Bebe Voyage Rating – 8.5/10
If you are looking for a relaxing, family-friendly stay that is close to the culture, shopping, and attractions in Chicago, this might be the place for you. The climate in Chicago is most enjoyable in the warmer months, specifically spring time, the beginning or end of summer (otherwise it can be too hot), and autumn. We decided to take a weekend trip late August this year. Having been to Chicago several times as a family, we always try to stay somewhere centrally located downtown to have quick access to the places we want to visit. We were so tired of the typical blasé chain hotel options available, so we took a chance someplace new, and we’re so glad we did!
Located in the Financial District, the Kimpton Gray Hotel is inside Chicago’s Loop. Just blocks from Michigan Avenue and the West Loop, we were able to push our stroller to Millennium Park, catch The El (elevated train), and walk to breakfast. The location was actually a bit of a disadvantage we found out, however. This part of town is largely business travelers and working professionals. Although it’s close to many attractions, we visited on a Sunday through Tuesday and were disappointed to discover that the hotel’s bar and restaurants–even room service–closed early. Our concierge referred to it as “Sleepy Sunday”, which consequently rolled over into a Sleepy Monday feeling as well. We had a hard time even trying to find a pizza place that would deliver at 8:00PM on a Monday night! With kids, you just never know how your day will go whilst traveling, so we were unprepared to be stuck without quick dinner options at hand.
It would’ve been easy to hail a taxi at this location, but we really had no interest in hauling our car seats around. We did bring our own car on this occasion, but left it parked with the valet service as it would be equally stressful trying to park ourselves in the midst of a busy city versus just pushing the stroller to our destinations on foot or taking the train. Both of our boys loved riding the train–better known as The El–anyways! Be sure to map out which stops have elevator access and which ones don’t; better yet, just be prepared to haul your kids and your gear up a flight or two of stairs!
The Financial District is far enough away from the more touristy areas but close enough to most of the sites. We were able to enjoy Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Playground, the Lincoln Park Zoo, riding The El, splashing in Crown Fountain and more, all by foot. Exiting out the front or the back of the hotel lobby, guests walk straight into the center of it all, the 9-to-5 hustle and bustle of people and taxis honking at each other. If I could change anything, I wish there were more unique shopping and dining options nearby, but the Kimpton Gray meets your needs in ways that make its ‘sleepy’ location worthwhile.
Style & Character
Stepping back inside the hotel after a busy afternoon touring the sites feels like a bit of an oasis. White marble, navy blue stair liners, vintage elevator signs that say “This Car Up”, and the most helpful doormen… the hotel is bright, crisp, modern, and feels really luxurious for being so family-friendly. It definitely lends a certain European style and is very sleek, both of which I love. On the website, the Kimpton Gray Hotel is self-described as a perfectly bespoke suite from London’s Savile Row — beautiful, bold, and with no detail out of place. This description really hits the nail on the head! It’s truly a beautiful hotel with well thought-out design and decor. The hotel takes its name from the Georgia Gray marble it is clad in; the ornate architecture and Art Deco fixtures mesh beautifully with the contemporary-style suites and mid century furnishings. A touch of greenery would really take the rooms over the top, so staff should consider adding a few stems of cut flowers or a plant to the suites/bathrooms.
Service & Facilities
Service and attention to detail is where the Kimpton Gray will blow you away. Our concierge, Bobby and Miles, were the most friendly and helpful we’ve ever experienced. They were eager to help with anything we needed and made our stay incredibly seamless and stress-free. The highlight for the kids was the initial check-in to our room to find the welcome gifts left for them. A mason jar full of gummy bears, a dish full of goldfish crackers, 5 or more children’s books to read at nap and bedtime, two chocolate cupcakes, a box of colored pencils and fun print-outs of their favorite characters to color decorated the desk area. The welcome note for us parents and the attention given to our children was just the kind of personalized service we love. The Kimpton Kids Program offered at Kimpton Hotels makes traveling with a baby much easier. They lend a hand and can deliver forgotten items to the room in no time at all. I would’ve loved to see some kids movies on hand to borrow for a calm hour before bedtime and bicycles equipped with baby seats for getting around the city, but we enjoyed our stay nonetheless and will always remember the incredible service we received.
