by Andrea Guthmann
Interested in “puttin’ on the Ritz” during a visit to Chicago? Surely, there’s no better place to do it than the Ritz-Carlton, the hotel chain that inspired Irving Berlin’s classic salute to the best things in life.
The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is all about location. An elegant oasis, it’s part of historic Water Tower Place. An elevator from the Ritz-Carlton’s 12th-floor lobby will take you directly to the building’s hundreds of shops and restaurants, a big plus during Chicago’s notoriously harsh winters.
If you’re traveling with an American Girl doll collector, take the hotel elevator directly to level two and prepare to open up your heart (and wallet) to the charms of American Girl Place. Not only can you buy dolls, but you can also enjoy afternoon tea, lunch or dinner in the cafe, or attend one of the other daily events.
If your young traveling partner has no interest in getting dolled up, there’s no need to worry; next to American Girl Place is a LEGO store, with equally magnificent models on display, including Chicago skyscrapers made entirely out of LEGO bricks.
The hotel also overlooks Michigan Avenue, surrounded by a number of iconic landmarks. The John Hancock Center and Museum of Contemporary Art sit across the street from the hotel, while Lake Michigan is just two blocks away. In the summer, take a short walk to Oak Street Beach, Chicago’s most popular strand.
When you return to the hotel, don’t forget to make a wish in the lobby’s opulent fountain. Staff will happily hand children a delicately wrapped package of pennies for their fountain toss. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is not for bargain shoppers, but it will make your dreams of a first-class big city visit a reality. Luxurious surroundings and personalized service ensure every guest feels like a million bucks.
Our Editor Loves
- Indoor solarium pool
- Daily cookie-baking classes
- Easy access to Water Tower Place
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Chicago's rooms occupy floors 15 through 30 in the Water Tower Place building. Rooms are outfitted with classic furnishings and are decorated in either a powder blue or pewter color scheme. The pewter rooms are sleeker and more contemporary; the powder blue rooms are more traditionally decorated. Beds are dressed in a restful color palette of white linens.
All rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, mini-fridge and desk. Coffee makers can be requested, although complimentary coffee is served in the reception area from 5 to 8 a.m. daily. The luxurious bathrooms offer Bulgari amenities. Bathrooms are equipped with blow dryers and feature marble floors, with marble surrounding the bathtub and shower. Complimentary toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors and combs can be requested from housekeeping. Housekeeping also provides a complimentary overnight shoeshine service.
Rooms either face the lake (east and north) or Michigan Avenue (west and south). The south view is the least popular view, while the lake view is the most sought after.
Standard rooms are 325 to 350 square feet, and have either one king or two queen beds. These can fit two adults and two children, and a third child if he or she sleeps in a crib, which is complimentary.
The smallest suite is the Executive Suite, a one-bedroom unit with one king bed or two queen beds, a master bathroom and a sitting area. It's 500 square feet and fits two adults and two kids. The Executive Suite is always adjacent to the slightly larger Deluxe Executive Suite, a one-bedroom unit with an additional half-bathroom in the hallway and pullout sofa bed. These two suites can be connected by shutting the outer hallway door outside both of the rooms. This configuration is well suited for two families traveling together, or a family with grandparents or teens who need extra space. These two suites are not offered with a lake view, but are always facing west, providing a city view.
The Ritz offers other suites connecting to standard rooms for larger families. There are two Deluxe Lakeside Suites on each floor, which have a closable bedroom with one king bed and a master bathroom, as well as a half bathroom in the hallway and a large sitting area with a pullout double sofa bed. There is plenty of room for a complimentary rollaway bed or crib for additional children. The Deluxe Lakeside Suites can be connected to a standard room with one King or two single beds, via an outside hallway door.
The most expensive room in the hotel is the 2,900-square-foot, two-floor Presidential Suite, which offers panoramic views of the lake and Michigan Avenue. The room category just below the Presidential Suite is the Ambassador Suite, a 1,400-square-foot room offering only south-facing city views. This room has the ability to connect to a standard room with one king bed.
Located in the Water Tower building, on the 12 floor and above, its great area. Not only are you attached to shops, but also on the Magnificent Mile you're close to other restaurants, shops and anything else you need. The lobby bar and steakhouse on the 12 floor are very nice, great for meetings, a meal and very tastefully done. There is a balcony there with a coffee bar but being November in Chicago it was a little cold for that. I imagine on a summer night it would be very nice. The guest rooms are larger for a big city hotel and well appointed, although they felt a little odd to me. The shower and toilet area is very small for a luxury hotel and in a separate room. Then there is a room with two sinks that seems very large area taken up by it. Also the windows are not well insulated so when the sun is shinning you are sweating while working at the desk in the room, when the sun is down, you are freezing. The heater in the room also tends to blow directly where you are working so can be a bit uncomfortable. Water pressure internet sleep quality was all very good. Long story short, would stay here again, although would have hoped for more out of the rooms, the rest of the hotel and the staff are fantastic.
The lobby (which I heard is newly renovated) is stunning and sets the stage for what should be an amazing stay. But then you get to your room, and it’s like the 80s threw up in there.
Super dated. Beige wallpaper. Awkwardly tight toilet/shower room where you have the choice to either stare at yourself on the toilet from one foot away or get up, shimmy yourself around, and close it.
