Winter is rough. It always is. Even if you grew up in the south like I did, the months immediately following the holidays are long and dull and monotonous. We tell ourselves let’s be adventurous. Let’s book impulsively and go someplace that’s hard to pronounce. But then you realize it’s not even February, and you can’t justify using half of your vacation days before March Madness when there’s six weddings you’re morally obligated to attend despite the fact you haven’t spoken to the bride or groom outside of a group text in at least three years. They were right; popularity kills.
Enter: the Staycation. First conceived by broke millennials who yearned for prix fixe menu accommodations at drive-thru menu prices, the staycation has seen a huge upswing in the midwest over the last several years. What better way to feel like you’re treating yourself without the guilt than by taking a vacation in your own city? Your conscience and your wallet will thank you as you pamper yourself in an establishment that’s been decorated to the nines and thinks you might actually want a wake-up call. To make matters even sweeter, Chicago is now home to one of the country’s most popular boutique hotel spots, The Ace Hotel.
Located over in the West Loop, Ace Hotel Chicago promises everything you’d ever want in a nice little hometown reprieve. There’s a multiple bars to whet your whistle, a top-notch restaurant to whet your appetite, and suites that would make Don Draper weep. To make sure you take the absolute full advantage of your staycation wherever you call home, we put together a little guide on how to do things right so come Monday morning, the only thing missing from your post-vacation bliss is a bad sunburn.
Comfort is the name of the game when it comes to staycations. This isn’t about showing off or trying your hardest to be the coolest or most fashionable person in the room. Quite the opposite, my pal. My go-to move is to turn lounge clothes into all-day clothes. I like to keep some super soft knitwear items on deck at all times, including a pair of Ebenezer Scrooge slippers that cradle your foot as if it were a newborn lamb. Fortunately, if you happen to be unequipped for such a look, Ace Hotel has you covered with their own in-house clothing and accessories brand, Atelier Ace. What’s so rad about this is that they partner with some of the brands I absolutely love (such as Vans, Moscot, Alpha Industries, A.P.C., etc.) to bring cozyness to the absolute #nextlevel. “Most of our collaborations come from the talented friends and brands we’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with over the years,” says Kelly Sawdon, Partner and Chief Brand Officer for Atelier Ace. “Our shop is a reflection of these friendships — an eclectic mix of objects from homewares to apparel, printed matter to apothecary, that are directly related to our hotels but that can have a life beyond a hotel stay. Everything you need and nothing you don’t.”
Kelly knows what she’s talking about. My favorite item is the French terry cloth robe from wings + horns, which comes stocked in every single hotel room. “Our wings+horns robes have been a guest favorite for a while now,” she says. There’s something about lounging around in a super long hoodie that just feels right. Maybe I’ll adopt this as my new look. I’ll be a skinny Dude from The Big Lebowski, only with less beard and more expensive sneakers.
Whatever your wave is, it’s important to remember that this staycation is about making yourself feel good, which includes making yourself comfortable. Do that however you see fit.
So you’re all settled, in full cozy uniform, with the entire day ahead of you. What do you do now? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, FAM. This staycation is about relaxation, and waiting in line with 500 other out-of-town wingdings to ride an elevator up to the top of the (formerly) Sears Tower to cram in with more wingdings just to take an aerial selfie on the foggiest day of the century does not sound relaxing. This is a time for the supreme chill. Bring your laptop and binge an entire critically-acclaimed drama series. Sync your iPod with bluetooth speakers and make a definitive ranking of Jay-Z’s complete discography. Read six months’ worth of GQ back issues and realize that yes, maybe it is time to try intermittent fasting while working glen plaid into your work wardrobe.
This weekend is about putting your brain at rest, and I realize that’s not something that comes easy to everyone. No one wants to waste this, whatever “this” is, so we unintentionally busy ourselves to try and get the most out of our time. This habit is the number one cause of post-staycation-related depression. That feeling of “I need a vacation” when you just came back from vacation. And the cure for such a disease is to grant yourself permission to be as lazy and unproductive as you want. There is zero responsibility to anyone other than yourself, and the Ace Hotel knows this. They encourage you to splay out on a massive queen-size bed, or snooze on an elongated sofa. I understand if maybe relaxing for you is to knock out some emails, or catch up on your writing, or whatever. Do what makes you happy, just don’t forget the reason you booked this room in the first place.
I’m not a guy who gets excited about food. I don’t know, I just don’t have the palate to be able to appreciate awesome dishes like others. I like comfort food. But you want to hear some good news? Comfort food is the nationally-recognized culinary genre of the staycation. Burgers, fries, milkshakes; they all deserve some proper love and attention during this weekend. City Mouse, which is located conveniently downstairs at the Ace Hotel, caters to these cravings perfectly. I have personally experienced the burger (which features double patties, American cheese, and a shitload of fries), the Mutsu apples and farro, the cornbread (with parmesan butter), and the apple pie (which is so good it’ll make you want to kill yourself in the best way), all of which were amazing. Whatever zone you’re in, make sure to indulge yourself when it comes to mealtime. A full stomach is a happy stomach.
After dinner, when the dust settles, you may find yourself looking for a nice, sustainable buzz to carry you through the evening hours. I myself fancy a low-key turbo from time to time, and a staycation is a prime opportunity to try some upscale cocktails in dope settings. When deciding where you’ll be spending your weekend, I highly recommend you choose a place with a close proximity to multiple bars or even a solid in-house tavern. Ace’s homebase bar is called Waydown which is way up on the top floor. It has an incredible outside space, but when the weather turns cold, the inside acts as a lounge, with a respectable whiskey selection and choice soundtrack. There’s few things I enjoy more than a heavy cocktail, a throwback heater, and some solid people watching. They’re three tastes that taste great together.
If you’ve followed this outline, then I’m pretty confident you’re going to have a hell of a nice time, wherever you choose to staycation. I can guarantee you’ll feel better coming out of it then you did going in, and you may make this a seasonal thing. I know I’m already considering the same.
I want to end this piece by taking some time to thank everyone at the Ace Hotel, Atelier Ace, City Mouse, and Waydown for their generosity, their kindness, and their all-around positive vibes. If you take anything away from this article, it’s that I hope you consider this place as your next staycation destination or even your top pick for lodging during your next travel plans.
Photo Credit: Bryan McVey