“What is everyone smoking in Chicago? Because hotels want to go to there, badly,” writes Hotel Chatter of last Wednesday’s announcement that an Ace Hotel is coming to Chicago, the latest to join the city’s hotly anticipated hotel list. Also on Wednesday, a new website at last revealed what’s in store at the soon-to-open Virgin Hotel Chicago. Meanwhile, one of Chicago’s oldest hotels won some noteworthy awards.

In short, this last week was a big one for Chicago hotels. Here’s what you need to know.

Rooms at the New Virgin Hotel Keep Women in Mind

“Because it’s mostly women who are booking travel,” says a rep for the new 292-room Virgin Hotel Chicago, which announced Wednesday that it’s taking reservations for stays starting January 15, 2015. The rep also said Virgin is focused on eliminating traveler pain points and nickel and diming, and on prioritizing function and choice. As part of the new site, Virgin launched a video to illustrate what the heck this all means. Here’s the gist:

  • A sliding door equipped with a peephole will divide rooms into two chambers—a dressing room and a sleeping lounge.
  • Desks will be replaced by large vanities, and beds will come equipped with corner, pop-up seat backs, and an extended footboard.
  • Free Wi-Fi will be available with no bandwidth restrictions and minibar prices will rival what you’d pay at a nearby Walgreens.
  • An app will allow guests to check in and control in-room functions such as temperature, service, and entertainment.
  • Rick Gresh, formerly of David Burke’s Primehouse, will oversee four dining concepts: a lobby-meets-social club (The Commons Club), a hip American diner (Miss Ricky’s), an Italian beverage bar that transitions from day to night (203), and a rooftop bar.

Another Cool Boutique Hotel is Coming to the Fulton Market District

Once the hinterlands of Chicago and then a major dining destination, the gritty but rapidly gentrifying Fulton Market district is quickly becoming a full-fledged travel destination where only the coolest boutique hotels dare to tread. Soho House Chicago made the first foray this August, the country’s first Nobu Hotel & Restaurant is said to be next with a new 12-story building at Randolph and Peoria, and now the fashionable but unfussy Ace Hotel is making plans at an old industrial building on Morgan Street, across from Google’s new 1K Fulton building. No details on the Ace are available yet, but HotelChatter has a prediction: “Given that the competition in Chicago is getting fiercer by the minute, we suspect Ace will bring their A-game out with a few more special features.”

Palmer House Hilton Has More Than a Frescoed Lobby Ceiling

You’ve seen the 21-frescoed, basketball-court-sized mural hanging over the art-deco lobby at Palmer House Hilton; maybe it’s time to see more. Last Friday the Chicago hotel was presented with three Awards of Excellence by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The awards, chosen from 160 nominees, include Best Historic Hotel (with more than 400 guestrooms), Innovative Historic Hotel Event Host (for its efforts to bring back the hotel’s most memorable experiences), and Hotel Historian of the Year (commending Ken Price, the hotel’s long-time, charismatic PR director). “We are delighted this year to honor Palmer House Hilton—the birthplace of the chocolate brownie in 1893 and the longest continuously operating hotel in the United States,” said Lawrence Horwitz, executive director of historic hotels. If you go, book a spot on Price’s History is Hott tour, which includes a visit to the hotel’s private museum (from $40).

Travel News


A New GoPro Camera is Here

Just in time for ski season, the new Hero4 Black ($499, available now) “doubles the performance of its year-old predecessor and adds 4K shooting capabilities, auto low light modes, an ultra wide-angle lens that offers the ‘most immersive field of view available,’ and twice the dynamic range for audio quality.” Read more at Condé Nast Traveler. 


See Award-Winning Indie Films in Northern Michigan this Weekend

From October 16 to 19, the Frankfort Film Festival at Frankfort, Michigan’s Garden Theater brings together award-winning foreign, short, and full-feature films from festivals around the world, including Cannes, Sundance, and Tribecca. Gloria, Our Nixon, Ilo Ilo, and The Gilded Cage are among the films to be shown, as well as four shorts from students in the nearby Interlochen Motion Picture Arts program. Take the trip, soak in the pretty fall foliage, and follow Chicago magazine’s instant itinerary for Frankfort.


What You Need to Know About Ebola and Travel

This weekend, Chicago O’Hare, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Newark International, and Washington Dulles will join New York’s JFK airport in implementing enhanced Ebola screening checks for passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. With only about a 150 people arriving in the U.S. each day from these countries, immigration checkpoints at these airports should hardly notice a change. The New York Times has the latest on how the virus is affecting travel.