Virgin Hotel Chicago
Chicago, IL | Wabash and Lake | Hotel Review | November 2016
The Virgin brand’s first hotel, The Virgin Hotel Chicago, first opened its doors in January of 2015. The Virgin Hotel Chicago is the first of many Virgin-branded hotels that are planned to open across the United States. Founded in 2010 by Sir Richard Branson, Branson stated that the mission of the hotel was that, “There won’t be hidden charges, and you won’t get charged $10 for a chocolate bar you know you can buy at a store for $2.” Branson’s hotels were to be one-of-a-kind. The rooms would be generously sized, wi-fi would be free, amenities wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, and the hotels would host an evening social for every single guest. Additionally, Branson envisioned a hotel chain that didn’t have cancellations fees and insane check-in/check-out deadlines.
This vision was achieved at 203 N Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, the site of the first-ever Virgin Hotel. I recently completed my third stay at the hotel. Three stays later and The Virgin Hotel Chicago is still one of my favorite hotels in the world. Here’s why.
My flight from St. Louis landed at Chicago-O’Hare around 9:30ish in the morning. I left O-Hare’s Terminal 3 for The Virgin Hotel located in the heart of downtown Chicago not thirty minutes later. After a twenty or so minute Uber ride, I arrived at the entrance of the hotel around 11 AM.
My stay was very brief. I would spend the day in Chicago in my hotel room working on college applications, assignments from the Thanksgiving holiday, and blog posts. After an early dinner, I would return to my room around 7:00 PM and get to bed around 8:00 PM in order to get enough sleep in preparation for my flight to San Francisco that departed at eight in the morning. That flight was the sole reason that I booked The Virgin Hotel. Surprisingly, that’s exactly what I did. I got some work done, enjoyed a nice dinner, and got to bed at a reasonable time.
As mentioned above, I arrived at the hotel a little before 11 AM, which at any other hotel would be well before check-in time. However, The Virgin Hotel Chicago prides itself on allowing guests to check-in whenever they want and not having a set check-out time. This meant that when I passed by the front desk, the front desk rep had been anticipating my arrival and had my room ready. The flexible check-in/check-out time at The Virgin Hotel Chicago is probably one of the best perks of the hotel. Until you spend five hours in the lobby of a hotel waiting for your room, you’ll never understand how great early check-in is.
There was one hiccup at check-in. I italicize hiccup because the hiccup was actually due to the hotel’s fantastic welcome amenity program. When I signed up for Virgin Hotel’s The Know program, I had the option of including my favorite snacks and drinks. I guess that I selected Coke as my preferred beverage because when I arrived at the front desk, I had to wait five minutes while the manager-on-duty delivered my welcoming gift to my room. That’s one hiccup I actually welcome.
The Grand Chamber King
I booked the standard room, the Chamber King, however, I was upgraded upon check-in due to my elite status with Virgin America. As a Virgin America elite, I received a $50 breakfast voucher and a room upgrade. That $50 breakfast voucher would come in handy.
The only difference between the Grand Chamber King and the standard Chamber King is that the Grand Chamber Kind is slightly larger than the standard Chamber King. It’s not until you book Virgin Hotel’s suites that you begin to get additional amenities and vastly different hotel room floor plans. Still, I really appreciated the extra space the Grand Chambers offer.
Two Rooms in One
The Virgin Hotel in Chicago’s claim to fame is that their hotel rooms are actually two rooms in one. Upon entry into your Chamber, you’ll immediately notice that the room is divided into two parts; the dressing room and the bedroom. The two sections are even divided by a massive wooden sliding door. This sliding door comes in handy when traveling with family and friends as you can be on the other side of the door getting ready for an early morning flight while the other travelers can continue to get some shut-eye in the other room.
The Dressing Room
The Dressing Room consists of a vanity, a second vanity with wash basin, two closets with motion activated lighting, shower, and lockable toilet. It’s the best vanity/bathroom area at any hotel I’ve ever stayed at–hands down. The vanity features a lighter mirror allowing you to spruce up before heading out. The wash basin features hip-stainless steel hardware with multiple outlets for your cell phone, hair dryer, or electric razor. Luxurious Red Flower amenities are also provided.
The closets are also quite unique. The closets are sectioned off with a thick canvas curtain rather than a door allowing you easy access to the closet. Additionally, the motion activated lights mean you won’t have to fumble around in the dark for a light switch.
The shower is also very luxurious featuring a fairly large shower head, retractable shower wand, shower seat, and Red Flower amenities. You even get your own little Virgin Hotel sheep.
The Dressing Room also features swanky dimmable lighting you don’t typically find at many hotels. You never really appreciated how cool it is to have the ability to dim the lights in your hotel room until you spoil yourself at a hotel room with dimmable lighting.
