We all have reason to go to the cosmetics counter at some point. The ultra-luxury hotels are the same.
The Park Hyatt Chicago, which opened in 1980 and was the first property in this brand, underwent its own transformation earlier this year. It's a real estate version of a very expensive face mask.
The renovation of this property is a sign of where the Park Hyatt brand could go.
Critics say that Park Hyatts can be all over the place, from ultra-luxurious properties to those that seem to miss out on what a top tier hotel should be. The Park Hyatt Chicago's new look is an important step forward for a brand that increasingly faces competition in the ultra-luxury lane from entrants like the over-the-top Aman New York and trendier, members-only style hotels.
The Park Hyatt in Chicago may or may not be at the Aman level of opulence. It's almost definitely not. It doesn't have to be a bad thing when it means stays can be booked with points and still provide guests with an extra-elevated experience.
The Park Hyatt Chicago is located in the middle of a popular city. I stayed at the Park Hyatt Chicago.
When I was looking to book a two-night stay last month, the nightly rate was around $625 for a 450 square foot guest room with a king-size bed. I am seeing rates go from $1,000 to $3,000 for suites on certain nights this fall.
The points redemption rate was 25,000 points a night for the room. The Park Hyatt Chicago is a Category 6 World of Hyatt Hotel, which means off-peak room nights can go for as low as 21,000 points a night and soar as high as 29,000 points for redemption on peak nights. There was a split cash-points rate offer at the time of my booking.
I don't have Hyatt status, but I'm lucky that Scott Mayerowitz booked me as his guest of honor, since I don't have Hyatt status. I was able to enjoy his Diamond benefits while still earning nights in my quest for Hyatt elite status.
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I got an upgrade to a one-bedroom suite that was going for a little more than $1,200 a night when I arrived, because of this. When I requested this, the front desk told me they could only go as late as 2 p.m.
The Park Hyatt Chicago was the first one. One of the few structures in the area to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is near the hotel.
NoMI is the name of the restaurant, terrace restaurant, spa and fitness facilities at the hotel, which is located on Northern Michigan Avenue.
The Peninsula Chicago hotel is across the street from the John Hancock Center and steps away from some of Chicago's Toniest Addresses. Michigan Avenue and Oak Street are home to a number of high-end brands.
I took the metro from the airport to the CTA station. The transfer from the Blue Line to the Red Line took just over an hour to complete.
It takes about 35 minutes to get there with traffic from O'Hare. I saw worse traffic conditions than usual, so the metro seemed like a no-brainer to me. Driving in from Midway takes about the same amount of time.
On non-award travel, the Park Hyatt offers overnight valet parking for $78 a night, which is a lot for the convenience of on-site, overnight parking. It is possible to save a lot of money if you travel with Globalist status on an award booking. The River North neighborhood is close to the metro stop, so I would rather save the money for a nice dinner out there.
I got to the hotel about an hour before check-in started. I was secretly hoping that this wouldn't be an issue, as I was on deadline for other TPG assignments and wanted to sit down to work in my room as soon as possible. The front door was opened for me by the porters and they offered to carry my bag to the desk.
There is a cozier, dimly lit section that feels more like a library, with cream-colored couches and built-in bookshelves, and a more expansive, high-ceilinged area with lighter-tiled columns. Both of these spaces had the same layout prior to the renovation, but older photos of the lobby show the open-concept area was previously darker with black columns.
The concierge and front desk attendant both smiled and said there was no problem getting me to the hotel early. I was upgraded to a one-bedroom suite when the check-in attendant realized I was a guest of honor.
He made a point of noting the hotel's recent renovation and how the colors of the rooms were meant to reflect the different colors of Chicago while he was taking time to see if the room had been serviced by housekeeping.
He gave me two room keys and sent me up to the 12th floor, even though the Porter offered to bring my bags up.
After hopping off the elevator, I saw that my room was near the corner. I was a little worried as I can be a light sleeper and whooshing all night can keep me up. I couldn't hear anything outside of my room for the duration of my stay because the Park Hyatt team had soundproofing in mind.
I could still smell the fresh paint and general "new-ness" (or... "renovated-ness", as I like to call it) of it all, from the wood of the furniture and closets to the plushness still felt in.
There are photos of guest rooms with old tiling and worn out carpets on the internet. The furniture and fixture in many rooms were made of leather, chrome and dark upholstery. The new look is great.
I was supposed to have a regular guest room, but it turned out to be a one-bedroom apartment. As I walked in, there was a walk-in shower off the foyer and a full bathroom. A sliding wooden door separated the bedroom from the living room. The soaking tub in the master bathroom was the one that stood out to me.
