Update: Hotel award nights still available for Lollapalooza

Note: This is an update to a post I wrote in January.  Now that the incredible line-up has been released, the mad dash is on to score hotels near Grant Park.

One of the best things about music festivals in large cities is that there are so many hotels for concertgoers, you can get away with booking award nights a bit later than in small markets.  Chicago, for example, is used to hosting huge conventions and has a booming tourist trade.  So not surprisingly, there are still a few hotel award options left for you music fans within a few blocks of the venue, even with up to 300,000 attendees expected this year.

Lollapalooza takes place this year from August 1 to August 3 in Grant Park, and passes go on sale in the spring.  Line-ups are typically announced shortly before the sale date.  So what if you don’t like the line-up?  Well, that’s the beauty of award stays.  Just cancel your reservation and you get all those points back, with no fees or penalties (as long as you cancel before the date your stay begins).  And in the meantime, you can feel secure spending the dough on the festival passes (which aren’t cheap!) knowing you have a free hotel room at least.

So what are your remaining award stay options within a few blocks of Grant Park?  Here you go.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (221 North Columbus Drive)
Located just a few blocks north of Grant Park, this hotel has beautiful views of the lake, the parks, and even north toward the river.  The hotel imposes restrictions over the Lollapalooza weekend, stating that customers need to wear hotel issued wristbands (thereby restricting friends from coming up to party in the rooms). I stayed in the hotel in spring 2013, and absolutely loved the location and hotel design.  Award stays are available through Club Carlson for 50,000 75,000 points per night (the top of the scale, for a luxury room and extra amenities).  Those of you who have a Club Carlson Signature Visa enjoy additional award discounts, getting your last night free (after at least two consecutive award nights).  Note: unlike some other hotel chains, Club Carlson considers this weekend ‘special’ and may not refund points if you cancel your reservation (so be careful).

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park.

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park on a stormy April day.

Best Western Grant Park Hotel (1100 South Michigan Avenue)
Also on Michigan Avenue, and located at the southwest corner of Grant Park, the Best Western Grant Park is one of the best-placed locations for the south stage area.  Just a block from the gates, it’s about as close as you can get without sleeping on a park bench.  Want to book Lollapalooza weekend?  It’s 28,000 Best Western Rewards points per night.

W Chicago – City Center (172 West Adams Street)
Surprisingly, availability has opened up for W Hotel Chicago that wasn’t there in January.  And even better, it’s a reasonable 12,000 SPG points per night.  This is one of the closest hotels to the main entrance in the middle of Grant Park.

Westin Chicago River – North (320 North Dearborn Street)
Located just north of the river, the Westin is within walking distance of the north side of Grant Park.  This could be a good pick if the closer W Hotel sells out of award nights, as it is also 12,000 SPG points.

Chicago has some amazing transit options, and the further away from the festival you get, the better the availability (and lower the points).  So consider taking transit to the festival to save even more!  A reminder: with 300,000 attendees, transit systems will be crowded.  So plan accordingly and have a great time!

Have any tips about staying in Chicago during Lollapalooza?  Please share!

Hangout Festival: beats on the beach

Surf, sand and sounds at the Hangout Music Festival. (Source: barryfest.com)

Surf, sand and sounds at the Hangout Music Festival. (Source: barryfest.com)

You can spend a few days at the beach, or go to a killer music festival, but rarely do those two experiences converge into one amazing weekend.  Welcome to the Hangout Music Festival, held each May in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It’s literally on the beach.  That’s right, like right on the sand.

This is the fifth year of the Hangout Festival, which grew in popularity quickly due to the incredible line-up each year amidst the soft sands of the Gulf of Mexico. This year’s line-up includes a mix of indie, hip-hop, rock and electronic music.  Headlining are Outkast, The Killers, Jack Johnson and The Black Keys.  The supporting acts could easily headline festivals themselves, including the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Modest Mouse, Portugal. The Man, and Fitz and the Tantrums.

The location at the beach, while playful and fun, does make for transportation issues due to parking shortages.  The festival deals with the issue well though with moderately priced festival shuttle passes that run to the various hotels in the city.  Early bird shuttle passes are sold out, so the price now stands at $50/person.

