Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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In July 2022, friends of mine from college were in the Windy City to celebrate a birthday. I was free that weekend, so I decided to make the 3-hour drive west around the shore of Lake Michigan for a weekend of good eats and big-city adventures.
Having moved earlier this year from New York City back to my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a weekend trip to Chicago was the easiest way to satisfy the craving for city life that I’ve been missing since leaving New York.
I was eager to visit Chicago, but I was not eager to sleep on a couch for the weekend. Luckily, I had some Marriott Bonvoy points as well as a 35,000-point free night certificate to use that allowed me to stay at the otherwise out-of-reach Ritz-Carlton, Chicago.
The hotel somewhat recently received a total transformation, so I was excited to see how it turned out. And, it has an interesting story — for many years, the hotel was known as The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, a Four Seasons Hotel. So while it was called The Ritz-Carlton, it was actually a Four Seasons property.
Several years ago, that all changed — The Ritz-Carlton became The Ritz-Carlton again! And with the change came the property’s full participation in the Marriott Bonvoy program, giving members an attractive luxury option in the nation’s third-largest city.
Read on to find out what it was like to stay at this hotel over a balmy summer weekend!
You’ll find The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago in the tourist-heavy north end of Chicago’s so-called “Magnificent Mile,” a stretch of high-end luxury shopping on Michigan Avenue, a major downtown thoroughfare.
The hotel is located on Pearson Street between Michigan Avenue and North Mies Van Der Rohe Way, in the iconic Water Tower Place. The complex is home to a shopping mall, several eateries, Ritz-Carlton-branded residential condos, and The Ritz-Carlton hotel.
The hotel’s entrance is on Pearson Street, slightly away from the craziness of Michigan Avenue. The entrance itself was pretty quiet when I arrived in the early afternoon on a Friday, though it did get noticeably busier at specific times throughout the weekend.
The hotel is found in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood, which is a small affluent enclave of the city home to stately townhomes, luxury shopping galore, and plenty of restaurants and cafes.
I drove in from Michigan, but the hotel is located approximately 14 miles from Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). You can expect the journey from Midway to the hotel to take about 30 to 40 minutes by car with relatively light traffic or about 50 minutes by public transportation.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is about 18 miles away. Travel times vary more when coming from O’Hare due to the highly congested I-90 — with light traffic, it should take 30 to 40 minutes, but traffic is often heavy, so don’t be surprised if it takes you an hour by car to reach the hotel. Public transportation is also an option from O’Hare, and it should take you just over an hour to reach the hotel.
Marriott recently added the ability to add up to 15,000 Bonvoy points to the free night certificates, so even though each night was priced at 47,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, I only needed 59,000 total, as I was able to add 12,000 points onto the certificate for the first night.
With hotel rates skyrocketing across the world this summer (cash rates were a steep $459 per night before taxes and fees during my stay), I was happy with this redemption. While the hotel does not charge a resort fee, it more than makes up for that with parking fees — more on that later.
If you were using cash, or for incidentals, consider using one of the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards to earn up to 17x points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels.
Hot Tip: Check out our guide to the best Chicago hotels to book with points for maximum value!
I arrived at around 1 p.m. local time and a valet immediately came up to my car and asked if I was checking in. I was traveling light, so I told him I was fine to carry my bag myself. He wrote me a valet ticket, directed me to the ground-floor lobby, and instructed me to take the elevators up to the 12th floor to check-in.
The ground-floor lobby was small but nicely appointed with comfortable chairs, eye-catching carpet, plenty of black marble, and a very interesting piece by Roy Lichtenstein called “Wallpaper With Blue Floor Interior” that was chosen to pay homage to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago) that’s just steps from the hotel.
I made my way to the check-in desks where there was no line. I had completed the online check-in through Marriott Bonvoy’s mobile app, but I hadn’t been issued a mobile key yet, so I headed to the desk to make sure my room was ready.
The room was indeed ready, and I was offered a room with a city view on the 27th floor or one on the 19th floor with a view of the city and Lake Michigan. The forecast was great for the weekend, so I chose the room with a lake view, despite it being on a lower floor.
Sadly, The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t offer free breakfast for Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite and higher members, so the “highlight” of elite benefits at this property was the bonus points I received at check-in and the voucher for a 20% discount on food and beverages on the property.
The hotel’s main lobby is on the 12th floor of the hotel. To the right are the check-in and concierge desks, and straight ahead are the lobby lounge and the property’s main public spaces. The main lobby had a living-room feel to it, with furniture that looks like it’d be appropriate in a high-end home and rich wood check-in desks with beautiful slabs of black-and-white marble.
