Staycation is all I ever wanted

John Hancock

By Jae-Ha Kim
Photos by Denton Morris
June 23, 2013

Every year, my family and I like to enjoy a staycation in Chicago. For me, it’s a chance to revisit some of my old stomping grounds in the city where I grew up. Before my parents realized their immigrant dream of buying a house in the suburbs, we lived in Chicago. I went to school, learned to parallel park and got my first job at a major newspaper there.

For my husband and son, spending a long weekend in Chicago is an opportunity to visit some of the world’s best museums, dine at some amazing restaurants and go for a swim with a view of the city’s gorgeous skyline.

In other words, it’s a win-win situation.

Back when I worked at the Chicago Sun-Times, I interviewed a couple celebrities each week at posh hotels, but my favorite property was the Four Seasons. Since our staycation this year fell on my birthday, we opted to spend our weekend at the Four Seasons hotel on Michigan Avenue. It was a treat for us, because we usually stay in places with the word “Motel” prominently featured in its name when we do road trips.

When we got to our room, there was a small tray full of goodies waiting for my son: chocolate milk, gummies and a shortbread cookie that was so delicious I wish I had hidden it to eat by myself when no one was looking. Also included was a coloring book, small stuffed animal and a tiny, plush robe to use during our stay that I should have purchased to keep.

They had left a small T-shirt for my little guy, too. This came in particularly handy, since my son had forgotten to pack his PJs. What the heck? I gave him a list to check off. It’s not my fault he couldn’t read it. I mean, come on. He was four years old, already! 😉

Among the perks the hotel offered was a bedtime butler who’d come to read a story to your child. We took a pass on that, but said, “Yes, please!” to the complimentary visits from the Ice Cream Man. It was also nice to find a fully-stocked playroom that kept my little guy (and his dad!) occupied while I did some power shopping.

Four Seasons

I know. You get it. I love this hotel. Yada yada yada.

So now for the reveal. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that one of the big draws of staying at the Four Seasons was that it’s located in the same building as Bloomingdale’s. To paraphrase a quote from “Friends” (after Rachel nabs a job at Saks Fifth Avenue):  “It’s like the  mother ship is calling you home.”

Yes, that’s how much I love Bloomies.

But the weekend wasn’t all about shopping and our posh hotel room. We went up to the tippy top of the John Hancock Center and tried to find our house from the observatory. (No such luck on that hazy day.)

We visited the University of Chicago campus. Our son has been wearing U of C t-shirts since before he could walk. It was fun watching him put two and two together, that this was the school that was his mommy’s alma mater.

It was also super fun to visit the Museum of Science and Industry (my all-time favorite museum), where my little guy got to see how planes, trains and automobiles worked. He got to pose like the astronaut that he says he wants to be when he grows up.

I picked up an awesome “Bazinga!” shirt. (Yup, I was still on a shopping roll.)


I am not one to spend money easily. I have no problem spending it on others, but I’m reticent to do that for  myself — especially when it’s for something as indulgent as a luxury hotel. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at some amazing properties around the world, but that was almost always because I was sent there for work. When I travel on my own dime, I tend to share James Denton‘s philosophy of staying at budget hotels.

However, there is something to be said for living it up every once in a while, savoring the moment and loosening up the purse strings a bit.

On our next road trip, we’ll be back to our motels and it’ll be just fine.

But, in our memories, we’ll always have the Four Seasons.

© 2013 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (8)

  1. littlegoldseoul says:

    aaahh the pictures are so adorable!!

  2. Thea says:

    Love this post! Your little boy is to die for cute, too!

  3. Amanda says:

    I always stay at the Four Seasons or the Peninsula when I want a treat during my trips to Chicago. Its cheaper to stay with friends and family, but at a certain age a girl just wants some of the nicer things in life. Thanks for sharing your staycation with us.

  4. paradelle says:

    i love those photos! so cute!

  5. Geoffrey U. Ruiz says:

    This hotel exceeded all of my expectations. The staff was friendly and professional, but not at all pretentious. Our room was lovely, spacious, and had a huge bathroom. We had a view of Navy Pier from our room and we were so happy with the location. We could walk to many sights and we enjoyed our first trip to Chicago tremendously. I am planning another trip soon and I will definitely stay at the Ritz Carlton again.

  6. Jorge Hughes says:

    If you are a regular Ritz Carlton customer you will be disapointed in this property. From the entrance level with the dirty stained carpet to the hard upsell at check in (not complimentaqry upgrade) you realize something is amiss. View is great as well as Mag. Mile locaiton–but unless a view is worth $800 you should choose a different property. In the area I have taken a look at the Pennisulia, the Park Hyatt, and the remodeled Hiltion Suites (looks like great value, space, location, view, and family friendly)–MUCH better properties for the same or less money. Our room has outdated and worn “hotel” feeling furniture. The couch is stained, there was hair in the bathtub the sink does not drain. There is a serious lack of attention to detail—no fresh ice at turndown, dirty glasses left where they were, two things of cold popcorn left with one glass and a sprite for the three of us and then not removed the next day–I could go on, but they can do better, much better. Nothing like fresh like flowers in the room, chocolates at turn down—absoutly nothing special–the same service you would receive at a basic Marriott if not less.If it were not for the hassle of moving I would change hotels (only here 3 nights). Things are just not right with this property–dosen’t have the RItz smell, personal service, and the small details in place that make for a five star suite experience. I am not a big four seasons fan–except for thier spas and Vegas location but someone from their hotel (they own the property) needs to walk across the street and see the tarnish this property is putting ont the Four Seasons name. To me this use to be the place to stay in Chicago–times have changed.

  7. Melissa Pother says:

    The Four Seasons is my all time favorite hotel, too. I never really thought about spending all that money to stay at home, but, it’s not a bad idea! I hate flying! LOL!

  8. Adam Lawrence says:

    I love taking vacations to far off places, but sometimes there’s nothing like a staycation to getyou recharged. People think it’s a waste of money to stay at a nice hotel at home, but it is so much cheaper and less stressful than planning a trip. LOL!

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