60601 Travel Guide
The Virgin Chicago gets photobombed by Trump Chicago
We'd be lying if we said we're not excited about any news that comes out of the Virgin Hotel camp and since our last stroll by the Chicago property, we're even more excited about seeing some hard-core construction going on.
There's already a lot of action going on in this particular Chicago 'hood with a few handfuls of hotels, a city college, and plenty of office space surrounding the Loop building. But with concrete barricades and construction workers cleaning up the Virgin building's vintage detail, this is the action we're most excited about.
We also spied Virgin-red tape securing every window as wells as a red fence and a giant red tarp at the top of the building. Alas, the scaffolding is a boring beige color.
A few months ago, we gave you the scoop on the $168-million renovations undergone by the Hyatt Regency Chicago, including a lobby modeled after an airport (in a good way), face-to-face as well as self-service check in, and touch-screen hotel and city directories. The makeover also included a remodeling of the guest rooms, restaurants and lobby bar.
As you'll see in the photos, the entire lobby consists of two-floors of expansive, open space. The front desk and Big Bar are located on this perch, and below one will find Stetson's Modern Steak + Sushi, American Craft Kitchen & Bar and Market Chicago.
To give you an idea of the scope of this overhaul, we've gathered some before and after photos of the hotel. The big thing to notice in the lobby area is that the huge fountain has been replaced by the American Craft restaurant, and the common space has been made much more user friendly. Big Bar has done away with the orange-colored decor in favor of a sleek, modern marble shine.
Family-Friendly Hotels / Hard Rock Hotels / Chicago Hotels / Nursing Amenities / Hotels for Breastfeeding / → All Tags
If Kim Kardashian wants to take her daughter, North West, (LOL) back to Kanye's home turf, the only hotel she should consider right now is the Hard Rock Chicago. That's because the hotel has just unveiled its brand-new Nursing Mothers Amenity Program in partnership with Medela, a well-known brand to new moms and moms-to-be alike.
Nursing moms staying at the hotel can have hospital grade Symphony breastpumps and Medela accessory starter kits available in the guest rooms which include the Quick Clean™ Micro Steam™ Bags, Quick Clean Wipes, Pump and Save™ Bags and Disposable Bra Pads. The guestrooms will also be specially prepped for mama and baby with microwaves, mini-refrigerators, ice packs for transportation and mini-cooler bags. (Just remember, never heat the breastmilk in the microwave!)
All these super helpful amenities are available for just an extra $30, with proceeds directly benefiting local families with children in Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago through The Jackson Chance Foundation.
Room rates at the Hard Rock start at around $229 a night.
[Photo: Hard Rock Chicago]
We will soon be drinking way up there.
When we first heard there would be a Virgin Hotel opening in Chicago, we speculated about it having a rooftop pool. Well, that won't be happening but what will be happening is a rooftop bar and lounge.
We found this exciting bit of info on the website for Lionstone Development, the developers behind the hotel. We also got a look at a rendering for the entrance, although you should know that renderings don't always look like the finished product. Still we're digging those Virgin logos next to the front doors, not to mention what looks like an outside dining spot. (Update: Virgin Hotels said the rendering is not accurate and it will be removed from the Lionstone website.)
But most intriguing are the plans for a Virgin Clubhouse.
Signing over a check for $168 millions dollars to refresh their rooms, the Hyatt Regency Chicago has created a haven for the most tech-savvy travelers. The hefty cost is not just for new coats of paint and a few new pillows, it creates an oasis for those that need to stay connected from check-in to check-out.
Mimicking the check-in hall of the world's largest airports, Hyatt's lobby with offer guests plenty of ways to collect room keys and start the unpacking process. In addition to the traditional face-to-face check-in, the hotel will offer iPads to track your arrival. If you prefer to be a little less futuristic, self-service check-in kiosks will be available too. Of course, we just discussed whether customers want this kind of non-personalized service.
Among Chicago’s — and possibly the world's — most eagerly anticipated hotel openings is Richard Branson’s first ever Virgin Hotel, originally slated for Chicago. But rumors are swirling that it’s not going to happen. We cringe and die a little inside whenever we hear it, but more than anything, we're just anxious to get to the bottom of things.
In 2011, Branson first announced plans to open the hotel in a 27-story Art Deco gem, the Old Dearborn Bank building located in Chicago’s Loop. Construction was set to begin in May 2012 with a tentative opening date of fall 2013.
Well, that got pushed to a more ambiguous late 2013/early 2014 opening. And then, just yesterday, Virgin CEO Raul Leal confirmed an early 2014 opening with Hotel News Now. So what exactly is the deal with this place?
Didn’t we go on and brag about how you could live it up like Bruce Wayne at Hotel 71 in Chicago, and now has the hotel gone and been sold? Yep, Hotel 71 is set to be purchased by Hospitality Properties Trust with plans for Wyndham Worldwide to manage it. The hotel underwent a $15 million dollar renovation back in early 2011 which lifted the face of the lobby and rooms.
