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Chicago

October 31, 2009 By: Dave Eisen Luxury Travel Advisor
 


 

The Chicago river
The Chicago river winds its way through the Windy City.

 

By year-end, the Elysian will take its place as one of the finer hotels in America, much less Chicago. Its allure begins at the cobbled, heated circular driveway. A host of luxury vehicles will make their entrance, but the scene calls for a Viennese coach led by a steed’s clip-clop. Outside, the mansard roof strikes an antiquated chord; inside, the spirit of Coco Chanel is omnipresent (think 1930s and stark use of black and gray).

Luxury Travel Advisor made a behind-the-scenes visit to the 188-room hotel in June, while it was still in construction throes, but it was evident, even then, that this would be a special place. Yes, the bejeweled chandelier hanging in the welcoming area was a sign of the hotel’s opulence, but it was the attention to the minutest detail that struck us (blue tape was affixed to areas throughout the hotel that were deemed unacceptable, such as a blemish on a stairwell).

There are seven room-categories at the Elysian: Double, King, Executive Suite, Gold Coast Suite, Deluxe Suite, Premier Gold Coast Suite and the Presidential Suite. The hotel puts a premium on space: guest rooms average 890 square feet. They’re also loaded with amenities from Bowers & Wilkins speaker systems to Carrera marble bathrooms. Note: Women will appreciate the showers, where toeholds make leg-shaving a snap.

 

The Elysian
The Elysian evokes a Coco Chanel feel—through its guest rooms and public spaces.

 

We checked out one of the 1,264-square-foot Premier Gold Coast Suites—Room No. 709—and were won over by the working fireplace and view overlooking the Gold Coast neighborhood. Hint: Hands down, Room No. 702 has the best outdoor setup, with a circular terrace hanging over Rush Street. For business travelers, we recommend Room No. 708, an Executive Suite with a Juliet balcony. Top View: On the 26th floor, the 3,160-square-foot Presidential Suite has two furnished balconies along with an expansive media room.

Restaurants and lounges will play a large role at the Elysian. Though celeb chef Charlie Trotter exited the hotel project in February, Jason McLeod, formerly of the Grand Del Mar, has admirably stepped in and will lead the two restaurants: the fine dining, Ria, (think choice cuts of meat and fresh seafood flown in daily) and the more casual setting of Balsan, which will have a raw bar and charcuterie station.

The spa space reverberated with the sounds of construction and the ubiquity of protruding wires and other odds and ends. But from what we could tell of the footprint, spa-goers are in for a treat. There will be 13 treatment rooms and a mosaic-tiled, saline lap pool, which really grabbed our eye. Men First: There will be an atelier that will offer traditional shaves, tonsorial services, manicures and pedicures.

Luxury travel advisors can contact Vice President of Sales Joe Aguilera (jaguilera@elysianhotels.com; 312-646-1300, ext. 116).

From the new to the venerable, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago has some of the best vantage points in the city courtesy of its lofty position—floors 30-46 of a 66-story building on East Delaware Place. Though the hotel opened in 1989, there is no better time than right now to visit—or re-visit. Thirty-nine one- and two-bedroom suites have been redesigned and now have new popping color schemes (think purples and greens). The new suites are the latest phase in a multi-year, multimillion dollar renovation of the hotel. Earlier this year, the hotel unveiled a new Grand Ballroom and event space transformed by Pierre Yves Rochon (he too was responsible for the room revamps), who is also known for designing the interiors of Four Seasons George V in Paris.

Now, in celebration of the new rooms, the hotel is offering a Suite Rewards package, where guests are given a $100 gift card to The 900 Shops at 900 North Michigan Avenue for each night stayed in one of the new suites, complimentary daily parking and breakfast for two daily. Details can be found at www.luxuryta.com/fschicago. Luxury travel advisors with further suite questions should contact Ashlea Varca (ashlea.varca@fourseasons.com; 312-573-4169).

 

 

Trump Chicago rooms
Trump Chicago rooms have sweeping city views, like of the Wrigley Building.

 

Soaring high above the Chicago River, Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, although young, will be regarded as an architectural marvel for years to come. Luckily for us, we had the chance to stay for a night in one of its 121 suites (there are 339 guest rooms in all). No. 2236, a one-bedroom suite, afforded us sweeping city views through floor-to-ceiling windows and enough space to host the starting five of the Chicago Bulls, if need be. Top Touch: Yes, it’s all about accessible technology, and Trump Chicago gets a gold star for its TV screens embedded in bathroom mirrors.

