Lifestyles of the glitz and famous

Amy Weiss

Move over, Vegas. Chicago’s own Four Seasons, Palmer House and Renaissance hotels join the ranks of Sin City’s Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and MGM Grand this winter, as downtown Chicago transforms into a themed hotel haven with something for just about everybody looking to have a good time.

Twenty six overnight hotspots will offer assorted weekend packages for Chicago’s Hotel Extravaganza, part of the city’s Winter Delights 2006 program, which runs through Feb. 28. Visitors can choose from roughly 39 different packages, including everything from theater tickets to cooking lessons to auto show sneak peeks.

It seems visitors are sparing no expense for a VIP weekend in the Windy City. The Hotel Allegro offers a “Broadway in Chicago” package for Feb. 24-26, which includes tickets to Wicked and a private wine and bar reception with the cast, tours of Chicago’s historic theaters, and backstage access to Swan Lake. The experience costs up to $918 for a two-person, two-night stay. Each slot for the package has already been filled. Other packages include tickets to shows at the Steppenwolf Theatre, the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier and the Chicago Opera.

Travelers looking for a taste of luxury have several options as well. The InterContinental Chicago offers a “Chicago Wine and Spirits Weekend,” wherein guests are treated to a weekend-long buzz of champagne greetings, cognac tastings and winery tours (presumably, most will take advantage of the late check-out option). Other savory getaways include the Crown Plaza’s “Create Your Own Culinary Adventure” and the Holiday Inn’s “Chocolate Dream.”

There’s even one for NASCAR fans – after all, this is the Midwest. Guests who choose the Best Western River North’s “NASCAR/Family Auto Show” receive a special NASCAR keepsake, an exclusive viewing of the #99 Busch Series show car and access to the 98th Annual Chicago Auto Show.

Additional information and a full list of packages and rates can be found at www.877chicago.com. More information on the entire Winter Delights program can be found at the city’s Web site, www.cityofchicago.com/specialevents.

– Amy Weiss