Travel Tuesday: Hyatt Regency McCormick Place (Chicago) Hotel Review
For the past three years, my wife and I have been traveling to Chicago to cover C2E2. Before you ask, that stands for “Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo” and, while we have attended in 2020, 2021, and now 2022, the times of year have been very different, with the initial taking place in February, the 2021 edition being pushed to December for obvious reasons, and this year’s planting itself in August as it makes its way back to the Spring in 2023. Anyway, I bring this up because, while we’ve elected to stay downtown for previous installments of the event, this time around we decided to stay much closer to the show’s venue. That’s why, earlier this month, we spent a few nights at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.
So, is this hotel a good option for convention goers — and is there any reason for non-expo goers to put this on their Chicago places-to-stay list? Let’s review.
Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel Review
Had I planned ahead, we would have tried booking our stay at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place through C2E2’s block. Alas, since we waited until pretty much the last minute, that was no longer an option. However, since I have Hyatt status thanks to my MGM Reward Gold status (which itself was the result of a now-defunct status matching scheme that originated with my Amex Platinum Card), I decided to go ahead and book directly. I selected a standard room with a king bed but decided to do the “Park and Stay” rate so that parking was included. In total, my bill came to $344 a night — which is remarkably high, but I attribute most of this to my last-minute booking.
Now’s a good time to explain that, one of the reasons we decided to stay at McCormick place this time instead of downtown involved parking. At the Hilton Palmer House where we’ve previously stayed, regular per-day parking is $55. On top of that, we’d have to drive down to McCormick and pay to park at the convention center as well. Thus, parking the car once and being at the venue seemed advantageous to us.
When we arrived, we saw the option to tap our hotel room key or take a ticket. Since I already had a mobile room key, I decided to try that… but to no avail. Instead, we took a ticket, assuming I could just use my key to exit. Alternatively, we probably could have parked in the porte-cochèr for check-in and then used our key in the garage.
In any case, we had no problem finding a spot and the elevator took us right to the lobby. The only hiccup was upon leaving. I made the mistake of assuming that, since parking was included with my rate, I’d just need to tap my key card to get out. Unforunately, this didn’t work. Luckily, at 5 a.m., I wasn’t holding anyone up so I decided to try the help button. After explaining the situation to the gentleman on the other end of the line and confirming my room number/last name, the arm went up and we were on our way.
All in all, things worked out and it was nice to have bundled parking with our room rate (sidenote: you can earn points on your parking this way). However, in hindsight, it may have been better to book at a AAA rate and pay for parking a la carte. At the very least, I really should have inquired about the proper way to exit the garage instead of just assuming. The bottom line is that you can learn from my mistakes should you find yourself at this property.
When we arrived in the lobby after taking the elevator from parking, I initially looked around for somewhere I could pick up my keys. In the app, it sounded as though I could use a QR to print my own keys — which is similar to a system in place at MGM properties. Yet, it quickly became clear I was going to have to go to the desk instead.
At the time, there were a couple of people in the regular line while the dedicated Hyatt Elite line was empty. As I mentioned, I actually have Hyatt status — though, I can never remember the names of Hyatt’s tiers and I wasn’t sure I qualified. Once I reached the desk, however, I did indeed learn that my Explorist level meant I could have used the other line. This was pretty much moot to me though as the whole process took but a few minutes and we were on our way.
From what I could tell, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place has two main elevator banks that are then divided up by low floors and high floors. In our case, being on the 31st floor, we used the latter. For this section of rooms, there were four available elevator cars. Not only did this seem sufficient given our lack of waits, but I have to say that these elevators moved quite quickly — at least as you made your way up past floors where this bank didn’t stop. All this made for a perfect acceptable elevator experience (and that’s coming from a harsh critic).
One other thing that I should mention is that, while these elevators don’t require you to tap a room key most of the time, you will need to do this between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. This seems pretty reasonable to me and only impacted me once. Going back to the above section briefly, this also means that you may be able to get away with just mobile keys if you’re arriving during the day as my only real concern with this technology is that it’s hard to use on elevators when there’s a time crunch to get it right.
While we booked a standard room, thanks to that whatever-the-name-is status I husteled my way into, we did end up getting a Lake View room. Indeed, Lake Michigan could be seen in the far left part of our window’s frame, but this angle mostly provided a view of the McCormick Place South Building entrance. That might sound like a complaint but it’s really not — I happened to enjoy cosplay spotting from my room while also enjoying the views of the water.
As for the room itself, I found plenty of nice touches to appreciate. For one, I loved the small bench that was attached to the TV stand/dresser. Granted, I didn’t actually sit in this spot and instead used it for my luggage, but I like the look of it nonetheless. Where I did sit instead was the comfortable office-style chair and desk on the other side of the television. This turned out to be a great space to work from… although I did occasionally move onto one of the beds instead.