There is a large sliding wooden door that divides the bathroom from the bedroom. I'm usually against open-concept bathrooms, but the sliding door made it feel luxurious to soak in the tub while music from the television in the bedroom played at night. I think this tub is as close to an extravagance as I will ever get.
The guest room I booked had a soaking tub and walk-in shower.
The suite was not over- decorated. There was a large, cream-colored sectional couch in the living area that was surrounded by two chairs. The pieces were tied together by a rug.
There were wood floors throughout the suite and there was some wood panelling on some of the walls. There were electrical outlets throughout the entire suite, a plus for someone like me who is constantly in need of a fresh charge for a phone, watch, iPad, etc.
The living room had a large wooden chest in front of it. The piece of furniture was large enough to hold everything from the minibar to the ice bucket.
It seemed like a lot of grays, beiges and blond wood to me when I was told about the "Chicago colors".
The Park Tower, the hotel where the cream tones were inspired, is a sandstone building. The pale green colors paid homage to the city's many parks and were meant as a nod to the steel of other skyscrapers. The design firm Anderson/Miller oversaw the renovations of the guest room.
There was a glassed-in shower in the bathroom off the living room. The en-suite bathroom had a similar shower and toilet feature as well as the soaking tub.
My game of collecting nice hotel toiletries appears to have its days numbered, as hotel companies around the world move toward more sustainable practices, including doing away with mini bottles of soap and shampoo in favor of large wall-mounted dispensers that can be refilled. The Park Hyatt did not have wall-mounted products, but each bathroom had large bottles of products that were not meant to be taken home. A small bottle of shower gel by the tub was used as a makeshift bubble bath for my nightly ritual of a glass of red wine and a few chapters of reading.
There were small bottles of bar soap in my guest bathroom. I'm sorry, Hyatt. It is a difficult habit to break.
The Points Guy/Comeron Sperance.
There was a dressing area off the bathroom that had a backlit mirror, built-in shelves and a bag for laundry services.
Fans of the movie "The Holiday" might remember how Kate Winslet's character slept like a baby in the house swap, thanks to the electrical shade in the bedroom. The Park Hyatt has a button on either side of the bed that makes it easy to turn on the shades. If I still wanted to let in some natural light, these could be used.
Designers sometimes throw pillows on a bed to make it seem ultra-luxury, but the bed itself was very comfortable and cozy. It wasn't easy to get out of bed each morning because of the relative simplicity of the suite.
The doorways and entryways were wide and there were buttons in the suite that controlled lights and blinds.
There is a Gold Coast suite with two queen beds and an accessible rain shower at the hotel. The public areas are accessible.
The Points Guy/Comeron Sperance.
Immediately after check-in, room service was up as I was famished. I ordered a sandwich with a salad and a drink for $25 and it came with an iced tea.
I was surprised when my late lunch arrived in less than half an hour, and someone came by to collect my dishes about an hour later without me even asking. Chicken pesto sandwiches aren't a huge test of one's cooking skills, but the chicken was juicy, and everything tasted fresh and hit the spot.
After dinner at NoMI Kitchen on the seventh floor, I had drinks at NoMI Garden with another hotel reporter. During the summer months, it was a great place to sit outside for a cocktail and catch up with friends. There was a bustling bar area where we were able to get a table and a lot of younger people were mingling in seating areas or at umbrella-shaded tables on the outdoor terrace.
We both like spicy margaritas, so we ordered a $22Passion & Paradise, which included Maestro Dobel silver tequila, Chinola passionfruit liqueur, sriracha, lime and togashi. We were sold on the promise of heat that didn't come in our glasses. It felt like drinking juice instead of a smoky drink.
The Points Guy/Comeron Sperance.
It was obvious which part of the NoMI complex we were in when we arrived for dinner.
Dark wood panels and tables adorned the expansive restaurant. There were sleek, black leather chairs, which the Park Hyatt Chicago team isn't entirely over the leather and chrome look previously seen in guest rooms upstairs, as well as pops of lighter colors in the form of gray rugs and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Chicago Water Tower and Lake
The rillettes were served with sourdough to spread the shredded meat over. The lighter option of the two was the octopus which was adorned with greens and seasoned with pepper and a sauce to finish it off. The rillette was a high-end comfort food with each bite of the spread satisfying.
We ate well but the bill was quite high. The delicious scallops served over roasted corn, squash, tomato and pesto are pricey but still less than the Park Hyatt's overnight parking rates. scallops aren't so expensive at high end restaurants in coastal Massachusetts It was a great dish, but it was hard to figure out the price.
