If you’re visiting Chicago for business, chances are good that you’re either attending a meeting at Hilton Chicago or staying there if you’re in the city for a citywide convention. That’s because business travelers account for the vast majority of the hotel’s guests. And it likely has a lot to do with the hotel’s convenient downtown location. So, what should you expect?

Experience Hilton Chicago:

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Located across the street from Grant Park on Michigan Avenue,  Hilton Chicago offers easy access to museums, restaurants and other activities — not to mention its enviable address with the reverse skyline view of Navy Pier, Millennium Park, Art Institute, Buckingham Palace, Planetarium and Soldier Field… Oh yea, and the expanse of Lake Michigan (tip: for a better view, ask for an east facing higher floor, if possible).

Hilton Chicago completed the first phase of a $150 million renovation in 2012 — including a completely renovated lobby level, meeting spaces and several guest room floors — updating the hotel to reflect contemporary touches that enhance its classic features.

Opened in 1927 as the Stevens Hotel (the largest hotel in the world at that time), the historic hotel was built in the Beaux Arts style of neoclassic architecture which was popular in the U.S. at that time. It’s history is steeped in business and politics: The hotel was built to serve as a self-contained meetings destination that was a “city within a city” (27 seat barber shop, 5 lane bowling alley, 1,200 seat movie theater with talking motion picture equipment at the time, an ice cream shop, a 24 hour drug store and more). The hotel’s first registered guest was Vice President Charles Dawes, and in 1942 the hotel was purchased by the U.S. Army to serve as barracks and classrooms for the Army Air Force during WWII. But in the late 1940s it was purchased by Conrad Hilton.

Since then, it has hosted famous guests including Elizabeth Taylor & Nick Hilton (married and stayed in the Imperial Suites — marriage only lasted 205 days!), President Truman, President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, President Nixon, President Clinton and Michael Phelps. Plus the millions of business people who have passed through here.

Guest Rooms at the Chicago Hilton

Hilton Chicago has 1,544 rooms (includes 436 suites) with a choice of nine different room types and four styles of suites. 450 new business class rooms (which come with free health club access) are now located on floors 9-14. These floors, the luxury suites and the five Executive Level floors have completed their renovations. They’re comfortable and contemporary. Timing for the remaining rooms is currently being determined.

I stayed in the Daley Suite (Room 2313), a two-room specialty suite that stretches along Michigan Avenue. It is available only through the convention sales team for major event VIPs. The two room suite offers great views of Grant Park, Buckingham Palace, Soldier Field, Navy Pier and, of course, Lake Michigan. The colors reflect warm gray and blue tones, wide wood plank flooring (dark), bookshelves and original artwork throughout. The separate living room  offers multiple seating areas, a wet bar and a media center with a 37″ flat screen HDTV, PC workstation with virtual concierge and high speed wireless internet service.

The bedroom faces the lake. Hilton knows the importance of a great night sleep for business travelers, and you’ll enjoy slipping into  Hilton’s signature Serenity Bed Collection (king) — the down comforter, linens and pillows were great. And so was the Hilton bath robe which is generously sized with a waffle shawl collar. The bath amenities are Peter Roth Thomas (excellent). And housekeeping did a great job with maintaining the room and turndown service.

Speaking of specialty suites, there’s the Imperial Suite and the famous Conrad Hilton Suite takes up the top two floors.

Executive Level rooms rooms include free wireless internet and health club access, continental breakfast, private concierge services, and evening hors d’oeuvres with honor bar, soda and water. The executive lounge is a comfortable area with east facing views, and plenty of tables if you’re looking to find a quiet place to write or watch TV.

Meetings and Events at Hilton Chicago

Hilton Chicago is a meetings hotel — it accommodates approximately 500 meetings per year. That’s about 60% of the hotel’s overall business volume (so meeting professionals have a lot of influence and support from the hotel’s conference services team). And Hilton Chicago attracts an international guest. That’s important because approximately 20% of attendees to Chicago’s citywide conventions come from the UK, China, Japan, South American and Canada, and they frequently choose to stay here.

