After touring historical Prairie Avenue where Chicago’s wealthiest 19th-century residents lived, overnighting in the restored 1870 Wheeler Mansion urban inn seems appropriate. This boutique bed-and-breakfast is close to the district's attractions and just a block from the lakefront, but sleeping in these elegant surroundings is pricy. Standard rooms start at $295 (suites $345); rates include full breakfast, free Wi-Fi and parking.
This French-style mansion houses 11 gracious guest rooms spread over three floors, eight with queen beds; the three suites have king beds and gas fireplaces. All the rooms offer spacious marble bathrooms, giant armoire closets, Gilchrist and Soames bath products, cable TV and hair dryers. Be aware though, electrical outlets are limited (you might want to pack a power strip) and there’s no elevator, although a dumb waiter can used to transport luggage. The fine Italian bed linens and Charisma towels showed signs of wear during our stay, but we're told they've since been replaced, along with the additions of new drapes and wood floors.
Guests relax in a sunny parlor around an imposing fireplace surrounded by original European art. In the posh dining room kitted out with silver service, you help yourself to breakfasts of fluffy French toast souffle, sausage, yogurt, granola and juices from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Seasonal amenities include a winter ice rink (skate rentals are available) in the same landscaped courtyard that hosts a farmers market during the summer months.