A psychic might have predicted an early death for Chicago’s five-star Peninsula Hotel. Its grand opening was slated for September 11, 2001. It had zero name recognition in the Midwest. And it rang in at a price point right up there with such already-deeply entrenched luxury brands as the Four Seasons.

That psychic, I’m pleased to say, would have been dead wrong. In fact, as Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel makes preparations for one doozie of a 10-year-anniversary wing-ding, here are five reasons why, against all odds, the Peninsula has become the number one luxury hotel in Chicago:

The Stone Lions. In Asia, where the Peninsula has a long-standing pedigree, discerning customers look for the hotel’s signature guardian lions that are believed to have mythic protective powers. The Chicago lions, flanking the door on Superior Street, just 18 discreet steps from the Magnificent Miles, don’t just provide powerful Feng Shui, but they harbor a certain, shall we say, reputation. The flagship Peninsula in Hong Kong, open since 1928, holds several records for ordering large fleets of Rolls-Royces. Louis Vuitton considers its boutique in the Beijing Peninsula as its “world flagship” and the Beverly Hills Peninsula, which opened the year before Chicago, happens to sit next door to Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and had already gathered fans among Hollywood players.

The Stores. Not only can guests practically gaze into the enticingly-appointed windows of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile from Peninsula rooms and suites, but they can sign up for Peninsula Academy’s (each Peninsula has its own customized academy) shopping extravaganzas. Former Geraldo producer, Bonnie Kaplan, calls these customized excursions a “shopping thrill ride.” She interviews each customer before planning a half or full-day itinerary that includes hard-to-find boutiques, private designer showrooms, artists’ studios, and, of course, champagne and canapes.

The Spa. Occupying the top two floors, the Peninsula spa has an outdoor sundeck, a half Olympic length heated pool, floor-to-ceiling windows with lots of natural light and eight relaxing treatment rooms and suites.

The Sci-Fi. Someone once compared the Peninsula’s nightstand console to the command center of the Spaceship Enterprise, only with more buttons. From the comfort of their bed, guests can do everything from control the heat to dim the lights to set the high-tech “do not disturb” light near the door.

The inability to “just say no.”
Guests might be put off at first by all the questions at reservation. They shouldn’t be. The Peninsula just wants to know which direction to head when providing that extra mile. For example, if the reservationist discovers a guest is in town to golf, a selection of golf magazines will be stocked in his room. Peninsula’s pageboys, the guys in the white pillbox caps, are employed for the sole purpose of running errands whether that’s filling a prescription, walking dogs or taking an American Girl doll to have her hair fixed for a birthday party.

Peninsula Chicago, 108 East Superior, 312.337.2888.

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