New York, L.A., and Miami tend to get all the attention when it comes to destination hotels, but Chicago’s latest hotel openings have raised the bar when it comes to originality. The fact that Virgin chose Chicago to debut its first U.S. hotel already raises the city’s cool cred. Here are four new hotels that are reasons enough to visit the Windy City.
Virgin Hotels Chicago
The Vibe: Effortlessly cool—just like all things Virgin—with lots of nods to the red and white brand logo.
Amenity we Love: Smeg mini-fridges stocked with snacks at street prices; Machines for brewing Chicago Bowtruss brand coffee.
Foodie Cred: Miss Ricky’s is the reimagined late-night diner of your dreams. Don’t miss the Tupelo King, stuffed with peanut marshmallow fluff, roasted bananas and honey glazed bacon.
Insider Tip: The hotel has online itineraries curated by local art, food, and fashion bloggers that take guests off the traditional tourist path.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
The Vibe: Retro gym meets architectural genius. Expect lots of references to the original 1893 Chicago Athletic Club including sculptures made from antique sporting trophies and scrapbooks of old newspaper clips about Chicago sports heroes.
Amenity we Love: Non-suite rooms feature pommel horses repurposed as settees
Foodie Cred: There’s a Shake Shack on the ground-floor; some of the city’s top chefs and somms run the show at the Cherry Circle Room where one should order the three-pound T-bone or leg of lamb for two (this is the Midwest, after all).
Insider Tip: Hotel guests can skip the line for Cindy’s rooftop bar and restaurant, which draws crowds for both the food and Instagram-worthy views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park.
Loews Chicago Hotel
The Vibe: A business-minded hotel for travelers who like to mix business with pleasure.
Amenity we Love: Streeterville Social, the third floor’s 9,000-square-foot communal space, is a landscaped park, complete with grass, lounge chairs, a pool, a yoga terrace, an al fresco bar, and bean bag toss games.
Foodie Cred: Star chef Jose Garces runs Rural Society, an Argentine steakhouse; book a table in the 19th-century Gaucho-themed suite.
Insider Tip: The Streeterville Terrace might be the best spot in the city to watch the Navy Pier Fireworks; hotel guests have guaranteed access.
The Freehand Chicago
The Vibe: A hipster-fied youth hostel that doubles as one of Chicago’s trendiest new hangouts.
Amenity we Love: Wurlitzer electric keyboards for late night jam sessions.
Foodie Cred: The hotel puts a Midwestern spin on the Freehand Miami’s acclaimed Broken Shaker bar. Handcrafted cocktails include “B#!ch Don’t Kill my Vibe”— lemongrass reduction and Aperol, shaken with tropical juice and vodka.
Insider Tip: You can book a conventional hotel bed, but the 80 shared rooms are hard to resist at just $45 a night and are ideal for groups of friends looking to save money (just remember to bring your own soap and shampoo). For more ideas on what to do in the Windy City, check out our guide to Chicago.