- Some rooms have old, worn furnishings
- Basic rooms with no climate control
- Restaurant and bar have seasonal hours
- Fee for valet and self-parking
- Mini-fridges available for a fee
Business-friendly historic hotel on a budget
Built in 1893 to accommodate the visitors of the World’s Columbian Exposition, the Congress Plaza Hotel has had a glorious past, and hosted presidents and several other notable politicians. Famous political speeches have echoed in its elegant halls; Democratic and Republican conventions have been held in its ballrooms; and a famous NBC Radio show had its headquarters here -- but that was all a long time ago.
The hotel has been living to some extent on its past reputation. While parts of the huge property were renovated in 2007, and there were room updates in 2016, some elements throughout remain either dated or worn out, such as the halls on room floors, with dark carpets and drop-ceilings. But renovations are ongoing, and most of the public areas and event spaces still impress; the lobby is covered in wall-to-wall marble, with ornate blind arches and sparkling chandeliers.
The Congress's business suffered in part due a decade-long strike of its cleaning and maintenance workers that ended in 2013. During the strike, the hotel sued the union representing the workers for dissuading prominent guests from staying at the hotel -- one alleged stunt involved sending manure to The National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, before they hosted a conference at the hotel, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Across the street from Grant Park and blocks from six subway lines
The Congress Plaza is located in the South Loop, across the street from Grant Park and its famous Buckingham Fountain, which can be seen from most of the rooms. Museum Campus is just a short walk away, and there are six subway lines and one Metro line within two blocks of the hotel. Numerous cultural attractions like Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Campus, home to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History are within walking distance, but the vibrant Loop neighborhood and the Magnificent Mile are farther north (expect at least a 10-minute drive, traffic depending). O’Hare International Airport is about a 40-minute drive away.
Mix of old and updated rooms, all with coffeemakers
The hotel's 851 rooms and suites are being renovated, but many still have a dated old-world style, with wood bed frames, gold bed throws, and cream patterned wallpaper. Garish curtains, stained carpets, and thoroughly worn out furniture are the norm. Updated rooms ditch the old world look for a modern white palette, consisting of white vanities and tables for two with gray chairs, on top of purple carpets. All rooms have free Wi-Fi, small 32-inch flat-screen TVs, and coffeemakers. Mini-fridges are available for an extra fee and rooms lack individual climate controls. The bathrooms have average shower/tub combos, though some suites get jetted tubs (as well as separate living rooms). Most rooms have city views, but upgraded rooms and suites have views of the lakefront.
Vast elegant event spaces, two restaurants, lounge bar, 24-hour fitness and business centers
The hotel's main draw are its historic meeting and event spaces, totaling over 50,000 square feet, including an elegant 8,300-square-foot ballroom that can accommodate 2,000 people. There are also a 24-hour business center and a 24-hour fitness center, though it's equipped with old cardio machines. For dining, Gazebo is a casual American restaurant open daily for breakfast (not included), while Rafael’s takes over for lunch and dinner, serving American standards. The Congress Lounge has a pool table, beers, cocktails, and wine, along with a short menu of comfort food like chicken tenders and quesadillas. There's also a sidewalk patio with outdoor seating. Valet and self-parking are available for a fee.
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