Chicago at a Price That's Right


We've picked reliable, affordable places to stay in a wide variety of Chicago neighborhoods. Here are ten properties worth considering, from retro inns to apartment-style hotels.

The average rate for hotel room in downtown Chicago is about $190 a night. But with some persistence, it's possible to book a more affordable place that's central, comfy, and—sometimes—even stylish. Given that this lakeside metropolis is a hub for conventions and special events, we recommend you plan ahead. Generally speaking, you'll find the best rates if you book at least one month in advance.

Some booking strategies
The newest option for affordable lodging is Roomorama, a Web marketplace for short-term rentals in Chicago and a few other cities. Any resident can list a share, an apartment, or a house for rent, and a rating system reveals what past guests thought of each rental. Guests secure their reservation by sending a credit card or PayPal payment to Roomorama. When a guest arrives on the scheduled date, he or she evaluates the lodging and gives the host a code supplied by Roomorama. The host plugs this code into Roomorama's website, and the company transfers the guest's payment to the host's account.

If you would rather book a standard hotel, the blind-booking websitesHotwire and Priceline have proven themselves to be promising sources for discounted rooms in Chicago (and elsewhere). These two sites won't name the hotel (or airline or car-rental company) you're working with until your credit card has been charged. For Priceline, try a lowball bid, using as a guide. For Hotwire, be aware that the deepest discounts are generally for hotels that it rates "four stars." You'll find the most eye-catching deals by clicking on the "Deals" tab on the site's homepage.

Of course, you face some uncertainty about where you're going to stay if you opt for either short-term rentals or blind-booking sites. You may want to instead go for a sure thing. Consider Budget Travel's picks foraffordable, independently owned lodging with some personality, with doubles starting at $99 a night.

'Hood River North, a high-foot-traffic neighborhood between Chicago Avenue and the Chicago River. Walkers enjoy an eclectic mix of upscale art galleries, trendy restaurants, and perennial crowd-pleasers such as the Hard Rock Cafe.

First Impression A suburban roadside motel transplanted to the city. Many of the rooms at the two-story complex face the parking lot next to a kitschy "Ohio House Motel" sign.

The Rooms While they're hardly luxury suites, the rooms offer all of the basics at a more-than-fair price. Expect clean, serviceable quarters that are surprisingly quiet, given the neighborhood's bustle.

Plus Sophistication is a short walk away. You'll find art galleries, antiques stores, four-star restaurants, and stylish late-night bars.

Minus If you're looking for cozy, boutique touches in your accommodations, this motel isn't for you.

Free Wi-Fi? No. Wi-Fi is available for $10 per day.

Credit CardsAccepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, Diners Club.

Details 600 N. LaSalle St., 312/943-6000,, doubles from $100.

Hotel Type Motel.

Relevant Lifestyle Family-friendly.

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'Hood River North near downtown Chicago, north of the Loop and home to Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, an upscale corridor featuring the showcase stores of national chains, including the world's largest Polo store.

First Impression This is a Holiday Inn Express and a boutique hotel? Well, yes, that is the familiar corporate logo on the hotel's edifice, but in the lobby you'll find an attentive doorman, a working fireplace, and ultramodern furnishings—and the guest rooms feel similarly upgraded.

Plus The hotel is a few city blocks from iconic Chicago buildings such as the John Hancock Center and the long-standing Water Tower, a notable survivor of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Minus Standard rooms are extremely small. Two reasonably sized adults toting luggage may find it a tight squeeze.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in all rooms.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, Diners Club.

Details 640 N. Wabash Ave., 800/799-4030 or 312/787-4030,, doubles from $117.

Hotel Type Hotel.

Relevant Lifestyle Hip, family-friendly.

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'Hood Gold Coast, a wealthy neighborhood of Chicago known for its quaint brownstone residences, the Division Street late-night bar gauntlet, and the so-called Viagra Triangle, an area frequented by older single men. Think high-end steakhouses, piano bars, and dance clubs.

First Impression Where's my daiquiri? Situated on one of the Gold Coast's quieter, tree-lined streets, Hotel Indigo's expansive, coastal-themed lobby is like an oasis in the city.