Since opening, it's had an unfortunate round of luck that started with an owner (Robert Falor) and his dream-turned-nightmare of a condo hotel plan. Defaulting on over $125 million in debt, the hotel was then sold to Canyon Capital Reality Advisors back in 2009 for $34 million. The official word isn’t out yet on what HPT is now paying to aquire Hotel 71, but one insider estimated about $87 million.
Bruce Wayne makes a grand entrance in "The Dark Knight" (2008), filmed in this penthouse ballroom atop Hotel 71
Ed. Note: The opening of The Dark Knight Rises movie was eclipsed by the senseless shootout in Aurora, Colo. This post was written before the tragedy and while the movie and the shootout will be forever linked, we thought giving you some behind-the scenes info on the first Dark Knight movie might separate the two...if only for a little bit.
Next time you visit Chicago, add Hotel 71 to your sight-seeing itinerary as this is where Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) fought the good fight in The Dark Knight and where Transformers ran amok for the movie's third franchise.
Take the elevator up to the hotel’s 39th floor penthouse ballroom and it will all come back to you. Formerly staged as Bruce Wayne’s penthouse apartment in “The Dark Knight,” the penthouse ballroom is simpler now, but the floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic city views are unmistakable. Take a closer look out the windows, spy the adjacent balcony and some of the best scenes from “Dark Knight” are sure to come flooding back.
Finding a really great outdoor pool at a Chicago hotel used to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Sure, plenty of beautiful indoor pools abound, but where were the sparkly, sceney big pools in which to soak in all that summer sun? As if an answer to the sun seekers prayers, Chicago’s Radisson Blu Aqua now shines like a mirage in the middle of this big city, literally around the bend from Millennium Park, the Mag Mile, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.
We recently stayed at the hotel and after one look at Blu Aqua’s huge recreation deck and pool, bailed on our room and jumped in for a swim. Situated on the third floor across 80,000 square feet, the very green deck is something to behold in Chicago. There’s the pool and cabanas plus a Jacuzzi and kiddie pool. Further beyond sits another large deck with gardens, gazebos and a 1/5 mile walking trail, grills and a fire pit, even a lower-level Zen garden complete with a rake. Everything is first come first serve.
Police cars barricading streets, helicopters hosting steel 280 feet into the air, sexy girls in hard hats – a whole new kind of
commotion construction is hitting one of Chicago’s most coveted rooftop scenes. And come May 9, ROOF, theWit hotel’s rooftop lounge, is upping the ante with the big reveal: a brand-new, all-glass-and-steel retractable roof that will turn this swanky, spacious outdoor bar into a year-round, rooftop destination.
Who knew those dancing babes could weather hard-core construction so well?
This is Chicago, folks, and that means rooftop season is impossibly short or fickle. A local ordinance also calls for outdoor patios across the city to close after midnight, which means even the most gorgeous of summer nights are cut far too short. But all that changes with theWit’s retractable roof -- a 30-foot wide by 21-foot tall behemoth -- which turns ROOF’s outdoor patio into a spectacular, all-glass nightclub after midnight. No need to shuffle back inside, instead you’ll be fighting to keep that outdoor seat on the 27th floor with top-to-bottom views of the Loop and its many high rises, Lake Michigan, the sky -- you name it.
Virgin Hotels / Chicago Hotels / Hotel Construction / Hotel Hype / Hotel News / Richard Branson / → All Tags
It seemed so far off and almost unreal, until now; we just learned from Crain’s Chicago Business that construction on Richard Branson’s first ever Virgin Hotel set to open in Chicago will begin this May. No change to the opening date, so we’re still planning to kick back in pop Branson-esque rooms there by Fall of 2013. (How do you do neon right in a luxury hotel?)
In a surprise brilliant move last fall, Virgin threw the ultimate nod to Chicago by announcing the purchase of the Old Dearborn Bank, a landmarked Art Deco building originally built in 1928. Starting in May, Virgin will redevlop the 27-story, 136,000-square-foot office space into 250 hotel rooms. According to Crain’s, the rehab will come complete with pools and saunas. (Will there be both a rooftop doozy and one that takes advantage of Millennium Park views?)
Here's yet another hotel that's acting like an airline--The Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago which has just opened its new 24-Hour Business Class Lounge.
Guests staying in one of the hotel's suites will get complimentary breakfast, snacks and refreshments throughout the day and a dedicated concierge from 6:30 to 9am and again from 4:30 to 10pm. Lounging in the lounge can be down by flipping through a selection of newspapers and magazines or chillaxing in front of a giant flat panel TV.
Guests staying in the biz class floors also get other perks outside the lounge like 1,000 Club Carlson Gold Points per night stay, an in-room Nespresso machine, complimentary mineral water, two pairs of slippers and the use of an iPad where they can access the hotel's room service and valet at the touch of a button.