InterContinental Hotel Chicago Review - Our "Staycation" Destination

With gas prices impossibly high, long distance travel is sending many people’s budgets into a spin.  My husband and I decided to explore the “staycation” idea.  The trip from a Northern suburb to Chicago was easily accomplished by “L”, so we were not concerned about gas, parking or wear and tear on our nerves in traffic.  Since Chicago offers so many things to see and do with many of them free, this was an opportunity to see the city from a different perspective.

Approaching the InterContinental Hotel Chicago


We decided to spend two nights at a really fabulous, well-located hotel in the city and interact with Chicago as though it was Paris or London (minus the exchange rate).  We chose the Intercontinental Hotel Chicago and it proved a perfect choice.  From our” room with a view” to the swimming pool (with many stories) to its new alabaster and ebony mosaic entrance, staying there exceeded our expectations.  Staff was friendly, knowledgeable and supportive in every way, everything was beautiful, the location was perfect and all the amenities enhanced our experience.

Lobby and front desk


Entering the lobby immediately placed us in a new environment.  This continued to be true with details everywhere including gorgeous vases filled with exquisite fresh orchids, and beautiful live plants everywhere. Check-in was quick and easy. Our room was in the “historic” tower.  We were bowled over when we entered our room and discovered not one, but two incredible views, one of Navy Pier and Lake Michigan, and the other of Tribune Tower.  These views were breathtaking and invigorating.
 

Our room with two views

 
Exploring, we noted a lovely bathroom with a tub and stall shower, well equipped for safety, with bars in the right places and very good lighting. A coffee pot was in place and many toiletries that were great to use.  If desired, there was also a makeup mirror and hairdryer.  Moving along, we found robes in a closet that also contained an iron and ironing board and a safe, which we really appreciate.  We noted the 32” Flat Screen TV (which we enjoyed later, especially the premium cable), the High Speed and Wi-Fi Internet access, Mini bar, Pay-per view and 24 hour room service that was available.  After settling in, we left to take a short walk to Millennium Park where we enjoyed a wonderful free chorus and orchestra concert in the Pritzker Pavillion, followed by a light repast at the “Tavern at the Park” (312. 552.0070).

Pictures far and near


The next day, (pinching myself looking at the view), we spent some time exploring the hotel, itself and made some fascinating discoveries.  It is distinguished by being the only Chicago hotel to have the front entrance at street level on Michigan Avenue.  We took the self-guided tour and learned that this unique hotel was originally built as a “men’s only” athletic club in 1929. When the hotel purchased the property in 1988, painstaking attention was taken to restore key architectural and interior design features to their original state. Families of past members assisted the hotel in its objective, providing black and white photos of the original building in use by donation of a 1930 Medinah Athletic Club yearbook. We could clearly see how the elegance of earlier days blended with a dramatic contemporary look.  We noted the painted blue ceilings in specific areas of the hotel and learned that at an earlier time this indicated ladies were allowed to only be in these (blue-ceiling) areas of the all-men’s club. At the original entrance of the historic south tower, the Shriner’s greeting “Es Salumu Aleikum”, meaning, “Peace be to God”, still welcomes guests to the hotel. The historical and architectural significance of this hotel is extensive, and it has been the recipient of many awards over the years for its architecture and design.  

On our tour, we learned the hotel has over 42,000 square feet of flexible event space. Spanning six levels of the hotel for meetings and banquets, the space includes six historic ballrooms. Each ballroom is unique – lavishly decorated to represent different eras. Distinct historic ballrooms include The Grand Ballroom, The Renaissance Ballroom, King Arthur Court & Camelot and The Seville Ballroom. The hotel meeting facilities that are able to accommodate groups from 10 to 800 have hosted dignitaries and heads of state. During our stay, two meetings and a wedding took place.

Special places, the pool and grand ballroom


We explored the Fitness Center and Angel, who runs it some of the time, gave us a tour of its three levels pointing out the varied sections that included cardio equipment, free weights and the pool area.  Angel mentioned that many guests return again and again in order to use the pool.  This Junior Olympic Swimming Pool was considered an architectural feat when it was built in 1929 and has been used by Johnny Weismuller, Esther Williams, JFK, and was featured in the movie, “Cocoon”.  In the elevator we met a local resident who is a member of the Fitness Center where he works out regularly.

Fitness Center


There are many places to eat in the hotel.  Besides the 24 -hour room service, there is a Starbucks adjoining the hotel, The Bar offering light meals, Zest where we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and Eno, the new, zippy addition to the hotel, whose wine cheese and chocolate we were delighted to experience.

Eno, wine, cheese and chocolate


Stepping outside, we were initially awed by the view of the confluence of some of the most beautiful buildings in the city.  The Magnificent Mile Art Fair was there to be explored so we wandered through it and then decided to get lunch at Navy Pier.  

Zest for breakfast


A few steps away, under the Michigan Avenue bridge there was a choice of boat travel including the Chicago Architectural Foundation fleet of boats, offering Architectural boat trips along the River, the Wendella Boat Company with boat trips through the Chicago locks and along the lakeshore, and the Shoreline Sightseeing’s River Taxi, which we chose.  

From our window, Lake Michigan with Navy Pier beyond


At Navy Pier we took time to see and enjoy the stained glass exhibit.  Restaurant after restaurant was filled until we reached Riva’s (312.644.7482) where we were given a window seat on the second floor that afforded us an amazing view accompanying our great lunch.  Later on, we were awed watching “Cirque Shanghai Gold”  (our Hot Tix tickets obtained at the Tourist Office near the hotel).  We left without seeing the Irish Dancing and the Chicago Shakespeare's Company Shakespeare Spectacle.  But walking back to the hotel, we passed Fox and Obel, and our decision to explore it rewarded us with a unique food shopping experience.  It is one of a kind shop, offering a range of items we have rarely seen and it is beautiful. Returning to the hotel, we had a fantastic view of the Saturday night fire works at Navy Pier.

We enjoyed the opportunity to wander, observe, and experience the city in a different way; the free shuttle bus that stops a few doors from the hotel, the water taxi, and easily walking in every direction. A walk to the Art Institute allowed us to have lunch by the pond. Walking along the Michigan Avenue shops we chose to observe the shops and throngs of people but not to “shop until we dropped”.  We carefully examined the bricks from all over the world on the Tribune Tower.

Out our window


Refreshed and renewed from our staycation, we returned home holding in our minds the special experience at the InterContinental Hotel Chicago.  This was a great stay and we would highly recommend it for- “staycation”, vacation, meeting, wedding or just because you want some luxury in your life.

InterContinental Chicago       
505 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312.944.4100   Fax: 312.944.3050
www.chicago.intercontinental.com

Photos: Leon Keer

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