Bright colors and a whimsical atmosphere await small groups at this friendly boutique hotel amid the rough-edged environs of a big, burly city. You can even have a gold fish bowl—complete with a fish, colored stones and fake seaweed—delivered to your room. Just seeing a golden retriever in the hotel lobby, I soon realized this was a pet-friendly hotel.

Hotel Monaco Exterior

Hotel Monaco Exterior

Hip, quirky and splashed with color, the high-ceilinged Monaco, part of the Kimpton Hotels group, is not a cookie-cutter hotel. For many years this squat, 13-story building in downtown’s central core, the Loop, was the Oxford House hotel. Before that, it was a hat factory.

The best thing about the Monaco is its location overlooking Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. Wake up and watch the tour boats and water taxis cruise by the Marina City towers and sleek Trump International Hotel & Tower, the second tallest building in the city. Many guest rooms have curtained-off bay windows that provide the perfect perch for watching the action below. These cozy nooks, or “meditation stations,” are fitted with a black-and-white, mattress-like cushion and two gold-and-turquoise pillows. I even considered taking a nap there.

The Monaco’s 224 guest rooms were all renovated earlier this year. Amenities include a 37” flat-screen TV and zebra- or leopard-print bathrobes in the closet. A vase with a live bamboo shoot adorns the desk.

The large bathrooms feature an expansive granite counter, lighted makeup mirror and a plush white terrycloth shower curtain with a Hotel Monaco fabric insignia sewn in.

Dog owners can expect a dog bed, food and water bowls, plastic pick-up bags and turndown treats. Cats get a disposable litter box. The hotel accepts any number of pets without size or weight restrictions and for no extra charge.

Hotel Monaco Room

Hotel Monaco Room

Special treatment for humans includes a free wine reception, with nibbles, in the lobby “living room” (5-6 p.m. daily). Ice tea is available in the lobby on summer afternoons, hot chocolate in winter.

The 24-hour fitness center has elliptical machines, treadmills and stationary bicycle, plus free-weights with benches, and yoga props, mats, and balance balls. Plans call for a fitness center expansion in 2012. Guests can walk over to the LA Fitness Center and pay $10 to use the pool and other facilities.

The hotel’s South Water Kitchen serves Midwestern comfort food with a contemporary twist, using local, sustainable products. It’s a warm, inviting place for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Monaco is close to Magnificent Mile shopping on North Michigan Avenue and even closer to Macy’s in the Loop. The North Loop theater district and Millennium Park are only a few blocks away.

Small groups (10-25 rooms) save up to 30 percent off the Monaco’s standard rates. Call the Small Group Desk at 888-205-3153.

For more information, call 312-960-8500

Other Kimpton boutique hotels in Chicago are the Hotel Allegro, Hotel Burnham and Hotel Palomar Chicago, all pet- and eco-friendly.

Located in the North Loop Theater district, the 483-room Allegro is housed inside the same building (once the Bismarck Hotel) as the Cadillac Palace Theatre, an Art Deco gem from the 1920s. The adjacent 312 Chicago restaurant is one of the city’s top Italian restaurants.

The 122-room Hotel Burnham, a magnificent renovation of the 1895 Reliance Building, lies in the heart of the Loop’s State Street shopping district. Its vivid mosaic floors, red marble walls and filigreed elevator replicate those of the original building designed by famed architects Daniel Burnham, John root and Charles Atwood. A National Historic Landmark, the 14-story building set the precedent for steel-and-glass-frame skyscrapers that defined the “Chicago school” of architecture. The acclaimed Atwood Cafe serves American comfort food.
Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Chicago is a glitzy new addition to the booming River North neighborhood. Offering a rooftop indoor pool, the 261-room hotel, within a new mixed-use high-rise building, is minutes from North Michigan Avenue’s “Magnificent Mile” and nearly 100 River North art galleries.