Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Generic decor, but great extras like a rooftop garden and indoor pool
Inside, the Essex Inn feels somewhat generic -- ugly carpets, chain-like furniture, and few personalized details or artistic touches. But its great extras -- an impressive indoor pool, a rooftop garden overlooking Lake Michigan, a free shuttle to tourist sights -- make it better than a run-of-the-mill mid-range property. Plus, it's got great amenities for both families and business travelers: Coin-operated laundry, mini-fridges, and large suites for families, and a 24-hour business center and quality fitness center for business travelers.
In South Loop, overlooking Michigan Ave and Grant Park
The Essex Inn is located on the southern end of the so-called Michigan Avenue Cultural Mile, the stretch of Michigan Avenue that runs from the Chicago River down the length of Grant Park. It gets its name from the numerous cultural attractions it goes past, including the Jay Pritzer Pavilion at Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Campus, home to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History.
The Loop, the historic commercial center of Downtown Chicago, is a 5-minute drive away, or a 15-minute walk. Magnificent Mile, an iconic stretch of North Michigan Avenue famous for its upscale shopping, and home to galleries and landmarks (the historic Water Tower, the Wrigley Building) is a 7-minute drive away. The Essex Inn provides a free shuttle that makes four runs in the morning to the Museum Campus and then makes stops in the afternoon at North Michigan Avenue, the Art Institute, and Navy Pier.
Floor-to-ceiling windows, mini-fridges and flat-screen TVs
All the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, some with great views of Lake Michigan, Grant Park, and the Museum Campus. But the decor feels generic and slightly dated.
Indoor rooftop pool is a family favorite
The Essex Inn’s enormous, heated indoor pool is a big hit with families. The hotel also has a moderately priced restaurant, Brasserie by LM; a rooftop garden overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan; free Wi-Fi; a sauna; and a well-equipped fitness center.
This 254-room Essex Inn is a decent value pick across the street from Grant Park, near the Museum Campus. Some of the bright, comfortable (if chain-like) rooms have great views of the lake, and the huge indoor pool and state-of-the-art fitness center are both pluses. It's true that leisure travelers can usually find comparable hotels farther north for similar rates, but the free Michigan Avenue shuttle to popular sites helps compensate for the South Loop location.