The Points Guy/Comeron Sperance.
At $60, the pork chop was even more expensive. The presentation had cipollini onions, asparagus, baby carrots, and a green garlic beurre blanc. It was jaw-dropping to see a pork chop cost so much, even at a fancy restaurant. The pork chops were delicious, but I was expecting more pizazz on the side than carrots and asparagus.
The pricing at NoMI was reasonable. When we homed in on a James Bond vibe by ordering vesper martinis, I was surprised to see these were $19, but I have seen these go for over $25 at hotel bars.
The dinner service was great, nobody was too pushy. It was almost like a non sequitur that NoMI has a sushi offering.
The NoMI Lounge is a separate entity from the NoMI Kitchen and it's still included on the menu. When I tried nigiri for the first time in my stay at NoMI Garden, I wasn't impressed.
I was blown away by the compressed watermelon salad, which was made with fresh, juicy cubes of watermelon and a cider Dijon vinaigrette with a creamy vinaigrette. It isn't the cheapest salad in Chicago, but it was a nice treat on a warm summer day.
I received free breakfast each morning thanks to being a guest of honor on a Hyatt Globalist account. During my stay, the eggs I got on my first morning went for $26, while the toast I got on the second morning was $19. Do you want bacon on the side? An additional $8 will be added. Adding an egg to a toast costs the same. The average cost for a dozen eggs in the US is $3.12.
Breakfast was my favorite meal. The morning crew at NoMI was friendly and attentive, from remembering that I had juice and coffee the day before to never letting my coffee cup go empty. During a conference I was attending in town, I was even more energetic. The tomato sauce in the shakshuka had a great level of flavor and theavocado toast was a great way to start the day.
The Points Guy/Comeron Sperance.
A friend who was passing through Chicago a week later and was looking for a place to do brunch knew I had eaten at NoMI a few times and asked if she should make a reservation. I said that it was a delicious way to start the day, but also expensive considering what you can get nearby.
I think I'm in the minority of people who worry about that.
A spa and fitness facility is part of the NoMI brand. If and when the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt Chicago is renovated, the Park Hyatt team should look to differentiate their products a bit.
NoMI Kitchen, Lounge and Garden are all within eyesight when you step off the elevator. There is a fitness center and a three-lane indoor lap pool at the NoMI Spa.
It was awkward going to the gym one day in my gym clothes and trying to find a place to work out in front of a large group of people. One of the hostesses pointed me in the right direction even though the signs weren't great.
A Peloton, free weights, various strength training machines, ellipticals, treadmills, a rowing machine and a bunch of other fitness equipment were available for use at the fitness center. The gym has headphones for people who forget their dry hand towels, as well as damp towels for a refreshing after a hard workout. The gym was so well-stocked that it almost felt like it wasn't big enough.
The Points Guy/Comeron Sperance.
The facility was quiet despite being close to NoMI's restaurant and bar mix. There were multiple sitting areas around the water for those who just wanted to relax and read in the pool.
The Park Hyatt Chicago had nothing to do with a massage or a meal.
When I arrived at the hotel, I noticed a few dog beds in the lobby but didn't know who they belonged to.
The Park Hyatt team adopted a pug named "Parker" back in 2016 and he is now the hotel's top dog. Think of him as a four-legged friend at the Plaza.
One of the perks of being a friendly little guy is getting five-star treatment from the Park Hyatt staff, from walks and treats to a whopping five dog beds. I was sold on him after he kept coming back for a pat on the head.
My husband may have been a little jealous that I found a good friend while on the road. He will deal with it.
Some might say that the mark of a true luxury hotel stay is simply having excellent service. The Park Hyatt Chicago is a great place to stay.
The people were very friendly. Bellmen as well as front desk attendants always welcomed me back with a sincere "Welcome back!" when I went through the front door.
Nightly turndown service was great and I finally learned how to use the curtain buttons in my room. The tiny bars of Le Labo that I was quick to put in my carry-on were replenishments after the room was serviced, so they were also in my carry-on.
The room service arrived fast. The service at NoMI played to each venue, with the Garden being more relaxed than the Kitchen. After four trips to NoMI in the name of research, you might say they were my new Chicago-based best friends by the time I left.
The Park Hyatt Chicago isn't likely to be on anyone's dream vacation list compared to other properties in the brand's network, but this is one luxury city hotel that should be on your radar.
The staff is one of the best assets, and the recent renovation of the suites and guest rooms made the high price tag feel worth it.
Maybe it's because I'm still so happy to be out on the open road and friendly skies after being locked down for so long during the Pandemic, or maybe it's because I was able to relax with a glass of red wine in the middle.