Everyone who works at the new Virgin Hotel is impossibly chic … but in an incredibly accessible sort of way. (Photo: Virgin)
Let’s start with the minibar. It’s a very good place to start. In all my years of visiting hotels for both business and pleasure, the minibar has become a true source of discontent. While they’re handy in a pinch, the amount of egregious price gouging that occurs in those diminutive refrigerators is criminal.
Virgin’s new hotel, its first, in Chicago has an exceptional minibar. All of the items — from the Peanut M&M’s to the red wine to the little packets of Emergen-C — are priced at street prices. Yes, street prices. What does that mean? It means those Peanut M&M’s are just $1 and the bottle of red wine is $24. It means you can have a Kind bar for breakfast for the price of a Kind bar ($2.25), not the price of a filet mignon.
You can finally afford to eat from the minibar. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Hotel management was so serious about making sure the prices were equivalent to what was in the stores lining the Loop below that its director of food and beverages ventured out on foot with a pen and a notepad to record the local price of all minibar items.
The eradication of minibar inflation is just one of the things the new hotel property has done to eliminate the dozens of little indignities the modern hotel system imposes on the traveler. While having to sign in to a Wi-Fi system won’t ruin anyone’s business trip or vacation, it is often just one of a thousand paper cuts inflicted on the traveler that make time away from home more stressful than it has to be.
The Virgin hotel has free and open Wi-Fi throughout the property. “Bandwidth is a right, not a revenue stream,” the hotel’s website boasts. Praise the Internet gods, someone has finally gotten it right.
If it sounds like I drank the Kool-Aid, it’s because I did. I’m a sucker for convenience, and that is what this property gave me.
Here’s a closer look:
Located right above the Loop portion of the Chicago L at the corner of Lake and Wabash, the hotel occupies the Old Dearborn Bank Building designed by C.W. and George Rapp. The new design perfectly blends the old with Virgin’s modern chic aesthetic. On the ground floor you can still see where the bank tellers used to sit, and the current check-in desk is the bank’s original cigar bar and candy stand.
The lobby blends the old decor with the new. (Photo: Virgin)
This was clearly a building meant for business, but a whimsical one with delicate moldings on the ceiling and gilded brass elevator doors, all of which are original. Some of the doors on the room floors were the original office doors, and you can tell by the mail slots still on the bottom.
Two rooms on each floor are pet friendly and marked by an obedient pooch statue chained to the outside of the door.
These dogs used to be freestanding, but then guests started moving them around. (Photo: Virgin)
Don’t call them rooms. They refer to them as “chambers” here. That’s because each space actually consists of at least two rooms: a sleeping area and a smaller area for storing clothes and getting ready, separated by a sliding (and locking) door.
The chambers feel much roomier than a standard hotel room in Chicago. (Photo: Virgin)
Each of these chambers was designed with the woman traveler in mind. Why? Richard Branson believes that if a room has a woman’s approval, a man’s approval will typically follow suit. I asked my fiancé if this was true. He nodded obediently.
The sliding doors are meant to allow the solo woman traveler an extra layer of protection when accepting room service. The lights on the vanity are perfectly calibrated to allow for flawless makeup application, and the showers all have a bench to make leg shaving a breeze.
What I loved
There are no hidden fees anywhere in the hotel, which means you don’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of or ripped off.
Free Wi-Fi and plentiful electrical outlets make my life better. At Virgin you can’t walk more than 3 feet without stumbling upon an outlet.
Small touches abound to improve the life of the business traveler. All of the seating is ergonomically calibrated to make it easy and comfortable to type away on a laptop. Even the headboard on the bed is ergonomically sound for sitting up and working.
The in-room safe is large enough for a laptop (most hotel safes are not). Each room comes with a yoga mat for in-room exercise.
The televisions are smart TVs so you can easily stream Netflix or movies from your own device.
Need a ride? The house car here is a Tesla and will take you anywhere within a 2-mile radius.
What I didn’t love
I can honestly say there wasn’t anything I didn’t love about this hotel. The rooftop bar was a tad sceney and got crowded early, but that was to be expected on a lovely Chicago summer evening. While it can get a little loud, the crowd there is hip and fun.
Where to eat and drink
The property has a total of five food-and-beverage options. I was immediately drawn to Miss Ricky’s on the ground floor, a British take on the classic American diner with an actual casting room in the back that plays a loop of old black-and-white movies. The name is a homage to Richard Branson’s mom, who still calls him Ricky.
Be sure to indulge in one of its boozy milkshakes with a Tupelo King doughnut filled with marshmallow fluff, roasted bananas, and maple-glazed bacon.
