What is old can be made new again in many instances. It might be difficult, but with a new attitude, a bit of perspective, and a sense of purpose, such reinvention is not impossible. Such is the case with the Renaissance Chicago Downtown, which recently went through an extensive $27 million renovation that was finished in the spring of 2015.
Today, the lobby is different and there is a new spirit throughout the hotel. Let me take you around the highlights and perhaps you'll consider a stay here for a special occasion. Or maybe you'll make a new special occasion? Perhaps this is the best way, no?
Lobby, Thy Inspiration is Chicago and its Symbols
Upon entering the lobby from Wacker Drive, one is surrounded by icons that are truly part of the fabric that is the Second City. You'll look out and see the Orange Line in motion (never fear, it's just elaborate wraparound photos), a stylized CTA map near the bathrooms, and a taxi cab that's invently made out of, well, you can see for yourself.
Also, make sure and check out the wall map of the Loop that is close to the entrance of the main lobby. As you look out to see outlines of the various buildings, you'll also see tiny human figurines scurrying about the streets to see a show, catch the Metra, or perhaps a show at the nearby Chicago Theatre.
Up To Your Room
While you might be out and about for most of your overnight adventure in the Loop, you'd like to be comfortable, right? The rooms won't disappoint, many of which boast lovely views of State Street and the surrounding streetscape. As one might expect, the beddings are luxurious and the bathroom amenities are appropriate for those who like to take good care of their skin. Other amenities include robes, an in-room refrigerator, and a clutch of other amenities.
Sit Down at Staytion and Have a Bite
The hotel has two restaurants: Great Street and the Staytion Market & Bar. I slipped on into Staytion for a drink and a quick bite. I was impressed with the decor, which features throw pillows with Chicago symbols (the flag, naturally, and the municipal device), along with a stepped sitting area which looked good for late night Manhattan-ing and other pursuits.
It's definitely more of a place to sit and be seen than for formal dining. That's not a problem and the menu is basic, but quite enjoyable. I started things out with a sidecar (the Meyer lemon was a nice touch) and moved on to order a few things. The mushroom flatbread was great and the red pepper hummus was a fine accompaniment to the meal. If you're feeling a bit peckish, I'd also toss in an order of their hand-made potato chips with caramelized mushroom aioli. And bonus: it's a 99 cent appetizer. Quite a bargain.
Don't leave the Staytion without reading over the Carl Sandburg poem that adorns the glass wall over in the corner. It's his most famous Chicago-centric work and as soon as you see it, you'll know what I'm talking about.And what about other pursuits during your visit? Well, I'm going to suggest a walk along the Chicago River and don't forget to hustle on over to Andy's Jazz Club on Hubbard. They have music every night and with a modest cover of $15, the price is right.