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By: Richard C. Ross

 

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  Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort

 

Dana-Thomas House - East elevation
Read about our excursion to the Dana Thomas House and Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield

 

 

Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The atrium at Indian Lakes ResortSo many New Year's resolutions have lasted for so little time -- this year things are going to be different!  Well, we'll see...  But one resolution I made this year is one I have absolutely vowed to keep:  "Every now and then, set aside some time for yourself and then enjoy the time you have taken!"  New Year's Eve was not the typical one this year, so my wife and I decided that we would celebrate our New Year's after everyone else had finished nursing the after-affects of too much Hoopla on the official "Eve".  Using some well-honed Internet skills and keeping an ever-watchful eye on specials and low rates, we found a very good deal on a Saturday stay at the Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort  in Bloomingdale.  Part of this was in response to a request from long-time friends Ralph and Lauren Pancetta and Daniel and Jennifer Cabretta to join them for dinner at any restaurant of my choosing, as a way to kick off the New Year.  And it just so happened that the resort had an on-site restaurant called Shiraz on the Water, and so the plans were put into motion (more on that later).

My wife has always been enthralled with the life and work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and, after I too have now been to a number of places designed by him (read about our Springfield trip), I must admit to a great admiration for his expertise and imagination -- not to mention the functional and aesthetic beauty of his structures.  The resort itself was the work not of Wright but of a student of the master -- an apprentice from 1948 to 1951.  His name is Don Erickson, and he had actually once dreamed of being a concert pianist.  Time spent with Wright had changed his mind, and lucky for us it did. 

Wright's influences are seen in the atriumCarson International was an enterprise of the Carson Pirie Scott Company; in the mid-1970's Carson International decided to buy the Indian Lakes Country Club property and build a resort there.  The original plan called for the facilities to be much like Nordic Hills, another Carson property in nearby Itasca.  Erickson was hired for the project; his vision though, was a bit different... and it was this Wright-inspired vision that resulted in an impressive resort and beautiful haven for relaxation.  Originally opened in June of 1982, the remnants of the Master are omnipresent in the buildings; from the gigantic chains that contribute to holding the building's ceiling in a breath-taking and awe-inspiring expanse, to the zigzag corridors, to the
cast-cement walls (similar to Wright's textile block system but looking more like faded cedar than cement) and many other touches that any Wright follower would instantly recognize, the resort is a study in architecture -- inspired by a master architect.

The view from inside the CaveErickson's original vision included eliminating "much of the stigma of conventional hotels with their stark, non-ending and uninteresting corridors and shoebox-like guestrooms".  The result was hexagonal-shaped modules for the overall structure as well as for the individual rooms -- a design based on another project he had done in Jamaica.  He also wanted his design to instill the tropical feel from the Caribbean resort.  He was extremely successful on both counts, as the central atrium offers the lush tropical feel and the hexagons are evident throughout.  Banquet facilities, meeting rooms, pool, spa and other amenities offered by the resort well-managed and comfortable; the golf course is the exclamation point... especially if you are a golf fanatic.

Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes ResortAnd by the way, the feel is as comfortable as a resort can have.  Its 300-plus oversized guest rooms -- all offering either a view of the indoor atrium, the surrounding landscape or the golf course -- are well-appointed and very comfortable; situated on 260 acres, the resort itself is the largest in the Chicago area.  Of particular note, the resort has undergone a multi-million dollar facelift and conversion to a Hilton brand resort over the last year and a half.  Included was a complete makeover of guest rooms, including unique ceiling treatments, new wall covering, bedding, and carpeting.  The resort's public spaces and all three restaurants are also up for refurbishing, as are the meeting spaces and even the golf course.  Even Erickson himself is pleased with the makeover, saying that he is "happy to see the Wright influence enhanced", adding that "I know that Mr. Wright would be honored as well."

On this occasion, our only real concern was whether or not we could forget the rigors of everyday life long enough to fulfill my resolution of really enjoying the time we had taken for this short excursion.  A dip in the pool followed by a stint in the Jacuzzi, left little doubt that we were in fact going to succeed!

Stop in and have a martini in The CaveWe took our time in exploring the resort and its many examples of Wright-influenced architecture, taking dozens of pictures along the way.  We also checked out the banquet facilities for future reference.  The giant and lush atrium lobby also has a feature called the "Cave Bar" -- a great place in which to enjoy your favorite beverage to the soothing sounds of waterfalls cascading down just outside both entrances.  Naturally we had to give it a try!

It was time to head back upstairs and dress for dinner at Shiraz on the Water -- the on-site restaurant situated just across from the main entrance to the resort, also accessible by way of an underground tunnel connecting the restaurant with the hotel.  (We noted a very modern fitness center on the lower level of the resort, as well as a couple of pool tables and other games, a travel center, and even a mock speakeasy just beneath Shiraz... that I will have to check on on our next trip.)  From what I had seen on the restaurant's website, this was going to be a very nice evening.  Described as "a chic and innovative restaurant... with gourmet culinary creations", I was excited about the dinner to come.  I was also very interested in what Ralph and Danny would have to say.  But I'll leave those descriptions to Ralph, especially since he later decided to write a review.  Needless to say, the meal was wonderful and a great time was had by all -- ending way too quickly.  Another resolution surfaced: this should become an annual affair! 

Standard guest room - very spacious!The really great news for me was that all I had to do was walk back through the tunnel and up to my room; both Ralph and Danny bemoaned the fact that they had not made reservations at the hotel, as they both had a ways to drive back home.  We said our good-byes and parted company.  The room was quiet, the king bed firm but extremely comfortable and the octagonal design making the place seem even bigger.  Hilton's down-filled pillows (Hilton gets their pillows from Pacific Coast Feather) cradled my tired head and quickly absorbed all thoughts of my watching any late-night movies on the large flat-screen television.  Morning came all top quickly but the restful night's sleep was exactly what I had been needing.

The perfect ending to the brief respite came not long after a hot shower and cup of freshly brewed -- and Hilton provided -- LavAzza coffee; this was a brand that I first got hooked on not long ago and I promise that it is even better than your favorite Seattle brand...  We had also made a Brunch reservation back at Shiraz on the Water and unbelievably, my stomach was starting to growl.  Armed with a coupon secured by my wife, I was ready for what I had been told would be an incomparable experience in dining pleasure. 

Carrot cake at ShirazThe brunch set-up was nothing short of incredible: extensive, all-encompassing, eye-appealing and more than ample.  Every possible item was represented, from appetizing peel-and-eat shrimp all the way to a chocolate fountain for dessert.  I thought that perhaps it would be difficult to outdo last night's dinner -- a wrong assumption on my part.  My wife and I sampled various-sized portions of shrimp, California rolls, salad, eggs Benedict, prime rib, tilapia, a Mexican-style egg and chorizo on a tortilla, potatoes and sauted vegetables.  There was even a complimentary glass of champagne that was included with the brunch!  And then of course there were the desserts -- I can't even begin to name the myriad types -- and, well... we just had to find some extra room for dessert!

Completely sated, we left Shiraz on the Water and headed for our room to finish packing; our short excursion was coming to an end.  The bottom line is this: the room rate was very reasonable, the food, service and ambience excellent -- prices were exceptionally reasonable -- and the overall experience relaxing and memorable.  I would do this one again in a heartbeat!  I hope that your immediate future holds an opportunity for a getaway -- if so, consider Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort.  It is close by and has everything you need in order to set aside some time for yourself and then enjoy the time you have taken.  Happy New Year!!  

  

 

 

 

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