenities here too are impressive.
- Flat-screen TV and premium HD cable TV
- Make-up mirror & hairdryer
- In-room telephone with voicemail
- Rainfall showerhead
- Bathrobe upon your request
- In-room safe for personal items
- In-room coffee maker with complimentary Lavazza coffee
- Environmentally and socially responsible Ayo Natural Body Care Products
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Complimentary high-speed wireless internet
- 24-hour fitness center
- 24-hour business center
- Valet parking ($55/night unlimited in-and-out
- Onsite and in-room dining at Meli café
- Complimentary newspaper (Mon-Fri)
The high-speed wireless internet was very helpful for me. I often have to upload large files for my business. So, speed is a factor. I will also enjoy a daily newspaper while I am here. On this trip I am in town from Monday through Thursday so the daily paper will be a nice addition to the day.
I wonder in advance if it will look like the newspapers in New Jersey with stories about mobsters in every edition. This town certainly has an infamous crime past and history.
The rooms at the Blake are great. I liked the one kind suite I was provided on check-in. It was roomy and everything seemed to have a fine finish to the room. With the suite, you gain back some of the features of other resorts like the sitting area, couch, and jetted tub.
This resort is more of a hotel than a travel resort you might be thinking of in other cities or areas. The key here is the quality of the rooms and the location. When you book through TZort you are getting a deal on an amazing room, and location for your visit to Windy City.
The Blake is perfect for a visit to the Magnificent Mile for shopping or coming into to town for business. It can also be your central location for the trip I am taking to take in the city and the sites.
After checking in, it was time to find a restaurant for a great steak. For this, I head to RPM steak. A word on the restaurants and prices in Chicago. The food in this town is great, and they know it. Like most major cities, they also charge for it. As you visit these restaurants’ websites just be prepared if you are from a more rural part of the Nation like me, you may experience some check size shock. Think of these limited experiences during your travel and budget for this if you are a foodie.
For my meal alone tonight the check was about $200 for a steak, potatoes, sauce, and a drink with tip. The food was, but I was starting out at a pricey restaurant trying for the best. It was a great meal, was it worth the price? Time will tell as I have more dining experiences in this town.
One does not travel to the 3rd largest city in the Nation and expect bargains on dining and entertainment. You kind of has to mentally prepare yourself for the price tag. Not trying to beat a dead horse with this, but when the costs are more than Hawaii, it is worth mentioning.
Day Two at Hotel Blake Chicago
I woke after sleeping in some this morning. I ordered a small breakfast at the onsite restaurant meli café you can see their menu here. This allowed me to recover some from my check sticker shock the night before.
After breakfast I went to the Art Institute of Chicago is has a massive collection and often hosts exhibits from major artists like Monet. The Art Institute had a current schedule that included being closed on Tuesday and Wednesday each week, so it was either today Monday or Thursday before leaving town. So, I opted for today. I was happy I did because I really enjoyed the art, location, and my visit.
Next on my list was the Field Museum. If you love museums this is a must visit. For those who are interested in natural history, it is one of the finest in the World. Here on the other side of the world is one of the finest exhibits of Egypt in the entire world.
One thing I did not realize was Artificial cranial deformation, or head binding, and the role that played in Egypt as a sign of power, wealth, and success. I often do not find myself wondering about outside influences on cultures, but this had me wondering if the guy from the history channel with the big hair is right about alien contact with ancient civilizations.
I know that sounds like a giant stretch, but around the same time cultures around the globe had leaders who practiced this head binding to change the shape and look of their heads or skulls. That just seems like a very odd coincidence. Imagine remote tribes of men on 5 different continents, all choosing to change their appearance in virtually the same way without ever influencing each other. They had never met each other that we know of, and there certainly were no form of global communication. Truly odd, and interesting at the same time.
While you are in the Egypt section, you can also learn about the mummification process and how they believe it took 70 days to complete. That was a great deal of time and effort for one’s journey to the afterlife.
While here, make certain to visit the two burial chambers for once in lifetime access to these amazing original structures that have been moved and rebuilt on site.
The Fields Museum also has Sue the TRex, and other full-sized dinosaurs for you to see. I felt drawn to the Grainger Hall of Gems as well.
Two major visits down, it was time for some more food. This time I wanted to try Chicago Style Pizza. I think like Detroit that means deep dish,, so I went on the hunt for great Chicago Pizza.
Near the Fields Museum, I found Giordano’s which offers the stuffed deep-dish style of pizza I was looking for. It also does not cost an arm and a leg. What is neat about this pizza is that it is sauce on the top and the ingredients all stuffed into layers of the crust. This makes for a great but unique pizzas experience.
After a giant lunch, I started to take the leftovers with me but realized that I did not have the fridge in the room as an option. This led me to take the small box to go, but look for someone nearby that looked hungry to give them the pizza hook up. It did not take long, and I found someone who looked like they could use a nice deep-dish pizza slice.
You never know how things will be received by strangers, but the lady seemed happy to get the pie, and I was glad to help someone.
After the huge lunch, I wanted to walk around some more, so I headed to the Shedd Aquarium. It reminded me of the Baltimore aquarium, just smaller. A nice location and spot to bring some kids while you are in town. Tickets were Chicago priced for travelers at about $40 for adults and $30 for kids. So not a cheap visit, but I would say it is worth it if your child loves animals and sea life. A must for the dolphin fan.
