Following a $38 million renovation, the 33-story W Chicago Lakeshore (from $259 per night) is staging a comeback. Not that this Chicago hotel ever lost its footing with its prime location on Lake Shore Drive, across from the lake and two blocks from Michigan Avenue. But with stiff competition from the steady surge of new hotels opening across the city, this once-trendy hotel, which opened in 2001, needed an update.

More urban, angular, and bright, the renovated W Lakeshore maintains its focus on Lake Michigan with a new lobby and restaurant and spruced up guestrooms. You’ll sense the airier vibe when you walk into the lobby: Once backed by a pink shimmer wall, the front desk is more intriguing with an all-white spray can installation, a nod to Chicago’s role in developing the aerosol can. Farther in, two circular, black lounge units allow guests to take in lake views through the windows. A few steps down, you’ll encounter the illuminated bar and the hotel’s new restaurant, Current, serving Italian-style dishes (try the polenta fries and panna cotta).

Inside the new rooms, big picture window frame fantastic views of the lake and Oak Street Beach, with Navy Pier just beyond. No longer dark or trimmed with black, the rooms are decked in muted mod couches and bright yellow chairs under playful lights. Grey curtains function as a bathroom wall, but, thankfully, the toilet gets a door.

The hotel’s expanded private event space took over the former Whiskey Sky Bar. Now called Altitude, it will include new outdoor areas, still under construction. The sprawling Bliss spa facilities, gym, and pool are due for a facelift, too, but for now, the rest is still a notable improvement—and a reason to stay.

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