Chicago has its share of historic hotels, but The Drake shines with national landmark status. This venerable 96-year-old property is almost like a well-preserved museum that feels like taking a step back in time, explaining its reoccurring presence in movies and perennial popularity among everyone from business and elite travelers to international first-timers, foodies, and families.
Curated tours are a specialty here, such as American Girl for kids, a self-guided tour-and-pour with drink coupons at hotel's iconic bars, or a historic tea service tour for groups. During Halloween is the hotel's most coveted tour: a haunted theme, which is almost always booked.
Rooms vary in size, but maintain smaller Old World dark wood furnishings and lion brass handles that are frequently seen in historic and European properties. Even with refreshed linens, rooms might feel dated for travelers used to staying at more modern hotels.
Opting for a lakeside room will make up for the dated accommodations; you won't find better views of the Gold Coast.
Recently remodeled bathrooms include white marble vanities, black marble tile floors, and Peter Thomas Roth products. Bathrooms come outfitted with a combination shower and tub, though the classically low, small basins are not particularly suited for a comfy soak.
Don't expect anything less than a grand entrance at a hotel with this much history. Take the formal royal blue staircase to the stunningly spacious lobby, outfitted with a towering crystal chandelier and elaborate fresh flower arrangements worth snapping a few photos.
Palm Court is the crowned jewel of The Drake, a stunning cream-draped room with ornate fountain surrounded by fresh flowers and renowned for its iconic afternoon tea service complete with live harpist.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Formerly known as The Fountain Court, the opulent parlor was the place see and be seen in the 1930s, hosting notables like Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, and George Gershwin.
The second bar to obtain a liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition, Coq D'Or has been operating ever since thanks to the dutiful patronage of locals and tourists alike. Nestled in the basement, this handsome dark wooden bar retains a timeless thanks to signature touches like the Executive Martini, a massive stiff cocktail large enough for two.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Ask about the exclusive rye whiskey produced by cult favorite distillery, FEW Spirits, that is only available at the property.
Located on the tip of the Magnificent Mile, the property is strangely convenient and inconvenient at the same time. While it's about one block away from a number of buses on Michigan Avenue, it's a 9-minute walk to the Red Line L. It's easiest to have the concierge flag down a taxi or use a ride-hailing app like Lyft or Uber.
Nestled along the border of Chicago's ritzy Gold Coast and thriving River North neighborhoods, there's no shortage of fine dining. Directly across the street is award-winning Italian restaurant, Spiaggia, a favorite of former President Obama. For upscale French, it's a short 3-minute drive to Bistronomic and 5-minute drive to Tru or Le Nomades. And it's only a 7-minute drive to hot spots like RPM Italian, Frontera Grill, and The Purple Pig.
Dive bars and late-night clubs like the Hang-Uppe, Butch McGuire's, and Primary Nightclub dominate the Division Street strip (10-minute walk). Get a taste of the city's craft beer scene at Howell's & Hood and Public House (7-minute drive) or sip on craft cocktails at Three Dots & A Dash and Bottlefork (7-minute drive).
WHY WE LIKE IT
Amid an explosion of newer, flashier properties, The Drake maintains a uniquely local flavor that has endured through the ages. Ornate touches like lavish woodwork, fabulous flower arrangements and traditional tea service are something of a lost art, yet lovingly maintained at this historic property. Where it lacks some of the cushier touches more commonly found at contemporary hotels, it makes up for it with its rich history, exceptional views, and a prime location to central hotspots that is nothing short of unforgettable.