Winter isn't anyone's favorite season in Chicago.
It's cold, brutal, and relentless. And with far more slushy, dirty snow than any human should ever have to deal with.
Unfortunately, this is the first winter I can remember where Hubby and I haven't booked a warm-winter escape. By St. Patrick's Day last year I'd been to Florida, Las Vegas, and Los Cabos. So the conscious hibernation this year?
It's been... rough.
It was the right decision: Hubby is balancing more work than he ever has, as am I. We're also STILL closing down my grandmother's estate and trying to figure out what will be our most complicated tax year ever. Our bougie trip to London in December almost completely depleted our vacation budget. And Apollo's depression since his brother passed in November makes us very nervous to leave him behind.
And all this time at home hasn't been a bad thing. The cleaning, wardrobe purging, and organizing we've done has completely changed our home. I'd estimate that in the past 9 weeks, Hubby and I have donated or sold about 50% of our total belongings! Living with less and finally having our home in a neat and organized fashion has been the absolute best gift we could have given ourselves this winter. It's changed our lives in so many ways and I promise to devote an entire post to the process soon.
But the cabin fever from staying home all winter has been undeniable.
This girl LOVES to travel and staying in one place really feels... itchy.
So what's the next best thing after a vacation?
And there truly is no better spot in Chicago for a staycation than the Peninsula.
Our Winter Staycation At The Peninsula
As you probably remember from my last staycation at the Peninsula, the rooms here are unparalleled.
With iPads controlling everything from temperature to room service to mood lighting, having everything you could possibly want at your finger tips spoils you quickly.
Laziness becomes the ultimate luxury here.
And the chic blue & white decor, custom artwork, and killer views of Michigan Avenue and the Water Tower don't hurt either.
Not to mention their ultra-plush, soft beds than you can just melt into...
Despite being one of the world's top luxury hotel brands, The Peninsula is still a family-run business. And it shows in every little detail.
The service here is beyond luxurious. Every need and want you could have is addressed almost instantly, and usually by a staff member who is not only smiling but genuinely interested in whether you're having the best possible stay.
I've been to many luxury hotels but I've never been pampered quite like at the Peninsula.
And I'm certainly not the only one to think that. As of last month, the Peninsula is the only hotel chain in the world to hold Forbes' 5-star brand title. ALL 10 of their properties around the world hold five-stars from Forbes -- the only time in the travel company's 61-year history that one brand has swept the five-star category completely.
And one night at the Peninsula will truly show you why they're in a class of their own.
(If their fleet of 30+ Rolls-Royce cars didn't already impress you...)
The Number One reason why I recommend the Peninsula Chicago over any other hotel in winter is the pool.
The half-Olympic-sized pool is perched 18 stories over Michigan Avenue with two-story tall windows and one of the loveliest tiled walls you'll find in the entire city.
Every single time I've stayed here, I've shot at the pool. It's easily one of Chicago's most photogenic spots and by FAR the most tropical place you'll find on Michigan Avenue in winter.
And, as a hotel guest, you get unlimited access to it, the spa facilities (including the eucalyptus steam room), the fitness center, and the spa patio. Which means you'll probably never leave...
I've written about the food at the Peninsula more than any other spot in Chicago. And it isn't just because I work with them professionally.
It's because they CARE.
The flavors, authenticity, and attention to detail put into every dish is part of why they're so successful.
And there isn't one bad spot to eat in the entire hotel! Whether you're ordering every dish on the breakfast room service menu, enjoying ice cream-filled ice pebbles at Z Bar, slurping soup dumplings at Shanghai Terrace, having afternoon tea in the Lobby or a Parisian-inspired meal at Pierrot Gourmet, they're ALL delicious and worth a visit.
And several of my all-time favorite dishes in Chicago can be found here including the tuna tartare at Z Bar (a must try!) and the raspberry macaron sandwich at Pierrot Gourmet. I may even go so far as to say that the raspberry macaron sandwich is my #1 favorite dessert in all of Chicago.
My #1 favorite dessert!
Apollo's first winter without his brother has been ROUGH.
He's been antsy, uninterested, sad, and depressed for weeks. So leaving him at home for our staycation WASN'T an option.
