I have always thought that W Hotels try a little too hard to be hip. The moment you enter, you’re bathed in signature W ambience; music and lighting reminiscent of a nightclub, unique furnishings in conversational groupings, and my personal favorite touch at Chicago City Center, candles. Lots of candles tucked around the lobby. I know some even have scent machines, though I did not notice it here.
I appreciate the attempt to not seem like a typical hotel lobby, typified by the renaming of the lobby as the Living Room. What I find is that the hip nightclub atmosphere is often too dark and too loud. When I have to ask the very polite and well-dressed desk staff to repeat themselves, repeatedly, that’s a good indication that you may have to turn down the tunes a wee bit. It’s not as bad here as other Ws I’ve been in; I found it impossible to carry on a conversation at the Atlanta Perimeter location because the music was just too loud, but it is something I notice at every W.
The hotel entry is flanked by the bar and restaurant, IPO. A second lobby bar serves the Living Room area. Further back, you’ll find reception and concierge. The staff here is great and very helpful, which always sets the tone for a good stay. Even in April, Chicago can be a bit chilly so the welcoming pot of hot chocolate was appreciated. Next to reception is the Acura Experience, one of SPGs strategic partnerships to enhance your stay. Calling it the Acura Experience, however, is a bit misleading – it’s similar to a reception desk where you can reserve the hotel’s Acura for a ride about town. However, it is quite limited, being available only by reservation and only during the afternoon and early evening (1pm to 8pm) in a small radius.
Perhaps the most stunning thing as you enter this W is the second story overlooking the Living Room. High, arched ceilings and columns give it an almost gothic feel. Furnishing is sparse (perhaps because a convention had taken over much of the space for displays and tables?) but the space is quite comfortable. The open halls lead you to Great Room One and Two (aka: meeting rooms), and a third bar is between the two. In the evening, when the Living Room gets crowded and even noisier, this is a great place to retreat to while still enjoying the lobby experience.
As in most Ws, the rooms are an experience. This was a last-minute booking so I took what I could get: A Spectacular room on a higher floor with a good view of the city. Not large, but very comfortable. I am always tempted to say that most W rooms look like they raided Ikea – something Marriott is apparently taking to heart – and this is no exception. The room is fairly minimal and functional, which I appreciate. As always, the bed is very comfortable and the Bliss bath amenities are just about my favorite of all the major chains. If you’re a coffee lover like me, don’t freak out when you notice there is no coffee maker in your room! Just call the front desk and ask for one; it will be delivered promptly. Be sure to ask for tea if you prefer.
Only two complaints, really. Across the board, this location seems to need more staff. I never saw more than two desk agents at reception and there was almost always a line of people. We waited several minutes for a dinner seating at the restaurant and finally had to go find someone to go find the hostess. Once seated, we realized there was only one waiter. Even though the restaurant was small, one waiter is not sufficient for seven or eight tables. Complaint #2 also pertains to the restaurant. Particularly at dinner, the menu is quite small and fairly expensive. Or rather, most prices are comparable to Chicago area restaurants, but portions are considerably smaller. I also cannot understand how a latte and a cup of tea both cost $5.
For the most part, this stay lived up to W standards. Nothing really stood out, but almost everything was great – as expected at SPG’s upper end properties. Our Bed & Breakfast rate was good, particularly for hotels of this caliber in the Chicago area. The location is good, unless you want to be right on the river, lake or Michigan Avenue. There are several CTA (rail) stops within a few blocks, and many city area attractions are within just a few miles; easy to walk, inexpensive to taxi. The only thing that would keep me from booking the W Chicago City Center on my next trip is the abundance of other great hotels in the area – and I have a burning desire to try them all!
Details & Disclaimers: This review was neither solicited nor compensated. All experiences, opinions and photographs are our own. Exterior photo courtesy of W Hotels Worldwide.