IL Travel Guide

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Confessions of Hotel Bartender, Vol 7: A Cheeky Drink at Virgin Chicago

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  Site Where: 203 N. Wabash [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60601
March 26, 2015 at 3:45 PM | by | Comments (0)

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

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Virgin Will Reveal Its Rooftop Next Month But It Won't Stay The Night

Where: 203 N. Wabash [map], Chicago, IL, United States
March 25, 2015 at 1:30 PM | by | Comments (0)

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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Get Pumped: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel Will Open on June 5

March 18, 2015 at 4:46 PM | by | Comments (2)

Commune Hotels & Resorts is getting very close to opening the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel , a 241-room lifestyle hotel in the Michigan Ave nabe and it will be quite the spot.

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!

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Miss Ricky's at Virgin Chicago is More Than A Greasy Spoon

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  Site Where: 203 N. Wabash [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60601
March 10, 2015 at 6:06 PM | by | Comments (0)

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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How to Take a Little Bit of Langham Hotels Home With You

March 6, 2015 at 1:58 PM | by | Comments (0)

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.

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Viceroy to Get a Piece of the Chicago Pie in 2017

March 5, 2015 at 2:10 PM | by | Comments (0)

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.

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The Loews Chicago is Now Officially Open (and Rates are Rather 'Loew')

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  Site Where: 455 N. Park [map], Chicago, IL, United States
March 2, 2015 at 3:10 PM | by | Comments (0)

We're only in the third month of the new year, and we've already got another new hotel to check out in Chicago--The Loews Chicago (the first hotel to open this year was the Virgin Chicago.)

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.

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AC Hotel Chicago Downtown is Expected to Open in May (So They Say)

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  Site Where: 630 N. Rush Street [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60611
February 26, 2015 at 8:30 AM | by | Comments (0)

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.

GO INSIDE THE AC HOTEL BY MARRIOTT EXPERIENCE!

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Now That Everyone Can Sleep With The Virgin, How Goes It?

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  Site Where: 203 N. Wabash Avenue [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60601
February 25, 2015 at 3:35 PM | by | Comments (0)

It's been over a month since we slept with the Virgin Chicago and a few things have already changed since we did it.

For starters, Sir Richard Branson came in for a visit. Then on Valentine's Day, the new coffee and wine bar, Two Zero Three, opened just off the entrance of the hotel.

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:

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.

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The Peninsula Chicago to Get a Makeover, Inspired By Sister Hotels in Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai

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  Site Where: 108 East Superior [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60611
February 19, 2015 at 3:17 PM | by | Comments (0)

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]

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LondonHouse Coming to Chicago in 2016 (With a Tri-Level Rooftop, Too!)

Where: 360 North Michigan Avenue [map], Chicago, IL, United States
February 17, 2015 at 6:08 PM | by | Comments (5)

Yet another luxury hotel, LondonHouse, is set to open in Chicago in the spring of 2016 at the corner of North Michigan and Wacker Drive. Despite the name, the British are NOT coming.

Chicago-based Oxford Capital Group will open the property at the historic London Guarantee Building (hence the name) after a comprehensive renovation resulting in a high-design, 452-room lifestyle hotel with a new 22-story “modernist” glass tower designed by Goettsch Partners.

Per a press statement:

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Hyatt Centric Will Open in The Loop in Chicago This May

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  Site Where: 100 W. Monroe St. [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60603
February 13, 2015 at 11:25 AM | by | Comments (0)

Hyatt Hotels have always been Chicago-centric (it's where the company's headquarters are) so it makes perfect sense that their new brand, Hyatt Centric will open here as well as Miami.

Not long after the news came out yesterday about South Beach, came this news about the Hyatt Centric The Loop:

Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago, a 22-story property first constructed in 1927 by Frank Chase, has undergone a transformative renovation from an office building to an iconic new hotel, all while maintaining the integrity of the building’s roots. The hotel features 257 guest rooms, 2,513 square feet of meeting space, a 24-hour fitness center, rooftop bar and a new signature French bistro, Cochon Volant, run by James Beard award winning Master Chef Roland Liccioni. The hotel will showcase elements of the area’s rich cultural and architectural past while offering guests a full range of modern amenities.

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