Speaking of the beds, when we got upgraded, we moved from a room with a king bed to one with not two queens but one queen and one double. At first glance, you might not catch the size difference but, upon further inspection, it is there. I’m not sure how big of a difference this really makes but it’s worth noting.
Something else I loved about this room was how fresh and fairly modern it felt — especially when compared to something like the Palmer House. The only exception to this was the bathroom. While larger than the aforementioned Palmer House bathroom we had last time, this toilet/shower room was the only area that seemed to show a bit of age. That said, the water pressure in the shower was solid and I appreciated the separate sink area. I could especially see this being helpful for convention goers splitting a room with friends as it allows more than one person at a time to get ready for their event.
If you’ve read some of my past hotel reviews, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for practical amenities. That’s why I was amped to discover that our room had a mini-fridge available for personal use. In fact, I actually really liked the look of this fridge, which had a clear door and seemingly a bit more space than normal. But that’s not all: there was also a coffee maker. Maybe I’ve been ruined by Vegas but I’m not too excited about the presence of such machines now. Truth be told, we had already packed our kettle and Aeropress so we didn’t make too much use of this one despite my enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I did make a point to nab the Tazo teas provided on our way out of the room.
All things considered, we found the room to be very comfortable and fit our needs well. In particular, we made great use of the fridge and enjoyed the view from our window. Plus, there was a decent number of outlets available for charging all of your devices. So, the Hyatt Regency gets a thumbs up in this department.
Accessing McCormick Place
And now for the main reason we selected this hotel: the proximity to McCormick Place. Funny enough, despite attending C2E2 at this venue for three years running, I wasn’t 100% sure where the Hyatt was in relation to it until we were already there this time. In turn, it was much closer than I realized.
C2E2 is hosted in the South Building of McCormick Place. Thus, to get to there, we just needed to take a short walk from the elevator to the lobby of the South Building. Seriously, it took less than three minutes. Meanwhile, if you’re headed to the West Building, there is apparently a sky bridge we didn’t take.
While the Hyatt Regency isn’t the only hotel with direct access to McCormick Place, it did seem to be the absolute closest to where our show was. So, with the goal of being near the show and having easy access, this was definitely mission: accomplished.
Seeing as we really only had plans to stay close to McCormick this time around, we were excited to discover that the Hyatt Regency had a few dining options available. The first one we tried was the grab-and-go market, which offered a selection of sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads along with typical convenience store fare. I personally tried both a grilled cheese and pepperoni flatbread from this location and both were tasty — albeit it expensive for what you got. Then again, that’s just par for the course.
Moving on up, we also tried Sixes & Eights. This quick service spot offered customizable ramen, pho, and rice bowls. I was really looking forward to this place and found it to be… just okay. While I enjoyed our potstickers as well as the lemon ginger cookie and my wife liked her pho, I thought the rice in my bowl was a bit overcooked and lackluster. Additionally, I will never really understand the purpose of water chestnuts — but that’s on me for being lazy and selecting a main menu item instead of going for a custom bowl. That mistake aside, I think this place could be better if you order right.
Finally, there’s the Arc Bar. In addition to the titular bar, this location also offers indoor and outdoor table service. However, we elected to get take-out for both of our visits. In my case, I tried the burger as well as the chicken fingers. The former was very delicious and so filling that I was able to save half of it for the next day (thanks, fridge!). As for the chicken, they were tasty but, honestly, it was more of a comfort food pick than anything so I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. Once again, my wife enjoyed each of her dishes but particularly liked the chipotle pulled chicken nachos.
Overall, between these three locations, we didn’t have any need to venture elsewhere. That said, had we stayed much longer, we probably would have wanted some more variety… and some cheaper options. Still, compared to what you might pay in the convention center itself, I think these places were the way to go.
Final Thoughts on Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago
There’s no doubt in my mind that booking the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place was the right call for our latest C2E2 visit. Between the variety of dining options, nearly stress-free parking (when you do it right), and steps-away access to the show, it was easy for us to enjoy our weekend without having to deal with Chicago traffic. Because of this, depending on our goals, I’d definitely consider staying here again for future C2E2s or other McCormick Place events.
With that said, was it worth $344 a night? Considering that that’s way on the far end of what we’ve ever paid for a hotel room, I’d have to say “no.” Although, I do put the blame for that on myself as I waited so long to book. Therefore, I’d be interested to see what rooms go for when booked more strategically.
One thought that went through my head a lot over the weekend was, “I wonder what the people just staying at this hotel who aren’t going to C2E2 must think.” Mostly this crossed my mind because the level of cosplay alone must have been a trip for the uninitiated. But this brings up an important point as the access to McCormick Place is a key selling point of this location. So, if you’re not attending a show — and there’s one in town — I’d imagine it wouldn’t make any sense to pursue this as an option.
Bottom line: if you’re headed to McCormick Place, then ponying up for a stay at the Hyatt could make for a much more enjoyable experience. However, if you’re just visiting Chicago and are looking for a place to stay, I’d definitely recommend you look elsewhere.
Also published on Medium.