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YOUTH BEAT

A New Kind of Hostel for Newcomers to Chicago

May 28, 2000|LUCY IZON

This summer, Chicago is getting a new youth hostel that will not only be one of the largest in the world but also is designed to be a gathering point for young international visitors and college students who are new to the area. The creators hope it will be a model and set a trend around the world for a new style of youth hostel.

The official opening for the 500-bed Hostelling International-Chicago is Oct. 5, but some of the beds will be available by late August. The centrally located hostel is in a renovated 1886 loft on the northwest corner of East Congress Parkway and Wabash.

Most rooms will have a maximum of six beds, with prices starting at $17.41 per person per night. Guests will have the use of a kitchen, a meeting room, lockers, laundry and Internet services, and parking is available. Reservations are suggested, and credit cards are accepted. Group reservations can be made now, telephone (312) 360-0300; individual reservations will be taken after June 14.

Besides accommodating young travelers from around the world, the hostel will also serve students at Chicago colleges and universities who haven't gotten settled and need help getting to know the area. An international student center on the second floor will provide a variety of services.

Volunteers will staff an information desk, providing facts about sites and activities in Chicago such as free museum days. Within walking distance of the hostel is the Art Institute of Chicago (free on Tuesdays), the Field Museum of Natural History (free on Wednesdays), the Shedd Aquarium (free on Mondays) and the Adler Planetarium (free on Tuesdays). The hostel will also offer free walking tours, low-cost sailboat rides on Lake Michigan and guided trips to local festivals and events.

The student center will have discussion nights, speakers and other events that involve the hostel's international guests. Another area is set aside for student art exhibitions, dance and music. The hostel has 24-hour access.

Contact HI-Chicago, 24 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL 60605; tel. (312) 360-0300, fax (312) 360-0313, Internet http://www.hiayh.org/ushostel/mwreg/chicago.htm.

If you are visiting Chicago before the hostel opens, 226 beds are available four blocks away in a summer hostel at 731 S. Plymouth Court from June 15 to Sept. 5. For reservations (recommended), contact the Hostelling International-Chicago Summer Hostel, tel. (312) 360-0300 (before June 15) or (773) 327-5350 (during the summer), e-mail reserve@hichicago.org.

Both Chicago hostels are members of HI-American Youth Hostels, which has 134 locations in the U.S. The umbrella organization, Hostelling International, has 4,500 locations in 70 countries.

HI-AYH members (annual adult membership is $25) pay about $12 to $25 per night for accommodations in the United States. Nonmembers pay about $5 per night more as a guest fee.

The 2000 edition of the 400-page handbook "Hostelling North America: The Official Guide to Hostels in Canada and the United States" is available free to HI-AYH members and hostel guests in the USA. Nonmembers may obtain a copy for $3. Contact HI-AYH, Hostelling North America, 733 15th St. N.W., Suite 840, Washington, DC 20005; tel. (202) 783-6161, fax (202) 783-6171.

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet http://www.izon.com.

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