Chicago 2014: Lodging, Transit

 

A bicycle suspended in air? Isn't that just a little bit of terrific , Hotel Allegro!

A bicycle suspended in air? Isn’t that just a little bit of terrific , Hotel Allegro!

As much as I love Hotwire — and will continue to sing its praises until I die — sometimes you just want to know in advance where you’ll be staying on vacation. I figured “Wouldn’t it be swell to stay at the Hotel Allegro the next time we’re in Chicago? It looks hip, it’s in a nice location and it even has free beer and wine happy hour, if we ever got into that.”

A good hotel room is essential to a good trip.

A good hotel room is essential to a good trip.

Well, due to a pretty tight budget, once again, I was playing the Hotwire game for our trip last weekend to Chicago. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly (if you haven’t, for shame), you know I’ve used Hotwire religiously on trips. You also know I have one rule: No hotels under 3.5 stars, preferably four stars. By following that rule, we’ve snagged some pretty sweet rooms over the years and avoided coming home with bed bugs.

I applied the same rule, clicked on the four-star hotels in the Loop and, lo and behold, we wound up at … Hotel Allegro! What a happy surprise. We arrived during Happy Hour but, since we don’t drink beer or wine, Caitlyn grabbed a kiddie cup with some lemonade and we headed up to our room.

Pretty hip.

Pretty hip.

We were clearly in a handicapped accessible room, but that didn’t bother us. If anything, the room seemed more open. The décor was top notch – very modern and hip from the artwork, to the carpet and even the wallpaper. The bathroom was spacious, although the showerhead came on a bit strong at first and required some tinkering before we felt like we weren’t bathing in a fire hose.

The bed was comfortable and the room even came up with leopard-print robes in the closet. Meow!

A clean bathroom is also essential to a good trip. No issues here.

A clean bathroom is also essential to a good trip. No issues here.

The walls were a bit thin, but nothing my trusty ear plugs couldn’t block out, which was good, since the EL tracks also ran nearby (there’s a stop one block away at Washington and Wells). There were even plenty of food options nearby, including the Corner Bakery and Cafe (they’re EVERYWHERE in the city), which came in handy for breakfast both days. All in all, it was a nice experience. One note: Don’t be surprised after you check out if there is a mystery charge on your credit statement from the hotel. Apparently, Hotel Allegro charges a $50/day hold fee, but that’s refundable shortly after departure.

Transit

We pretty much hit the transit grand slam while in Chicago: Taxi, EL train, bus and hoofing it. The one thing to note with transit in Chicago is that the Chicago Transit Authority is phasing out CTA cards for Ventra cards.

These machines suck.

These machines suck.

Honestly, I don’t quite see what the difference is between the new cards and old cards, except you can tap and board CTA trains and buses (as opposed to swiping like with the CTA cards) and the machines will give you fits: First figuring out the options, then inserting your card at the precise moment and leaving it in until it tells you take it out — if you take it out a nanosecond too early, you’ll know.

I also hope this doesn’t mean the end of the CTA Groupons.

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