Luckily the Peninsula is one of the most dog-friendly hotels in Chicago. Not only are pups treated like royalty (with their own plush bed, bottle of Evian, and custom pet dishes to eat from) but the staff absolutely love having them around. Every single person we saw stopped to give Apollo a pet and a snuggle. He LOVED the attention and LOVED the fact that there were other dogs to play with in the hotel too.
Bonus? Pups get their own room service menu! While the prices are a little steep, the quality is seriously jaw-dropping. I ordered Apollo a seared salmon filet for dinner and almost ended up eating it myself: it was cooked THAT perfectly.
And the portion size was so huge it made for a delicious breakfast the next morning too!
Apollo's Claim To Z Bar Fame
Remember when Apollo shot his first commercial for Z Bar last spring?
It was probably the happiest day of his life being surrounded by an entire crew of cameras and doting pug-lovers.
So imagine his surprise when we settled into our room and he sees HIMSELF on the in-room tv. Since his commercial runs on a loop in the rooms, every 15 minutes or so he'd perk up and start growling at the pug on the screen... unknowingly growling at himself.
Watching him get jealous of himself on tv was probably the most hilarious surprise we had on our staycation. And is reason enough for us to book another -- hey, at least it gives him the illusion of getting to hang with another pug, right?
Let me be completely honest with you: I love the Peninsula more than any other hotel in Chicago. I truly do.
Not because I'm lucky enough to work with them on so many creative projects professionally. Though I am beyond grateful to work with a brand I believe so much in.
But because they're the absolute best.
Hubby and I have been coming to the Peninsula for years... years longer than I've been blogging.
I remember when I worked in finance after college, I spent my very first bonus on two things: my student loan payments and a massage at the Peninsula.
Over the years we've come back time and time again (on our dime, mind you!) for afternoon tea at the holidays, couples massages at the spa, cocktails at Z Bar, and their incredible Easter Sunday buffet brunch (which I cannot recommend enough).
We put our money where our mouth is when it comes to this incredible hotel.
So if you're looking for a special spot to take you away from the freezing cold without actually leaving Chicago, consider booking a staycation at the Peninsula.
And consider bringing your furry friends along for the stay!
Disclosure: We received a complimentary stay to facilitate this post, however all food and extras were paid for by us. Review and all opinions are ALWAYS my own.
5 Ways To Enhance Your Next Staycation
Everyone needs a little break from their day-to-day. Especially when you don't have the time and/or budget to sneak away for a real vacation.
So the next time you're planning a staycation (even if it's in your own home!), enhance your "vacation vibes" by:
1. Turning Off Your Phone
Part of what makes a vacation is disconnecting from our daily routines. And -- for most of us -- that means disconnecting from our phones. Do it! Turn your phone off. For the entire visit or at least for a night.
Not only will it facilitate some great conversation but it'll undoubtedly lead to the best memories.
2. Bringing Games Along
When I was a kid, whenever we'd stay at a hotel we'd always bring a deck of cards or a board game to play when we got bored.
Now that I'm an adult, I'm realizing I hardly ever schedule "play time" into my daily life so I HAVE to include it in my vacation time.
Bring a deck of cards along on your staycation and enjoy the good old-school fun. Not only will you have some real "face time" with your loved ones but it'll help distract you from #1 if you're as addicted to your phone as most of us are.
3. Packing Battery-Powered Candles
The perfect way to pack romantic ambiance with you!
I'd bring real candles if I could but the battery-powered ones are enough to make the environment feel special and "vacation-y". And take up very little room in your suitcase.
4. Eating Dessert for Breakfast
The best way to know you're on vacation? Throwing diets and healthy eating to the wind!
Eat dessert for breakfast.
Find that big pink pastry to face dive into first thing. It'll soothe your soul from the inside out.
(And if you're at the Peninsula, be sure to try the raspberry macaron from Pierrot Gourmet!)
5. Wearing At Least One "Vacation" Outfit
When you can't go to the tropics, the next best thing is to pretend, right?
Bring one tropical, warm-weather outfit to wear. Even if you only wear it in bed.
I'm a firm believer that the way we dress has a huge effect on our mental state. So if you dress like you're on vacation you can at least reap some of the benefits of palm trees and sunshine mentally.