Also no status recognition or upgrade as a Titanium, even though many other rooms
categories available (but I was too tired to argue).
Mediocre stay in an expensive hotel. The Gwen is still the best Marriott/SPG option in the Windy City.
Although the Ritz-Carlton Chicago does not have a kid's club, it does make a special effort to entertain its younger guests.
Kids between ages 5 and 12 will love going behind the scenes in daily cookie-baking classes with the hotel's chefs. The finished product is later delivered to your Ritz-trained pastry chef's room, along with frosting for decorating.
As if that wasn't sweet enough, the hotel also has a friendly candy man (in our case, it was a woman) who will stop by your room with his or her cute cart of complimentary candy. Choose from Swedish Fish, gummy bars, licorice and assorted chocolates!
Happy Camper and American Girls
Looking for more ways to make your child's big-city adventure memorable? Request the Happy Camper package; a complimentary kid-sized tent is delivered to and set up in your room. You can also request the American Girl package. A doll-sized American Girl bed is delivered for your princess pal, including a doll-sized pink satin blanket and American Girl pillow, which she gets to keep.
The hotel's indoor pool is another great place for the kids. It's a four-lane lap pool in a solarium, with plenty of seating around the pool deck. Pick up a complimentary snack of nuts, fruit, or maybe a cup of tea or a glass of fruit-infused water in the adjacent spa/fitness area, and relax while your kids dive into the fun. When they're finished, wrap them up in their complimentary child-sized bathrobes, and they're ready to head back up to their room. In the summer, the hotel holds floating movie nights twice a month.
The hotel's casually elegant Italian steakhouse restaurant is located in the 12th floor lobby, next to the magnificent fountain. As expected, the menu is pricey and the food is world-class. More surprising is just how kid-friendly the restaurant is.
As elsewhere in the hotel, the wait staff makes a special effort to cater to kids. Kids ages 12 and under eat free, and booster seats and high chairs are readily available, as are crayons for decorating the Chicago-themed kids menu. Kids can choose from either a standard kids meal of macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers or a hamburger, or from healthier options like a petit filet or broiled chicken. If your youngsters get fidgety, waiters will quickly bring over a cup of soup or something else to keep them occupied.
This greenhouse-inspired restaurant is a great place to start the morning with coffee, pastries, sandwiches and more.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The complimentary fitness center is next to the spa and indoor pool/Jacuzzi on the 11th floor. The fitness center has plenty of equipment, extras like complimentary headphones, and is open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Children are allowed to use the pool from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Sundays, when hours are extended 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Daily fitness classes, including yoga, Zumba and tai chi, are offered for an additional fee.
Although the Ritz-Carlton Chicago does not have a kid's club, the hotel is happy to arrange for a babysitter through an outside service it's been using for more than 20 years. It's pricey, with a four-hour minimum and a one-time administrative fee.
The hotel gift shop sells everything from contact lens solution to Chicago souvenirs, as well as upscale clothing, sweaters and jewelry.
The Best Time to Visit
The warmer months are high season in Chicago, with a multitude of neighborhood festivals, outdoor concerts and other culinary and cultural events. Some of the more famous are the Taste of Chicago and the Blues Festival. The Christmas holidays also bring plenty of tourists to Michigan Avenue, with the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicking off a big televised parade the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is about equidistant from both Midway Airport and the larger O'Hare International Airport.
There's no need for a car when you visit, and parking is pricey. You're better offing taking public transportation. Chicago's elevated subway, known as the El, is a safe, cost effective way to travel. You can take the El from either Midway or O'Hare Airport to within a few blocks of the hotel. From there, it's an easy and safe walk through a bustling part of the city.
If you do decide to rent a car, the drive from O'Hare Airport will take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic and weather. From O'Hare, take I-190 east to I-90 East/Chicago Loop, exit at Ohio Street (exit #50-B), take Ohio to Michigan Avenue, turn left (north) onto Michigan Avenue and follow for six blocks. Turn right onto Pearson Street.
The drive from Midway will take 30 to 45 minutes. From Midway Airport, turn right (north) onto Cicero Avenue, take I-55 North (Stevenson Expressway), merge onto I-90/94 West (Kennedy Expressway), exit onto Ohio Street, follow Ohio Street to Michigan Avenue, turn left (north) onto Michigan Avenue and follow for six blocks. Then turn right onto Pearson Street.
For Mom and Dad
If parents want to splurge for a sitter, there are plenty of world-class restaurants, theaters and live music venues within walking distance to make it an unforgettable evening.
Consider taking a romantic carriage ride around the surrounding Gold Coast neighborhood, or walk across the street to catch a play at the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre. In the mood for a laugh? Chicago's renowned for its comedy clubs. Second City, the famous training ground for generations of Saturday Night Live cast members, is just a mile and a half away.
Chicago also hits a high note with its blues and jazz scene. One of the best music venues in the city, Andy's Jazz Club, is less than a mile away.
Could there be a better way to end a long day of shopping on Michigan Avenue than a massage? Ritz-Carlton's spa menu consists of a variety of treatments, including massages and body wraps, and there's a salon offering hair services. The spa's signature treatment is a yoga facial using special yoga strokes on the face. Relax in the sauna or steam room, or in the waiting room with a cup of complimentary hot tea or fruit-infused water.