The lobby lounge is the centerpiece of the area, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s flanked by beautiful wood columns with warm lighting at the base. It has a gorgeous floating glass sculpture in the center that almost feels like a chandelier because of the way it reflected the light around it. I was also a big fan of the white and black marble tile floor which was visually interesting — and just plain beautiful.
The furniture is rich and of high quality, with plenty of places to sit and enjoy a drink or a snack or just wait for other members of your party.
The wood columns were used to separate what would have been 1 giant space into distinct areas — the lounge, the bar, and the restaurant.
This isn’t an expansive resort, but rather a fairly compact urban hotel, so there aren’t a ton of amenities on offer, but let’s take a look at what is available to guests.
The Ritz-Carlton offers self-parking as well as valet parking. You’ll pay $48 per night to self-park or $75 per night to valet. When I arrived, I foolishly didn’t even inquire about self-parking at the onsite Water Tower Place parking garage, so I had to bite the bullet and pay the outlandish $75 per night to valet my car.
There are also several public garages nearby that offer overnight parking. After being stung with such an egregious parking charge, I’ll make sure to utilize one of these garages the next time I stay at the Ritz in Chicago.
I had no issues with the hotel’s Wi-Fi. I was able to connect quickly and easily, and it maintained my connection throughout the stay. Social media and streaming services loaded quickly without issue.
You’d expect to find a decadent spa at a 5-star hotel, and fortunately The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago delivers.
Located on the 11th floor, the spa offers an array of skin care treatments and massages. Interestingly, The Ritz-Carlton Spa sells memberships to those who live nearby, which provides discounts on spa treatments (and food and beverages at the hotel), 24/7 access to the gym, and more.
Apparently, there’s a lap pool hidden somewhere in the spa. The staff member at the desk told me it was closed that weekend, but wouldn’t give me a reason why. There were at least 2 weddings that I counted happening at the hotel that weekend, so perhaps it was rented out for wedding participants and their guests.
There’s an onsite gym that’s open 24/7 and it provides a wide array of brand-new equipment as well as a studio for meditation, yoga, stretching, and more. Guests also will find hotel-branded water bottles and plenty of towels available for use near the entrance.
Sometimes a room at an urban hotel is nothing more than a place to crash at night. Not so at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago.
After I collected my room keys, I made my way to the 19th floor to find my room. The corridors were wide and well-lit, not something you find at all hotels!
I opened the door to room 1929 and found a beautifully appointed space. There was a small foyer with a large mirror on one side and the room’s closet on the other, next to the bathroom door.
The closet wasn’t huge, but had everything you’d need for a brief stay, including plenty of hangers, a safe, an iron and ironing board, extra linens, and a nice shelf on which I stored my suitcase.
Continuing through the foyer, I found the room’s minibar, which had several glasses, a couple of complimentary water bottles, a Nespresso machine (with pods!), and more.
In the cupboard below was the room’s minifridge that was stocked with some soft drinks and alcohol, including High Noon hard seltzers, which I love. I didn’t take any beverages, but I did enjoy the full bag of cheddar-flavored popcorn. I thought it was a steal at $5 so I figured: “Why not?”
Past the minibar, the space opened up to reveal the sitting area and the bed, of course. On the right side was the very large TV mounted in a wooden casing (it swiveled so it could be watched from the bed) along with some storage. Next to that was a table with 2 chairs that could have been used for dining or working, had I been doing either of those things in my room.
The bed was downright luxurious, with a heavenly soft mattress pad and crisp white linens. Its headboard was a unit that contained the side tables, adding a cozy feeling. I also loved the leather portion directly above the bed along with the cool accent wall above the bed.
The side tables each contained outlets for device charging, and there was a Bluetooth speaker/alarm clock combo that guests could use.
The room was large, so there was plenty of room for a nice sitting area with a great angled chaise lounge, which would have made a great place to read a book had it been raining.
The room felt very large and luxurious to me. The color palette used was calm and neutral overall, but there were a few pops of rich color — especially from the deep blue chaise.
Before I move on to the bathroom, I have to talk about the views, because they were exceptional. The room had a large window that looked out to both Chicago’s captivating cityscape and Lake Michigan beyond.
When I first arrived, it was overcast, so the views weren’t as spectacular, but I immediately saw the John Hancock Center — one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings — through the window.
The next morning, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and you could see more of the city.
And Lake Michigan was showing off its Caribbean-blue water.
The views were captivating, and it felt great to once again be among the hustle and bustle of a large city.
I’ve stayed at a couple of recently renovated Ritz-Carlton properties and I’ve found that the renovations in the bathroom didn’t go far enough. At some properties, all that was changed was the paint color — the rest of the room was nicely refreshed, but the bathroom was very obviously from the previous iteration of the room.