The Rooms Hardwood floors and deep-sea-blue decorative accents give the rooms a relaxing, beach-house vibe.

Plus When you tire of reclining in the lobby, walk about two blocks west to Lake Michigan and its free beaches. You're also an easy walk from Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, which draws hometown celebrities such as actor Vince Vaughn.

Minus Parking is $36 a day; street parking is virtually nonexistent.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in all rooms and public areas.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, Diners Club.

Details 1244 N. Dearborn Pkwy., 800/972-2494 or 312/787-4980,, doubles from $159.

Hotel Type Hotel.

Relevant Lifestyle Family-friendly.

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'Hood River North, half a block from the Chicago River and next to Marina City, a pair of iconic 60-story, corncob-shaped towers that are showpieces of 1960s avant-garde architecture. The area attracts locals with its upscale hangouts, including Bin 36 (a hip wine bar) and Keefer's (a swanky steak house).

First Impression Fresh from its $30 million renovation, the former House of Blues Hotel is now all about modern chic. The lobby's check-in desks look like jewel cases, and the white marble floors and high-end furnishings complete the hotel's transformation. The adjacent Crimson Lounge is an enormous, ornately decorated cocktail bar.

The Rooms High energy and high style: Damask wallpaper and a panoply of red, gold, and royal-purple fabrics on bedspreads and pillows, with occasional, unique flourishes such as faux-snakeskin wing chairs.

Plus The little details, such as padded headboards and 320-count Egyptian cotton sheets.

Minus Fido will cost you. Pets incur a nonrefundable $50 charge.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes. There's also a simple, plug-in cable connection.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover.

Details 333 N. Dearborn St., 877/569-3742,, doubles from $189.

Hotel type Hotel.

Relevant Lifestyle Hip.

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'Hood South Loop, close to the renowned Art Institute of Chicago and to Millennium Park, with its famous band shell designed by Frank Gehry. Here, skyscrapers preside over wide, landscaped boulevards.

First Impression Urban posh at an affordable price. This 15-floor hotel has a sleek, metal-and-glass lobby and a swimming pool enclosed in a glass atrium—you can see Grant Park while treading water.

The Rooms Standard fare for business hotels.

Plus East-facing rooms have king-of-the-world views.

Minus You may wonder, Is this really Chicago? So many conventions are held in the neighborhood that you're more likely to bump into an out-of-towner than a local.

Free Wi-Fi? No. $6 a day.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover.

Details 800 S. Michigan Ave., 800/621-6909 or 312/939-2800,, doubles from $99.

Hotel Type Hotel.

Relevant Lifestyle Family-friendly.

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'Hood Southeast of Old Town, where the city's venerable walk-ups and town houses share elbow room with gritty, multiunit apartment buildings and gourmet grocery stores. The landmark Holy Name Cathedral is seven blocks away.

First Impression Entering this brick Victorian town house is like walking into a good friend's well-kept apartment. The hardwood floors are immaculately clean, the breakfast room is stocked with organic cereals and juices, and the south side's floor-to-ceiling windows frame a lovely backyard garden.

The Rooms Owner Sally Baker has decorated each room with a tasteful mixture of vintage furnishings and understated mementos, such as a World War II serviceman's framed letter and photo. The Victorian-era Queen Room on the north side has a beautiful pedestal sink and an extra-deep bathtub.

Plus Eating the complimentary breakfast in the garden is a welcome respite from the pace of the city.

Minus Children under 10 and pets are not allowed.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in public spaces and all rooms.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover.

Details 113 W. Elm St., 312/337.0361,, doubles from $129.

Hotel Type Inn/B&B.

Relevant Lifestyle Romantic.

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'Hood Lincoln Park, a few city blocks from Lake Michigan, known for its expansive, tree-lined boulevards. DePaul University and the Lincoln Park Zoo are highlights.

First Impression It's no accident that the hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A red-coated doorman welcomes you to the elegant lobby decorated in a spectacular, art deco-inspired style. The hotel is modern where it counts: There's free Wi-Fi Internet, a small spa, and a French bistro, Mon Ami Gabi.

