I truly enjoy Chicago. I have traveled there for work in my past and recently flew in for a lovely ‘bleisure’ trip with my Mother. I was excited to show my Mom around a city I truly enjoyed and experience places refreshed through her eyes.
I was also looking forward to visiting the newly renovated Renaissance Chicago Downtown and Raised Urban Rooftop Bar for the first time.
On our first evening, after checking into our hotel and freshening up, we took to the streets for the first staircase that descended to the Chicago Riverwalk.
The Riverwalk is a unique experience, providing new backdrops and perspectives between each bridge. On this evening we discovered City Winery, a seasonal Riverwalk dining location.
Enjoying a glass of their namesake wine, 2014 Riverwalk Red, we took in the sights and sounds of the boats cruising the river. We even saw a boat full of convention go-ers and discussed how much fun that would be for a group.
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When we arrived at Renaissance Chicago Downtown, I was taken back by the boldness of the interior. It was intriguing, fun, and evoked a ‘cool kid’ attitude. I wanted to sit in one of their many conversation arrangements with my friends.
From the stadium seating to the bar and the Taxi art made of pencils I felt completely in my element. Then the elevator opened to a theatrical, selfie inducing, mirrored design making you a part of the show.
The service from beginning to end was immeasurable in excellence. Mr. Lenny Skorcz and his team create a luxurious ambiance that mirrors and accentuates the culinary and cocktail offerings of Executive Chef Daniel Perez and Bar Operations Manager, William Nykaza. We were recommended a few cocktails based on our preferences in flavors. I will divulge this little secret - my mother actually shed a few tears upon her first sip of Monk’s Garden! The cocktails are beautiful and beautifully crafted, using fresh ingredients.
For our dinner we chose to enjoy a few plates from the Raised culinary team. Our four courses included the Peekytoe Crab, Lobster Rolls, Torched Oysters, and for dessert, Chocolate Mousse with Brandied Cherries.
Again, presentation was divine and the layers of flavor within each dish carried us to new heights. From the fresh citrus of the crab to the creamy and crusty lobster roll, the savory herbal oysters to the decadent chocolate and cherries. Each bite was unique and the experience was a journey for our senses.
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The next morning we walked to find coffee and a bite to eat. We stumbled upon Goddess and the Baker, being lured in by the name, we found the coup de grâce of city breakfast for me.
The plethora of pastries, the multiple configurations for caffeination…I was holding up the line in awe. I finally chose a raspberry croimuffin (croissant muffin) and a butterscotch latte. I would eat a croimuffin everyday if I could.
I then realized that Goddess and the Baker delivers and caters. No one would be in dismay if you had a pastry bar from the Goddess for a morning meeting.
After savoring my morning meal, I met with Melissa Burin, Marketing Coordinator, at Renaissance Chicago Downtown for a private (this is the work part of the trip) tour of the multiple intriguing meeting spaces within the walls of Renaissance Downtown Chicago.
I believe that you could have a weeklong conference, utilize two event spaces a day and still not have used all the remarkable rooms available. From pre-function space to Grand Ballrooms and Urban Blue, Looking Glass Ballroom to beautiful meeting rooms, whether you are looking for cutting edge or old-world, you will find a space that calls to you.
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And it isn’t just the meeting rooms, the guest rooms and suites are immaculate, washed in hues of blue, cream, and gold.
Textures of sleek linens juxtaposed with velveted furnishings, encapsulate the rooms’ charming amenities.
Renaissance Downtown Chicago is one of few hotels that house an indoor pool, located in a lovely atrium on the fourth floor, near the fitness room and also has spa areas to enjoy.
Having only seen the building in photographs, I was mesmerized by its size and how it truly reminded me of the museums I enjoyed while living in England and traveling Europe. Walking up the massive white marble steps, I could see why it is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. We came to see two exhibits in particular, but first we needed lunch. Enjoying a meal at The Field Bistro was made complete with a Tooth & Claw beer, produced exclusively for the museum in honor of Sue (the T-Rex). We saw her directly upon arrival and were excited to take a closer look, as this most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil was found in South Dakota (where I live and work).
The second exhibit we were there to enjoy fully was the Terracotta Warriors of China’s First Emperor. There is so much to see and do in Chicago, but we figured seeing Terracotta Warriors might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we made it priority. The entire exhibit was marvelous, but even then I didn’t realize how much this museum held.
We wandered Ancient Egypy, explored animals of Asia and Africa, got lost in the Halls of Birds and Plants, and gasped in delight at the Grainger Hall of Gems and Hall of Jade…and those areas still don’t cover it all. After more than four hours of walking, we decided it was time to sit and talk about all we saw.
As we walked out, I noticed that a stage had been set up on the main floor, silver chairs were stacked to the side, and carts of succulent centerpieces were being brought in. I don’t know what type of event was about to be hosted, but I was wishing I had an invitation.
Theatre time was beginning to loom. In our excitement we headed to the PrivateBank Theatre and took a seat on the patio of The Grillroom Chophouse. My Mother had a glass of wine and I enjoyed a ‘Hamil-tini’ as we awaited the opening of the theatre doors. The crowd slowly gathered, we finished our drinks and made our way to the theatre. It was this show, Hamilton, alone that truly brought us to Chicago - I was about to see the show I had been talking about for years and brought my Mother to celebrate her birthday. It was even better than I could have imagined. I laughed, I cried, it was an experience like no other. In fact, here I sit two weeks later and I can remember every nuance of the performance that struck me.
We walked to our hotel in a daze of gratitude after the performance, passing the historic Chicago Theatre. We sang Hamilton in our dreams and awoke the next morning to make our way home. Every destination that we enjoyed provided great service. The experience was delightful, both while working and exploring the city. In just 36 hours we found many great locations for meetings and events, hospitality workers who were passionate about their job and their brand, and a city full of life to be explored. We look forward to seeing Chicago again and perusing a new line of venues.
Until then, remember that adventure is right out the door - get out and see the city you happen to be in! And if you happen to be in Chicago, take time to explore some of the great locations we found on our journey.