Lauren Viera

Correspondent

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

Lauren Viera is a correspondent who lives in Chicago and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. Viera contributes articles on spirits, travel and lifestyle to Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business, Imbibe, MensJournal.com and others. She was a senior editor on the launch staff of Time Out Chicago, and was a staff writer on the travel desk of the Chicago Tribune. A native Californian, Viera has lived in Chicago for a decade and chronicles her love of horticulture and cocktail culture on her blog, The Glass & Garden.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is the best new bar in Chicago?

    After what has possibly been the longest delay in recent cocktail history, Chicago’s discerning drinkers have quickly embraced Three Dots and a Dash, the quixotically named new tiki bar owned by famed local restaurant duo RJ and Jerrod Melman and their Lettuce Entertain You enterprise. The Melman’s nabbed expert mixologist Paul McGee for the job ages ago, who promptly got to work researching the tiki concept in detail. After nearly a year’s worth of delays, Three Dots opened in late July—perfect timing to embrace the refreshing, rum-drenched menu.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best bars for beer in Chicago?

    One of the best selections of beer in town is slightly off the beaten path—at least in terms of touristy turf. It’s SmallBar in Wicker Park, which offers somewhere close to 150 rotating beers at any time, offered in imported bottles and cans as well as two dozen on tap. The original SmallBar is on a quiet side street in Logan Square with nearly as much beer, but a limited food menu.

    If there’s a bar that rivals SmallBar’s selection, it’s The Map Room, the Bucktown “traveller’s tavern” that features more than 200 brands at any given time. The Map Room has been offering an educational seminar dubbed Beer School for quite some time, which offers novices the opportunity to sit down with an expert in a more intimate setting than this bustling brewhouse.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best wine bars in Chicago?

    Among the handful of venues whose establishments fostered the popularity of the Logan Square neighborhood is Telegraph, an elegant wine bar facing the hip neighborhood’s monument roundabout. The full menu allows for a glorious sit-down dinner, but I’m just as happy to plant myself on a stool in the large bar area for a few rounds of wine and oysters.

    The elder sister to Telegraph is Webster’s Wine Bar, managed by the same owners and seen as one of the city’s original go-to wine bars. Opened nearly two decades ago, Webster’s is located in a quieter corner of Lincoln Park near Ranch Triangle, perfect for a destination date-night, but also offers plenty of education programming for the oeno-curious.

    Another well-established wine bar is The Tasting Room, located on the far west end of the popular Randolph Street Restaurant Row district. Celebrating a decade of pours, this local favorite is a comfortable two-story destination that caters to both wine-and-cheese outings and sit-down meals.

    Newer to the scene is The Boarding House, the massive three-story restaurant, wine bar and lounge opened by Master Sommelier Alpana Singh. Located in an historic late-19th century former boarding house, the full-service restaurant features a wine book several hundred deep—including a rotating selection of recommendations for those who’d rather not read the entire tome.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best historic hotels in Chicago?

    One of my favorite historic hotels is The Drake, whose grand silhouette anchors the north end of the Magnificent Mile to the gentle curve of Lake Michigan. Operated by the Hilton group, the hotel opened on New Year’s Eve 1920 and its grand ballrooms and elegant tea and dining rooms are stunning reminders of Chicago’s luxe golden age.

    Included on the National Register of Historic Places, The Silversmith Hotel & Suites in the Loop is a stunning structure designed in 1896 by Burnham and Root—synonymous with famed architect Daniel Burnham who directed the World’s Columbian Exhibition, and made further famous by the novel The Devil in the White City. Formerly a center for silver merchants, this boutique hotel was repurposed in recent memory with period-appropriate Stickley-style furnishings and cabinetry.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best family hotels in Chicago?

    Though it’s usually considered a straight-forward luxury hotel, the Star-Rated Ritz-Carleton Chicago, A Four Seasons Hotel, is always populated with a handful of little people when I’ve stopped in, which leads me to believe it’s especially kid-friendly.

    With its colorful lobby and easy access to the Lincoln Park Zoo, newcomer Hotel Lincoln is a more down-to-earth option for traveling families. And Hotel Palomar, a well-heeled Kimpton Hotel in River North, honors the well-known Kimpton Kids program, which includes the popular “Guppy Love” offer to foster a pet fish while on holiday.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best luxury hotels in Chicago?

