So far it’s a good year for Chicago, at least in terms of city rankings.
Condé Nast Traveler has named Chicago the best big city in the U.S. for the first time in the ranking’s 30-year history, topping New York, San Francisco and Honolulu.
Los Angeles? Didn’t even make the cut.
The high-end travel magazine said that Chicago was the center for the biggest architecture biennial in North America this year — an annual festival exploring modern architecture and urbanism — and pointed out that it was named “restaurant city of the year” by Bon Appetit Magazine and Condé Nast itself.
“When in doubt, take a boat tour of the city and float beneath some of the country’s tallest buildings,” Condé Nast wrote. “Catch stand-up at, well, the Second City, or see if you can actually get a reservation at Alinea, a leader in molecular gastronomy.”
Earlier this year, “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah called Chicago “a microcosm of the nation,” even as Chicago’s new hotels and Riverwalk are spurring more and more attention.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune that the so-called “Second City” is finally being recognized for what its residents already know. “This title is a testament to the innovation found in our amazing architecture, the ingenuity captured at our award-winning restaurants and 67 breweries, and the congenial character of Chicagoans,” he said. “While our 77 neighborhoods each have unique cultures and characteristics, we are one Chicago, and we are proud of this distinction.”
Chicago is on track to see 54 million visitors this year, according to the Tribune. The University of Illinois has proposed a new public-private innovation center for the city, and Apple Computer has launched a new flagship store on Michigan Avenue.
At the same time, Chicago has submitted its own bid for the Amazon headquarters, as it fights a reputation for gun violence topping 500 deaths a year. Still, per capita, it has been named one of the safest cities of the world — 19th, in fact, one of only three U.S. cities on the list compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Meanwhile, more small hotel brands are trending, according to Condé Nast editor Pilar Guzmán, with winners in cities like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City. Guzmán said the travel industry has been hit hard with multiple hurricanes battering the Caribbean and Gulf states, two major earthquakes in Mexico, and other natural disasters that have hurt popular destinations.
“We know from your often poetic encomiums in this survey that you’ve celebrated many important milestones and memorable winter breaks in these devastated areas, and have been lastingly transformed by their otherworldly turquoise waters and kind and welcoming people,” Guzman wrote. “It is the outpouring of stories about and love for these places, as you’ve so generously shared with us, that will keep the recovery top of mind.”
The best small city award went to Charleston, South Carolina; followed by Aspen, Colorrado; Greenville, South Carolina, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Laguna Beach, California. Sorry, St. Louis didn’t make the list.
More than 300,0000 readers voted in the 30th annual “Reader’s Choice Award,” with more than 100,000 comments and millions of ratings.
▪ The best hotel in the U.S. The Faena Hotel Miami Beach, which features a lobby called the Cathedral with gold-leaf columns and murals, a 22,000-square-foot spa, dinner theater and a white-sand beach.
▪ The best hotel in Las Vegas: Wynn Las Vegas & Encore, citing luxury touches such as Venetian-glass mosaic floors and nine high-quality restaurants.
▪ The best hotel in New York City: Langham Place, Fifth Avenue, located just north of the Empire State Building and featuring walnut wardrobes, deep soaking tubs and a top-end Italian restaurant. Room price: $1,890 a night and up.
▪ The best airport in the U.S.: Indianapolis International, which has held the top spot for four years due to a new record in passenger traffic and $18 million in upgrades with quality food options and short security lines. (No, Lambert St. Louis International did not make the top 10.)
▪ The best resort in the U.S.: The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming, which apparently combines luxury with “the ruggged west” by offering spa services along with fly-fishing, hiking and horseback riding with the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
▪ The best resort in the world: Naladhu Private Island Maldives, at South Male Atoll with only 19 guest quarters in the entire resort. Each comes with a private garden and infinity pool, open-air bathroom and sea-facing tub for two, as well as cushioned Indian daybeds under the stars, dedicated butlers and an all-glass wine cellar.
▪ The best beach in the world: Honokalani Beach in Wai’anapanapa State Park, Maui, which features jet-black sand made up of tiny lava puddles, jungle-like foliage and sea caves carved into the lava cliffs along the shore.
▪ The best hotel in the world: La Reserve Paris, a hotel and spa in France with Carrara marble bathrooms, spa treatments and starred restaurants;
And the best city in the world? The gold ribbon goes to Tokyo, followed by Vienna, Austria; Kyoto, Japan; Barcelona, Spain; Paris; and Sydney.