Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review – Luxury Aging Gracefully

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Location
Room
Amenities
Service

Quick Take

An established property with superior levels of service, the Ritz-Carlton Chicago delivers the cozy among the downtown hustle and bustle. Useful amenities abound, and a recent room renovation is the cherry on top.
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Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review

Chicago is my favorite big city in the States, and I just returned from my first visit since 2019.  I primarily enjoy coming back for the sights, some familiar and others new.  But on most visits, I pursue stays at different hotels given Chicago’s wealth of intriguing options.  Indeed, I’d been looking forward to my stay at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago.  Here’s my review of the property from a recent two-night stay.

Booking

I had a couple 50k Free Night Awards (from a Marriott Business Amex welcome offer) starting to grow mold, and redeeming them for this stay was quite convenient.  I used Marriott’s top-off feature for the first time to book this stay, as a Deluxe City View room required 60k points per night.  Springing the extra 20k points for the stay was easily worth it for me.  At the time, cash rates hovered around $500 nightly.

Taking into account ~$100 in room charges, promos, and my Platinum status (thanks, Brilliant Amex), I earned 2,245 Bonvoy points on the stay.

Location

Nestled in the Near North Side region of downtown, the Ritz Carlton Chicago is located within Water Tower Place, a development including condos, the hotel, and shopping.  The property is located next to Chicago’s historic Water Tower.  The hotel opened in 1975 and holds quite a history.  Plenty of dining and shopping options beyond Water Tower Place are close.  Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art sits on a block perpendicular to the hotel.  The majority of the Magnificent Mile district is south and easily walkable.

Ritz Carlton Chicago
Obtaining 20% off all food and beverage charges, including alcohol, is a nice touch.

Check-In

After riding into downtown on the Blue Line from O’Hare and a brisk walk north, I arrived at the Ritz-Carlton just before 11 am.  The front desk is located on the 12th floor.  The front desk agent warmly greeted me.  Check-in was fairly smooth, and the agent mentioned my Deluxe City View room was immediately available.  I queried about a room upgrade due to my Platinum status, mentioning I was open to waiting if one was available later in the day.  She upgraded me to a room with a Lake Michigan view.  The agent voluntarily offered to store my backpack and contact me when the room was available.  I accepted and departed for my planned visit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Room

A couple hours later, I returned to the hotel and arrived to my 28th floor room.  The room has been recently updated, with airy, modern touches throughout.  I appreciate the simple, functional layout, and it plays into the room feeling much bigger than it actually is.

After the closet and bathroom on the left and the bar area to the right, the room opens up to the main area.  The dresser, desk, and television were housed in a long, shared unit.  The small table areas on each side of the king size bed held two USB ports and two electrical outlets.  A chaise sits under the large windows.  The room has excellent views of the John Hancock building and Lake Michigan.  The bed and desk chair were tremendously comfy.  The room has one piece of decor over the bed, and the other walls are bare.  I like understated, but this is a bit too spare for my taste.

The bathroom includes a large shower but no tub.  The single vanity is simply designed, perhaps too much so.  For the life of me, I couldn’t find the sink stopper anywhere.  The water took tremendously long to warm up, even by hotel standards.  I resorted to awkwardly shaving with lukewarm water while it ran.  Incidentally, I’m not a huge fan of square- or rectangular-bottomed sinks.  On the plus side, I like the motion-sensing nightlight located just under the vanity mirror.

The hotel only offers “residential” bath products, and a card on the vanity warns against taking them.

Amenities

The hotel clearly shines in their amenity offerings, some shared with condo residents.  I was struck by the cohesive nature of the property’s most recent refresh.  The design and decor flow naturally from the hotel room to the common areas.

Dining

All dining and drinking options are located on the 12th floor beyond the front desk and small lobby area.  Flowing from the lobby, guests have three options all in the same common area.  Really just one big room, the hotel somehow pulls off this smart design quite effectively.  An extension of the lobby with plenty of seating sits in the middle and separates the different experiences.

