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It’s ironic that a hotel located inside what used to be a bank is all for saving guests money. Free Wi-Fi at unlimited bandwidth, mini bars stocked with drinks and snacks at street prices ($1 for a soda, $2 for chips), no early check-in or late checkout fees — oh, and free cocktails in their Commons Club bar from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. for all overnight guests. We’re not talking watered down versions of their signature drinks, either. Top shelf spirits and liqueurs only. Grab a Whisky Sour which is $16 for everyone else but $free.99 for you, because you’re special. Even if your mother and Sir Richard Branson are the only two people who think so.
The founder of Virgin Group handpicked Chicago to begin his hotel empire, and as of today we still hold the first and only up-and-running location, although a few more are planned to debut before the year’s done.
Branson designed Virgin Hotels Chicago with the business traveler in mind, but I’m here as a local. A local with an extra day of weekend to spare.
The rooms here are called chambers because that’s cool. Chambers are divided into two or three rooms by sliding doors complete with peepholes. The usefulness of this becomes clear whenever room service or house cleaning arrives while you’re still in your skivvies. Usually, no bueno. But the division allows for pride and privacy.
Catering to the fairer sex is a main theme throughout with well-lit vanities, sleek décor, motion detecting closet lights, and a “YES!” Button. Push the button and someone on the other end will do all they can to make you happy. That’s right. Your very own human Siri. “Can I have a late check out, a medium cooked cheeseburger with avocados, a chocolate cake as big as my face, and a toothbrush?” “Of course! Anything else?” “Well, now that you mention it…”
Beds are made for working, lounging, and sleeping too, if that’s your thing. The headboard is an ergonomically shaped backrest (because telecommuters are all low-key lazy bones) and the backrest at the foot-board transforms the bed into a lounge for 4 or more. Perfect for grown-up slumber parties.
Speaking of telecommuters, the idea encouraged here is to make Virgin your office away from the office, even if you’re not an overnight guest. The tables at Commons Club are lined with outlets, as are the lounge areas in Cerise, their rooftop bar. There’s an outlet at the gym, on the small patio. Back in the chamber, outlets are conveniently placed around the bed and throughout the room wherever you might need them. There may even be an outlet in the shower. I didn’t check. Probably not.
The Commons Club
See our full review of The Commons Club here.
Spend your complimentary happy hour networking or relax in the Shag Room, named after the shag carpet (yea, sure). Books from the Funny Library are harvested from a local bookstore and cater to the whimsical child in each of us. After all, Branson has never been the grown-up at the table.
Then there’s the app. Early check-ins are no longer just for flights. Use the app to check into your room ahead of time and, upon arrival, pick up your room key at a kiosk near the front door. This is a great option for those that prefer technology over human communication. Alternatively, you’re welcome to check in the ancient way — with the assistant at the front desk. You artifact, you. Once settled in, the app can be used for everything from ordering room service, to controlling the temperature in your chamber, to turning on and off the one (or two) television(s) inside your room, to changing the channels. The latter proved helpful when my husband wanted to watch a(nother) documentary. He couldn’t figure out why the TV kept turning back to Seinfeld. Win for me. I take what I can get.
By the way, that room service you’re ordering can be delivered to any room in the hotel, that includes the bar and rooftop. Maybe don’t order a burger to the gym, though.
On second thought, do whatever you want. You’re special.
Virgin stands out in a sea of new boutique hotels threatening to saturate the Chicago market. With their no-nonsense approach to perks and low-prices, the cool factor that seems to follow the brand wherever it goes, and their prime location it’s one of my top three picks for business travel and staycations.
Virgin Hotels Chicago has a day spa run by local Teddie Kossof in addition to Cerise, the rooftop lounge, The Commons Club, the bar, and Miss Ricky’s, the restaurant, Two Zero Three, the coffee shop, and The Marquee, the live music space.
All photos by Kari Herrera
Virgin Hotels Chicago
203 N Wabash, Chicago IL 60601