    Far and away my favorite luxury hotel in town is the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, a Forbes Travel Guide star-rated property. I love the dramatic, high-ceiling lobby with its sculptural pendant; I love the fireside sitting area just off the main foyer; I love Bernard’s Bar tucked away in a corner of the second floor; and I even love the roundabout valet entrance modeled after a French chateau, with heated pavers for luxe arrivals in wintertime. I've heard the Star-awarded Elysian Spa & Health Club, isn't too shabby, either.

    I’m always wowed when I walk into Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, arguably the best luxury hotel in the city. It’s a Forbes Travel Guide 5-Star property (its restaurant, Sixteen, also holds this title), and it's big on the wow factor, from stunning views of the Chicago River to pitch-perfect service at its restaurants and spa—also a Forbes Travel Guide star-rated property.

    Another favorite of mine that’s also a 5-Star Winner is the uber-luxe Peninsula Chicago, perched on the north end of the Magnificent Mile. This is where Brad and Angelina stay when in town, and it’s easy to see why. The grandeur of The Lobby, home to one of the most critically heralded restaurants in town, beckons visitors to get comfortable and soak it all in. Every venue within this luxury hotel is mindful toward guests, from the Star-rated Peninsula Spa Chicago to delicious Shanghai Terrace, with pashminas on hand if things get chilly.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best boutique hotels in Chicago?

    While I hate to play favorites, I’ve definitely got one: Public Chicago. This is Ian Schrager’s new concept, opened in Chicago in 2011 with much fanfare. Designed as an affordable-luxury concept off the beaten path of the Gold Coast, this little hotel and its cozy Library & Coffee Bar is my favorite hideaway between downtown meetings.

    Another newbie I’m excited about, mostly for its bar, is the brand new Acme Hotel Company located just west of Michigan Avenue. With just 130 rooms, all outfitted with top-of-the-line tech features, this boutique hotel caters to the young and trendy who will likely take advantage of the surrounding River North neighborhood’s nightlife.

    Another unknown gem? The Silversmith Hotel & Suites, located in the Loop equidistant from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, two must-visits for anyone staying downtown. I discovered this hotel while researching lodging for wedding guests, and was pleasantly surprised by its tasteful historic Chicago aesthetic (Louis Sullivan design replicas on the walls, reproduction prairie-style furnishings throughout) and its guestrooms' unusually high ceilings and plush bedding.

    A more recent addition to Chicago’s boutique hotel scene is the quirky Hotel Lincoln, located just across from beautiful Lincoln Park. A member of the West Coast–anchored Joie de Vivre hotel group, Hotel Lincoln prides itself on cozy style and colorful accents reminiscent of home. It’s also tied to a top-notch restaurant, Perennial Virant, a destination in and of itself.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best boutique hotels in Chicago?

    While I hate to play favorites, I’ve definitely got one: Public Chicago. This is Ian Schrager’s new concept, opened in Chicago in 2011 with much fanfare. Designed as an affordable-luxury concept off the beaten path of the Gold Coast, this little hotel and its cozy Library & Coffee Bar is my favorite hideaway between downtown meetings.

    Another newbie I’m excited about, mostly for its bar, is the brand new Acme Hotel Company located just west of Michigan Avenue. With just 130 rooms, all outfitted with top-of-the-line tech features, this boutique hotel caters to the young and trendy who will likely take advantage of the surrounding River North neighborhood’s nightlife.

    Another unknown gem? The Silversmith Hotel & Suites, located in the Loop equidistant from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, two must-visits for anyone staying downtown. I discovered this hotel while researching lodging for wedding guests, and was surprised at both its tasteful historic Chicago aesthetic (Louis Sullivan design replicas on the walls, reproduction prairie-style furnishings throughout) and the unusually high ceilings and plush bedding.

    A more recent addition to Chicago’s boutique hotel scene is the quirky Hotel Lincoln, located just across from beautiful Lincoln Park. A member of the West Coast–anchored Joie de Vivre hotel group, Hotel Lincoln prides itself on cozy style and colorful accents reminiscent of home. It’s also tied to a top-notch restaurant, Perennial Virant, a destination in and of itself.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best beaches in Chicago?

