You don’t have to like baseball to enjoy a stay at Chicago’s new Wheelhouse Hotel. But if you love American’s favorite pastime, you’ll likely love the Wheelhouse even more. Named for the baseball term for the part of the strike zone where a batter excels at hitting the ball, the Wheelhouse opened in August 2018 two blocks from the famed Wrigley Field where the Chicago Cubs have played for more than a century.
While there’s no shortage of luxury hotels in Chicago’s downtown business district, there was, up until fairly recently, a dearth of options in the city’s diverse neighborhoods. When I lived in Chicago from 2012 to 2016, visiting friends and family had few options near me. Now, the Wheelhouse is one of a handful of places to stay in one the best areas of Chicago (in my highly biased opinion).
From the hotel, it’s a mere three-minute walk to Wrigley Field (close enough you’ll be able to hear the crowd cheering if you leave your windows open on game night) and another two minutes on foot to the Addison Red Line station, which whisks you downtown in less than 20 minutes. In short, it’s the ideal location not only for baseball fans, but for travelers who’d rather see a more local, relaxed side of the city.
As soon as you walk into the Wheelhouse, there’s no escaping the baseball theme but it’s not kitschy or overdone; a large scoreboard dominates the lounge space, baseball bats hang from the ceiling, and there’s an entire wall of “peanuts and Cracker Jack” with dozens of types of candy and chocolate to choose from.
One can’t survive on candy alone (so they say) so that’s not the only sustenance available onsite. Union Full Board serves thick-crust Detroit-style pan pizza, salads, burgers, and sandwiches for lunch, dinner, and brunch, and there are creative cocktails at Tinker to Evers, the downstairs lounge. I was also pleasantly surprised by the minibar in my room, which included locally made snacks and some healthy power bars (a rarity in minibars, but an item I appreciate when I’m running late and don’t have time for a real breakfast).
The boutique hotel’s 21 rooms come in six room types starting at 230 square feet. Some rooms also have 100sq-ft private walk-out terraces.
I was in a 300-square-foot Deluxe King room with a tiled entryway, black wood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows framed by thick drapes, exposed brick, and a cheery robin’s-egg blue color scheme. Midcentury modern touches, like leather chairs, brass accents, and a tufted leather headboard add style, while the locker-style closet keeps the baseball theme going.
In addition to the minibar, amenities include bathrobes, free wifi, a mini-fridge, and 50-inch Smart TV. On the top floor guests also have access to a rooftop deck (though since my visit was in winter I opted to take in the view from inside).
Throughout my stay, staff was courteous and attentive but not overbearing. There was always someone at the front desk (even when I arrived past 2am due to a very delayed plane) and I was offered help with my bags. Though it was a weekend during my stay and Clark, the street the hotel is located on, is a busy thoroughfare lined with bars, I never heard noise from below. While views from most rooms lack the wow factor you might get from a classic downtown high-rise hotel, I think the trade off—a more intimate experience, modern rooms, and the perfect location in the heart of one of the city’s best neighborhoods—is well worth it.