Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Daphne Thompson.
Freehand Chicago ($$)
19 E Ohio St.; (312) 940-3699; freehandhotels.com/chicago; reception open 24hr
Freehand is the kind of hostel you’ll want to go to if you’re 33 and still can’t afford a full-fledged hotel room: it’s darkly lit, trendily outfitted, and somehow makes bunk beds seem like a grown-up option. You won’t see any guest-painted murals or charmingly mismatched furniture in this historic River North building, but you will find a top-notch espresso bar and surprisingly pricy bar frequented by guests and locals alike. Dorms sleep four and come equipped with a surprising amount of dignity-enhancing upgrades, from sliding privacy curtains around the bunks to personal power outlets to private bathrooms with excellent rain showers. A friendly staff is on-call 24 hours a day, and the free Wi-Fi works swimmingly.
Dorms from $35, privates from $185; reservation required; max stay 14 nights; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens, laundry, free breakfast included
Chicago Getaway Hostel ($)
616 W Arlington Pl.; (773) 929-5380; getawayhostel.com; reception open 24hr
Nestled in affluent, zoo-adjacent Lincoln Park, Chicago Getaway Hostel indeed offers a getaway of sorts from the bustle and ruckus of the Loop. Located in a landmark building that used to be a boarding-house for young working women, the hostel today welcomes guests of all ages, genders, and employment statuses to its neat, modern dorms and private rooms. The only shared rooms are twelve-bunk mixed-gender dorms, but ample space and perks like a microwave and mini-fridge keep it from feeling too orphanage-y, and the private rooms are cheaper than most competitors. All the typical amenities are there—breakfast, Wi-Fi, linens, and, oddly, guitars. It’s located north of most major tourist attractions, but isn’t too far from the Red Line for trips south.
Dorms from $29, privates from $62; reservation required; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens, free breakfast included
HI Chicago Hostel ($)
24 E Congress Pkwy.; (312) 345-6282; hiusa.org/hostels/illinois/chicago/chicago; reception open 24hr
HI hostels are like the guy you call on Saturday night after a bad date—maybe he’s a little boring or generic, but he’s dependable and there for you, no matter where in the world you are. The chain’s Chicago location is no different, offering the same clean, spacious dorms and private rooms with the full slate of hostel add-ons: breakfast, laundry, Wi-Fi, whatever you need. The location is perhaps the best out of all the Chicago hostels, putting you in the South Loop within walking distance of all the major museums and Millennium Park (though the train does rumble by at night, so bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper). The place also seems to attract a wider age range of travellers—we spotted a what looked like a grandfather and grandson in the lobby.
Dorms from $34, privates from $119; reservation required; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens, laundry, free breakfast included
Wrigley Hostel ($)
3514 N Sheffield Ave.; (773) 598-4471; wrigleyhostel.com; reception open 24hr
If you’re planning on getting just wrecked on brats and Bud Light at a Cubs game and want a comfy bed to stumble home to at the end of the night, we’ve got a hostel for you. The Wrigley Hostel—located just across the street from the stadium—bills itself as the “most social hostel in Chicago,” so brush up on your baseball small talk (“Javier Báez is such an all-around utility guy, am I right?”) to impress your new friends at weekly pub crawls and BBQs. Dorms and private rooms are clean, spacious, and painted neon, and your stay comes with all the standard hostel perks (breakfast, Wi-Fi). It’s significantly north of downtown, but located near the 24-hour Red Line, which will get you to the Loop in about 20 minutes.
Dorms from $28, privates from $100; reservation required; max stay 14 nights; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens, laundry, free breakfast included
Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, Daphne took the mid-morning train goin’ to the East Coast of the United States and Canada (fine, plus Chicago). She graduated Harvard in 2018 with a degree in Government, a law school acceptance letter, and an overwhelming sense of dread re: her all-too-fleeting youth, so she took off to the party capital of the Western hemisphere: Quebec City. The race against the cold, unfeeling march of time continued in Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Miami, a wildly diverse array of cities united by not-boring weather and stupid-high rents. Along the way, Daphne sampled legit Canadian poutine (squeaky), smuggled her notebook into nightclubs (sneaky), and lived on cheap falafel pitas (tzatziki). The Oshkosh, Wisconsin native finished her spirit quest back in the Midwest, where the Windy City welcomed her nasally accent back with open arms. When she’s not writing aggressively alliterative articles for Let’s Go, Daphne probably can’t be found. Don’t even try it, Internet creeps!