Hilton Chicago can hold from small to large meetings and events (up to 2,400 attendees or guest). You’ll definitely know that you’re part of a bigger program when there’s lively activity where people enjoy arriving or gathering outside the meeting spaces on the lobby level. In total, there’s more than 234,000 square feet of flexible meeting space on seven floors that can be convertible to 50 unique configurations.

Hilton Chicago also has four exhibit halls with 115,000 square feet of space plus a registration area and registration office. The Grand Ballroom is 12,000 square feet, the International Ballroom is the largest space and can hold up to 2,400 theater style or 1,800 banquet style), the Stevens Meeting Center is 119,000 square feet (versatile for meetings and trade shows). It also includes boardrooms and two upper level floors of conference rooms that can hold from two to 80 attendees. Amenities for meetings and special events include creative event planning and catering, a full-service concierge, AV equipment, business center, luggage hold (fee required), room service and a multi-lingual staff.

Dining and Lounges at Hilton Chicago

Everything you want to find is located on the lobby level. 720 South Bar & Grill is an upscale and classic American grill (comfort foods) with a seasonally inspired menu and a locally sourced ingredients for breakfast lunch and dinner. Just across from the restaurant is the 720 Bar. It has a street view of Michigan Avenue and Grant Park (in the summer it offers outdoor seating along the street). As part of renovations it has been updated into a contemporary and comfortable space for hosted events with a barista hosted coffee bar. In the evening it’s a lively gathering spot for cocktails, local craft beers and small bites.

Kitty O’Shea’s is a traditional Irish pub with favorites like shepherd’s pie, corned beef, burgers and other options. It also offers live music on a regular basis. Kitty O’Shea’s refreshed its space without losing its design in early 2013., SNAX is an upscale grab and go shop that offers Starbucks beverages, soda fountain options, wine and craft beer, and freshly prepared breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options… plus free internet access.

Hilton Chicago Athletic Club 

We’ve all stayed at hotels that standard fitness rooms, and then there’s the Hilton Chicago. Located on the 8th floor, the Hilton Chicago Athletic Club is fully equipped with the latest cardio and strength training machines (refreshed at the end of 2013). It has been recognized as one of the largest hotel fitness centers in the U.S.

It has state-of-the-art Life Fitness equipment, free weights, cardio equipment with personal viewing screens (and a great range of cable TV stations), an indoor track, two jacuzzis and an indoor heated lap pool (families welcome), a seasonal sundeck, personal training, separate changing rooms, showers and more (remember to just bring your flip flops). To be honest, it seems there’s always an open elliptical, treadmill and bike. The Athletic Club is also where you can schedule a massage (one treatment room). They offer an on-site certified massage therapist, but your appointment must be scheduled in advance to coordinate services.

My personal opinion is that this is a great athletic club — I am also a member again, so you may see me working out here a couple times a week.

 The Verdict?

Political figures, corporations and businesses turn to Hilton Chicago for a full range of meetings, incentives, conventions and special events in Chicago. The renovation of the hotel’s lobby level makes the hotel feel welcoming and encourages guests to enjoy the hotel’s facilities. I particularly enjoy the way the hotel offers a range of seating areas to either relax and review some paperwork or check mobile devices or to enjoy dinner at the restaurant or a cocktail in the contemporary and stylish 720 Bar.

My experience with hotel service was excellent. I inadvertently forgot to bring a cord or charger for my iPhone 5, and the front desk was able to lend and deliver one to my room. The executive lounge is another retreat from other priorities where you can enjoy a drink, snack and ask a concierge for recommendations. And all hotel staff were friendly throughout my stay.

The contemporary design of the newly renovated business rooms is bright and maximizes the space that you find in historic guest rooms (which obviously will vary in sizes). But I particularly enjoy the range and number of options for suites throughout the hotel. Other amenities in the lobby include a shoe shine stand, a FedEx office, a sundries shop (with a range of healthy options!) and a couple of small gift stores and stands.

Overall, Hilton Chicago lives up to its reputation as a classic and historic hotel with excellent guest satisfaction, and I believe it will continue to serve as a top business hotel in Chicago.