Chicago Travel Guide
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Just a few weeks ago, a (not-so) little slice of Chicago swung open its doors to show the entire city how cool a vintage athletic facility-turned-hotel can be. Housed in a pretty ornate building on South Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Athletic Association calls upon the 120- year history of being the place to swim, play basketball, fence or catch a few laps on the running track as well as making for one of the neatest hotels we've checked out.
We had an opportunity to explore the finished product of the massive project of transforming this landmark into a lifestyle hotel that might even attract the folks that used its facilities decade before.
Virgin Hotel Chicago is the hotel that keeps on, er, hotel-ing. Not long after opening its rooftop extravaganza and its spunky diner concept, the Virgin has now unveiled its five-treatment room spa, simply called The Spa at Virgin Hotels. (We think Spa Virgin would have worked just as well. #thatjustus.)
Geared towards "business travelers and busy locals", the spa treatments are completely customizable from the amount of time of the treatment (30, 45 or 60 minutes) to the primary focus (anti-aging, sore legs, manscaping, etc.)
The menu features both massages and body treatments as well as facials, nail services and waxing (the latter two are called "Nailed" and "Stripped", FTW.) The Spa also features a unisex hamman for which day passes to this can be purchased for $15.
With Red Flower's Palo Santo toiletries in the guest rooms, it's no surprise that there are Red Flower products and specialty scents are used in the massages, body treatments, nail services and some facials. Massages start at $55 and go up to $120. Meanwhile, EmerginC (not to be confused with the powdered vitamins you add to water) and their scientific organic products are used in most of the facials including the 60-minute Peel and Glow ($120) and the 30-minute Be Glowing mini-facial ($55.)
This is a bit of a pattern: day one, a brand’s exit from a certain market is announced. The clock starts ticking, and by day two or three, re-entry – in something newer, bolder, shinier – follows. So it was with Four Seasons in Bangkok, and now the same happens for Conrad Hotels in Chicago.
What's better than a photo of a baby gorilla? A photo of a baby gorilla playing on linens donated by a hotel to a local zoo.
That's exactly what the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center has done for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Above is toddler gorilla, Nayembi, playing on a blanket donated by the hotel to the zoo for the western lowland gorilla exhibit. The momma gorillas at the zoo use the blankets as nesting materials, while the toddler gorillas use them for playing, which keep them stimulated and active.
But these aren't old discarded linens. These are the same table linens and blankets that hotel guests use. Nothing but the finest for baby gorillas!
We reached out to the Hilton's director of sales and marketing, Nathan Karsten, and asked him about how this donation effort came about. Here's what he told us:
"We work with our local humane societies, and based on the amount we had to donate we knew we needed a larger organization, said Karsten. "We reached out to the zoo to see if there was an interest and there sure was. Again, we are just so happy to help out."
And we are just so happy to keep looking at this photo. Thanks, Hilton!
[Photo: LP Zoo]
Chicago is often referred to as the Second City, but according to AC Hotels by Marriott, the Midwestern mecca is actually the fifth city; the fifth U.S. city to get their newest property geared towards millennials and their travel needs.
Planning to officially open its doors on June 5 on Rush Street, the AC Hotel Chicago is just completing the finishing touches to the well-connected rooms and public areas. (Remember, this was previously the Four Points by Sheraton.) With free WiFi throughout the hotel, guests will be not have to think twice when Instagraming pics, updating their status or sending out a few last emails before exploring the River North area of the city.
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A true icon in Chicago's hotel scene, Hotel Burnham has at last given its guest rooms and its equally iconic restaurant, Atwood, a contemporary new look. This is the first time since 1999 the hotel has seen a refresh, replacing classic turn of the century decor with a more modern style.
As one of the America's first skyscrapers, the hotel retained its history as an architectural wonder by using rich woods and sophisticated colors in each of the 122 guest rooms, with bright artwork added to give it some whimsy. The rooms still feature usual Kimpton touches like Frette Linens, a stocked mini-bar and the in-room yoga mat for getting your chi on.
For the Sake of Hotel Art / Hotel Art / Hotel Stairwell Art / Thompson Hotels / Chicago Hotels / → All Tags
Hotels' approach to art is an endless source of interest and occasionally wide-eyed wonder for us. Lately we’re seeing a new pattern of hotel art emerging, the latest example coming from the Thompson Chicago.
Chicago's rooftop bar season is right around the corner, so we're extremely excited to add a new destination on our list of late night libations multiple stories above the hustle and bustle of the streets.
As promised, The Virgin Hotel has opened the Windy City's newest destination for bird's eye drinks and nibbles with Cerise.
Remember a few weeks ago when we got a little inside scoop on the rooftop menu? Well, with two very different bars serving up summer sips with Far East flavors, the ride to the 26th floor of this vintage building will be well worth the wait. An equally Asian-inspired lite bites menu features anything from oysters and spring rolls to two different types of dumplings. (Trust us, do NOT pass on the dumplings)
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That was crazy fast.
Rooms are available to book for April 26 for $229 a night. That's for a 300-sq.ft. king room with modern minimalist decor in warm colors (Notice the "floating" cabinet.) The room rate includes complimentary in-room coffee and WiFi. Other top amenities include the Hyatt Grand beds, a 40" TV, iPod docking station and windows that open.
Downstairs the hotel will have a restaurant from Chef Roland Liccioni called Cochon Volant Bakery, Brasserie and Bar, which as the name reveals is an all-day spot serving "gourmet cheeses, fresh baked goods, fruits, organic juices, to-go foods and wines imported from France." The hotel's lobby also features a interesting "statement" piece behind the front desk from local South Loop artist Francine Turk.
In short, the place looks very cosmopolitan and chic, almost like Park Hyatt-lite.
But that's not all on the Hyatt Centric front.
One of Chicago's very first trendy boutique hotels is getting a bit of a facelift as they look to celebrate their 17th birthday this year. In the heart of the theater district, Hotel Allegro is planning to unveil a bit of drama in May with renovated rooms, a completely new lobby with communal lobby bar and enhance public "chill" space.
In a grand to attempt to reconnect with the building's 91 years of history, the Kimpton property is is embracing an art deco design for all areas of the hotel. From being greeted by a glimmering flapper girl painting and original light fixtures in the lobby to a sleeker and more cosmopolitan styling for the rooms, we were giddy with excitement on a recent hard hat tour.
We love hotel renovations nearly just as much as we love new hotels. But what we really love about hotel renovations is seeing the transformation that happens when an old, tired and lackluster room gets a modern makeover and transforms into new, spiffed-up, stylish guest room. Or put more simply, we love comparing the Before and After.
The InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile earlier this month completed a $13 million renovation of the Michigan Avenue hotel’s Historic Tower, now officially renamed the Executive Tower (presumably because it looka shiny new, no longer “historic.”)
And they accomplished it in record time! Beginning in January 2015, the hotel refurbished 315 guest rooms and corridors in the tower. Above is how the rooms looked before. Now a peek at the after:
A few weeks ago we stopped by Virgin Chicago to sample some food in their all-day dining outlet, Miss Ricky's and ended upstairs at the Commons Club to partake in an adult libation from the cheeky bar menu.
After bellying up to the bar, we had chance to bend the ear of the head bartender, Jon Harris about what the drinks we were sipping and his thoughts on the industry.
This Chicago native has spent some time mixing cocktails from DC to London and back to the Windy City. Shaking some of the hottest drinks in DC's first cocktail bar, The Gibson, Jon eventually landed the job at the Virgin and started putting together the back bar well before the hotel swung it's doors open to guests.
Keep reading for our Q&A with Jon Harris