The Art Institute of Chicago’s “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit has been setting attendance records since its mid-February opening. So The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel’s Keys To Van Gogh’s Bedrooms package is a brushstroke of marketing genius. But if you think the deal, which includes an overnight stay, skip-the-line gallery passes and tasty treats through May 10, is the only time the hotel shows what its right brain is capable of, think again.
Named after innovative sculptress Gwen Lux, who, in 1929, carved allegorical panels outside the McGraw-Hill Building that now houses the hotel, The Gwen embraces all things artistic every day. Today, you’ll see murals of Lux on elevator doors and find an artist-in-residence package that allows aspiring painters to go wild in their own room with an easel, canvas and watercolors during their stay.
When we visited the downtown Chicago property recently, we were certainly enamored with its appreciation for the arts. But that wasn’t the only thing we found interesting about the hotel this spring. Allow us to paint an even clearer picture as to why The Gwen should be a part of your upcoming travel plans.
A central goal in The Gwen’s ambitious 2016-17 renovation is to give an already stylish property more of a 1930s Chicago glamour feel. Once gold light fixtures, sleek black-and-white lines and mod furnishings officially debut in early May, you will almost be able to imagine early-20th-century Windy City businessmen like William Wrigley conversing over cigars and cognac.
A fresh culinary experience is also on the horizon. Come summer 2016, the Terrace Restaurant, which had a gallery-cum-bistro feel, will transform into a more masculine destination, complete with leather banquettes and mirrors dotting the dining room.
And while we welcome the design changes, we hope that the seared scallops with carrot puree and pickled rainbow chard we tasted haven’t gone anywhere. (If you’re visiting in early spring, a 10th-floor pop-up restaurant can curb any cravings.)
The Gwen promises a new-look lounge that screams old-school charm, too. The former drinking spot sat in the corner of the bustling main floor. The new location promises the same bar snacks and fun cocktails like Eddie’s Old Fashioned (Buffalo Trace bourbon, sugar, bitters and ginger), but they’ll be shared in much more intimate confines.
For the most part, room modifications won’t be addressed until 2017. The 300 units (including 34 suites) are smartly decorated in neutral tones and blond woods. Many of which also come with stunning looks onto Lake Michigan or the Magnificent Mile. And speaking of views, the finest vista might be from the Junior Suite with terrace, a corner winner that gives you a peek onto Michigan Avenue that Van Gogh couldn’t have drawn any better.
If you’re in town for the famed Dutch painter, you’re in luck — The Gwen is only a six-minute cab ride from The Art Institute of Chicago. Of course, even if you aren’t checking in for that reason, the property’s ideal downtown positioning makes it appealing to just about anyone.
Foodies will love the fact that Eataly is around the corner. Movie buffs will appreciate having AMC 600 North Michigan 9 just a five-minute walk away. Navy Pier and Millennium Park can be reached without breaking a sweat. And shoppers will like knowing that the Magnificent Mile can be hit very quickly. But in the event that one-block hike is too far, rest easy knowing that the Chicago hotel is connected to The Shops at North Bridge, a mall with Nordstrom, Stuart Weitzman and a host of other popular stores.
Lots of amenities
After a long day of shopping or sightseeing, you could go for a nightcap at the lounge. But if things are a little too boisterous there, toast in the privacy of your own bedroom with the help of The Gwen’s Prohibition Porter Experience. Keeping with the turn-of-the-century theme resonating through the luxury hotel, this alcohol-fueled amenity takes you back to a simpler time via a dapperly dressed bartender who prepares four drinks from a vintage menu (the bourbon- and local honey-doused Urban Buzz was our favorite) during the 30-minute service.
Personal touches don’t stop there, though. The Gwen doesn’t have an onsite spa, but because of its relationship with Windy City Massages and nearby Spa Nordstrom, it doesn’t really need one; with the former, a licensed masseuse will bring her magic hands (and hot stones and oils) to your room for a private session.
If you’re traveling with the little ones, The Gwen also has you covered there. During the spring and summer, the terrace presents family-approved movies under the stars. And if your “child” happens to have four legs and wear a leash, that won’t be a problem, either — the pet-friendly hotel welcomes Fidos and felines up to 40 pounds.