updated 8/7/2006 12:36:54 PM ET 2006-08-07T16:36:54

The Best Splurge Hotels

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The Ritz-Carlton (160 E. Pearson St.; tel. 800/621-6906): Appropriately enough in this skyscraper-packed city, some of the best hotels perch far above the sidewalk. The Ritz-Carlton (as well as the Four Seasons) is tucked above a high-rise shopping mall on Michigan Avenue. You step off the elevators into one of the most welcoming lobbies in town, with light streaming through the windows, masses of fresh flowers, and bird's-eye views of the city. The guest rooms, decorated in warm shades of yellow and blue, have a European-style elegance, and the staff prides itself on granting every wish.

The Four Seasons (120 E. Delaware Place; tel. 800/332-3442): A favorite of camera-shy celebrities, the Four Seasons is valued for its low profile. Understated luxury is the prevailing aura; expect discretion, not a lively lobby scene. The public spaces and guest rooms have an English country-manor look (lots of dark wood and neutral tones). Where the Four Seasons really shines is its service: The concierges might be the best in town. The clubby full-service spa provides on-site pampering -- for a price.

The Peninsula (108 E. Superior St.; tel. 866/288-8889): Inspired by the elegance of 1920s Shanghai and Hong Kong, the Chicago outpost of this Asian chain is a seamless blend of classic and modern. The grand public spaces might make you feel you've stepped back in time, but the hotel also offers many ultramodern amenities. Bedrooms and bathrooms feature "command stations" that allow you to adjust lights, temperature, and TVs without getting up. The top-notch gym, spa, and indoor swimming pool (filled with natural light) make The Peninsula a must for fitness fanatics.

The Park Hyatt (800 N. Michigan Ave.; tel. 800/233-1234): If the thought of overstuffed couches and thick brocade curtains makes you wince, this is the hotel for you. With its focus on modern design and clean lines, the Park Hyatt feels like one of those cool urban spaces that show up in Architectural Digest. Reproductions of Eames and Mies furniture fill the guest rooms, and in-room electronics include flatscreen TVs and DVD players.

The W Chicago Lakeshore (644 N. Lake Shore Dr.; tel. 877/W-HOTELS): The city's only hotel with a lakefront address may try a little too hard to be hip. But it offers a nightclubby vibe that sets it apart from the many cookie-cutter, convention-friendly hotels in town. (The rates are substantially lower than those at the hotels listed above, but the W may still be a splurge for thrifty travelers.) The rooms' color scheme -- shades of gray, black, and deep red -- will seem stylish to some, dark and depressing to others. The top-floor Whiskey Sky bar is cramped but good for people-watching, and the W gained an outpost of the trendy New York spa Bliss this year.

The Best Moderately Priced Hotels

Chicago City Centre (300 E. Ohio St.; tel. 800/HOLIDAY): A real find for budget-conscious families, the City Centre scores big for its amenities: two pools (indoor and outdoor), free access to the Lake Shore Athletic Club next door, and free meals for children under 12 at the hotel's restaurants. The location is great, too -- just a few blocks from kid-friendly Navy Pier.

Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown (33 W. Illinois St.; tel. 800/HAMPTON): Located in a busy neighborhood full of restaurants and nightlife, the Hampton Inn feels more expensive than it is. The rooms have an upscale urban look, and the indoor pool is a draw for families. The hotel's hot breakfast buffet, included in the room rates and served in an attractive second-floor lounge, puts the standard coffee-and-doughnut spread at other motels to shame.

Red Roof Inn (162 E. Ontario St.; tel. 800/733-7663): This high-rise version of the roadside motel is your best bet for the cheapest rates downtown. The rooms don't have much in the way of style (or natural light), but they were renovated fairly recently. The bathrooms may be cramped, but they're spotless. Fits the bill if you want a central location and plan on using your hotel as a place to sleep rather than hang out.

Majestic Hotel (528 W. Brompton St.; tel. 800/727-5108): A bit off the beaten path, this neighborhood hotel is tucked away on a residential street a short walk from Wrigley Field and the lakefront. You won't find lots of fancy amenities, but the place has the welcoming feel of a B&B rather than a chain hotel. Rates include continental breakfast and afternoon tea in the lobby.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit our online hotels index.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.


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