by Andrea Guthmann
Think Chicago and you’ll probably think of the icons: Michigan Avenue shopping, the Wrigley Clock Tower, John Hancock building, the Art Institute, Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan. On the bustling corner of Rush and Grand, just steps from the Magnificent Mile, the Gwen brings contemporary luxury to this historic, yet hip neighborhood. Housed in a Chicago landmark — the McGraw-Hill building — the Gwen gets guests close to all the Windy City action while offering a luxurious escape from the busy streets below.
If you and your teens like shopping, you’ll feel the stars have aligned as you stroll along Michigan Avenue, one of the world’s most famous shopping boulevards. High-end boutiques line this Magnificent Mile, yet a blustery winter walk down the Mag Mile can be a chilling experience. The Gwen knows how to take the chill out of winter shopping. The hotel is located above the high-end multi-story Michigan Avenue mall, the Shops at North Bridge. Taking up seven city blocks, the mall is anchored by Nordstrom, with some 50 stores and 20 restaurants. An elevator from the Gwen’s luxurious fifth floor lobby will take you to an enclosed pedestrian bridge that drops you off inside the Shops at North Bridge, a big plus during Chicago’s notoriously harsh winter. You’ll appreciate not needing to drag a coat around as you shop.
In the warmer months, the Gwen opens it doors to a hip rooftop deck. The Terrace Rooftop serves lunch, dinner and drinks. On Sunday nights, you’ll be seeing stars on The Terrace Rooftop, both in the sky and on the movie screen they set up. Be sure to make reservations far in advance though, as this outdoor movie event has become popular with the locals. You’ll also want to check what movie they’re showing, to make sure it’s appropriate for your family. Although this isn’t the most family-focused hotel, it is a good choice if you’re looking for a few days of city chic.
Our Editor Loves
- Spacious rooms
- Pet-friendly accommodations
- Proximity to downtown Chicago attractions
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Serene and spacious, the 17-story Gwen's 311 rooms are classic, yet feature plenty of high-tech amenities. You'll find free Wi-Fi, an iPod dock, Bose audio system and a 42-inch flat-screen television with an Apple AV cable to stream from your Apple product directly to the TV.
The hotel's elegant and contemporary rooms feature 500 thread count linens and huge bathrooms stocked with designer toiletries and plush robes, both adult and child size. There are also complimentary bath amenities for babies and toddlers. Just request them when making your reservation.
If a magnificent view of the Chicago skyline from your room is what you're after, book an odd numbered room. The odd numbered rooms have exterior views, offering breathtaking vistas of Michigan Avenue, the lakefront and downtown Chicago, known as "the loop." Even numbered rooms have interior views, where you'll be face to facade with the neighboring skyscraper. Unless you want a view of people hard at work in their offices, book an odd numbered room. The nicest view is in the hotel's northeast corner, with a view straight up Michigan Avenue and also of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago off in the distance.
Standard rooms have one king or two double beds. The king rooms have bathtubs, but the double bed rooms only have showers. The superior room is slightly larger and contains an exterior view of the city.
Deluxe King Suites are a spacious 570 square feet, with a separate bedroom and living area with a pullout double sofa. The bathroom has a separate bath and shower.
One-Bedroom Executive King Suites feature incredible corner exterior views, along with a separate bedroom and living room with a pullout double sofa bed.
The hotel has five Terrace Suites, each with 300 square feet of outdoor patio space, giving guests a private view of Michigan Avenue or Lake Michigan.
Rollaway beds can be brought into any room for an additional fee per night. The hotel has complimentary Pack 'n Play cribs for kids, but does not provide bed railings. Conrad Chicago also offers connecting rooms, between the king rooms and rooms with two double beds. All rooms are handicap accessible.
Each room also has a desk, safe, Keurig coffee machine, iron and ironing board, and hair dryer.
If you're a family who likes to travel with your dog, you're in luck. The Gwen welcomes up to two cats or dogs less than 35 pounds in each room. There's an additional fee per pet.
Another unique amenity at the Gwen is the pillow menu. Seven different customized pillows target a variety of ailments or preferences. The Stress and Relaxation Pillow contains a calming scent, while the Cold and Flu Pillow contains a reviving scent, aimed at clearing congestion. There's also a full body pillow that can be brought up for guests.
A variety of other sleep amenities can be ordered, from moisture lock socks or gloves to an Amazon Kindle or special sleep sound machine (for a fee).
The Gwen also has an allergy-friendly floor. For an additional charge, you can breathe easy on the pure floor, where all of the rooms are specially treated every six months.
We have a new favorite hotel. The Gwen and all its staff could not have been any better. From the moment we checked in with Asa to the check out after a great breakfast, we enjoyed the entire stay.
We stayed in a junior suite, enjoyed the hot breakfast buffet each morning (and the complimentary mimosa or bloody Mary), and made good use of the room amenities. Our waitstaff was so attentive and even brought us take-away coffees Sunday morning. The concierge staff helped us with L-line info. and restaurant details.
