60605 Travel Guide
The largest hotel suite in the Midwest just got a whole lot swankier. The Conrad Hilton Suite at the Hilton Chicago recently finished a $1.8 million renovation. Yes, well over a milli was spent on this two-story suite overlooking Grant Park and Michigan Avenue. So we gots to know--what's in it?
For starters, the suite has its own Grand Salon with a fireplace, a dining room for seating up to 14 guests, a library with a pool table and a bar, and a private kitchen. The suite also got a decor makeover and now features a new color palette of "neutral tones with crisp white trim", dark parquet floors, a Carrara Gold marble fireplace, a cleverly disguised television that pops up out of a dresser via the in-room iPad, and an old-school grand piano.
The suite's three bedrooms each have their own bathrooms along with freestanding bathtubs, glass showers, private dressing rooms and their own night-cap bars. This suite is now fit for a king, or at least the president. In fact, the suite is often referred to as the "Midwest White House" and every president since Reagan has spent the night here.
No doubt the Conrad's renovation has only made Barack Obama's hotel choices when visiting his hometown a lot tougher. Does he stay in a two-story suite worth nearly $2 million or does he go with the suite named after him at the Fairmont Chicago? File this under Problems We Wish We Had. Sigh.
[Photos: Hilton Chicago]
Hotel Renovations / Hotel Restaurants / Renaissance Hotels / Marriott Hotels / Chicago Hotels / → All Tags
Nowadays, it's hard to get a hotel breakfast for under $10, but the Blackstone Renaissance is doing what seems to be the impossible: offering breakfast and lunch for only 5 smackers at its new Bodega N. 5.
Most foodies head to the hotel to dine at Mercat a la Planxa, headed by Iron Chef Jose Garces, but the chef recently unveiled this cheapie spot that's hidden away on the restaurant's lower level. It's perfect for a quick bite before heading out to go sightseeing or a won't-break-the-bank Chicago lunch.
Chicago's Blackstone Renaissance may be 100 years old, but it's showing that you don't have to be stuffy in your old age. The hotel is keeping itself youthful with a new Pop Art exhibit that features everything from superheroes to cartoon characters.
On display in the hotel's Art Hall, "Risk and Reward" is a colorful 21-piece retrospective from Chicago-born artist Erik DeBat, who examines American pop culture in his work, blending abstract expressionism and Pop Art.
Hotel Graffiti / Hotel Art / Hotel Packages / Marriott Hotels / Renaissance Hotels / Chicago Hotels / → All Tags
We've already told you about the cool "Outlaw" graffiti exhibit at the Blackstone Renaissance. But if you dig the exhibit, you can now get a personalized piece of graffiti art from an artist who has a piece in the show.
As part of the hotel's Outlaw Art package, General Manager Rob Cartwright, a.k.a. Survive 185, will take your surname or a three-word phrase of your choosing and customize it, street-art style. The above photo shows an example of Cartwright's original work.
Looks like Chicago's Blackstone Renaissance is trying to earn more street cred with "Outlaw," a new graffiti exhibit at the hotel.
Apparently this isn't the first time the Blackstone's gone a little gangsta. Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Al Capone used to hang out at the hotel. The latter notorious mob man seems to be an inspiration for the graffiti exhibit, as seen above. And in 1931, the hotel, which turns 100 this year, hosted a crime convention of sorts where all of the mob families met to divvy up power.
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Mercat a la Planxa's chef de cuisine J. Michael Fiorello and executive chef/Iron Chef Jose Garces.
Jose Garces recently won the Food Network's Next Iron Chef competition, putting him in the distinguished culinary ranks of Mario Batali, Cat Cora and Bobby Flay. But there seems to be a bit of a controversy surrounding his win: Philly is claiming the chef as one of its own, since Garces primarily resides there and owns several restaurants in the city, but The Blackstone a Renaissance Chicago Hotel is calling dibs, since he was born in the Windy City and serves as the executive chef of the hotel's Mercat a la Planxa.
Having the executive chef title doesn't mean that Garces is always in the kitchen. But it does mean that you can taste his trademark Latin cooking style at Mercat, which specializes in Catalan tapas.
As the home of the Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks and Bulls, Chicago is a serious sports town. Hotel Blake wants to win over you visiting sports fans with game-related deals.
