For travelers weary of the impersonal atmosphere of hotels, the bed and breakfast offers an amazing variety of alternatives. Accommodations accented by the personal touch of the innkeeper create a one-of-a-kind experience and provide a home away from home.
In Chicago, these establishments are located throughout the city and suburbs. With a little scouting on the Internet beforehand, the traveler can find the place that provides the location, space, and amenities desired within the appropriate price range.
The vast array of bed and breakfasts available include Flemish House of Chicago, located in the Gold Coast area north of the loop, tucked between luxury high rises and century- old mansions. The 1890 greystone row house has three floors, each with a one- bedroom apartment and a studio. All have updated kitchens and baths. The quiet atmosphere of Flemish House belies its proximity to the bustle of Michigan Avenue upscale shopping, Rush Street nightlife, Navy Pier, and the financial district.
Other north side establishments include The Wicker Park Inn in the heart of a trendy neighborhood full of interesting shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants; Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast, modeled after small European hotels and offering a steam room and sauna; and Old Chicago Inn, located in the Lakeview neighborhood close to Wrigley Field and the theatre district.
The award-winning Benedictine B & B, located just south of downtown Chicago, is housed in an actual urban monastery where monks offer the same hospitality they have shown for centuries. Two apartments are available. The first, ideal for families, is a six-room garden house with deck and private garden, two bedrooms, and full kitchen. The second, a seven-room loft apartment, has a living room with fireplace, three bedrooms, private entrance, and a breakfast prepared by the monks each morning. Off-street parking is provided for guests in a gated lot.
A little further south of the loop, University Quarters Bed & Breakfast & Suites is located a half block from The University of Chicago campus and close to McCormick Place. The updated vintage greystone offers guests a choice of six elegant rooms, two with private baths, and four with shared bath. Each floor can also be reserved as a suite. Commonly shared areas include the living room, study, den, dining room, and two kitchens. Both off- and on-street parking are available. Proprietor Peter Schuler points out, “We offer the amenities of a good hotel with the intimacy, warm hospitality, and personal touch that a hotel cannot provide.”
Unusual in concept, Windy City Sailing offers lakefront views from a private yacht with air conditioning/heat, TV, feather bed, fine linens, and robes. The stay includes the entire yacht and a two-hour morning sail with captain and crew. Additional sailing time can be added for a fee.
Special touches one is apt to find at many establishments include plush towels and linens, Jacuzzi tubs and hot tubs, TV/DVD, Wi-Fi Internet access, and a stocked kitchen or refrigerator. For visitors to Chicago, a real plus is the innkeeper’s knowledge of the city. Some may even provide personalized concierge service. The proprietors generally reside on the premises and will respond to guests’ indication that privacy would be appreciated or that friendly interaction was welcome. Some facilities provide private rooms with a common area where guests can mix and mingle if desired.
A great deal of information is available on the Web site of each establishment. Before calling, it’s wise to jot down a list of things that require clarification, such as whether young children or pets are welcome, and whether there is a private bath, Internet availability, designated parking, or access to public transportation. If someone has an allergy, it’s also wise to ask if there’s a resident cat or dog on the premises. Most innkeepers can accommodate special diets, but it’s important to let them know beforehand.
When conventions or shows are held in Chicago it may be difficult to find a hotel room, but one is not left without a place to stay. In fact, that is how some people discover the warmth and hospitality of a bed and breakfast for the first time. Flemish House proprietor, Tom Warnke, reports, “Guests often say that it feels like coming home at the end of the day.”
Harrison House B & B
26 N. Eagle St., Naperville
Restored Victorian with brass and iron beds and hand-stitched quilts. Five rooms with high-speed internet connection. Local sights: Riverwalk, Naper Settlement, North Central College.
Harvey House Bed & Breakfast
107 S. Scovill Ave., Oak Park
Public transportation is readily available for the half-hour ride to downtown Chicago. Five suites available with oversized baths, workstations, fireplaces. Local sights: Frank Lloyd Wright homes and Ernest Hemingway Museum.
Under the Ginkgo Tree B & B
300 N. Kenilworth Ave., Oak Park
Queen Anne Victorian with stained glass windows. Two guest rooms with private baths and one with shared bath. Local sights: Frank Lloyd Wright historic district, Hemingway Museum. This home is often used as a movie location. Margarita Inn 1566 Oak Ave., Evanston More of a small hotel, but with a B&B feeling. Forty-two rooms, private and shared baths available, grand parlor, English library, conference rooms, outdoor roof deck. Local sites: Northwestern University, 24 art galleries, three miles of lakefront with beaches.
Ravinia Guest House
English colonial with iron bedsteads, hardwood floors, three guest rooms (two with private bath). Local sights: Ravinia Park Music, Chicago Botanical Gardens, Northwestern University.