Before making my way to the famed Waldorf Astoria on Chicago’s Gold Coast, I had two other stops, one good and one not-so-good.

First the not-so-good. The Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown West Loop.

While the people who work there are friendly enough (the times I dealt with them), there is no CleanStay happening at this Hilton property. Case in point:


Yes, friends, that is a press-on nail, embedded on the blow dryer cord. Stuck–well, pressed-on, if you will. Just ICK. I would think as a matter of routine housekeeping, something like a hair dryer would be checked to be sure it’s, oh, I don’t know, free of appendages maybe? Mine tried to get a manicure. It was really sort of obviously gross too.

My heater and air conditioner did not work right at first. I thought it was downright broken. Fortunately, I was able to figure out that someone had flipped a switch on the inside of the system. I had to take off the cover and change the setting. This was not a normal setting like from AUTO to ON, but one no one ever needs to change. It made me wonder if the room was ever used, or at least if anyone ever changed the system. There were all these little things that added up to a lot on the Yucko-meter.

The plug in the picture below was just gunked up with this grossiosity. Why? What was it? It did not just clean off easily.

These are the great mysteries of the Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown West Loop. I do not recommend this. The location is fine, though a bit of a jaunt to the L, and not as convenient as you night like for a leisure trip. And the lobby is nice also. But the rooms are not cared for as they should be. Hilton is a chain that begin the pandemic with a CleanStay promise, seals on doors declaring they had been cleaned so well you could basically eat off the floors. Okay, maybe not that clean, but the idea was that they had been Lysoled out the wazoo. Then suddenly somewhere along the line, the seal was broken like a covenant, and daily housekeeping was dead. Those of us watching the metamorphosis of the travel industry can tell you the same stories. While I can google and probably find the dates, I don’t know exactly when or why. It began with cost saving. Now it’s staffing of course. But money too. Why pay housekeepers if you don’t have to? Even housekeepers have been lobbying to work more. And hotels should listen because I am pretty sure my blow dryer did not need a press on nail.

The good: The Westin Chicago River North:

It was for these and other reasons that I decided the free stay of five nights for 105,000 points was one thing, but beyond that, I didn’t want to pay for the other two nights, so  I quietly canceled my paid stay at the Hampton Inn, without penalty because I did it early enough in the app, then booked an extra night at the Waldorf by doing two things: First I cashed in a Marriott Free Night Award for the Westin Chicago River North. I then used 6000 extra points to upgrade that to a River View room—and Marriott let me do it. The news these days is that you can “finally” do this, but I was able to do this for that night in December with a bit of help from customer service, but it was easy.

This hotel was wonderful. There is only one instance in which I will give up a view of the city of Chicago—when I can have a view of the River instead. This was that. Perched high above the river with unobscured views of the beauty of River North and floor-to-ceiling windows, the Westin sits next to the iconic Marina Towers you see on all the TV shows featuring the Chicago River. The glorious view almost moved me to tears. I just sat staring. On my first long visit to the city I had stayed, by chance, in the Holiday Inn River North at the Merchandise Mart. From what I can tell, Covid killed that wonderful old hotel, and I am sad to know this. I hope it will be resurrected (what say you, IHG?). It was in that room I realized my love for the city. I had views of the river and the city, simultaneously.


While preparing this for publication, I was also looking for my December stays in Chicago, and to my utter surprise, it appears that the Chicago Holiday Inn Mart Plaza River North may, indeed, be prepping for a rebrand as the Holiday Inn Chicago Downtown Wolf Point. When I look on the map, it’s the same location, and when I look at the reviews, there are over 2000, and they are for the same hotel that helped me fall in love with the city. I plan to make a speculative booking. I will check back. Maybe Holiday Inn can comment here? The rooms being offered include lovely skyline views again, and proximity to the River. Dare I dream?

At the Westin, I had the closest thing since. If I could choose a place to live in Chicago, it would be River North—the last place I could afford. I am not hipster enough, but I love the vibe anyway. For the most part, I had just needed a points redemption and place to sleep, but finding this hotel was a treasure because of the views. The room itself was like most Westins. Many find Westins to be dated, and, to be fair, they are. But the Westin Heavenly Bedding is really worth a good night’s sleep. And the bathroom had a good tub. I cannot bear shower-only rooms. My back makes this next-to-impossible, and a blog on accessibility and the issues I have faced in travel is coming soon. Nicer full service hotels often have both a tub and shower, and sometimes older hotels like the Westin have retained them. This is a boon for me. For my back, it’s a lifesaver. Hands down, though, the best thing about the Westin River North is the view. Don’t stay here unless you book a room with a river view. In this case, pay for it. Don’t chance it. I think the front desk clerk told me he has maybe a dozen rooms with river views and “everyone wants one.”

You want one too.

The only way to be sure about this in this hotel is to actually book one. It is worth it. Because the hotel is right on the river, even a lower room with a view will give you a nice scene. But I’d guess if you can get even seven or eight floors up or higher, you will be happy. Beyond that, you will feel like you can see all of Chicago. Be sure to get to the room before sunset so you can see the city skyscrapers reflect off the buildings as you look at the river

Next up, let’s head over to 111 E. Walton Street and the Waldorf Astoria!