Historical Bed and Breakfast Near Lake Michigan and Chicago's Museum Campus
The Wheeler Mansion has narrowly escaped destruction not once, but twice. One of the few remaining mansions to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the residence changed hands several times until the late 1990s, when it was slated to be turned into a parking lot. Thanks to a last-minute bid from a local contractor, the French-style home underwent a meticulous restoration (which won the Preservation Excellence Award from the city), and now serves the neighborhood as a stately bed and breakfast. A short walk from the parks along Lake Michigan and the Museum Campus, the hotel is now a fixture in the city's South Loop.
Luxury rooms exude Victorian charm with ornate wood-carved beds and high ceilings. In one room, a European oil painting hangs above an antique desk, and a large mirrored armoire and iridescent window drapes make a grand statement in another room. All rooms have private bathrooms with walk-in showers or bathtubs.
Every morning, the innkeepers serve a full gourmet breakfast in the dining room or on the adjoining verandah. After a hearty meal of eggs, bacon, and toast, feel free to wander through the mansion, taking a moment to admire its original fixtures, such as the mosaic tile floor and dark-walnut woodwork. An enclosed courtyard with a furnished patio makes for romantic spot to sip complimentary wine or practice popping the question, “Will you form a subcommittee to consider marrying me?”
South Loop, Chicago: Renaissance Neighborhood with World-Class Museums and Turn-of-the-Century Buildings
The Wheeler Mansion is located in the South Loop, a burgeoning downtown neighborhood rife with historical buildings and world-class museums. A cultural renaissance in recent years has turned the South Loop into one of the city's most vibrant residential and industrial centers, and with famous neighbors including Lake Michigan, Chicago's Museum Campus, and Grant Park. Though still evolving, the neighborhood preserves its architecture in the Printing House Row District, home to turn-of-the-century skyscrapers, including the 1888-built Manhattan Building and the 1893-built Monadnock Building.
One mile north of the hotel is the Museum Campus, where The Field Museum houses 21 million artifacts across 9 lakefront acres. Visitors are greeted by Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever unearthed, poised in a classic bipedal stance. The campus also hosts bullfrogs, beluga whales, and moon jellies at Shedd Aquarium. Astronomy buffs will want to spend a few hours at Adler Planetarium, the first planetarium built in the Western Hemisphere.
For an introduction to Chicago, take Roosevelt Road to Lake Shore Drive, a 26-mile highway that Travel + Leisure called “the greatest architecture road on earth.” Head north from the South Loop to drive past Chicago landmarks, including Navy Pier, the John Hancock Center, and Willis Tower, the tallest building in America. Runners, cyclists, and runaway lawn mowers travel this route throughout the year, but during the summer, crowds gather at North Avenue Beach to watch volleyball games and listen to live music.