The Rooms Relatively spacious compared with other Chicago hotel rooms in a similar class. The well-maintained guest rooms typically have vintage furniture and Oriental rugs.

Plus Each apartment-like guest room has a kitchenette with a rudimentary fridge, a range, and a microwave. Many of the park-facing rooms offer astonishing views. The hotel provides a free continental breakfast and summer access to a rooftop sundeck, with views of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan.

Minus If you're looking for the hip crowd, go elsewhere.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in all rooms and public spaces.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, Diners Club.

Details 2300 Lincoln Park W., 773/281-2900,, doubles from $129.

Hotel Type Hotel and extended stay.

Relevant Lifestyle Family-friendly, romantic

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'Hood Wrigleyville, six blocks south of Wrigley Field and its surrounding sports bars, reggae clubs, and restaurants. The neighborhood is a short cab ride from Chicago's famous theaters (including Briar Street Theatre, home of the Blue Man Group) and a block from Boystown, the city's widely recognized gay neighborhood.

First Impression From the outside, the hotel looks unremarkable—even a little drab—but inside, you'll find surprisingly well-maintained rooms and a friendly, professional staff. The Belmont stop on the elevated train (the El) is roughly a block away; it's a brief 20- to 30-minute ride to most downtown attractions.

The Rooms Clean and spare. For more, book one of the suites, which have generous sitting rooms adjacent to the bedrooms.

Plus Boutique shops, tiny eateries, and the nearby Vic Theatre make for a lively neighborhood.

Minus The hotel is sandwiched between buildings; you won't have a view.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in all rooms and public spaces.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, Diners Club.

Details 933 W. Belmont, 800/248-9108 or 773/404-3400,, doubles from $159.

Hotel Type Hotel.

Relevant Lifestyle Family-friendly, GLBT-friendly.

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'Hood Evanston, two blocks from the Davis stop on the El train's Purple Line and 30 to 45 minutes from downtown Chicago. This suburban hub—known for its dignified mansions and woodsy parks—is anchored by Northwestern University.

First Impression Originally built in 1927 to provide "proper" housing for single businesswomen, this European-style hotel is remarkably well preserved. Entering the Grand Parlor from the lobby is like walking into the past; the room is outfitted with antique furniture, a working fireplace, and shelves lined with blue-and-white porcelain.

The Rooms Charming. Floral-pattern bedspreads and curtains, period-style ceiling fans and light fixtures, and antique dark-wood furniture successfully strike an early-20th-century note.

Plus It's a bargain, after you factor in the free continental breakfast and the rooftop deck, from which you can see downtown Evanston.

Minus Some of the cheaper rooms share a communal bathroom. Be sure to ask about your room's facilities before you book.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in common areas.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx, Discover, Diners Club.

Details 1566 Oak Ave., Evanston, IL, 847/869-2273,, singles from $79.

Hotel Type Hotel.

Relevant Lifestyle Family-friendly.

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'Hood Wicker Park, where residents of the area's brownstones can be found chatting in sidewalk cafés, restaurants, and rock clubs.

First Impression The brownstone that houses this B&B shares the urban loft aesthetics of its owners, Mikky and Laura Wright, who formerly ran the hip Alliance Bakery down the street.

The Rooms Each of the eight rooms has a name to match its themed decor. The Cape Cod, for instance, has powder-blue walls, white furniture, and sailing-related artwork. Heads up: The El train runs behind the Blue Line Studio, and the Provence Room requires that you cross a public kitchen on the way to the bathroom. Finally, two of the units are larger, multibedroom apartments that are in a building across the street.

Plus Close to the Damen-O'Hare Avenue and Division Street stops on the El's Blue Line; the downtown Loop's Theater District is less than 15 minutes away.

Minus The cancellation policy. If you fail to give two weeks' notice, and you can't rebook, you'll pay the full rate you were quoted.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, in all rooms.

Credit Cards Accepted Visa, MC, AmEx.

Details 1329 N. Wicker Park Ave., 773/486-2743,, doubles from $129.

Hotel Type Inn/B&B.

Relevant Lifestyle Hip, GLBT-friendly.

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