REVIEW: Virgin Hotel, Chicago
By Sarah Finley
- Location Downton Chicago, just a short walk from the Magnificent Mile and close to transport links
- Bed comfiness 9/10
- Pool No
- WIFI Free in all rooms
- Parking Private parking on property, $59 per day.
- Best thing? Free Happy Hour for all guests
- Worst thing? That there isn’t one in London yet!
- The all-important plug by the bed? Yes
I wish I had a ‘yes’ button in my bedroom that I could press and lovely things would appear. Well in my room at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago I had exactly that! 3am snack after a night out? Directions to the best shops? Or even dinner for your puppy? All possible at the push of a button. Based on Richard Branson’s attitude of never saying no to anything, the hotel is willing to go above and beyond to make sure your stay is everything you hoped for and more. Which, frankly, is pretty damn cool.
Based in Downtown Chicago, the Virgin Hotel sticks out like a sore thumb, waving the red colours which make the Virgin brand so distinctive. I felt welcomed as soon as I walked through the door – in fact I think four people asked me how I was before I even reached the front desk.
Then there was my room – they’re not just bedrooms, they’re ‘chambers’, with two compartments, one for sleeping in and the other for getting ready, complete with a make-up station. The mini bar is one of the most delightful things you’ll find in the corner of a hotel room – a little red Smeg fridge. The cute cooler takes what is a normally nothing more than a functional convenience and makes it fun. Everything you can buy is based on normal-ish prices which, in the history of mini-bar mega charges was a happy surprise! You can even buy an ‘intimacy’ kit if you so desire…
The hotel is housed in an old bank. I was pleased to find they’ve kept the same architectural structure but have made it distinctively Virgin, with sculptures of dogs outside their dog friendly rooms, a bar which houses a ‘funny library’ and even a chandelier made out of toys. The best part has to be the nightly happy hour for guests in the Commons Club. This is not just any old happy hour, but one where drinks are on the house for 60 minutes every day. Of course I made sure I was at the bar sipping on their amazing cocktails, as soon as the clock struck 7pm. I sampled a few of the drinks on offer but my favourite was the ‘Space Boy’. Don’t let the free booze hysteria make you forget to tip the ever helpful bar staff who can’t do enough for you.
If happy hour leads to you wanting more, the hotel has a speakeasy bar on the top floor with live acts, and sometimes famous comedians, which is open until the wee hours. Those who fancy a dance should head to Cerise, Virgin’s rooftop club – all in the safe knowledge that your bed is literally only steps away when you’ve had one too many.
If your head is a little fuzzy the next day, and like me, you want to sweat it out then the in-house gym is a good start. Based on the top floor it’s nice to find a hotel fitness centre that is actually well decked out instead of the odd dusty treadmill and mismatched weights. They also have yoga mats in your room, which is a lovely extra touch – great if you feel like stretching out in the comfort of your own room. The spa on the bottom floor is also stylishly designed and too tempting to resist.
This is all before you step out into actual Chicago. When you do, you’ll find yourself in the midst of world famous sky scrapers, the bean – a mirrored sculpture which reflects the Chicago skyline (a selfie is a must) and of course the magnificent mile, a strip of shops, where you can spend all day there visiting the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Anthropologie and every designer you can think of. The hotel is fun, young and stands out against the Classic American hotel most visitors are used to. The brand does have plans to extend to other US cities very soon (New York is first on the list) and there are rumours of one in London too – I’m hoping I won’t have to wait too long before I can go back for a return visit.