Looking around on walks near my Gold Coast office and feeling reflective at the year’s end, I’m struck by how much our great urban neighborhood has to offer if we just wander in randomly and soak in the holiday spirit.
Cafés, shops, taverns, retailers, parks – and hotel lobbies – with their own cafés and bars are inviting us in to add our local flavor to their home for travelers near and far.
Forever a special place, Chicago’s Gold Coast was not immune to the challenges of the pandemic that impacted so many urban neighborhoods.
But the impressive transformation of many spaces, particularly the stunning makeover of several historic hotels, speaks to what a unique place we live here in Chicago, and what a resilient, promising future we have for our community, and for real estate.
Seeing these holiday decorations while walking the streets or sitting with clients for coffee or lunch, I figured it would be good to recap recent renovations now putting on their best presentation for our holiday visitors, family, friends, and neighbors. They include:
- The Ritz-Carlton Chicago – earlier this year completed $100 million worth of renovations begun in 2017. The art-deco 12th-floor lobby has been transformed with floor-to-ceiling windows, marble and walnut finishings, and bold colors. And the art collection is stunning, with notable pieces from Lichtenstein, Magritte, and others. The open-air coffee shop with indoor and outdoor seating lives under atrium-style glass for a lively atmosphere bathed in natural sunlight. Lobby steak house Torali features excellent food beyond steaks throughout the day. And the cozy, understated lobby bar is quietly tucked into a space with lower lighting to achieve an elegant, discreet space, perfect for a power meeting or to wind down after a day of power shopping in the neighborhood.
- Waldorf Astoria Chicago – had its renovations completed earlier this year, including a Swarovski chandelier and suites inspired by Parisian pieds-a-terre. Bernard’s restaurant has returned with a new menu.
- InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile – in August finished its biggest renovation yet, including a Grand Tower makeover. The design refresh attempts to provide a modern luxury update to the building's historic Moorish architecture, which dates back to its 1929 construction by the Shriners. Even Michael Jordan’s lobby restaurant has been updated.
- Park Hyatt Chicago – closed during the pandemic, but the now redesigned hotel has resumed operations and is lighter and brighter after its $60 million update. The updated lobby design features a refreshed Library (the hotel’s lounge space), a new art program spotlighting local creators, updates to NoMI (the hotel’s signature restaurant) and enhancements to the spa. The art collection pays homage to Chicago as the city evolves. As part of the inaugural experience, the selection of contemporary pieces that bring modern-day Chicago into the hotel include custom woven metal sculpture works from local artist Eric Gushee, among others.
- Four Seasons Hotel Chicago - reopened its iconic doors in 2021 as an unparalleled urban escape and oasis of luxury nestled above the bustling Magnificent Mile. The stunning new lobby springs to life with sleek hues of white marble with slate accents and gold embellishments, and curated music programming inspired by Chicago's diverse music scene fills the air. The energy flows from the lobby to the adjacent Adorn Bar & Restaurant, with globally inspired cuisine rooted in the bounty of America's Midwest.
- The Peninsula - where the winter holidays are an especially magical season due to the hotel’s classic elegance and superlative service. The Peninsula has a tradition of helping guests create unforgettable holiday memories with its feast for the senses from the moment you step off the elevator into the lobby corridor. Magnificently decorated lobby spaces with Christmas trees and other holiday adornments leave you no choice but to be “in the mood” for the happiest of holidays.Holiday music throughout the festive season feature choral and other live music performances of seasonal favorites. The Peninsula Sky Rink is the only hotel skating rink in Chicago. Surrounded by Chicago’s skyscrapers and twinkling lights, the rink is tucked into a pine tree winter setting and bathed in festive music and snowflake lighting, with an outdoor menu that features a selection of hot beverages and snacks including hot chocolate, hot cider, and other treats. Special experiences abound at Shanghai Terrace, Z Bar, and in the The Lobby restaurant for Afternoon Tea, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
- The Drake Hotel - possibly the Chicago hotel with the longest-standing legendary acclaim, and one of the last remaining classic Chicago hotel lobbies, is a must-see during the winter months. Whether you wander in and grab a drink in the lobby to soak in the soaring ceilings, attend a formal tea in Palm Court, or enjoy a light meal, solid drinks, and live music in the famous Coq d’Or downstairs, you’ll be glad you joined the many generations who maintain the tradition of dressing up to visit The Drake with friends and family.