Suddenly a hotbed of new hotels, Chicago has a slew of accommodations worth getting excited about. We rounded up the best of 2013–four top spots perfect for dazzling visitors well beyond the holidays.
330 N. Wabash Ave., 312-923 9988; from $340
The industrial steel-and-plate-glass façade of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s spartan 1971 I.B.M. building—the last office tower he designed—provides a dramatic contrast to the pearl within: the 316-room Langham Chicago, which opened in July. Nods to the modernist architect are found throughout, such as in the lobby designed by van der Rohe’s grandson, the architect Dirk Lohan, and featuring Miesian furnishings. But you’ll also love the Langham’s own touches, including river-stone-shaped glass art hanging above the palatial lobby; the 22,000-foot Chuan Spa with complimentary guest offerings that include a five-step bathing ritual; the scenic Club Lounge; and big, gorgeous rooms that mind every detail from the chandeliers to the shower drain pitched in just the right direction. Locals should visit this Friday, January 3, at 2:30 pm when Charles MacPherson, author of The Butler Speaks, sits down for tea, or throughout January for afternoon tea inspired by Downton Abbey and serviced by staff trained by MacPherson (312-923-7710; $40 a person).
Secret weapon: The Langham takes the prize for having the city’s poshest suites—from one-bedroom Riverside suites (from $895) to the 2,700-square-foot Infinity Suite (from $5,840), which offers two bedrooms, a double-sided fireplace, and a lime-green grand piano.
Tip: Ask for a river-view room.
21 E. Bellevue Pl., 312-266-2100; from $184
Opened in October at the corner of Rush and Bellevue, the 247-room Thompson Chicago rises from the dust of the former Sutton Place and has all the right stuff: great design, a great location, and a great on-site restaurant. Inside, the British designer Tara Bernerd has created modern spaces that have industrial swagger and coziness via plush furnishings with masculine undertones (tweed reigns here). The 320-square-foot standard rooms offer majestic views from the Gold Coast to the lake. Go bigger in one of six 655-square-foot Loft Suites (from $1,625). All rooms come with free Wi-Fi, bedside USB chargers, and complimentary luxury car service (first come, first serve). Hoping to catch a trendy new restaurant while you’re in town? You don’t even have to leave the premises. Off the lobby, wander into Nico Osteria, the Italian seafood-inspired eatery opened earlier this month by the James Beard Award–winning chef Paul Kahan.
Secret weapon: The concierge will help guests score a reservation at the already slammed Nico.
Tip: Host a small party in one of two corner Loft Suites. Each has a convertible pool table, an outdoor deck, and incredible skyline views.
515 N. Clark St., 312-661-1000; from $99
Opened in June as part of an innovative triplex of hotels that occupy the same block in River North (the others are the Fairfield Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown River North and the Hyatt Place Chicago/River North), the 272-room Aloft Chicago City Center is the best of the bunch. Step inside and enjoy the hotel’s dynamic lobby: The funky space is inviting and, just paces from the check-in desk, gives guests convenient access to Restaurant Beatrix, Lettuce Entertain You’s vibrant casual dining spot. The rooms are compact at 329 square feet—but offer modern, fresh décor and Bliss bath products. Go in January when room rates dip to $89.
Secret weapon: The location, especially if you’re a foodie. Some of River North’s best places to eat—including RPM Italian, Frontera Grill, Naha, and now Eataly, Mario Batali’s gargantuan Italian food emporium—are within easy walking distance.
Tip: Request a corner room on a high floor; these rooms are larger (at 450 square feet) and offer great views of the city.
151 E. Wacker Dr., 312-565-1234; from $99
Three years and $168 million later, the Hyatt Regency Chicago—the largest hotel in Chicago, with 2,020 rooms—completed a top-to-bottom renovation in April that involved closing down the hotel’s east and west towers for three weeks at a time. The hotel is bigger and badder than ever now that every room and the sprawling, two-story lobby have been renovated. The lobby, home away from home for many a conventioneer, now features three dining options, Big Bar (which claims to be the longest freestanding bar in the world), countless sitting areas and nooks, iPad and kiosk check-in service, and mood lighting just for fun.
Secret weapon: Just off the lobby, Stetsons Modern Steak+Sushi has a surprisingly solid menu and wine list.
Tip: In-room Wi-Fi starts at $9.95 a day, but you can get it for free in the lobby.
Tune in next week for the most hotly anticipated hotels of 2014.