The Bedroom is fairly traditional with regards to the way it’s arranged. Virgin Hotel’s patented “Lounge Bed” is at the focal point of the room. Additionally, there’s a hip retro desk with swivel chair and swivel desk top. It’s at that desk that you’ll find a wireless speaker that’s surprisingly loud. Adjacent to the bed is the tea and coffee setup as well as an ottoman that you can move about the room. Directly across from the bed is the generously sized smart TV that can swivel about the wall on which it’s mounted. Adjacent to the TV is shelving that features an ice bucket, bottle opener, literature, and power outlets. It’s next to that shelving that you’ll find the mini-bar. Part of Virgin Hotel’s mission is a mini-bar that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I can vouch for the hotel brand, everything at the mini-bar was reasonably priced.
I love the decor and style of the Virgin Hotel Chambers. It’s hip, sleek, and inviting. Compared to traditional business hotels that often feature dark and dull colors, the warm atmosphere the decor and furniture provide is a much-welcomed change.
The Lounge Bed
The Lounge Bed is Virgin Hotel’s patented bed. The bed features a soft padded headboard which is slightly setback allowing you to sit upright in the bed, something traditional beds typically make uncomfortable. If you want to sit and lounge, there’s even a small seat at the foot of the bed allowing you to sit back and spread out. Sir Richard Branson said it best, this bed is a combination of “a playpen” and “bed”.
Aside from how unique the bed is, I always look forward to a jumping in bed for the night at The Virgin Hotel Chicago. It’s easily one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve slept in. This was my first time sleeping in a king bed at The Virgin Hotel Chicago and I was blown away by how great of a night’s sleep I ended up getting.
A Smart Room
Each chamber is a smart room. You can control the TV, thermostat, and make any requests you may have during your stay from the Virgin Hotels app. Within in the app, once you’ve checked in, you can use “Lucy” the app’s personal assistant.
During my stay, I ordered room service, changed the channel, turned up the thermostat, requested a ride, and requested a wake-up call all from the app. Each time you make a request, the front desk team immediately calls to confirm your request.
I hate to admit that I actually pigged out in my hotel room. There’s something about eating in your hotel room that’s just so sleazy. That might just be me but it felt so odd having both lunch and breakfast in bed. However, it wouldn’t be right to exclude the meals I enjoyed during my stay.
For lunch, I used the app to order a Miss Ricky’s Burger with extra special sauce. I’m a burger enthusiast and I was in awe when I took the first bite of the burger. It was juicy, seasoned to perfection, and just hands-down amazing. The special sauce complimented the burger perfectly and the fries were the perfect side for the meal. I recommend that all guests try the Miss Ricky’s Burger during their stay.
For breakfast, I ordered pancakes and ham. It wasn’t my first choice but I did order breakfast nearly an hour and a half before breakfast was supposed to be served. I called down to the front desk around 4:30 in the morning expecting the front desk rep to say that I couldn’t order breakfast nor could I use my breakfast voucher. To my surprise, the front desk rep was extremely polite and made sure I was able to have breakfast before I departed the hotel. The pancakes were phenomenal as was the ham. I also enjoyed a freshly brewed pour over coffee brewed in-room.
The Hotel Property
The Virgin Hotel Chicago is a fairly small property which, in my opinion, is a good thing. I’ve stayed at various Chicago hotels and one complaint I always have is that the hotels always have way too much going on. The lobby’s are always filled nearly wall to wall with guests and convention goers and there’s almost too much to take in. That might be why I hate resort properties. Though The Virgin Hotel Chicago is on the small size, it packs a lot into the small(ish) space.
The Commons Club
The Commons Club is a restaurant, bar, and social space. It serves lunch and dinner as well as hosts the evening social hour. During the social hour, each hotel guest can have drinks for free and socialize with other guests. The Commons Club also features communal and private workspaces with tons of outlets. I wasn’t traveling with anyone this time around but in the past when I’ve traveled with friends and family, The Commons Club was a fantastic place to hang out, talk, and grab a bite to eat. The staff at The Commons Club is also extremely welcoming and professional.
The Gym located on the 25th floor is pretty impressive. The Gym boasts a wide array of workout equipment from cardio to yoga. I had no intention of working out during my stay but I did stop by to take a look at the gym. It’s a unique space and I wish I had been motivated to get a quick workout in.
I love The Virgin Hotel in Chicago. From the unique rooms, a fantastic team ready to serve guests, and great location, it’s my go-to hotel when I visit Chicago. Not to mention, the nightly rates are unbelievably competitive and often much more affordable than comparable hotels. This was my third time at the hotel and with each stay, I like the hotel more and more. Unforutenly, my only complaint is that there’s only a single Virgin Hotel in the entire country. However, this is about to change with new Virgin Hotels opening in Dallas, New York, Palm Springs, and Nashville in the coming years.
Have you ever stayed at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago? Do you plan on staying anytime soon?