Disclosure: The Palmer House graciously allowed us to attend their History is Hott!! program, and provided us with a complimentary stay in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.
Ready for a Chicago Family Vacation
Our family of three recently spent a few lovely days in Chicago. Chicago is a city we lived in for 10 years before moving to Florida. It’s a place we love not just because of its beauty and fantastic activities, but because it is where our daughter was born. When choosing where to stay in Chicago, we chose the beautiful and historic Palmer House Hilton as the base of operations for our Chicago family vacation.
A Historic stay at Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel
When it comes to historic luxury in Chicago, the Palmer House Hilton would be hard to beat. From the moment you walk in the doors of the hotel, you feel you are a part of Chicago royalty. The Palmer House is steeped in history, replete with Louis Comfort Tiffany details and a laundry list of famous guests and stars who have graced its stages and halls.
It would be easy to simply marvel at the fantastic turn-of-the century beauty of the hotel, but the truth is that the Palmer House also has one of the best locations in Chicago. With theater tickets for the opening night of a new musical located only blocks away, we appreciated the convenient location of the Palmer House. “Hamilton” and the Art Institute of Chicago are both right down the street, not to mention restaurants and shopping all around. The Palmer House’s location was perfect for our Chicago family vacation.
Accommodations at the Palmer House are great for families. We were able to order a cot immediately for our room, and refrigerators can be requested for storing milk, snacks, etc. The staff is kind and helpful, very prompt and very willing to go the extra mile to make sure luxury is a part of your experience. The service at Palmer House Hilton is just as its founders, Potter and Bertha Palmer, would have insisted at the hotel’s start of operation.
Chicago History Tour & Luncheon – History is Hott!!
The highlight of our Chicago family vacation was the History is Hott!! luncheon and presentation with Ken Price, the hotel’s historian.
Ken is a delightful Chicago historian. He has a terrific sense of humor; great timing with a joke or a gag, and is an absolute font of knowledge concerning the incredible history of the hotel. Ken kept our 12-year old daughter entertained and engaged in actively learning about Chicago history throughout the entire event. As a native Chicagoan, she relished immersing herself in Chicago’s history.
To know the Palmer House is to know the history of Chicago. From rough-and-tumble beginnings, to the rise of barons of sales and industry, -and the Great Chicago Fire (and rebuild.) Chicago also hosted two World’s Fairs, and witnessed the rise of the supper club entertainment circuit, which kept people dancing the night away (even through two world wars).
Guests of History is Hott first enjoy a delicious lunch at the Lockwood Restaurant, including a signature Palmer House brownie. Bertha Palmer, the hotel’s matriarch, developed the first brownie with the help of Palmer House chefs. After lunch, tour participants are whisked up to a gorgeous museum room filled with paintings, books, and artifacts that span over a hundred years of Chicago history.
Ken then delights guests with a vivid retelling of the Palmer House’s beginnings. Each landmark event of the Palmer House history is threaded back to the history of the city. It was shocking to learn that this luxurious hotel was burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire- only days after opening. The rebuild was even more grand than the original, and included a steam-engine prototype of the modern elevator for access to higher floors.
Following a short break, the program puts its feet on the ground to explore the opulent interiors of the Palmer House Hilton. Starting in the stunning main lobby. We learned all about the hand painted ceiling based after the Sistine Chapel, but dedicated to the theme of love. We then moved on to the ballrooms, each with their own story to tell, including high-powered celebrity dinners and a reception for President Grant. The tour ends in the kitchen, which provides a lovely “behind the scenes” view of the whole operation. Bonus: you get to eat even more brownies at this point, plus you receive a take-home brownie in a goodie bag.
I would recommend that families with children of middle-school age and above attend History is Hott!! The content and time commitment (4–5 hours) may not be optimal for younger children. If you can plan the tour at the beginning of your Chicago family vacation, it will make your whole trip come alive as you explore Chicago with your kids.
I cannot wait to head back to the Palmer House Hilton for our next Chicago family vacation. Truthfully, as we drove out of town (after the valet expertly packed up our road-trip heavy car), we were already talking about how much we all want to go back.We would love a few more hours in the hotel museum. I truly believe that a trip to the History is Hott! program is a wonderful anchor to any visit to Chicago, an experience which will allow all of the city’s history to come alive as you explore it.