    Not many visitors realize what a huge beach town Chicago is until they’ve had a chance to visit. (See my blog post on Chicago's hidden beach scene.) But with two dozen beaches to choose from, everyone's got a favorite. Mine is the relatively low-key Montrose Beach, primarily because it never feels crowded. It’s the biggest beach in the city, and there’s a lot of room to spread out on the wide patch of sand between the grassy knoll and the calm waves.

    My other favorite is technically a park, but it’s just as pleasant for taking in the water. It’s Berger Park in Edgewater, just a little tiny patch of sand and grass snug between a few historic mansions. Don’t visit expecting to lie out on the sand, but do make a stop here if you’d like to have a bite at the Waterfront Café while watching the waves.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best water activities in Chicago?

    I’ve mentioned it many times, but it’s still my favorite: The best way to float down the Chicago River is with the Chicago Architecture Foundation's architectural boat tour, which runs during the warm months. The 90-minute tour takes you through the heart of the city with unparalleled, up-close views of the skyscrapers, and the water is calm and true-blue beautiful.

    If you’d rather get out onto Lake Michigan, there are dozens of opportunities to cruise with or without a guide, or even in a speedboat. Wendella Boat Tours is a trusted family-owned operation that’s been around for decades, offering a handful of different ways to cruise the lake and river.

    Though I’ve never signed up for a tour, I’ve heard great things about Kayak Chicago, which offers all kinds of tours exploring both the serene Chicago River and the more adventurous Lake Michigan. Kayak Chicago does individual rentals, too, for more experienced paddlers who want to go out on their own.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best spring activities in Chicago?

    What better way to celebrate spring than to attend a flower and garden show? Chicago Botanic Garden’s Chicago Flower & Garden Show takes place annually in mid-March at Navy Pier, and while it’s often still quite dreary outside, these perky blooms are an optimistic preview of what’s to come.

    April can be an especially frustrating month in Chicago—we’re technically due for real spring weather, but often there’s still frosty air looming—and the best indication of a light at the end of the tunnel is the tulips. Come late April, thousands and thousands of bulbs begin to bloom from the massive planters lining the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue from Oak Street down to the Chicago River), instantly adding much-needed color to the downtown landscape. You may still need a scarf, but venturing out on a stroll down the Mag Mile is a lovely way to get into
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best winter activities in Chicago?

    So many! Instead of shutting down, like most towns with a cold snap tend to do, Chicago embraces its long winter with seasonally appropriate activities. The classic winter activity, ice skating, takes place all over town, from downtown’s McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink, to Hyde Park’s Midway Plaisance Park. A few more details on ice skating in Chicago can be found here.

    Leading up to the holidays, it’s fun to check out the window displays at Macy’s on State Street, which are always done to the nines. It’s just a few blocks from Millennium Park, which always has a lot of winter programming, including a whole month of candlelit Caroling at Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) on Friday evenings.

    Finally, ’tis the season for wrapping your hands around a mug of hot chocolate. The past few years, especially, have seen a massive surge in exotic and decadent hot chocolates, available at finer patisseries and restaurants around town. My favorite is the aptly named Mindy’s HotChocolate in Bucktown, where no less than five types of hot chocolate are on the menu year-round.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best fall activities in Chicago?

    One of my new favorite early fall traditions has only been around for a few years, but it’s a fun way to kick off the season. It’s called Design Harvest, a kind of open-house for all of the interiors and design retailers that comprise the Grand Avenue Corridor in West Town. There are hayrides and cider, harvest-style beer and even live bands with a knack for hootin’ and hollerin’ along. It’s a lively little festival that I imagine will grow in the coming years.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best summer activities in Chicago?

    One of my favorite summer activities is to float down the river at a leisurely pace, courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's architectural boat tour, which runs during the warm months. The 90-minute tour takes you through the heart of the city via the Chicago River, with unparalleled, up-close views of the skyscrapers.

    My other favorite summer activity doesn’t require any tickets: pack a picnic (or just pick up a few provisions at any of the downtown delis) and spread a blanket on the lawn at Millennium Park for the series of free concerts taking place all summer. From classical performances by the Grant Park Music Festival to indie rock and jazz via the Downtown Sound and World Class Jazz series, there’s always something fun on the lawn.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Kevin Aeh is now following Lauren Viera