Tip: If you are a spa fanatic, you’ll want to book one of 53 spa guest rooms, designed explicitly to enhance the spa experience (think soft earth tones and healthy snacks). Note: These rooms have direct access to The Spa at Trump via a staircase that connects the spa guest room floor to the main spa reception area.

In the evening, we checked out Rebar, which draws business types for after-work cocktails; Sixteen, the hotel’s chic restaurant on—where else?—the 16th floor, offers eclectic cuisine led by Australian Chef Frank Brunacci.

Luxury travel advisors can contact Regional Director of Sales for the Trump Hotel Collection Max Schroeder(mschroeder@trumphotels.com; 312-588-8052).

The Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, after a $50 million renovation, is again taking its place as one of Chicago’s finer hotels. We are fans of Fairmont Gold, a kind of “hotel-within-a-hotel” experience. Upon arrival, guests are escorted to the private Fairmont Gold reception area on the 15th floor. (Note:
Fairmont Gold rooms are on floors 14 through 17). We saw the seamless process firsthand, and admired the Fairmont Gold concierge as she advised a family on what sites to see in the city and how to get around.

Top Suites: There are many, but two caught our eye. First, Room No. 3501; this is a Park View Suite and, as its name implies, has stunning views of Millennium Park. If you are a political buff, there’s nothing better than staying in the Millennium Park Presidential Suite. Chicago being President Obama’s hometown, the suite has been themed on the 44th president and even faces toward Washington, D.C. Christopher Monico (chris.mo nico@fairmont.com; 312-946-7446), director of business and leisure sales, is the luxury travel advisor contact here.

One of Chicago’s quirkier designs is the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower. Designed by French architect Jean-Paul Viguier, it is a 32-floor prism of glass that encases 415 rooms, including 33 suites.
Inside, the 1,200-square-foot, top-floor Presidential Suite is the prime accommodation. If you have a green thumb, even better—the room boasts its own greenhouse. Suede walls give this suite a true luxe feel while a swiveling TV console allows you to watch a favorite movie from almost anywhere. In the bathroom, you can relax in a deep-soaking tub while taking in the city views. Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales and Marketing Larry Tsoumas (
larry.tsoumas@sofitel.com; 312-324-4010).

Finally, the Park Hyatt Chicago has one of the more impressive outdoor areas we’ve been to in the NoMI Garden, which is perfect for a drink or a quick bite on a warm evening. It is on the hotel’s seventh floor, adjacent to the NoMI restaurant, which has been named one of the Top 10 Power Dining Spots in the World by Forbes. We are told the black truffle risotto is to die for. After dinner, retire to the Watertower Suite, a marble-laden sanctuary with unparalleled views of Lake Michigan and Watertower Place. Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales Bruce Rothschild (bruce.rothschild@hyatt.com; 312-239-4122).

ADVISOR INSIGHT:

“Chicago is known for its food,” says Peter Carideo, a Chicago transplant from New York, who is president of CRC Travel. “You can literally eat your way through the city, which is home to some incredible restaurants. In the Gold Coast Section of the city, try Table Fifty-Two, where chef Art Smith (aka Oprah’s chef) creates down-home old-fashioned Southern cuisine. Also try Spiaggia for wonderful Italian cooking. In Lincoln Park, there is Alinea, which offers a 12- or 24-course tasting menu, and is consistently named one of the top restaurants in the country.

“The Wicker Park neighborhood boasts Spring, which is known for wonderful fresh seafood and is housed in the former Luxor Bathhouse built in 1923. Venturing north of downtown, two of my favorites stand out: Marigold, offering contemporary Indian food, and Magnolia Café for its American cuisine and warm inviting atmosphere.”

Of course, one can’t leave Chicago without trying a slice of deep-dish pizza or a Chicago-style hot dog. When it’s time to work all that food off, Carideo tells visitors to take a neighborhood tour—maybe in the Hyde Park neighborhood, home of President Obama, or the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. “From April through November, take a Chicago Lakefront Segway Tour—it’s a great way to see the city.”

 

Renovated four seasons suites
Renovated four seasons suites have new color palettes and a more residential feel.

 


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