My roadtrip buddy, Stefania, and I were excited to realize our itinerary gave us an extra day in Chicago before BlogHer started. We decided to spend the night at a hotel away from the conference so we could see a little more of the city. We had reservations at one property, but were glad to cancel and accept an unsolicited offer from the Best Western River North: a free night at the hotel. And it included secure parking!
Hey, we’re girls on a budget.
We were also coming from a lackluster and disappointing stay at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, Michigan, so we were ready to be treated well. Or at least get a clean room. Happily, we got both.
The good treatment started with the valet, who uttered the now famous question, “Is that a Bentley?” when we handed over our loaner 2010 Ford Taurus SHO.
By the way, a tip for anyone who stays at the Best Western River North: always have the valet park. We took the car out later and that garage is insanely small and tight. City parking, and it’s free to guests, so no complaints, just leave the tight turns to the experts. Especially when you have a giant loaner car with an immaculate paint job.
We rolled our suitcases into the lobby, which smelled like fresh laundry. This was both pleasant and fortuitous, because we had a week’s worth of laundry that wasn’t going to get clean sitting in our bags.
As soon as we got through the niceties of checking in, we asked about doing laundry. There are no on-site facilities, and we’d missed the cut off time to have it sent out. We were obviously deflated and disappointed, so the manager said, “Let me see what I can do.”
Long story short, housekeeping did our laundry for us and delivered it to the room. We paid a nominal fee, about what you’d pay any wash and fold service. There was no extra charge for the amazing service.
The Room Rooms Suite
There was also no charge for the huge suite they put us in, obviously hoping to impress us with their best accommodations. The wasn’t super fancy, but it was a lot of space, actually perfect for a family on an extended trip.
We walked into a spacious living/lounging area, with furnished with a sofa, coffee table, easy chairs, TV, dining table and chairs, refrigerator big enough to hold actual groceries, a coffee maker, and cups.
Next we walked into the first bedroom, with two double beds, then passed into the “master” bedroom, which had a king sized bed, as well as a desk, mirror and lamp that served as an extra vanity. This was useful because even with all that space, there was only one bathroom, which was rather small. I’d guess that most families would appreciate a second toilet.
Plenty of room to spread out, relax, and get out of each others’ hair. Even get a little privacy!
The Pool and Workout Room
Because they knew we were writers, and were obviously trying to give us the best service and accommodations possible, I knew I had to do a little spying to get more of the story. I laced up my running shoes and wandered through a couple of floors, on my way up to the combination pool/workout area on the top floor.
The workout room was small but perfectly adequate – one treadmill, one elliptical, some weights. Really all you need in a hotel. The pool was nice, good-sized, with lots of towels, lounge chairs and sitting areas where you could bring up a snack.
Again, it seemed very family friendly. Clean, and nice, but not so fancy you have to worry that your kids are going to break something or annoy the other guests while splashing in the pool.
In fact, almost all of the other guests we saw in the hotel were families. They were very regular looking (no one looked like Victoria Beckham, if you know what I mean, and there weren’t any nannies) with a pack of mostly well-behaved kids, enjoying a summer vacation. And even though they didn’t appear to be writers (hey, you never know, everyone’s got a blog these days) everyone was getting the same calm, attentive service.
This isn’t a mini-bar and cashews place, but they did have room service available, through the diner next door. Totally reasonable prices — breakfast for two was under $20, including delivery — and fast service. It wasn’t a meal we’ll remember forever, but it was tasty, and still hot when it arrived, which is more than I can say for some $25 room service burgers in my past.
Our stay was as nice as they could possibly make it. Even though it was quite clear that the manager was going out of his way to treat us well, except for the free room it was all in the form of great service, i.e. they didn’t try to do anything creepy like bribe us by doing our laundry for free, or sending booze to our room, not that I ever object to free booze.
In my sneaking around, I saw lots of polite maids, happy families, and clean rooms (you bet I totally peeping tom’d around the housekeeping cart!) The whole thing screamed good value.
Is this a romantic place for a weekend getaway? No. It’s also not right on the water like some of the bid deal hotels, although it’s a few easy-to-walk blocks away. There aren’t any dreamy views, or designer amenities.
It is a clean, friendly hotel, with good-sized rooms, great service, and reasonable rates, in a convenient location. If you are traveling with your kids, and even another family, and want a no-stress, central place to stay, this is the perfect place.