Since all of my Chicago efforts were based around what to pack, I left the “where to stay?” question up to Mel. I’ve mentioned before that she’s a seasoned traveler and having traveled with her before, I trust her judgement especially when it comes to accommodations. She told me she had researched a few hostels in the various neighborhoods of Chicago and ended up booking us each a bed in a girls’ dorm at Urban Holiday Lofts, located in the Wicker Park area.
Wicker Park.. I’m pretty sure there’s a horror movie about it? I’m not one for scary movies, so obviously if it is a horror flick, I haven’t seen it; but the name sounded familiar.. Either way, I had decided to go with whatever plan Mel had figured out for our arrangements. Turns out, Mel is just as awesome at finding great places to stay as I remember her being. This place ROCKED.
One thing that made me love Urban Holiday off the bat is that the place very secure (security cameras on the premises, a security code to enter to get in the front door, and a key card to enter each room, among other things). I’ve stayed in some very low-security hostels, but this reminded me of some of the nicer hostels I stayed at in Europe.
We didn’t check in until after midnight (I lost a lot of time traveling from west to east
and we may have gotten lost), and there was still someone at the front desk to buzz us in. We were given a brief tour of our new digs and then were each handed an oversized bath towel, sheets, and a quick guide for the Wicker Park area and the greater Chicago area that was put together by the hostel staff (read: the experts on anything Chicago). Our new friend told us to ask him or any of the other front desk staff if we need help deciding where to go, what to do, or how to get somewhere. Once we thanked him and said good night, Mel and I tried our best to be as quiet as possible for the sake of the other girls in our dorm while getting ready for bed and putting our sheets on our beds.
For the remainder of the three days we stayed at Urban Lofts, I noticed that they had someone come in to clean each morning, i.e., no gross bathrooms! Also, a light breakfast was provided, along with coffee and tea, each morning in the multipurpose room in a self-service fashion. It was really nice that we were able to use the multipurpose room’s refrigerator, and that there was also a refrigerator and smaller kitchen area in each cluster of dorms; Mel and I made use of this amenity on more than one occasion. Other perks: a Wii, big screen tv, board games, movies, and free internet/computer usage were available for anyone to use in the multipurpose room. It isn’t mentioned on UH’s website, but they have washers and dryers available for free use, you just need to purchase soap and fabric softener, which is available at the front desk.
I was so impressed with the customer service provided by our Chicago-savvy staff and with the hostel itself, that I am planning on staying here on any future trips to Chicago and/or to visit Mel. Oh, and the fact that we saw Olivia Wilde and the guy who plays Berger from Sex and the City standing right outside our hostel door, waiting to film a scene for their new movie, Drinking Buddies, doesn’t hurt Urban Holiday’s street cred, either. Pinky promise this happened! I don’t have any photographic evidence because by the time I got over how starstruck
(and hungover) I was to think to ask for a picture, they had moved into Olivia’s Market (see below) to film their scene. We ended up talking to a production assistant and found out the movie’s title and that it should be released next summer.
As we found out during our stay at Urban Holiday, we were in a primo location. The basement level of the building which houses Urban Holiday is occupied by Oliva’s Market. Mel and I stopped in to check it out and found that it sold higher end items, most of which were organic, as well as the option to make use of their deli or purchase some fresh produce. There were also many restaurants, cafes, and bars within walking distance (seriously, 2-3 blocks away). In my next post, I’ll tell you about my favorites!