11 Ways Chicago Hotels Are Making the Stay More Memorable

From mobile art tours to a one-on-one with a former NBA star, Chicago's finest hotels are getting creative with their amenities.

Free WiFi and late checkout are always appreciated, but nothing to Instagram or tweet home about. These days, we consider these relatively common at hotels. Some, though, are taking their amenities to the next level, offering creative experiences to make your stay in Chicago that much more comfortable, memorable and fun. Whether it’s an app that turns your hotel into an art museum or the VIP treatment for your puppy, you’ll have an unforgettable story to share with friends and family.

Learning Adventures

Guests at the Four Seasons Chicago get a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel’s commitment to seasonal, environmentally friendly food sourcing with a summertime bike-to-table culinary experience. Bike with Executive Chef Stephen Wambach through Old Town to the Green City Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to shop for your favorite produce, cheese, bread and meats, and learn a few farmer’s market shopping tips along the way. Chef Wambach will cart all the fresh food back to the hotel on his custom-painted Workcycle, which holds up to 175 pounds of produce. Later that evening, it’s all turned into a four-course dinner with wine. This package is available through October as long as weather permits.

Four Seasons Chicago hotel bike to table
Four Seasons Chicago hotel bike to table (Courtesy Four Seasons Chicago)

Art lovers are privy to self-guided tours of the art collection at The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel by downloading the first ever hotel art tour mobile app. The app is designed by AcoustiGuide, which also created an app for the Guggenheim, and showcases the hotel’s striking architecture and permanent art gallery. First-hand accounts by the building’s architect Jeanne Gang and Chicago author Richard Cahan (“They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture”) turn the hotel into a veritable art and history museum as visitors learn about the city’s evolution through paintings and the intimate photography of Vivian Maier.

Radisson Blu Aqua hotel Chicago gallery
Radisson Blu Aqua hotel Chicago gallery (Courtesy Radisson Blu Aqua)

Culinary Treats

At the ACME Hotel, you don’t even have to get dressed when you order breakfast in bed. The “knock and drop” room service delivers fresh breakfast pastries and sandwiches from next door’s West Town Bakery at your scheduled time, then instantly vanishes so there’s no need to search for tip money, or your robe. And instead of a wake-up call, order a free steaming hot thermos of freshly brewed coffee delivered to your door, in the same knock-and-drop style.

Spanish-headquartered AC Hotels debuted in Chicago with the brand new AC Marriott. Here, you can take a break from the heat with an ACiesta in the fourth floor lounge, a perfect happy hour hangout. You’ll receive a free snack (think spicy roasted fava beans, chili and citrus marinated olives, and parmesan sea salt kale chips) with each cocktail or glass of wine. Plus, cheese, charcuterie and small plates, including tomato braised eggplant ricotta toast and crispy smoked paprika potatoes, are half off from 5 to 7 pm.

Fun and Games

The Ritz-Carlton’s newly renovated half basketball court comes with legendary former Chicago Bull Toni Kukoc, arguably one of the most underrated stars of the 1996-1998 championship teams. You might remember the 6’11” Croatian power forward downing buzzer-beater three-pointers alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the Bulls dynasty. Well, now you could (for the right price) spend an hour with this guy on the behind-the-scenes court, tucked away in the boiler room, while a professional photographer documents your action. After working up an appetite, enjoy a gourmet concession fare feast of lobster corn dogs, duck confit nachos, foie gras sliders and deep-fried candy bars. When you retire to your lakeview suite, you’ll find autographed Bulls and Ritz-Carlton keepsakes (and more edible goodies) to keep the dream alive.

No celebrities involved, but the Game Room adjacent to the lobby at the Chicago Athletic Association is a nod to the former private club’s sporty history. There’s shuffleboard, billiards, foosball, checkers, chess, cards and perennial favorite bocce ball all in one room. You don’t even have to be a hotel guest or buy food or drink to play. Who’s with us?

Chicago Athletic Association hotel game room
Chicago Athletic Association hotel game room (©Clayton Hauck)

Indulgences

Club lounge access at The Langham Chicago comes with the extra perk of having your own butler to attend to your every need, including drawing you a luxurious bath in your room whenever you desire. Sparkling rosé, bath salts and flower petals make this bath just a little swankier than what you might have at home.

Langham Chicago hotel bathtub
Langham Chicago hotel bathtub (Courtesy Langham Chicago)

Virgin Hotels offers on-the-go spa treatments for busy travelers. Instead of a full day spent lounging at the spa, guests can experience a touch of luxury in as little as 30 minutes, with mini-facials, massages, and a manicure bar complete with champagne cart. Perfect when you have a dinner reservation or theater tickets and want to squeeze in some time for yourself. Or even as a lunch break treat if you work in the Loop. The happy (lunch) hour consists of a customized massage or facial with a spa lunch to take back to your desk.

Boxed-up booty delivered monthly to your doorstep is all the rage, whether gourmet food, personalized wardrobe pieces or, in the case of Birchbox, beauty and grooming minis. In a partnership with the Westin Chicago River North, Birchbox now delivers to your guest room. You get one or two Westin-branded packages of carry-on-sized samples in the Birchbox Surprise Package, along with upgraded room accommodations, and an offer to go online and get two free products when you subscribe to Birchbox.

Pampered Pups

Four-legged guests get VIP treatment at Trump Chicago, including a special dog bed upon check-in and a plush chew toy souvenir. You can even order fancy dog food from in-room dining including filet nibs lightly seared for $28. After all, if you’re dining at Sixteen, shouldn’t your best friend be dining as extravagantly?

Trump Chicago hotel pampered pets
Trump Chicago hotel pampered pets (Courtesy Trump Chicago hotel)

Who says couples massages are just for humans? You can book a couples massage with your dog at The Talbott Hotel. A certified animal therapist provides the dog massages, which can help your pup with circulation, stress relief and injury prevention—you know, all the same reasons humans want massages. The hotel welcomes up to two well-behaved dogs per room, with cozy dog beds and a welcome doggy bag filled with dog treats and an inflatable water bowl. There’s a $50 dog fee, but a portion goes to local pet charities in Chicago like PAWS and the Anti-Cruelty Society. And just across the street is luxury pet boutique Tails in the City, where hotel guests receive a 15 percent discount.