I cannot wait to return. Highly recomment this hotel.
Great location, good price point for the regular rooms. The Upstairs bar can be a fun place to hang out, even in the cold (just stay close to the fire pits!). Right next to a very nice mall and wonderful restaurants.
The Gwen does not have a pool, but guests have access to the pool at the Sheraton Chicago a few blocks away.
The Gwen has two restaurants, The Terrace Restaurant, an upscale restaurant off the lobby, and The Terrace Rooftop, a unique alfresco dining experience on the hotel's 5th floor terrace. The Terrace Bar lobby lounge is an upscale modern space, where you can enjoy a drink while nibbling on a variety of appetizers and snacks.
The Terrace Rooftop
Dining amidst the bright lights of the big city is a fabulous part of any Windy City visit. Open seasonally during the warmer months, The Terrace Rooftop offers a full menu with a southern flare. Open for lunch and dinner, two of the signature dishes are gumbo and fried bourbon chicken and waffles. There's an extensive kid's menu as well, which includes the standard miniature cheeseburgers, pizza or chicken fingers, grilled cheese or linguini. Choices for dessert include the decadent, warm, baked ice cream sundae, a banana split or sorbet. Booster seats, crayons and high chairs are available.
The Terrace Restaurant
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is a sleek, upscale restaurant featuring low-country southern cuisine associated with South Carolina and Georgia. The same children's menu offered at The Terrace Rooftop is available here, along with a breakfast menu. Kid-friendly breakfast items include, pancakes, scrambled eggs and a fruit platter.
Room service is available 24 hours a day. The breakfast menu is extensive, including assorted juices, oatmeal, yogurt and granola parfaits, omelets and a ham and egg croissant sandwich.
Most of what's offered on the Terrace Restaurant menu can also be delivered to guest rooms for lunch and dinner. This includes the hotel's southern delicacy, bourbon chicken and waffles, as well as a variety of soups, salads, burgers and 10-inch pizzas.
A budget-friendly and uniquely Chicago alternative to room service is having a Chicago style deep dish pizza delivered directly to your room from one of the local pizzerias. Unos, Pizzeria Due, Giordano's and Lou Malnati's are just a tiny slice of the iconic nearby pizzerias that are happy to delivery directly to your hotel room, at no extra cost. It's less expensive and a whole lot of fun!
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Although the Gwen does not offer a kid's club, it does partner with an outside company to provide babysitting services. But at $25 per hour, for up to two kids ($30 per hour for three), and a four-hour minimum, it's pricey. Ask for details when making your reservation.
There's a complimentary fitness center on the 11th floor with plenty of equipment, plus extra perks, like complimentary headphones, bottled water and fruit.
A gift shop in the lobby sells a variety of items you may have forgotten, including contact solution, over-the-counter medications, sweaters and a nice selection of Chicago souvenirs.
The hotel does not have a spa, but directs guests to Nordstrom's spa on the 3rd floor of the same building. It's a relaxing experience, offering a full menu of treatments from nail services to facials and massages.
A business center on the 11th floor provides guests with complimentary computers, a printer, a copy machine and a fax machine.
The Art of Smart Timing
The warmer months are high season in Chicago, with a multitude of neighborhood festivals, outdoor concerts and other culinary and cultural events. Some of the more famous are the Taste of Chicago and the Blues Festival. The Christmas holidays also bring plenty of tourists to Michigan Avenue, with the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicking off a big televised parade the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
The Gwen is about equidistant from both Midway Airport and the larger O'Hare International Airport. There's no need for a car when you visit, and parking is pricey. You're better offing taking public transportation.
Chicago's elevated subway, known as the El, is a safe and cost effective way to travel. You can take the El from either Midway or O'Hare Airport to within a few blocks of the hotel. From there, it's an easy and safe walk through a bustling part of the city.
If you do decide to rent a car, the drive from O'Hare Airport will take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic and weather. From O'Hare, take I-190 east to I-90 East/Chicago Loop, exit at Ohio Street (exit #50-B), take Ohio to Rush Street and turn right.
The drive from Midway will take 30 to 45 minutes. From Midway Airport, turn right (north) onto Cicero Avenue, take I-55 North (Stevenson Expressway), merge onto I-90/94 West (Kennedy Expressway), exit onto Ohio Street, follow Ohio Street to Rush Street and turn right.
For Mom and Dad
If parents want to splurge for a sitter, there are plenty of world-class restaurants, theaters and live music venues -- all within walking distance -- to make it an unforgettable evening. Chicago's theater district, showing big name Broadway productions, is within easy walking distance. The hotel concierge is happy to assist with finding tickets, or advising on how to purchase discounted day-of tickets.
Chicago also has a world-renowned blues and jazz scene. One of the best music venues in the city, Andy's Jazz Club, is right around the corner, and the House of Blues is also only a couple blocks away.
In the mood for a laugh? Chicago is known for its comedy clubs. Second City, the famous training ground for generations of Saturday Night Live cast members, is a short cab ride away.