History is the driving force at the Palmer House, which has continually operated longer than any other hotel in America. The current version is actually the third iteration of the hotel, the first of which burned 13 days after it opened in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. To share the tales of the hotel’s opulent past and guide guests through its elegant ball rooms, painted ceiling, and endless gold statuary and adornments, the Palmer House actually offers insightful daily tours by its own historian (actually, he’s the director of public relations). This is, after all, the place where the brownie was created, and it’s the first hotel in Chicago to have a phone, an elevator, and electric lights. But once you move beyond the history of the property, I have to say that it’s actually a good thing that the gathering spaces of this hotel are so grand, because the standard double rooms can run quite small here (those smaller ones are also less expensive). The hotel takes up a full block, which has its pros and cons. Pro: Rates can be low. Con: You risk getting lost in the winding hallways on the way to the elevator (I speak from experience).