Torali

Torali, the hotel’s main restaurant, is an Italian steakhouse which also serves breakfast.  The restaurant features a seasonal rooftop patio which is currently closed.  I enjoyed a quality breakfast on each morning of my stay.  Portions are generous, causing me to institute my often-used “two meal a day” plan while on this trip.  I enjoyed the western omelet – the cooks don’t scrimp on the ingredients.  But perhaps the highlight of my first breakfast was the accompanying salad.  Yes, a salad at breakfast.  The restaurant nails it with the lemon vinaigrette dressing.  I enjoyed apple walnut french toast, served with plenty of berries, on my second morning.  Syrup and butter were unnecessary.  Prices are remarkably reasonable for an urban Ritz-Carlton – my breakfast entrees are in the mid $20’s, and that’s before the 20% off property benefit for Platinums.

Ritz Carlton Chicago
Extended lobby with Torali to the right.

Torali Bar

Across the extended lobby is the Torali Bar.  Don’t let the common name distract you – it’s a completely separate experience from the restaurant.  The U-shaped bar is surrounded by several small cocktail tables.  A friend and I enjoyed late night drinks here as sports silently played on four screens.  Despite it’s location in a Ritz-Carlton, neither the bar nor restaurant felt overly stuffy.

The Cafe

The Cafe is even more laid back.  Just beyond the extended lobby, it serves specialty coffee, juices, pastries, and desserts from 6 am to 1 pm.  I didn’t have time (or room) for any items here.  Nonetheless, I like that the hotel houses an option for a more economical breakfast or snack.

Spa and Fitness Center

One of my favorite amenities is the fitness center and spa area, located on the 11th floor and directly accessible from the main elevator bank.  The fitness center is quite spacious and holds plenty of cardio and strength equipment.  For cardio, I focus on treadmills, and the hotel has 6-8 of those machines, in addition to plenty of elliptical and bike options.  All cardio equipment faces large windows overlooking the city.  During my workouts, I enjoyed all the colorful foliage and view of the Navy Pier.  A wealth of weights, both machine and free, sit behind the cardio equipment.  The fitness center holds a separate room which offers a variety of workout classes.  I didn’t have any spa treatments, but plenty of options are available via the helpful attendants.

Pool

Behind the spa front desk sits the pool area and locker rooms.  It’s exclusively a lap pool, so don’t plan a family trip for a dip.  Adjacent to the pool behind a glass wall is a quiet sitting area.  The hotel offers complimentary coffee, tea, and water here.  The locker room area is richly designed with dark woods, lounge chairs, a television, and bathing areas, giving off a country club-like feel.

Service

Ritz-Carlton service is starting to spoil me.  I received superior service in Tysons last year, so I couldn’t help having expectations in Chicago.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Actually, service at the Chicago property surpassed my expectations.  One word probably sums it up – thorough.

A few hours after initially arriving at the hotel, I received two voicemails, one minute apart.  Two different front desk agents notified that my upgraded room was ready.  I returned to the front desk.  My keys were ready, and the agent had already sent my bag up to my room.  It couldn’t have been simpler.

Waitstaff at Torali restaurant and bar are excellent.  I was greeted by name (perhaps petty, but something I enjoy) at breakfast each morning.  When I asked for Tabasco with my omelet, the waiter returned with a dish of eight mini-bottles.  I never had to ask for more coffee or water – they kept everything topped off.

The fitness center is well-staffed and busy.  Workers replenish towels and water and impeccably clean the equipment.  I never needed assistance from bellstaff at the ground level, but they are consistently chipper in my experience, day and night.

Conclusion

My Ritz-Carlton Chicago stay was simply delightful.  This established property thoughtfully and confidently delivers where it counts.  Many impressive properties exist in downtown Chicago, and it may be easy for this one to get lost in the shuffle.  After staying there, I won’t forget this property.  Indeed, I didn’t want to at the time.  I found myself not wanting to leave.  Perhaps that’s one of the highest compliments I can give to a hotel.  Keep it going, Ritz-Carlton Chicago!

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

3 COMMENTS

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the review. Also have some Free nights that I need to use. Will definitely put this in the ballot box…

    • MikeV,
      If you end up staying there, follow up with what you think of the property! Thanks for reading.

  2. Appreciate this review, Benjy! Sounds like service was truly top-notch. I agree that being greeted by name is a nice, special touch.

    You said that “won’t forget this property,” although you did forget the hyphen in Ritz-Carlton 😉

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An established property with superior levels of service, the Ritz-Carlton Chicago delivers the cozy among the downtown hustle and bustle. Useful amenities abound, and a recent room renovation is the cherry on top.Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review - Luxury Aging Gracefully

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