Meeting and event space includes a grand ballroom with gold arched ceiling
Hotel offers free weekly history tours
Free Wi-Fi in the lobby
Early check-in available for a fee
Small rooms with limited views
Daily fee for Wi-Fi
Business center is outdated, pricey, and often out of service
Historic structure means that elevators can be slow and pipes can be noisy
No room service
No spa or pool
The historic 306-room Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel is a good value, considering its location steps from the Magnificent Mile. The classic property has a few features that showcase its 1927 roots: the in-lobby Martini Bar, the stunning Crystal Ballroom with intricate gold molding, and free guided history tours. Rooms are on the small side, but they're warmly decorated and equipped with coffeemakers, minibars, and modern bathrooms. For a stay with even more historic elegance, the Drake Hotel has several wonderful dining options, including the Palm Court, plus an upscale shopping arcade. However, rooms rates there are often steeper.
The Knickerbocker has gone through several incarnations since it opened in 1927: In the 1930s, it housed a penthouse casino owned by Al Capone's brother and, in the 1970s, it became the Playboy Hotel, owned by Hugh Hefner. After completing a multi-million dollar renovation in 2008, the hotel has reinvented itself once again, with refurbished public spaces. The elegant two-story lobby is decorated with marble floors, wood moldings, and warm colors. A chandelier hangs from the ornate coffered ceiling, bronze candle sconces are affixed to the square columns, and fringed velvet couches and low-back armchairs form pockets of seating around the Knickerbocker's lobby bar, Martini Bar.
In northern Streeterville, half a block from the Magnificent Mile
The Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel is located in northern Streeterville just steps from the Magnificent Mile, an iconic stretch of North Michigan Avenue famous for its upscale shopping. But it's not all about department stores out here. Art galleries, landmarks -- such as the Water Tower, the John Hancock Observatory, the Pumping Station and Wrigley Building -- and top-notch restaurants are within easy walking distance. The closest subway station is seven blocks away.
Simple but warm rooms with flat-screen TVs and updated bathrooms
Straightforward rooms are outfitted in shades of gold and pink. The light from table lamps on the butterscotch-colored walls, reddish-pink velvet-dot armchairs, and burgundy bolster pillows on the beds give the rooms a cozy warmth. Some rooms feel a little cramped and only a handful have good views. Notable (at first) are the HCN Navigator computers at the writing desks. (Why don't more hotels have this?) The desktop computers are meant to replace the typical literature found in hotel rooms, such as local restaurant directories and hotel information, but Knickerbocker guests frequently report that computers are slow or out of service. Still, it's an uncommon feature and a nice thought.
Bright renovated bathrooms with black granite counters and water-conserving dual-flush toilets are a real high point. Bathrooms either have shower/tub combos or large standing rainfall showers. Other amenities include flat-screen TVs, minibars, coffeemakers, white waffle bathrobes, and black-out curtains. In-room Wi-Fi access incurs a daily fee.
A grand ballroom, free weekly history tour, and lobby bar that plays up the hotel's historic character
The hotel hones in on its 1920s heritage with Martini Bar, the lobby bar that offers more than 50 martinis and wines, plus live entertainment on most nights. Martini Bar's food menu includes small plates (duck pot stickers, smoked pork belly tacos) and entrees (black Angus burgers, mushroom ravioli). For a full dining experience, Nix Restaurant serves American cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dining room is artful and elegant, with Hollywood Regency carpeting, bright modernist murals, and a decorative grid hanging from the ceiling.
The Crystal Ballroom has a built-in illuminated dance floor and an ornate gilded arched ceiling. It's the showpiece of the hotel's total 18,500 square feet of event and meeting space. Both the four-station business center and the fitness center are open 24 hours a day. Guests won't find a spa or pool here, but in-room spa services can be arranged. The hotel offers free guided history tours once a week; reservations are not required. Wi-Fi is free in the lobby (in-room access costs a daily fee, as does valet parking).
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