Thankfully, that was not the case in Chicago. The new bathroom was modern, bright, and sported a chic urban design with a predominantly gray color scheme.
The double vanity with sleek marble countertops and backlit mirror felt luxurious, and the fixtures were high-quality.
There were a few amenities available on the vanity, including lotions, mouthwash, cotton swabs, and makeup remover pads.
The toilet was semi-private with a frosted-glass half wall.
Next to the toilet was the very spacious shower. It had a great temperature, but the pressure wasn’t fantastic, unfortunately.
Interestingly, the shower amenities were not provided by the typical Ritz-Carlton brand, Asprey. Instead, there were large-format bottles of Diptyque-branded shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. I didn’t mind this because I liked these products, but it was interesting to see a different product being used when I was so accustomed to seeing Asprey products at every other Ritz-Carlton I’ve visited.
Once again, this isn’t an expansive property, so don’t expect to have numerous options to grab a drink or a meal on the property. But it does offer plenty for those visiting an urban destination known around the world for its food scene.
At The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, you’ll find 4 outlets from which you can order food and beverages — let’s take a look at all of them:
On the first evening of my stay, I met a couple of friends at the Torali Bar for a drink before heading to our respective plans for the evening.
It’s a cool space, with a large rectangular bar being the centerpiece.
Above that is a cluster of eye-catching light fixtures that added sophistication and luxury to the area.
The bar was predictably stocked with plentiful spirits, beers, wines, and seltzers, and it included some high-end liquor options.
I perused the cocktail menu and decided on the prickly pear margarita. It was slightly spicy thanks to the jalapeño, and I loved it. I promptly ordered a second, even though it was ridiculously priced at $20.
Each drink was served with a selection of bar snacks, including a trail mix and wasabi peas.
My friends had dinner plans of their own, but I didn’t, so I decided to order a couple of “bar snacks” for my meal. I picked the arrabbiata lamb meatballs ($18) and the truffle fries ($12). I found both items to be great — and my friends agreed after I implored them to have at least a few bites.
Torali Bar is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. A menu is available online.
On Saturday morning, I decided to grab breakfast from Torali before heading out for the day. By night, the restaurant serves Italian food with an emphasis on steak, but by day it’s the hotel’s spot for breakfast, brunch, and lunch.
The dining room isn’t huge, but it seemed like it was a perfect size for this property, especially given the wealth of food options you can find just outside the hotel’s front door.
I was seated immediately and a server came over promptly after I sat down to take my drink order. Moments later, he was back with my apple juice ($8) and asked if I was ready to order my meal. I selected the avocado toast with poached eggs ($24) and a side of applewood smoked bacon ($8). It was a great breakfast, but with how expensive it was, I was feeling the lack of complimentary breakfast at Ritz-Carlton properties.
Torali is open daily.
Breakfast is served daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a brunch feature on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch is available on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Full menus are available online.
Found in an area of the lobby that somewhat resembles a greenhouse, The Cafe is the hotel’s grab-and-go spot that serves sweet treats, sandwiches, and coffee from Starbucks.
I didn’t have anything from The Cafe, but it’s a seat-yourself affair after you order from the counter. There’s plenty of seating, though, and it’s all under a glass-paneled ceiling, so there’s plenty of light throughout the space.
The Cafe is open daily from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In addition to Torali and Torali Bar, there’s the Rooftop at Torali, an outdoor terrace on the 12th floor where you can order beverages and drinks and take in the Windy City views when the weather’s nice. Though I had great weather, I didn’t enjoy a cocktail out here, unfortunately.
That being said, it’s a really pleasant terrace and I can see it getting crowded, especially on nice summer evenings.
Rooftop at Torali is open daily from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. A menu is available online.
Room service is available daily at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, though I didn’t try it out, sadly. The breakfast menu is available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily, and the all-day menu is available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
I didn’t interact with the staff all that much during my stay, but I didn’t expect to. The valets, check-in agents, and restaurant and bar staff were all predictably very friendly, and I loved to see full housekeeping services offered throughout my stay, including turndown service nightly and room tidying daily.
The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago is a polished urban hotel in the country’s third-largest city. Its location may skew a little “touristy” for those who travel frequently to Chicago, but you’re well-positioned to explore all the city has to offer.
The rooms and public spaces have been beautifully redone, the food and beverages were top-notch, and the staff was great in my experience. I thought the property lived up easily to its illustrious name.
I hope to return to the hotel soon, and it’ll be near the top of my list of options for my next trip to Chicago.
You can expect to pay at least $425 per night to stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago.
The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago is part of the Marriott Bonvoy family of brands.
Yes, you can use Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago.
Yes, it is. You can self-park for $48 per day or valet park for $75 per day.
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