As part of the Get Your Game On package, you'll get 20 percent off the best available rate (we found a room with a king-sized bed for $139), two free drink vouchers at Custom House's Lounge for pre-gaming and a complimentary continental breakfast to soak up your hangover. The coolest package perks are the free poster board and markers, so you can make a sign to cheer on your team, and a free Chicago baseball cap. To be clear, it's not a Cubs cap, but a generic "Chicago sports" hat. But still, it's cool.
Forget renting a car during your trip to Chicago. If you buy The Blackstone's Bike Chicago package, you'll get a duo of collapsible two-wheelers to take your own tour of the Windy City. It's a win-win, since it's environmentally friendly and it sure beats the hotel's staggering $47 daily valet parking fee.
The Blackstone, a Marriott property, provides a bike map, which is good because there are tons of places to pedal to in this bike-friendly city. For a good ride, roll through nearby Grant Park to see the iconic Buckingham Fountain and then hop on the scenic, busy lakefront paved path and head north.
Welcome to the latest installment of our Hotel Carpet series, where we take it upon ourselves to call out the most offensive hotel carpeting we come across. Behold this shot of the lobby of the historic Marriott Renaissance Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, which was recently given a gigantic makeover to the tune of $128 million. And yes, this is the post-makeover carpet.
This historic, very-recognizable building features French Beaux-Arts architecture and the exterior has, according to the website, been featured in "over 1,400 contemporary works of arts by local artists." The inside, however, may not translate so well to works of art mostly due to this crazy-trippy carpet.
Truly, it's not so bad it may just be the dizzying Alice in Wonderland stripes juxtaposed with the marble and luxe finishes in the rest of the space. It's just that this carpet is shocking for such an old-school luxe property like The Blackstone. And frankly, since the hotel is offering $99 rooms (as we mentioned just this week), we're not too sure we'll mind this carpet so much.
[Photo: Lawrence's Lenses]
We thought we knew all of the hotels in Chicago, but apparently we didn't spend enough time indulging The Untouchables fantasies in the South Loop, as The Blackstone has just hit upon our radar because of their $99 room deal.
Aptly named the "Stay In the Black" deal, The Blackstone will have $99 rooms available through April 30 in celebration of their 99th Anniversary. Since their grand opening way back in 1910, when they threw a "splash and a society gala honoring opera legend Enrico Caruso," The Blackstone has played host to luminaries as well as served as a set for movies like My Best Friend's Wedding and The Color of Money, and, yes, The Untouchables.
Grant Park, prepping for all those Obama-loving hotel guests.
Hotels are supposed to be non-partisan, but this year, all Chicago hotels will probably be rooting for Obama. After all, he's the reason there is expected to be 100 percent occupancy on Election Night and the days leading up to it. Like today.
Since Obama announced his election night rally will be located in Chicago's Grant Park, Chicago's Mayor said the city is expecting over 1 million people to come to the park. Hotels surrounding the park, like the Essex Inn are expecting to be 100 percent booked.
We did an unscientific check of other hotels in the area and found that Congress Plaza Hotel & Convention Center, the Fairmont Chicago, the W Chicago - City Center, Hilton Chicago and Hard Rock Hotel all have availabilities. All you Obama followers still have a chance for a last minute booking, but don’t wait too long because they might sell out.
Who would have thought that, at least for one night, one person can single-handedly book out almost an entire city’s lot of hotel rooms?
[Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune]
Election 2008 Hotels / Political Hotels / Barack Obama / Best Western Hotels / Fugly Hotels / → All Tags
Last night, campaign aides confirmed that Senator Barack Obama is preparing to throw the country's biggest party -- or the biggest sobfest, depending on which ticket you support -- at Chicago's Grant Park.
As one of the the Windy City's most revered public spaces, and the beneficiary of more than a decade of a multi-million dollar renovations, this may very well be the country's biggest post-election party hot spot the night of November 4.
There's only one hotel that's closest to all the Election Night action: The Best Western Grant Park Hotel. But is Barack Obama or any candidate for that matter, worth spending a night in a room that looks like that? Eeek.
Then again, convenience may win out here. You can literally walk just a few steps from the park back to the hotel after the party/sobfest at any hour.