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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Chicago’s (north) side dish

All photos courtesy Chicago North Suburbs

Where is Chicago’s North Suburbs?

This Chicago suburban area includes Prospect Heights, Mount Prospect, Northbrook, Wheeling and Des Plaines and is 19 miles northwest of Chicago, about 40 minutes from downtown. About 200,000 people live in the area.

How do I get there?
O’Hare International Airport is 15 minutes south; Chicago Executive Airport, for private and corporate aircraft, is five minutes away. The North Suburbs are off Interstate 294 and are served by Metra train service.

What types of meetings best suit Chicago North?
A variety of hotels and off-site venues make the suburbs a good fit for all types of meetings and budgets. There are about 1,500 hotel rooms in the area.

Did you know?
The first indoor regional mall in Chicagoland opened in 1962 in Mount Prospect.

The Rat Pack performed at Villa Venice (now home to Allgauer’s on the Riverfront) as a favor to owner Sam Giancana.

What’s new?
The 318-guest-room Crowne Plaza Chicago-Northbrook wrapped up a $14 million renovation in 2009. It has 15,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 108-room Wingate by Wyndham in Prospect Heights is becoming a Holiday Inn. During this summer’s renovation, a swimming pool and a restaurant and bar will be added. The hotel has 4,100 square feet of meeting space.

Tell me about the area’s main meeting sites.
In addition to the Crowne Plaza, the area’s dominant meeting hotel is the 248-room Hilton Chicago Northbrook, with 17,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is home to Allgauer’s on the Riverfront, an award winner. The Executive Plaza Hotel and Conference Center labels itself a boutique property with 142 guest rooms and 5,000 square feet of meeting space.

What are some sites worth seeing?
Visit Valentino Vineyards and Winery for a tour or tasting on the weekend or call ahead and schedule a wine seminar and reception for your group at this 20-acre estate winery where 20 types of wine are made.

Make a reservation for a weekday tour at Long Grove Confectionary Co., which received the Best in Class Public Tour 2008 from the Guest Relations Association. Chocolates are handcrafted in a new production facility in Buffalo Grove. After the tour, load up on the sweets in the company’s gift shop.

Tell me about some interesting off-site venues.

Two historic sites have much to offer. In the summer, flowers perfume the grounds at Cuneo Museum and Gardens, an Italianate mansion now owned by Loyola University. The gardens and home welcome special events; to get a better feel for the estate, watch “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with Julia Roberts. The movie was filmed there.

For parties of 100, the historic home at the Grove Redfield Estate is warm and welcoming. Particularly striking is the Great Room with its two-story leaded-glass window and fireplace. The home, designed by a follower of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, is on a 124-acre nature preserve.

For a true taste of Chicago’s North Suburbs …
Bring a hearty appetite to Restaurant Row, a 22-mile stretch peppered by more than 100 restaurants. Among the best known is Bob Chinn’s Crab House, famed for its Mai Tais and seafood jetted in from around the world. Chinn, the son of Chinese immigrants, has been operating one of the country’s highest-volume restaurants for more than 30 years. More than 3,000 people dine each day in the 650-seat seafood house, which welcomes group business.

For more casual fare, don’t miss Hackney’s in Wheeling. It has been in business there since the 1960s, but its roots go back to the ’30s, when the family’s great-aunt Bebe sold burgers and beer on her back porch. Regulars opt for the onion rings, a brick of crispy fried onions that makes diners “weep with joy,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, and the trademarked hamburger, served on dark rye bread or a bun.

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