Chicago buildings
The AON building and other skyscrapers near Grant Park (Sony Action Cam photo!)

I just returned from a fun week in Chicago, staying at the stylish Swissotel Chicago and exploring their Swiss Vitality program. The program offers activities, menu items and a overall healthy way to travel (and live). Beyond physical health, the luxury hotel initiative also focuses on mental and spiritual wellbeing. They even offer Vitality On-The-Go packages that allow guests to take healthy meals and snacks with them as they explore select Swissotel cities.




Swissotel Chicago
The beautiful facade of the Swissotel Chicago in the hip Lakeshore East area
Swisshotel Swiss Vitality
Upon request, exercise and yoga equipment is waiting for you on arrival

After a two hour delay that involved boarding the same aircraft three times (thank you American Airlines) I flew to Chicago from LAX and arrived on a Sunday night around 9 PM. After the drive into the city from ORD, I was quite pleasantly surprised by my large, beautiful corner Premier room with huge, almost floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. I had amazing views of the surrounding luxury apartment buildings in the Lakeshore East area, all the way through to Soldier Field, the Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan. From the other side, I could see the river and even more amazing skyscrapers.

View from the Swissotel Chicago
The amazing view from my room, with Lake Michigan in the background

I ordered myself a steak Caesar salad from the extensive in-room dining menu and had a very nice dinner. The Chicago property is the company’s only U.S. property (they have 36 others around the world) and Swissotel is part of the same luxury hotel company that operates Fairmont and Raffles hotels. The hotel is in Lakeshore East, a newly developing area of the city where the river meets Lake Michigan.




Steak caesar salad
My delicious steak Caesar salad

Here’s a tour of my beautiful room:

 

On Monday morning, I had a few hours before our group was to gather for lunch, so I took an Uber over to the Field Museum. My time was brief but I did get to see their China’s First Emperor and his Terra Cotta Warriors exhibition, which was amazing. Beyond some of the warriors themselves (each life size and with different facial features) they had a range of wonderful artifacts from the tombs. I also checked out their legendary Egyptian collections.

Field Museum Chicago
If you only have time for one Chicago museum, visit the Field Museum
Tyrannosaurus Rex at Field Museum
Sue, the iconic T-Rex in the Field Museum’s vast lobby

After a lunch at Navy Pier, the afternoon brought a very cool event, a Zumba-themed fundraising event at the hotel for SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. This was for the Swissotel employees, with them donating money to see other employees get on the stage and Zumba in front of everyone. The charity event raised money for the SOS Villages, local foster care providers that keep families together instead of splitting them up as happens in most foster care situations. The event was made even more special by having some of the resident kids there. It was a very cool demonstration as to how Swissotel interacts directly with (and supports) their local community and how they build community among their team members. The employees also participate in some of the Vitality programs with guests like running and yoga.

Swissotel charity event
Swissotel Chicago employees doing Zumba for the SOS Children’s Villages of Illinois
Urban Kayaks Chicago
I had fun in the river with Urban Kayaks

After Zumba, we headed out on the Chicago river to do some kayaking. The day before I saw kayakers in the water when looking down from my window and I realized it must be a fun way to explore the city and the see the buildings from a unique perspective. Urban Kayaks was right in front of the hotel and offered a really cool, guided tour of the river, by kayak. Our guide was awesome, very focused on safety, a key when kayaking around enormous river cruise ships and ferries. We went rather far down the river and then back again and it proved to be an amazing way to experience Chicago close-up.

Kayaking in Chicago
Kayaking on the river was an amazing experience

Dinner, prepared by Swissotel Chicago Executive Chef Dan McGee, was delicious and featured a selection from the hotel’s Vitality menu. We dined on asparagus and quinoa salad with a main course of a delicious caraway and turmeric-crusted lamp chop.

Steak tartare at Swissotel Chicago
Steak tartare was delicious
Helping the Chef
Helping Swissotel Chicago Executive Chef Dan McGee prepare tartares

Day two started with a wonderful room service breakfast and some time to work and enjoy the space. The room was bright and spacious, bigger than many suites and had such amazing views no matter what time of day.




Room service chicago breakfast
A delicious breakfast, with an amazing view of Chicago

The group did a yoga class, which is part of the Vitality offerings from the hotel. The yoga class was followed by a mindfulness experience, which is a part of their mental wellness agenda. Swissotels commissioned beautiful artisan postcards with different mindful messages. The postcards, provided to each guest, are accommpianied by Caran d’Ache (an iconic Swiss brand used by all kids in Swiss schools) coloring pencils. Guests are encouraged to color and personalize the postcards and then address them to friends and family. The hotel will handle postage and mailing and the whole process is an old-school way to connect with one’s self and with others.

After the mindfulness experience, it was lunchtime and the hotel prepared a spectacular lunch for our group in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park. We dined on delicious fare from the hotel, while the Grant Park Orchestra rehearsed. It was a very cool experience and anyone can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the music.

Chicago music lunch
Enjoying lunch while the orchestra rehearsed

After lunch, bikes were waiting for us and we did what turned out to be an invigorating 10-mile bike ride along the lake, by Soldier Field, by the Field Museum and to a look-out point near the Adler Planetarium. The views across the lake to the city’s incredible skyline were something from a postcard.

Chicago bike tour
On our bike tour, near the Adler Planetarium
Chicago skyline
A view of the Buckingham Fountain taking during our bike ride

The day concluded with a delicious, wine-filled dinner along the river at the lively City Winery. Packed with people having fun, located right on the river in front of the iconic round Marina Towers buildings, it was a beautiful and  lively way to end our Chicago Vitality adventure.

CIty Winery Chicago
Enjoying some charcuterie at City Winery, along the river
Dawn Chicago view
The beautiful dawn view from my room




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