We are revisiting our Holiday trip to Ritz-Carlton Chicago and the Magnificent Mile. Reminder, services and decorations may’ve changed — but the Ritz-Carlton Chicago is always a wonderful destination. This review was co-written by Christopher and his wife, Alison.
Sure we all love a beach vacation or a tranquil desert spa the rest of the year. But at Christmas time you don’t want to see twinkle lights in palm trees or Santa in surfer shorts. You want chill in the air, you want a chance of snow, and you want a hot cocoa to warm your fingers while you window shop. You want to visit Chicago.
The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, a Four Seasons hotel, is a warm and welcoming holiday home-away-from-home for your family’s visit to the Windy City. The unbeatable location and signature service assure your family a comfortable and relaxing stay. Our family recently enjoyed a lovely post-Thanksgiving weekend in this outstanding hotel and found it to be the perfect kick-off to the Christmas season.
The lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago has always been a family favorite, with its dramatic fountain, nature inspired wall reliefs and bright wall of city-view windows. So we were excited to see how the elegant space would express itself for the holidays. We were pleased to find a towering Christmas tree accented, much to our daughters’ delight, with the signature little red bags from American Girl Place, their personal favorite Chicago landmark. Charming gingerbread houses and tasteful holiday décor enhanced the welcoming atmosphere.
The lobby also plays home to the newly enlarged and reimagined dining area, Deca. We ate a dinner and breakfast at the Deca Restaurant. The children’s menu ranges from pb and j to filet mignon and doubles as a take-home coloring book. It goes without saying that the service and food were spot on. The Deca Bar is also a perfect perch for a snack and a few Shirley Temples. The deep couches and wall of windows make it a good spot for a family recharge.
Before we even made it up to our room after checking in, we stopped in at the Deca host’s stand for the first event of our stay. We had made reservations at a table behind the scenes, in the kitchen with the pastry chefs! The cookie-decorating tour is available everyday at 4:00. The girls learned chef’s tips for rolling out and cutting their own sugar cookies, which were baked to perfection and later delivered to the room with frosting and sprinkles, ready for decorating. What a hit!
When making your reservation, consider requesting the Happy Camper service. Our girls enjoyed hiding out in the tent that was pitched for them and snacking on the chocolate and graham cracker covered marshmallows. But it was the much anticipated visit from the Candy Man that truly set them twirling. The Candy Man (actually a charming young woman) arrived at our door with a fully stocked candy store on a pushcart! She enlighten our daughters on the personality traits that their candy selections revealed and left them tickled pink with their fat little sacks of gummy snakes and chocolates.
While the rooms are elegant and the views are stunning, eventually you may choose to leave the hotel. If a little holiday shopping is your plan, you are in the perfect place to set out on the retail wonderland that is Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. But even better, leave your coat in your room and simply take the elevator down to the shops of the Water Tower Place. The most beloved of these stores, for our girls is (of course) the American Girl Place. Half mega doll store, half schoolgirl mecca, this enormous space caters to the dreams of girls and the heartstrings of their parents. It is hard to resist the allure of the wholesome, history-rich adventures that American Girl offers. While our 7 year old savored the character dioramas and delighted in finding new mystery books starring her treasured “Kit,” our 4 year old was very pleased to select a tiny ballet costume for her well-worn “Bitty Baby.” We also enjoyed brunch at the in-store restaurant, complete with table-side accommodations for dolls. The dessert, served in tiny flowerpots and planted with a take-home daisy, was the favorite.
Upon returning to our room, the girls were thrilled to find a platter of tiny cupcakes and a bouquet of balloons awaiting them. Sneaky daddy and the ever-helpful staff had conspired on one more over-the-top gesture. It soon turned into a Bitty Baby birthday party. Surprise!
Be sure to balance out the kiddie-centric activities by planning a few grown-up treats as well. The hotel spa is an onsite haven and the pool is perfect for swimming laps. The hotel babysitting service is always superb. The friendly, responsible, capable staff has always made us completely at ease. We used our night out to try the recently opened Pump Room for dinner. The calm, elegant dining room and warm staff made it the perfect complement to a morning of American Girl high energy.
We finished our Chicago visit with a few hours of happy wandering in the Art Institute. Where the girls visited some old friends — Seurat’s Sunday park goers, Degas ballerinas — and marveled at the dreamy glow of Chagall’s America Windows. The small, but fascinating, collection of Ancient Egyptian items is always a kid pleaser.
With a chilly dash to the car and a last wave goodbye to the grand lions who flank the museum’s main entrance we wrapped up our Chicago holiday visit. We returned home in the perfect mindset to begin our family’s holiday preparations. Bring on the Christmas baking, we’ve got two Four Seasons trained pastry chefs in our kitchen!
Christopher Parr, is the Editor and Chief Content Creator for Pursuitist, and a contributing writer to USA Today, Business Insider — and the on-air host of Travel Tuesday on Live at 4 CBS. He is an award-winning luxury marketing veteran, writer, a frequent speaker at luxury and interactive marketing conferences and a pioneer in web publishing. Named a "Top 10 Luxury Travel Blogger” by USA Today, Parr has also been selected as the official winner in Luxury Lifestyle Awards’ 2023 list of the “Top 50 Best Luxury Influencers and Bloggers in the World.”