The oversized suites were perfect for our family of four. I requested a rollaway crib to be setup in the room for us at check-in. This was accidentally delivered to an empty room across the hall, but we finally got it for the second night. Our suite at the Kimpton Gray is quite frankly one of the nicest hotel rooms we’ve stayed in, to be honest. We upgraded our room at check-in to ensure we had a tub for the kids bathtime. The soaker tub nestled inside the huge shower… just wow. We enjoyed the spacious bathroom and separate wardrobe area. Inside the brightly lined wardrobe was a yoga mat, an umbrella, and two plush robes. (They really think of everything here!) The flat screen TV on the wall across from the beds was perfect to let our three year old hang out in front of cartoons when he woke too early or during his baby brothers naptime. The mini-fridge had room for storing baby food, and the double wardrobe kept our suitcases up and off the floor. I wish we had a better view, so maybe next time we will request to stay on a different side of the building or floor level, but know that their suites are limited in availability and location. No matter where your room faces in this hotel, you’ll likely be looking out at the busy city that lies below.
Food & Drink
If you have a caretaker for your children on the trip, or simply want to spend some time alone, the hotel has Vol. 39, a library-themed bar, and Boleo, an Argentinean-inspired rooftop lounge with incredible views of Chicago. Steadfast, the restaurant on the first floor, is perhaps somewhere you could eat with the kids on particularly well-behaved days. The menu is fancier and a bit adventurous, so don’t expect any ‘kids menu’ options, but you could simply split the New American cuisine instead. They do offer breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. At dinnertime, you’ll find dishes like butter-poached lobster and rib-eye with caviar. You have the option of dining in the main room, at a chef’s table (they have an exhibition kitchen), on the patio outside, or at the bar. Another option, if you have childcare, is to partake in the pre-ticketed tasting room for an unforgettable dining experience.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience the restaurants on site in person. Either the bar was closed when I tried to sneak away early Sunday evening for a drink and some alone time, room service hours had already ended, or the fact that the rooftop bar wasn’t open at all during our stay. You name it, we had zero luck in the food department! Food is a huge part of our lives and something we all enjoy immensely, so this aspect was a huge bummer for us. Steadfast is open all week, but we felt the menu options and the upscale setting weren’t a good fit for us on this trip (our kids current ages and stages… a bit crazy), no matter how much our foodie hearts longed to try it. Boleo is only open Wednesday through Saturday, and Vol. 39 is open Monday through Saturday.
My suggestions here are several:
- Make a door hanger for breakfast orders (like other hotels, I know, I know…) because that is truly more convenient. It’s nice to place a room service order on your doorknob the night before knowing you’ve had a long day and would like to laze around in the morning.
- The foodservice and restaurant hours are strange. Having visited on a Sunday through Tuesday, we weren’t able to experience Boleo. I would have loved to see the view from the rooftop!
- There is no kids menu! I worked with the concierge over the phone who went back and forth with the “chef” to get my starving children a bit of buttered noodles and seared vegetables brought to the room. What we received left both my husband and I aghast. (Think: sloppily tossed half portion of noodles, half a cup of soup and maybe four spoonfuls of cold vegetables.) Thankfully, this was apologetically remedied with the front desk, but the whole experience felt unnecessary. Offer healthy, flavorful, childrens portions on the room service menu and at the restaurant to keep families coming back again and again.
Value for Money
It’s best to spend several days here, and check the hotel’s website before booking, as they are often running specials and promotions. For the amenities and high level of personalized service you receive, the nightly rate is fantastic. We found the best deal was booking directly through the hotels website and signing up for the Karma Rewards program. Eating out in larger cities like Chicago can be expensive in general, so consider stocking up on a few snacks to take with you while out running around during the day and for the kids to have midday since there’s a mini-fridge in the room. The rooms are huge, the linens are luxe, and the overall style is superb.
The Kimpton Gray Hotel turned out to be surprisingly family-friendly while also being a stylish retreat for us parents. It’s polished and refined in its atmosphere, but there are families everywhere in Chicago and the staff were nothing less than warm and welcoming to us. With a few tweaks to the dining options for children and some better planning and forethought for navigating the area with two kids in tow, this is definitely a hotel we would return to. Kimpton Hotels has four different boutique hotel options in Chicago alone, so do some research to see which one might best meet the needs of your family. We had a wonderful getaway in Chicago, and I hope you will too! We can’t wait to try out the other Kimpton locations on our next trip.
You can contact the hotel by phone or make reservations directly through their website. You can also view all of the Kimpton Hotel boutique options in the Chicago area and make side-by-side comparisons here.
Kimpton Gray Hotel
122 W. Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
Hotel: (312) 750-9012
Rates start from around $135/night.