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Why the Waldorf Astoria Is One of Chicago’s Best Hotels

Plus: Emirates brings new direct service to Dubai, Kayak’s smart guide to booking flights, and America’s best museums.

The hotel’s stately courtyard and views inside.   Photo: Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Waldorf Astoria Chicago (11 E. Walton St., 312-646-1300; from $345 a night) recently announced that Brendan Sodikoff (Bavette’s, Gilt Bar, Au Cheval, Dillman’s) is now overseeing the hotel’s food and beverage offerings, which includes reconcepting the hotel’s only restaurant at the moment, Balsan. (The hotel closed its beautiful marquee restaurant, Ria, more than a year ago). A spokesperson for the hotel also told Chicago magazine that Sodikoff will be developing a café for the lobby that will likely serve coffee and sandwiches during the day, light bites and cocktails at night. Both the lobby restaurant and the reimagined Balsan are expected to open in June.

Which got us wondering: How does a Chicago hotel with only one small restaurant, no rooftop space, and some rooms without a compelling view continue to reign as one of the best city hotels in the world? Last year alone, Waldorf Astoria Chicago was named the No. 2 Large City Hotel in the Continental U.S. and No. 44 among the Best Hotels Worldwide by Travel+Leisure’s 2013 World’s Best Awards, the No. 1 U.S. Hotel Spa by Conde Nast Traveler’s 2014 Readers’ Spa Poll, and No. 1 Best Hotel in Chicago by U.S. News & World Report.

Waldorf Astoria’s no tipping policy and anticipatory service—both of which started when the hotel first opened in 2009 as the Elysian—are hallmark offerings and something many say you have to experience first hand to really appreciate. For example, a concierge contacts every guest in advance to help orchestrate arrangements—and remains a personal point of contact throughout the stay.

And, the luxurious accommodations are probably all you really need: Residential-style rooms start at a roomy 614 square feet; the average size is 889 square feet. Many come with a big fireplace. The 14,000-square-foot spa includes a mosaic-tiled lap pool, exceptional spa treatments, and a relaxation lounge just for men, outfitted with leather furniture, a fireplace, and a flat screen TV. Balsan, pre-Sodikoff, offers a bistro-style menu and a fresh raw bar, and the hotel’s hushed and cozy Bernard’s Bar feels like a classy hideaway for good conversation.

Travel News

Direct Service to Dubai from Chicago Coming This August

Last week, Emirates announced new daily service to O’Hare International Airport beginning August 5, 2014, marking the first time Chicagoans will be able to fly direct to Dubai. “Emirates’ nonstop daily flights to Dubai will only add to our global connectivity and further our goal to host 55 million visitors by 2020, in turn generating jobs not only at the airport but across Chicago’s travel and hospitality industries,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The approximately 14-hour flight will operate on a Boeing 777-200LR with eight first- and 42 business-class suites, and 216 economy seats.

Is Tuesday Really the Best Day to Book a Flight?

Kayak recently compiled a year’s worth of data in a short and sweet guide that tells you when to book travel for the biggest savings. “Contrary to urban legend, the day of the week you book doesn’t make a difference in what you pay,” says the online travel aggregator. “In other words, there’s no noticeable difference between booking on a Tuesday or a Saturday, or any other day.” Another word to the wise: The optimal window to book a domestic flight is three to seven weeks in advance. Get more tips in Kayak’s Travel Guide.

Here are 33 Great Museums to Visit Across the U.S.

Design your next trip with a cool museum circuit based on picks in Daily Candy’s Best Museums in the USA, including the interactive California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the nearby Milwaukee Art Museum. Or keep it local with picks like the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the International Museum of Surgical Science.

What to Do When the Hotel You Want Is Sold Out?

That’s the question HotelChatter’s Juliana Shallcross asked here before running down the most common tactics—scouring every booking site, constantly checking the hotel’s website, and even calling the hotel to beg. Eliminate the hassle with the new Hotel Room Alerts, a nifty new app that “sends you both a text and an e-mail alert as soon as availability opens up at the hotel you want. No refreshing, no plugging in dates over and over, and best of all, no begging.”


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