Hotel at a Glance: The Congress Plaza Hotel
When it was opened in 1893, The Congress Plaza Hotel was intended to be the elite spot for travelers who passed through Chicago. The hotel first welcomed guests during the World’s Columbian Exposition. Over the next 50 years, it was furnished with glamorous ballrooms and stylish supper clubs. Now the hotel’s chief advantage is its superb location in downtown Chicago, where it stands along Michigan Avenue. It’s just minutes from Grant Park, several world-class museums, and a host of luxury retail stores.
- Onsite dining: Rafael’s Restaurant serves gourmet burgers, roasted duck breast with orange sauce, and other specialties. In the morning, you can enjoy a hearty American breakfast at the Gazebo Restaurant.
- Presidential guests: Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon
- Work up a sweat in the 24-hour fitness room.
- Get some culture across the street at the Auditorium Theatre, which offers musical performances, plays, and ballet.
Chicago’s Loop: Historic Commercial Center with World-Class Museums and Parks
Named after the shape formed by the elevated train tracks that form its perimeter, The Loop is Chicago’s downtown and the country’s second-largest business district. Skyscrapers such as the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and the art-deco Chicago Board of Trade Building loom large here. They overlook waterfront parks, a glitzy theater district, and some of the world’s finest art collections.
About three blocks from the hotel is the Art Institute of Chicago, whose gargantuan collection covers everything from marble busts and sarcophagi to modern masterpieces such as Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. You don’t even have to go to the museum to see outstanding art—walk around The Loop, and you’ll see outdoor sculptures from Picasso and Joan Miró. Just north of the Art Institute, Millennium Park is known for both the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion (which hosts free public concerts during the summer), and for the sculpture Cloud Gate, known to Chicagoans as “The Bean” for its legume-like shape.
Grant Park, known affectionately as “Chicago’s front yard,” occupies more than 300 acres along the lake just east of the Loop. Modeled after the gardens at Versailles, the park is dotted with several impressive attractions, including Buckingham Fountain, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. Its sheer size have made Grant Park the site of many notable events, including Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech and the Lollapalooza music festival, which takes place here every summer.