Review The Gwen Chicago
This is post three of a ten part series of Chicago hotels reviews. During lockdown from November 2020-February 2021 I took some staycations. At the time hotels were offering insanely low rates plus I had some accumulated free nights.
Pretty much everything in all hotels were closed at that time so I won’t be reviewing too many amenities. You can check the link to the hotel for more details. I also don’t discuss decor because I don’t care about that. When I travel I care about location, price and cleanliness. That is I want a clean room close to transit and all the things I want to do at a reasonable price.
Review The Gwen Chicago
The Gwen, 521 N. Rush inside the Shops at North Bridge (312) 645-1500. It’s located on the 5th to 17th floors of the Shops at North Bridge. You can enter on Rush Street or through the Shops at North Bridge. The elevator to the hotel is located just past the escalators on all floors of the mall. Hotel tax in Chicago is 17.4%. I stayed for two nights in mid-December 2020.
This is a great location to be based at when visiting Chicago. The hotel is located a half block west of Michigan Avenue with easy access to transit, restaurants at all price points, shopping, museums, the lakefront and Navy Pier.
The only drawback to this hotel is when the Shops at North Bridge mall is closed you have to walk under Michigan Avenue on Grand or Illinois and enter through the Rush Street entrance. A family was recently robbed at 10PM on Grand Avenue. So I would walk west on Ohio from Michigan to Rush then south to the hotel after dark or take an Uber or taxi. Honestly I wouldn’t be out walking around, anywhere, at 10PM.
Hotel rooms renovated 2016
The rooms were last renovated in 2016. I booked a Superior King room and was upgraded to a Deluxe King room which has a Michigan Avenue view. They must have ballistic windows or something because I didn’t hear anything outside. The hotel originally opened in 2000 and was a Conrad (Hilton).
Everything in the hotel was closed except the fitness center, locker room, the spa, the business center, Room Service and Upstairs at The Gwen the rooftop bar. Before check-in someone texted me and I was able to communicate with the front desk via text during my stay. The 10th floor of the hotel doesn’t have an ice machine.
Dining and Room Service
I’m not sure why but the front desk gave me breakfast vouchers so I ordered room service daily. Room service was available 7AM-11PM. As expected it wasn’t cheap but it was excellent! In addition to food costs, and 11.75% tax there is an 18% service fee (This is the tip) and a $10 delivery charge. Because my breakfast was free I wasn’t sure the room service attendant would get anything so I added a $5 tip (standard bfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast, coffee and juice was $25) which was added to my hotel bill.
Review The Gwen Chicago – Centrally located
The hotel is part of The Shops at North Bridge mall. The buses going down Michigan Avenue go to all the main attractions. Head south (CTA buses 147, 151) to Grant and Millennium Parks and the Art Institute. Take the (CTA 146 bus) south to the Museum Campus and Soldier Field (CTA bus 146). Take the (CTA bus 151) north to Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Lincoln Park Conservatory.
To get to Navy Pier walk east down Illinois Street or take the CTA bus 65. Ohio Street Beach is also a block north of Navy Pier. To get to Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Field walk two blocks west on Grand Ave. to the Red Line Station. Only ride the trains at night immediately before and after the game when there are crowds present. Ohio Street Beach is one block west of Navy Pier.
Upstairs at the Gwen
In pre-covid times I’d been to the indoor and outdoor parts of this restaurant. During my stay I sat outside both days for a couple cocktails even though it was around 30 degrees. The heaters and the fire pit worked nicely although the first day it started raining and my umbrella was back in my room.
They offer complementary mini-bar fridges. No coffee maker.
I always recommend signing up for hotel loyalty programs. They’re free and they usually offer a member discount plus you’ll get emails alerting you to sales. Always click on the Offers, Deals, Specials, etc. tab on every hotel website to find current deals. Log in to your account when you’re searching. Read all the terms and conditions before booking including the terms for changing and cancelling. Some hotels offer prepaid rates. I never book those. Regardless of how attractive the “no cancellations” rate is don’t do it! There are too many uncertainties, especially now, and you don’t want to lose your money.
Check your rates after booking
Whenever I plan a trip I continually check my room rates up until I can no longer cancel. You’d be surprised how many times the rates go down. In normal times you can just call the 800 number and get them to change the rate. If your reservation allows changes call. 99% of the time I make a new reservation online and then cancel the old one online.
Marriott website and app
The Marriott app and website has a “flexible stay” search option. For example online flexible stay options allow you to search for a two night stay on any days in a particular month so you can find the cheapest rate. Generally weekends are more expensive than weekdays. Someone from the hotel texted me the day of check in and I communicated with them via text.
Join Lettuce Entertain You’s Frequent Diner Club. Use my link and get $10 free! (I also get $10 after you dine. Thank you.)