chicago Travel Guide
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
Now that the Virgin Hotel Chicago has unveiled Miss Ricky's Diner and it's Two Zero Three coffee shop and wine bar, there are only a few more things left to take off--the hotel's killer rooftop spaces and the downstairs spa. Both of these should be unveiled next month at the Virgin's official grand opening party on April 16.
We were able to peek at the rooftop spaces during our first time with a Virgin in January and they will seriously impress you with their cool yet fun decor and their incredible city views. Remember, one of the rooftop spaces will be incredibly exclusive so fingers crossed your on the list.
As for the spa, it promises to be a "wellness lounge designed with beauty, comfort and mingling in mind."
While the rooftops and the spa will be unveiled on opening night, we hear they won't officially open to the public until the week after. Room rates for that next weekend, April 24-26, start at $249 a night for a chamber king before taxes. If you're a AAA member, rates start at just $224 a night. Whoopee!
[Photo: Virgin Hotels/Facebook
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The historic Venetian Gothic tower, first built in 1893, has been under major restoration and renovation for the past two years We first profiled the plans for the building back in 2013 when contributor Nina K. Hahn peeked at what Harstone Plunkard Architecture and Roman and Williams had in mind for the place, as well as snapping what the spot looked like before it went under the knife.
Yet throughout the renovation process, the teams have kept much of the building’s 19th architectural elements such as the bas-relief woodcarvings on the fireplaces, stained glass windows and marble staircases.
Keep reading for a look at how the building used to be and for a sneak peek at the all-new guest rooms!
Last week, something happened in Chicago that made us crave diner food and now we can share how our appetite was whet the moment we stepped foot into Virgin Hotel's newest food outpost, Miss Ricky's. In true Virgin fashion the diner menu has been re-invented consisting of old stand-bys, with a cheeky twist and clever take on Branson's name.
When we originally stayed, the all-day dining restaurant off the lobby was still shrouded with paper as the menu and space was being finalized, but last Thursday, the diner welcomed it's first guests, tempting them with giant burgers, Reuben sandwiches and milkshakes.
With a menu that goes well beyond the normal flat grill of a truck-stop, the restaurant claims to be "a modern American diner for early morning noshes, late night bites and everything in between", and with hours starting at 6am to well after midnight on the weekends, you won't be disappointed.
Oh, a full cocktail menu will probably help with that too.
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The other month, we popped into the Flavours of Langham gift shop off the stunning lobby (see below) of the Langham Chicago to check out what sort of pink Langham-branded gear we could take home. We were thinking we'd find the usual hotel gift shop suspects like candles, notebooks, robes and slippers but instead we found so much more than that.
There was an entire shelf of kiddie items as well as fragrances, art and architecture books, clothing and even small purses. But our eyes immediately went to the doll on the circular podium in the center of the store.
Dressed in a pink Chanel tweed-inspired suit and skirt with her black hair pulled in a soft bun atop her head and a string of pearls around her neck stood Audrey, the Langham's service stylist ($29.99) She's pretty much the doll form of the Langham's very real service stylists who help guests with whatever they may need during their stay from things to do, where to eat and any other special requests.
But that's not all we found.
Chicago is absolutely not slowing down its hotel scene anytime soon. The latest hotel brand to set its sights on the Windy City is Viceroy Hotels.
The Viceroy Hotel Group officially announced this morning they will open The Viceroy Chicago in the city's Gold Coast nabe in 2017. The announcement was extremely light on details but here's what it said:
Working in tandem with Convexity Properties, the powerhouse luxury hospitality brand will unveil the Goettsch Partners and TAL Studio-designed property, located conveniently for guests on State Street in the Gold Coast. The area occupies the central part of a flourishing neighborhood, quickly gaining momentum as one of the most sought-after modern luxury destinations in the city.
Known for creating authentic and inspired experiences, Viceroy Hotel Group will be using design, art, style and culture to infuse the new property with all the amenities and services of a top-luxury hotel, while simultaneously working to maintain a distinct sense of place for guests eager to explore and experience the Chicago landscape.
We took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Loews Chicago back in early December but now it's your turn to actually stay in one of the 375 guest rooms, or if you prefer some larger space, one of the 25 suites inside the 52-story tower in downtown, just a block north of the Chicago River and close to North Michigan Avenue.
Rates tonight start at just $133 as part of the hotel's First Impressions rate, which is 30 percent off the usual rate. That's for a 377-sq. ft. superior room with a king bed, free WiFi, Garnier Thiebault linens, a work desk and chair, and a Keurig coffeemaker. A premium room with great city views is only $140 while a 621-sq.ft. junior suite is just $182. #BOOKIT #WORTHIT.
We've long known that the old Sheraton Four Points in Chicago on Rush Street was transforming into an AC Hotel by Marriott but now we have a date on when this transformation will be revelead---MAY.
That's what the website for the hotel is saying, but you know this hotel business, dates can, and do, change. Interestingly, that's also when the new Hyatt Centric brand will open in Chicago. (Taps fingers together and laughs a Dr. Evil kind of laugh.)
Still, if May is when the hotel opens, guests can expect masculine but comfortable decor, free WiFi, tapas and cocktails from the AC Lounge, and breakfast with those imported buttery croissants in the AC Kitchen. There should also be an AC Store where you can pick up toiletries, snacks, wine and phone chargers, among other things. No word on room rates but we'll update you when we have them. #prayfor$200orless
Elsewhere in the AC world, AC KC (Kansas City) is about to open, while AC DC is happening next month, followed by AC MB (Miami Beach). And there's a whole bunch more in the works too. You can read those here.
It's been over a month since we slept with the Virgin Chicago and a few things have already changed since we did it.
Opening next week is Miss Ricky's All American Diner a 23-hour spot serving "new classics" such as a Great Lakes Reuben, The Biggie Grilled Cheese, Short Rib Pie and decadent donuts and dessert. You can see Virgin CEO Raul Leal's recent tweet for confirmation of such decadence:
Dessert items in Ms. Ricky's at Virgin Hotel Chicago. pic.twitter.com/wvTHm6ViBg— Raul Leal (@VirginHotelier) February 25, 2015
The hotel has also rolled out a partnership with Tesla Motors, giving all Virgin guests the option to be ferried around town in a Model S P85D. It's color? Bright red of course. #howVirginsdoit
Now, these things are all fun to talk about, but it's time to see what real guests are saying about the hotel. And for that, we head to TripAdvisor. Even though everyone knows to take TripAdvisor with a grain of salt (seriously awful reviews can never be trusted, neither can the gushing ones) it's still a place all guests go to when thinking about booking a hotel.
The Peninsula Chicago, which opened in 2001, is undergoing a guest room overhaul this year, perhaps to freshen up before new luxury hotels like LondonHouse and Nobu hit the scene. Details are sparse, but here’s what we know. All 339 rooms and suites will be redesigned, with the new décor inspired by the best elements of other Peninsula properties such as:
Accent details from the Peninsula Paris:
Distinct wood and leather finishes from the Peninsula Hong Kong;
Elegant color palettes from the Peninsula Shanghai:
Can you picture a combination of these features? Well, we can’t either but look forward to seeing the most likely beautiful result.
The hotel will up its game in the technology space as well: in-room proprietary Peninsula touch tablets will feature 11 different languages and will control everything in the room from the curtains to the Nespresso machine, plus complimentary long-distance calling via VOIP technology.
Peninsula Chicago enthusiasts, what would you like to see in the newly designed rooms? Do tell.
Peninsula Chicago enthusiasts, what would you like to see in the newly designed rooms? Do tell.
[Photos courtesy of Peninsula Hotels/HotelChatter]