Beachy goodness.

Beachy goodness.

Hotel prices have skyrocketed of late, but there are still some free nights available at local hotels.

Holiday Inn Express Orange Beach – On the Beach (24700 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Orange Beach) – 35,000 points/ night.  This hotel is on the eastern shuttle route.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Foley (3155 Abbey Lane, Foley) – 35,000 points/night.  This hotel is actually about 12 miles away from the festival, so your best bet would be to drive to Pelican Place, on the North Line shuttle route, and then take the shuttle down from there.

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites – Foley (2682 South McKenzie Street, Foley) – 20,000 points/night.  Another good option for driving to Pelican Place and then taking the shuttle the rest of the way.

Best Western Riviera Inn – Foley (1503 South McKenzie Street, Foley) – 20,000 points/night.  Just down the street from the other Foley hotels.

So grab your sunscreen, beach ball and best friends and plan to Hangout in Gulf Shores.

Hotel award nights still available for Lollapalooza

One of the best things about music festivals in large cities is that there are so many hotels for concertgoers, you can get away with booking award nights a bit later than in small markets.  Chicago, for example, is used to hosting huge conventions and has a booming tourist trade.  So not surprisingly, there are still a few hotel award options left for you music fans within a few blocks of the venue, even with up to 300,000 attendees expected this year.

Lollapalooza takes place this year from August 1 to August 3 in Grant Park, and passes go on sale in the spring.  Line-ups are typically announced shortly before the sale date.  So what if you don’t like the line-up?  Well, that’s the beauty of award stays.  Just cancel your reservation and you get all those points back, with no fees or penalties (as long as you cancel before the date your stay begins).  And in the meantime, you can feel secure spending the dough on the festival passes (which aren’t cheap!) knowing you have a free hotel room at least.

So what are your remaining award stay options within a few blocks of Grant Park?  Here you go.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (221 North Columbus Drive)
Located just a few blocks north of Grant Park, this hotel has beautiful views of the lake, the parks, and even north toward the river.  The hotel imposes restrictions over the Lollapalooza weekend, stating that customers need to wear hotel issued wristbands (thereby restricting friends from coming up to party in the rooms). I stayed in the hotel in spring 2013, and absolutely loved the location and hotel design.  Award stays are available through Club Carlson for 50,000 points per night (the top of the scale).  Those of you who have a Club Carlson Signature Visa enjoy additional award discounts, getting your last night free (after at least two consecutive award nights).

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park.

View from my Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel room, looking toward Grant Park on a stormy April day.

Comfort Suites (320 North Michigan Avenue)
Also just a few blocks to the northwest of Grant Park, this hotel’s right in the thick of Chicago attractions on Michigan Avenue, just south of the Chicago River.  One of the more affordable options by way of points, you can book this hotel for 30,000 Choice Privileges points per night.

Best Western Grant Park Hotel (1100 South Michigan Avenue)
Also on Michigan Avenue, and located at the southwest corner of Grant Park, the Best Western Grant Park is one of the best-placed locations for the south stage area.  Just a block from the gates, it’s about as close as you can get without sleeping on a park bench.  Want to book Lollapalooza weekend?  It’s 28,000 Best Western Rewards points per night.

Hilton Chicago (720 South Michigan Avenue)
Just across the street from the main entrance, this iconic luxury hotel is toward the top of the HHonors Points scale at Category 7, but is probably the best located hotel for Lollapalooza (along with the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, which has no award night availability).  Literally just a block from the park up Balbo, you can also get some amazing views of the festival from any of the east-facing rooms and the sun deck. (Note: Hilton’s Palmer House no longer has award availability, so this is your best option using HHonors Points within walking distance, even at 50,000 per night.)

A map of the hotels can be found at this link.

Chicago has some amazing transit options, and the further away from the festival you get, the better the availability (and lower the points).  So consider taking transit to the festival to save even more!  A reminder: with 300,000 attendees, transit systems will be crowded.  So plan accordingly and have a great time!

Have any tips about staying in Chicago during Lollapalooza?  Please share!