Family Travel Survival Guide: Chicago

Family-favorite hotels and restaurants in the Windy City
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Chicago skyline
Many hotels fill out the Chicago skyline (Corbis)

Hotels
Families can stay downtown and easily access the most family-oriented attractions or book cheaper rooms near the airports while factoring in transportation time and fees. Chicago hosts many business conventions, which can mean fewer hotels geared toward families, but it can also translate into special weekend deals after business travelers leave town. Here's a sampling of the many available options in the downtown area:

Swissotel Chicago has brightly decorated "Kid-Friendly Suites" with adjoining rooms sized just for kids that include kid-sized tables and chairs, and games.

Kids stay for free at the luxurious Palmer House Hilton hotel, which has a pool and babysitting services available.

Comfort Inn and Suites Downtown has family-sized suites priced a bit lower than downtown luxury hotels and set in a sweet location near the Chicago River.

Family-Friendly Eats
You (or your bottomless kids) won't leave Chicago hungry; the tricky part is choosing what to eat from the staggering selection of Chi-Town fare. Layers of gooey cheese and tomatoes piled atop a rich, buttery crust—the combination known as Chicago Style pizza is a must-try. You could dine on Chicago Style pies every night and still not hit every one of the big names, let alone the countless indie neighborhood joints. All feature an unfussy atmosphere that's perfect for families.

Watch the kids' eyes bug out at the graffiti-covered walls and furnishings at the flagship Wells Street location of Gino's East. Try the signature spinach pizza at Giordano's, or check out the namesake pie, The Lou (tomato, spinach, and mushroom), at Lou Malnati's. While Uno's has expanded into chain restaurants nationwide, locals swear by the flavors at the original place on Wabash Avenue, open since 1943. Arrive early to beat crowds or check on a table at sister site Due's one block east.

Though pizza is Chicago's thing, there is more to choose from outside of the slice. Ann Sather is famous for its fresh cinnamon rolls and Swedish breakfast specialties, including Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and Swedish potato sausage. Portillo's is a Chicago original known for its Chicago Style hot dogs, but its best-kept secret is the hefty, like-homemade chocolate cake. Philly has cheese steaks, and Chicago has Italian beef. Al's Beef is king of that messy, delicious castle—there's even a suggested eating technique called "the stance," where customers lean over the counter to let the drippings fall where they may. Wishbone is centered around "southern reconstruction" cooking, a funky, colorful atmosphere, and corn muffins worth letting the kids fight over (get half a dozen to go for snacking later)—what's not to love?


Published: 23 Dec 2010 | Last Updated: 2 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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Best Hotels in Chicago

$760
Average/night*
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#1
The Peninsula Chicago
$215-$395
Average/night*
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#2
The Talbott Hotel
$293
Average/night*
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#3
Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
$266
Average/night*
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#4
Thompson Chicago

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