FEBRUARY MAY be one of the shortest months of the year, but it can also be the cruelest. With endless gray skies and temps that can’t seem to climb above freezing, some “downtown” time may be just what you need to beat the winter blues.
With that in mind, we recently checked out the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton Chicago hotel and spa at Water Tower Place—a $100 million makeover that has transformed the 1975 property’s sprawling suites and guest rooms.
Let’s just say this isn’t your parents’ Ritz-Chicago.
With sleek lines and an identity reimagined by the award-winning, San Francisco-based design firm BAMO, the Mag Mile landmark is living up to the prestigious reputation set by its iconic namesake César Ritz in Paris more than a century ago.
Whether you’re booking a romantic weekend retreat for Valentine’s Day or a spa-infused girlfriend’s getaway, consider this your guide to putting on the Ritz in Chicago.
Step off the elevator at the 12th floor and prepare to be impressed by phase one of BAMO’s transformation—a majestic lobby that pays homage to the city, its architecture, and the hotel’s coveted Mag Mile location.
No detail was left untouched in its design, from using the same Calcutta marble from Water Tower’s façade inside to create towering columns that bring your eye toward the sky to the rows of 19-foot walnut fins that divide the space between the chic, new Torali dining “experience” on the left and a swanky Torali bar to the left.
A floating sculpture of hand-blown glass near the ceiling completes the “wow” effect. Evoking the color and movement of Lake Michigan, the Flying Wave piece is a testament to Chicago’s modern architecture and industrial ingenuity.
Don’t get too distracted though. The restaurant will come later. Here is where you check in.
With 434 newly renovated, five-star suites and guest rooms to choose from—some with stunning skyline views—there is no wrong choice.
But if the sky’s the limit, treat yourself to one of the new modern luxe Ritz-Chicago suites. (P.S. – If you’ve ever dreamed of having a downtown pied-à-terre, this could be the next-best thing.)
With two bedrooms and 1,500 square feet of living space, the Navy Pier Suite features large picture windows with views of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, and the Chicago Skyline; expansive living quarters; and two sumptuous marble bathrooms with Asprey bath essentials, including one with a soaking tub.
The Lakeside Suite is the next largest with 1,000 square feet and a corner location with panoramic city and lake views. Like the Navy Pier Suite, it features a spacious living area with a wet bar and an intimate dining area.
At 850 square feet, the Magnificent Mile Suite features skyline views and two marble bathrooms. The Gold Coast Suite has 800 square feet and one bathroom. Smaller suites include Water Tower Suite (with two luxury bathrooms) and Executive Suite (with corner views).
The guest rooms also feature luxury baths and amenities that make you feel truly pampered. But the true indulgence comes next, after you check in to the new K’Alma luxury spa at the Ritz, where the outside world just melts away.
Even if you only have time for a day trip, a visit to Ritz- Carlton Spa Chicago by K’Alma is worth a train ride downtown.
Drawing from the culture of Peru and the Q’ero spiritual healers, the K’Alma experts nourish your body with their ancient knowledge and rich healing practices.
The intimate spa renews mind and body with four treatment rooms, one couples’ suite, nail suite, sauna, and a steam room. Treatments, including facials and massages, are designed to help you heal and relax.
Even an hour-long massage will leave you feeling refreshed and grounded for the year ahead but given that this is a staycation, we suggest you make a day of it.
Signature treatments include an 80-minute couples massage with an all-natural blend of essential oils, plant extracts, and other ingredients; a peppermint pedicure paired with a foot and leg massage; and a high-powered facial treatment to tighten and renew the skin.
While you are there, take advantage of the expanded fitness center and pool. Soon, it will be time for dinner.
Back on the 12th floor, you have dinner reservations at the Ritz’s new concept Italian steakhouse, Torali, but first we recommend an aperitif at the copper clad Torali Bar.
Overlooking the city skyline, Torali offers a modern steakhouse vibe with an Italian touch. Traditional antipasti and handmade pastas are featured along with prime and dry-aged meats. In warmer weather, the restaurant and bar open to a spectacular rooftop deck (which means you’ll need to come back).
The menu is decidedly contemporary with an elevated, local take on Italian food. We started with the Truffle Arancini (served with an artichoke bechamel), paired with Torali Caio E Pepe—a delicious pasta course of ucatini noodle, preserved lemon, toasted black pepper, and pecorino Romano cheese. For the entrée, we opted for Roasted Bronzino, served with a parsnip puree, lemons, artichokes, and marinated olives. Add a bottle of Sancerre wine and it ranks among some of the best dining experiences in Chicago (and lived up to memories of dining at Ritz London many years ago).
From there, the evening, and the city, is yours. Whether you hit the town or savor your suite in the sky, February may have never felt so fabulous.
The Ritz Carlton-Chicago is located at Water Tower Place, 160 E. Pearson Street, in Chicago. For more information, visit ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/chicago.