Across the lobby from Miss Ricky’s is Two Zero Three, a coffee bar by day, with blends from the local Bow Truss coffee, and a wine bar by night with an extensive wine list and plenty of local charcuterie. Take in the mural as you walk in the main entrance. It was commissioned from a local artist who also happens to work at the front desk, and some of the subjects are people who work in the hotel.
The “Funny Library” in the Commons Club was curated from local shops. (Photo: Virgin)
The second floor of the hotel is dominated by the Commons Club, and from 6 to 7 every night it hosts a delightful happy hour with free drinks for hotel guests. Unlike the “free drinks” at most hotels that consist of a cheap white and a cheap red, maybe a local beer if you’re lucky, the happy hour here consists of an extensive wine and beer list. Want a cocktail? Just ask.
Want small bites? Head up to Cerise, the rooftop bar with spectacular views of the city and delicious izakaya-style plates.
Enjoy a tremendous view of the Chicago skyline on a summer day. (Photo: Virgin)
Where to Relax:
The Spa here occupies what used to be the bank president’s office and contains a beautiful, rich oak fireplace, surrounded by ornate marble. As with most of the hotel, almost everything in the spa is eminently Instagrammable, but isn’t that the point?
Can we please all agree that the worst thing about most spas is the supposedly Zen spa music. It does little to make anyone feel anything Zen. The Spa here played jazz during my facial service, and I couldn’t have appreciated it more. They also allow you to plug in your own phone to enjoy your playlist.
A champagne cart is wheeled around the manicure bar and the treatment rooms are referred to as cocoons.
For $15 all hotel guests can also enjoy the hotel’s Turkish-inspired unisex hammam on the spa level. Hammam access comes free with all spa treatments.
The project will exceed 100,000 square feet and will come up to include a 5,000-square-foot master bedroom, a 30-car garage, a 45-seat cinema, a 8,500-square-foot night club and a Monaco-style casino.
The “jelly fish room” with tanks on three walls and a light-changing ceiling will add up to the extraordinary features of Niami’s mansion which is set to be the largest and the most luxurious in the U.S.
Loaded with almost every amenity available in the world, it has been planned to be home to four swimming pools, including a 180-foot infinity pool, and about 20,000 square feet of grass which is most likely be synthetic.
Expected to take at least 20 more months to completed, the 4-acre hilltop property will offer 360-degree panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Described as “very similar to a palace” by Paul McClean, the mansion’s architect, the house is also designed help to preserve water as California suffers from a record drought.
THIS SHIT HARD!!!!
The Floating Seahorse is a contemporary marine style product that is a cross between a villa and a boat. Designed in Dubai, 42 Floating Seahorses located just offshore from St. Petersburg and Main Europe Island will be accessible by boat. The Floating Seahorse boasts three levels, including an underwater one for the master bedroom and bathroom that will be completely submerged, allowing its residents to take up views of the surrounding coral reef and marine life. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the sea level floor can be peered out of from the fully-fitted kitchen, and into from the sun deck. The upper deck houses all the amenities needed for relaxation, including a glass-bottomed jacuzzi and an external shower. The first few Floating Seahorses will begin construction later this year and are scheduled for completion in 2016.
Rated as one of the Top 10 US Small Resorts, Little Palm is an intimate resort in the Florida Keys where guests can visit the serene spa, experience premier dining, relax poolside, snorkel and more. The resort has exclusively designed the package to provide guests the chance to fulfill their New Year’s resolution to travel and “treat themselves” with a special island buy-out, allowing exclusive use of the private island resort, April 24-26, 2015.
Additionally, at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, there is not just one top suite – there are two – and they can be combined to form a residence with up to nine bedrooms, creating the ultimate penthouse retreat.
The Royal Suite and Presidential Suite on the Resort’s top guestroom floor are similar in size, with differences in view and select design features. The Royal Suite offers views of the nightly Magic Kingdom Park fireworks display, while the Presidential Suite offers views of the nightly Epcot park fireworks display.
“We’re seeing a lot of multi-generational travel, especially here in Orlando,” Thomas Steinhauer, General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Orlando, told Pursuitist. “It’s unique to have a suite that connects to as many as nine bedrooms. There’s always demand for a presidential suite, and we are proud to be able to offer two top suite options.”
The cost of The Ultimate Suite Experience is $61,800 per night (plus tax) for the entire 16th floor. This includes the nine-bedroom Royal Suite with three luxurious living rooms, and the four-bedroom Presidential Suite. In addition, there are eight guestrooms beyond the suites that are included in the buyout. The entire floor can be privately keyed off at the elevator, providing exclusive access only to guests of the 16th floor.
Contact the Four Seasons Sales Department at 407-313-6734 regarding The Ultimate Suite Experience.