There’s only so much to do amidst the cornfields of Iowa. During the summer months, we’re able to get fresh air at a park, attend minor league ball games or a festival somewhere. Even those get a bit tiresome. Winter months are worse. There are so few activities to choose from that it get quite boring.

I guess we were spoiled by living in Los Angeles for so many years. Thankfully, a trip to Chicago is only a hop, skip and a jump away and it’s our big city of preference since it’s only a few hours away and has everything we could want for entertainment. All the major sports are represented, theatre and concerts, conferences and trade-shows, museums of all types and shopping, shopping, shopping.

Whenever we go, we fill the schedule with as much as we think we can handle. We often end up getting a hotel for at least one night. A recent was focused on the kids beginning with a morning at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair followed by a trip to one of the museums.

Essex Inn - Outside shot

The Essex Inn on South Michigan Avenue had just what we needed: an overnight package designed with the kids in mind. We reserved the Kids Rule package which includes accommodations for four in one of their family suites, a choice of passes to select family attractions and a welcome bag for the kids.

When we were done with the toy and game fair, we headed over to the hotel to see if our room was ready. Check-in was 4 but we arrived earlier than anticipated: shortly after lunch. Although our room wasn’t ready, they had our VIP passes to Shedd Aquarium right at the desk. The friendly staff parked our vehicle, stored our bags and requested a rush on our room so it would be available whenever we decided to return.

Shedd Aquarium is a short 15 minute walk away with the majority of it on a lovely pathway.  Admission into Shedd Aquarium is NOT cheap but it is well worth it.  The show is excellent and the exhibits are breathtaking. Seriously… look at the jelly fish! Aren’t they so pretty?!

Shedd Aquarium - Jellyfish

The passes we received with our package included all the exhibits and shows, excluding the 4D movie.  If we were to factor OUT the passes because we would have purchased them anyhow, that leaves the net cost of our hotel room far less than any other hotel we’ve looked into downtown.

While at the aquarium, I was notified that our room was ready so after we had seen everything we wanted, we headed back to the hotel to finish checking in. My kids were excited to each receive a welcome back filled with snacks and other goodies – each with a different game and snack than the other.

Essex Inn - Gift Bag

As for me – I was thrilled to see that the kids’ room was separate from where we would be sleeping. Those nice comfy, cozy beds you see in that picture are in a room adjacent to where the parents sleep.

Essex Inn - Beds

Did you catch that? A different room.  With a different TV. With a door that closes. They have their own privacy (and early bedtime followed by cartoons in the morning) while parents have a bed, TV, fridge and coffee pot in the room attached to the entrance door.

Our day was pretty exhausting but we were still tossing around the idea of heading to the Magnificent Mile to go shopping. The American Girl store was our destination of choice and someplace that has eluded us on prior visits. The Essex Inn provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the shopping areas so we didn’t even have to worry about parking or grabbing a taxi.

Of course, we did have to worry about the parade and other festive activities happening that we forgot about.  Because of the street closures, the closest the driver would be able to get us to where we needed to be was a few blocks. In the frigid cold (and following a 15 minute walk from the Shedd), we opted to just hang out at the hotel.  The American Girl store will have to wait for our next trip.

The hotel offers a beautiful view, a nice restaurant, a sizeable fitness area and a rooftop pool.  The fitness area included free weights, various machines and TVs to help pass your time.

Essex Inn - Fitness Center

While deemed “rooftop” pool, it isn’t open to the cold winter air. It’s in an atrium area adjacent to the fitness room and boasts a cozy sauna. The Essex Inn offers one thing that really stood out: a lifeguard on duty. Of all the hotels we’ve ever stayed at in various cities, I can honestly say I have never seen a lifeguard on duty at one. There’s always a sign that says something akin to “swim at your own risk”.

Essex Inn - Pool

After a good night’s sleep, we opted to cash in our “One Free Child’s Breakfast with the Purchase of an Adult Breakfast” tickets that came with our package. We had looked at the menu the night before and the kids’ menu alone made me want to dine there. I couldn’t get past the Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast and Chocolate Hazelnut Crepes. Whether the kids planned on ordering them or not, they were getting one of those so I could have a bite.

While we received a paper menu, I just loved the posted menu. It was a giant blackboard that covered one of the walls.

Essex Inn - Blackboard

There were a lot of choices that sounded fantastic for breakfast; I opted for savory crepes. The plate didn’t look huge but it was extremely filling and delicious.

Essex Inn - Food

Following our great breakfast, we checked out and headed home. Overall, our stay was excellent with only a few hiccups that were no big deal. Every staff member we encountered was extremely friendly and helpful, including one of the cleaning staff who overheard us trying to decide whether to grab a Coke from one machine or a Pepsi from the machine on the floor below.  We’ll certainly be looking at the other packages at The Essex Inn when we’re ready to make another trip to Chicago!

Oh yeah… In case you’re wondering, our 10 year old daughter ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast and yes, I did steal a bite.  It was to-die for. She wants to come back just for THAT!

24 thoughts on “Aquarium Getaway With the Essex Inn

  1. My brother lives in that area, and I have yet to visit him. The Essex Inn is now on my list. I love, love love aquariums!! There is so much about your trip I like. I like the separate rooms, the food, weight room is the bomb and that pool is awesome!

  2. Loved this review, especially your daughter’s video at the end. Sounds amazing, I’ve never been to one that had my kids in a different room. I need to go to that one. Thanks for posting about it.

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