If history is what you're looking for on your trip to Chicago, don't look any further than The Drake - as The Drake's catchy new slogan goes, it's "Real Chicago."
Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links. If you purchase a linked item, I will make a commission, at no extra charge to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Post updated April, 2020.
Wondering where to stay in Chicago?
In recent years, with the purchase - and extensive and needed renovation- by Hilton, a stay at the historic Drake is more accessible than ever.
If you're interested in tasting a piece of Chicago history, give The Drake a shot! It certainly keeps us coming back to Chicago, year after year.
Situated between the Gold Coast and the northern end of tourist-central, Michigan Avenue, you really can't ask for a better location, convenient to wherever you'll want to be in Chicago.
The History and Mystery of the Drake Hotel
The selection of The Drake's location was intended to bridge the gap between the residential Gold Coast to the north, and the increasingly commercial Michigan Avenue area, to the south.
A mainstay of Chicago high society from the 1920's through the middle of the 20th century, with its stylish Palm Court and cozy Cape Code Room (allegedly the first "themed" restaurant in the U.S., which has sadly now closed), famous guests included Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio, Winston Churchill, Princess Grace, Walt Disney, 4 U.S. presidents, and Charles Lindbergh.
The Drake was purchased by Hilton in the 1990s, leading to a needed restoration, as the hotel's old school glory had slightly faded by that point. Interestingly, this acquisition eventually brought The Drake under the same ownership as its longtime "rival," The Palmer House, the other great Chicago hotel, located on the southern end of the city.
The Drake Hotel, Chicago: Famous Guests
The Drake's Location
Walking out the front doors of The Drake, you'll be almost directly across the street from Bloomingdales, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, and the historic Chicago Water Tower, and its namesake shopping mall. If you're looking for high-end shopping, this is definitely the location for you, as you get the best of Michigan Avenue and easy access to the most elite shopping in Chicago in the Gold Coast - Hermes, Dior, etc. The Gold Coast also offers great dining options, such as the famous Gibson's and Tavern on Rush.
And, of course, Lake Michigan! You can walk out the back door of The Drake directly to a quick under-the-street tunnel that takes you to a walking path along Lake Michigan. Can't do better than that!
Personally, I find The Drake's location particularly relaxing in a very crowded city - being backed up to the Lake allows not only for great views, but also a bit of a respite from the daily grind.
Is The Drake too far north?
In recent years, as the international tourism industry has exploded and Chicago itself has grown increasingly tourist-centric, Michigan Avenue itself has expanded, and shifted south to meet the river. Perhaps one of the most notable examples of this is the Apple Store, which recently completed a massive, multi-million dollar storefront right on the Chicago River, moving from a location farther north on the Ave.
The Drake's Guestrooms
Picking a hotel room at The Drake
A few tips for picking the right room: with over 500 guest rooms, the hotel is extremely large. Huge. If you have difficulty walking, be sure to let the attendant know when you check-in.
That said, it's also an extremely old hotel, so do expect to hear a bit more noise in the hall/through the walls than in one of the more modern, and more soundproof hotels you may be used to. If this is a concern, be sure to ask for a room at the end of a hall, where there's generally less traffic.
The hotel has been making small updates over the years, while maintaining the historic elegance of the Chicago landmark.
Bathrooms at The Drake
The Drake's bathrooms have recently been fully updated, with new fixtures and modern wallpaper. This was a needed change, as they were getting a bit long in the tooth until this revamp a couple of years ago. The updated bathrooms aren't marble, etc., but they have all the basics, and nice lotion and soap, of which I now have quite a collection! I've only ever had the combined shower/bath tub set-up.
Eating and Drinking at The Drake, Chicago
The Drake's Palm Court
The Drake is known for its unique dining and drinking options. The high tea at Palm Court is consistently voted one of the best teas in the city, and if you are looking to rest your tired feet after a day of shopping, I'd highly recommend it. Palm Court (pictured above) is a phenomenal, secluded lobby area, surrounding a gorgeous fountain/floral arrangement, and recently refreshed and updated with new furniture.
Sometimes, you are able to explore Palm Court under less formal circumstances, for a cocktail or just to have a look around. However, some wedding weekends it is used for private events.
Coq d'Or, The Drake
Even if you don't end up staying at The Drake, it's worth popping in for a drink to check out "Real Chicago."
The Drake's Arcade and Shopping
Continuing through, you'll find a coffee shop, a hotel gift shop/convenience store, an art gallery, and a few high-end clothing and jewelry shops. Random tips - the hotel gift shop/convenience store does not allow you to charge items to you room, worth keeping in mind, depending on how you're paying or getting reimbursement if it's work trip, etc.
Thanks for stopping by!
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