By Jorie Larsen, Travel Correspondent
Two of Chicago's most celebrated treasures are its lake and its skyline. Both are put on display in the guest rooms at the Avenue Crowne Plaza Hotel and Suites Magnificent Mile. To the east, the dark-blue waters of Lake Michigan stretch to the horizon, and to the north and west, iconic skyscrapersincluding a new addition, the Trump Towergleam in the sun. "Because the guest rooms start on the 14th floor, notes the hotels director of sales and marketing, every room has a view." Whether it's a glimpse of lake or skyline depends on availability, but neither disappoints.
In addition to the vistas, one-bedroom king suites pay tribute to the Windy City with framed photographs of the Chicago River and the corncob-shaped Marina City towers. Contemporary decor includes a tawny, leather sleeper sofa and a striped zebra chair. Despite the hotel's downtown location, the urban hum doesn't permeate the quiet, energy-efficient guest rooms, even as taxis, buses, and pedestrians scurry past at street level.
In the morning, a breakfast spread (available at an additional fee) unfurls in the hotel's 40th-floor Sky Lounge, where walls of slanted windows on three sides show off the city just as its waking up and first combing its giant, Mike Ditka-esque mustache. The European-inspired repast includes cured meats, yogurt, croissants, and Lavazza coffee. Off the lobby, the onsite Elephant & Castle pours 26 ales on tap and serves classic pub fare such as fish 'n' chips and shepherd's pie.
Just a few steps away from the hotel's doorstep, East Huron Street intersects with North Michigan Avenue, a renowned stretch of shopping known as the Magnificent Mile. Luxury retailers such as Burberry and Tiffany line the street alongside popular brand-name stores including Gap, Apple, and that bastion of dollhood, American Girl Place.
Beyond the busy thoroughfare await cultural gems, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, located just two blocks from the hotel. The museum hosts a rotating roster of exhibitions, such as Iain Baxter&: Works 19582011, a retrospective of the uniquely monikered conceptual artists work, which explores environmental issues through abstract photography, technology, and sculpture. From its space within the citys former Water Tower Water Works situated around the corner from the hotel, Lookingglass Theatre Company entertains audiences and hoses down hecklers during its highly physical, visually stunning productions. The upcoming Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting recounts the story behind the Brooklyn Dodgers decision to call up Jackie Robinson as Major League Baseballs first African-American player.
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