When Brian and I traveled to Chicago in 2015 for the Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary Fare Thee Well Shows, we stayed at the historic Hilton Downtown Chicago. It is a gorgeous, huge hotel that is right across the street from Grant Park and an easy walk from some of the most popular Chicago Museums and experiences, including:
- Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower
- Buckingham Fountain
- Crown Fountain
- The Bean (Cloud Gate)
- Soldier Field
- Agora Sculpture In Grant Park
- Field Museum
- Shedd Aquarium
- Adler Planetarium
- Millennium Monument in Wrigley Square
- Chicago Architecture Foundation
- Dylan’s Candy Bar
- The Nutella Cafe
- Navy Pier
- Chicago Water Tower And Pumping Station
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- Chicago Cultural Center
- Wendella Architectural Boat Tours
- 360 Chicago at the John Hancock Building
The Hilton Downtown Chicago is near almost all of the major family-friendly activities you’ll want to do when visiting Chicago so, as Hilton Honors Members, it was a no-brainer to book our stay again at the iconic hotel — especially since we wanted to visit every museum and experience on the list above and more!
While the Hilton is perfectly situated on Michigan Avenue, what about getting to places farther away from the hotel like Wrigley Field, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago Music Exchange, and the Museum of Science And Industry?
We came to Chicago for the Dead & Company concerts at Wrigley Field, and many people warned us in advance that parking is a nightmare, the cab traffic is terrible, and we needed to just take the train. Thankfully, we were able to catch the train just a few blocks from the Hilton Chicago and navigate through the city to Wrigley Field, the Magnificent Mile, and the Riverwalk. Easy access to the train system was not only much cheaper than paying for taxis or Ubers, it was also much faster!
Hilton Chicago Fun Facts
Overlooking Grant Park, Millennium Park, the Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, and Museum Campus, the Hilton Chicago has 1,544 guest rooms and suites, including 518 rooms with two beds and two bathrooms — we had one of those double-bathroom guest rooms and not sharing a bathroom with my kids for nine days was glorious.
The hotel was the site of the historic Chicago Convention and has housed every president of the United States since its opening in 1927. But the Hilton Chicago wasn’t always the Hilton Chicago… The 28-story hotel with 3,000 rooms, originally opened as The Stevens Hotel in 1927. The opulent Chicago landmark, built by the Stevens family who gained their wealth as the Illinois Life Insurance Company, was designed by Holabird & Roche at the cost of $30,000,000.
The 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression bankrupted many of the hotels across the United States, including the Stevens Hotel, which went into receivership. By the late 1930s, its real estate value declined to only $7 million.
- During World War II, the United States Army bought the hotel for $6 million to use for military housing. The hotel housed over 10,000 air cadets during this time, who utilized the Grand Ballroom as their mess hall.
- In 1944, the hotel was sold for $4.91 million to a private businessman named Stephen Healy who restored the property back to a hotel.
- In 1945, Conrad Hilton purchased the hotel for $7.35 million, along with The Palmer House.
- In 1951, the hotel was renamed The Conrad Hilton Chicago.
- In 1959, the Hilton Chicago hosted the largest dinner in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1959, with 7,200 people in attendance.
- In 1984, Hilton Corporation invested $185 to renovate the hotel and when it reopened in 1985, the name was changed to Chicago Hilton and Towers. The original rooftop ballroom was converted into the Conrad Hilton Suite, which cost $1.6 million and totals 5,000 square feet over two floors.
Know Before You Go
- The Hilton Downtown Chicago is located at 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60605.
- Splurge for a lake view room — waking up to the sun rising over the lake was incredible and our view was fantastic!
- Some rooms have TWO BATHROOMS! Holy moly this was incredible. Not only did Brian and I not have to share a bathroom with our kids, we could have two people shower at a time!
- Grab a pint at Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Pub in the Hilton Chicago lobby. It’s an authentic Irish Pub with great food and great service.
- At 720 Bar and Grill, also in the Hilton Chicago lobby, for a cocktail or local craft beer, midwest comfort food, and great burgers.
- You can swim year-round in the heated lap pool, relax in the indoor hot tub, or visit the amazing gym with stunning views and an indoor track.
- The Herb ‘N Kitchen is a grab-and-go cafe on the first floor of the hotel with snacks, desserts, sandwiches, breakfast items, beer and wine, drinks, and more. It is open early and late, but the service is very slow and the drinks and snacks are expensive! One Gatorade and two snack bags of chips cost $11! After that, we simply stopped in the 7-11 right around the corner on the way back to the hotel each night for drinks and snacks.
- If you forget something or you like to carry snacks with you every day like we do, there is a CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens on almost every other street block. We stopped at Walgreens almost every day of our trip to grab bottled waters and Goldfish Crackers — Goldfish Crackers are like power-ups for my son.
- The traffic on Michigan Avenue is insane and taking a cab to any location on the street takes forever. Find a location near the place you want to go but one block off Michigan Avenue and have the taxi driver take you there to avoid traffic and save some money on the cab fee.