Here you will find many interactive exhibits and a great deal to see, touch and engage with. It is large enough to spend a day at, and I think older kids would love the visit.
I was running out of energy for the day. I planned to also visit the Alder Planetarium be chosen to leave that for tomorrow.
Day Three: a voyage around town, then to the stars.
I started my day with a Chicago-style breakfast. I chose Nellie’s Restaurant because they offer a large breakfast buffet and it has a Puerto Rican twist, which I was interested in checking out. The reviews online were honest,, and this place was great. It was also a tremendous value for a major city.
Whoops the breakfast buffet is just on the weekends. Well darn, but I went anyway to try the food, and I was happy I did. I had an omelet that was great and then pancakes that were cooked by someone who knew what he/she was doing at a griddle. They came out perfect and the food was outstanding.
A location like this can have you changing your mind about great value restaurants, even in a major city.
I am not much of a shopper, but I wanted to check out the magnificent mile. Just to see what it was all about, and to say I had done it.
Over the next few hours, I actually had a fun time and spent too much money because of some of the specialty stores here. There are standalone stores in the area, and there are also several major malls. I went to the water tower mall first.
This single mall had 75 stores. With the majority being Women’s Clothing stores. The mall has 7 levels or floors and has enough men’s stores and other locations to keep guys busy while the ladies shop.
Next, it was on to the shops at North Bridge here you find a few fewer stores but many known name brands. Finally, I stopped at 900 shops which do not have 900 in the name because of the number of stores but the address. It does however offer 7 floors of retail stores, dining, and locations.
After all of that shopping, I felt the need for a great burger. In a town of 7,300 restaurants, one stands out that was near the mile of shopping. That is M Burger they offer a simple menu: burgers, fries, and shakes. But man, the burgers are solid and tasty. They also do not set you back a fortune with prices lower than five guys.
I got a double cheese, fries, and a shake, and I was a very happy man for about $20 with tax. Sorry if I am on a roll mentioning pricing, but that first meal just made me more aware than normal. I am not a cheap guy, but I do look for value. If money is not a concern, keep reading because I do go back to upscale dining tomorrow.
Tonight I was going to the Adler Planetarium. I enjoy planetariums having grown up going to the Virginia Living Museum and enjoying that planetarium at least two times a year for several years in a row in my early teens. Back when you could walk long distances by yourself or with friends as I child, I recall walking to the museum or being dropped off in the summer and enjoying the planetarium show as a major part of my visit.
Here this was a planetarium on a larger scale. The show to see here in the planetarium is the destination solar system. Here they have taken some of the most amazing visuals and assembled them into a strong fun narrative and tale centered around the future of space travel and tourism. The show alone is worth the cost of entry.
I stayed around long enough to also capture another show planet 9 about our 9th planet in our solar system. Did you even know it had changed from Pluto? One week it was not the 9th planet anymore, then again later they changed their minds.
In July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft gave us our first close look at Pluto, the most famous dwarf planet in the outskirts of our Solar System. This show shares that amazing footage and at a scale that makes traditional movies look, well, lame.
I ended my trip to Adler and my night with yet another show. Here it was, the Skywatch live show. This show focused on what is in the night sky above Chicago that you can not see that night because of all the cities’ light pollution. It was a very neat way to end my visit.
Day Four Hotel Blake Chicago
Today I wanted to dig into the rich history of the Chicago Underworld. The crime families of old, and some of the other underbelly of this amazing city.
I started my day with the Gangsters and Ghosts tour that started at 11AM. It was run very well and the guide clearly knew his stuff. I have been interested in Mob history since I first saw the movie the Godfather many moons ago. I even found out about some connections people before my time related to me had to New York. So the topic interested me for sure.
Chicago Crime families had a great deal to do with some major elections in our nation’s history, and many other powerful parts of our culture. I wondered to myself if the Italian restaurant that was owned by a well-known family was still open, and I did not want to broadcast that to the tour group, so I made a note to check online after the trip.
There are many sites online, but I did not find the little place I was thinking about. So, I will have to wait until my next Chicago trip to find it.
Tonight was my final night in Chicago, so I wanted another shot at a great Chicago meal. I was headed to the signature room at 95th. This is a restaurant with a view. The only thing here that competes with the food is the view. Whether your table has a view of the water or the city itself, the views are simply amazing.
My toughest dinning decision was either seafood or steak. I ended up going with a surf and turf only because I could not make up my mind. Before leaving, I invited a family to join me for dessert. Then I had the kitchen send over everything with extra forks and spoons. It was a mother, father, and a young daughter. They had sat next to me and the daughter had asked for the desert but the parents had offered something at home later. So, I spoke up and asked if they would do me the pleasure of being the excuse to try the whole dessert menu.
Luckily, they took me up on in, and for the next 30 minutes or so we all had confection heaven and even a good conversation. Here the dessert menu is only 4 items, so it was a perfect fit for the group. I struggle to choose the one I like the best, but my two favorites were the crème brûlée and the Blueberry Cheesecake.
This was a fun and near-perfect end of my trip. Afterward, it was back to the resort and some rest before my AM flight back home tomorrow.
If you want to travel to Chicago and do it right consider Hotel Blake, it is a central location that thanks to TZort is more affordable.