Bidding on the 2016 Olympics, boasting a fresh Tony awarded to local Steppenwolf Theatre and now flush with pride from sending a favorite son to the White House, Chicago is on a roll. Even the country's biggest opportunist, Donald Trump, has arrived, recently opening a towering, $1 billion condo-hotel on perhaps the city's choicest piece of real estate – riverside, just off Michigan Ave., with lake views. Trump is part of a wave of out-of-towners, including New York chef Marcus Samuelsson and the newly merged Miller-Coors beer company, new to the Windy City where a slew of new hotels, restaurants and shops gives the "City of Big Shoulders" more swagger than ever.
The BlackstoneSite of the original "smoke-filled room" of backroom politics, The Blackstone Hotel (636 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-447-0955; marriott.com) has been rescued from vacancy and restored with respect for history (gilded lobby) leavened by modern aesthetics (bold carpet and furniture in ornate common areas). The best of the hotel's comfortable 332 rooms face east across Grant Park with uninterrupted lake views. Some 1,600 works of art decorate the hotel, beginning with a montage of skyline views captured from a live roof cam broadcast behind the front desk. Book the lavish three-bedroom Presidential Suite, site of the Republican cabal that put Warren G. Harding on the ticket in 1920, to channel history. Rooms from $269.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago Living up to his reputation for thinking big, Donald Trump came to town, bought and destroyed an eyesore (the old Sun-Times building), and erected a modern, gleaming 92-story tower in his own name, of course — the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago (401 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-924-7600; trumpchicagohotel.com). Fortunately for Chicago, this new condo-hotel isn't the garish Trump of Atlantic City. Word is his children – Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric – weighed in, keeping the tone opulent without evident gold leafing. Units are dressed in cool gray tones with downy beds, electric fireplaces and TVs embedded in the bathroom mirror, plus a kitchen. Not that you'll want to dine in. Sixteen, the hotel's signature restaurant, is worth the trip both for the skyline views – on par with the Tribune Tower and Wrigley Building rooftops – as well as the elegant food of chef Frank Brunacci. Staking claim as an urban resort, the hotel also boasts a 75-foot swimming pool overlooking the river, and an elaborate 11-treatment-room spa with Kate Somerville-designed treatments. Rooms from $525.
Dana Hotel and Spa Bucking the trend to corporatized boutique hotel chains, the locally-owned Dana Hotel and Spa (660 N. State St.; 312-202-6018; danahotelandspa.com) aims to keep the vibe here-and-now, down to stocking the mini-bar with Chicago-made treats from Mr. Kite's Candy & Nuts. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls separate 216 loft-look rooms – outfitted with high-end sound systems, MP3 docking stations, in-room wine selections, 300-thread-count linens and rain showerheads — from the bustling River North district outside. You don't have to venture far for fun, though. The street-level Ajasteak and the rooftop Vertigo Sky Lounge feed and water you, respectively, in style. Rooms from $229.