Hotel Review: Kimpton Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IL

During our whirlwind 50 hour trip to Chicago, I decided to have us stay at the Kimpton Hotel Allegro located in the Chicago Loop. I had several reasons to stay here. The hotel was built in 1926 and I’ve written before about how we love to stay in old hotels, like the Waldorf=Astoria in New York. The Hotel Allegro is conveniently located near the  ‘L’ trains so it would be easy getting to the airports for our flights and it was also within walking distance for many of the sights that we wanted to see. Normally this would be enough for me to choose this hotel but the Kimpton Hotel Allegro had one more thing going for it that made the decision a no brainer.

You see, the Kimpton Hotel Allegro was previously known as the Bismarck Hotel. It was the very same hotel where Sharon attended The Official 1988 Monkees Convention in the summer of ’88 and for nostalgia’s sake, she wanted to stay there again.

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Note From Sharon: I was a HUGE Monkees fan when the reruns were on the air in the 70s and then again from roughly 1984 to 1992, so it made perfect sense that I went to Monkees conventions in ’87, ’88 and ’89, during the height of my fandom.

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Photographic proof of the convention at the Bismarck Hotel (NOTE FROM SHARON: From L to R: Chip Douglas, Jerry Yester, Henry Diltz [if you’re into 60s and 70s music, yes, that’s THE Henry Diltz, the photographer] and I can’t tell who the 4th one is. They were all part of the Modern Folk Quartet (sometimes Quintet) and several of them were an integral part of the Monkees (Chip was often their music producer, Henry was their photographer, etc.).
Like so many old hotels, The Bismarck lived on long past its heyday, fell onto hard times and eventually closed in 1996. That’s when the Kimpton Hotel company stepped in to purchase the hotel in 1998 and embarked on a mission to bring back the hotel to its former glory. If you are interested in the story of the hotel’s rebirth, you can find interesting articles here and here.

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Sharon, reliving the time she slept on the sidewalk in Chicago, waiting for the Monkees Convention in 1988 (Note from Sharon: I really did, and that was roughly “my spot.” Seating for the convention was first come first served and about 100 of us slept on the sidewalk the night before Micky, Davy and Peter were scheduled to be there, to help ensure we got good seats. I got about 5 hours of sleep that night).

They didn’t try to do a full restoration, as much of the hotel had fallen into a condition that was beyond repair. However, they did try to bring the hotel back to a grand hotel style, reminiscent of the 1920s. So there was Art Deco design with dark colors, lots of crystal and striking design elements everywhere. I know that’s not everyone’s style but it was interesting to stay there. I’ve read that since the hotel’s rooms were not uniform, there are a numerous amount of room configurations so that few of the rooms are identical. This leads to a difficulty in reviewing the rooms since so few of of them are the same, but I’ll do my best.

We arrived at the hotel around 1PM, well before the check-in time of 3PM. I had emailed the hotel ahead of time asking for an early check-in but was informed the hotel was fully booked the night before so they couldn’t guarantee the room would be ready when we arrived.

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Grand Staircase up to the Lobby Level
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Lobby Level of the Hotel Allegro (check in desks to the right by the big chandelier)

We walked to the check in desk area on the second floor and was greeted by a friendly associate. We were informed that our room was ready and told about the hotel’s offerings. Coffee in the lobby every morning. Happy Hour every evening with prosecco between 5-6 PM. Hours of the hotel restaurant and so on. Having already been awake for about 10 hours, we just wanted to drop our bags off in our room and head to lunch so we could then take a nap. In my lack of sleep stupor, I totally forgot to give the “secret word.” Every few months, Kimpton Hotels releases a different phrase on their Facebook page and if you say it to the front desk when checking in, you may get a special perk. You can either follow Kimpton on Facebook or this thread on Flyertalk (where you can find out the perks at each Kimpton hotel.)  Instead, we headed right to our room, which was located on the 11th floor.

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Elevators on the Lobby Level (other levels were less ornate) FYI, the mailbox worked.
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Hallway to the rooms. A little too dark for our taste.

It was interesting that the room numbers didn’t follow the typical odd/even pattern, which confused us for a second. Our room was located about half way down the hall, facing the back of the hotel. While we didn’t have a view, we also didn’t have any street noise, which was fine by me.

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View of bed and desk (having a full desk and chair was nice). The bed was really comfortable. We usually don’t sleep well when we’re away from home, but this bed made it easy.
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The bathroom only fit one person at a time and failed the shower curtain test – the air vent blew the curtain into the shower. Bonus points for the toilet art.
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Obligatory toiletries picture. I’m not a huge fan of liquid bath soap.
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Room art. At first glance it reminded me of Pride Rock from The Lion King but when I woke up at 3AM and saw it, I thought that one of the apes from Planet of the Apes was attacking me!
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Does anyone use all these pillows??? Even housekeeping stacked them in the corner of the room for the second night of our stay instead of putting them on the bed.
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We quickly discovered that the air conditioner in the room had a motion sensor. When we stopped moving, the room started to get uncomfortably warm. We wished that there was a dollar store nearby to get a mylar balloon. 
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Do not stack the 15 pillows from the bed in front of this sensor if you want to stay cool/warm during the night. It’s almost as if they knew this would be the best place to put them.
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We did have a partial view of the Willis (Sears) tower from our room, looking through the chicken wire.

The room felt a little small, but that was as much a part of the actual size of the room along with the amount of furniture and the dark color palette used in the design. I guess as a function of the dark colors, the room had the best lighting of any room we could remember. There was a small closet near the entrance but it was an irregular shape and you had to hang the clothes with the hangers facing you instead of putting the clothes in sideways. Since we were only staying there for two nights, it was perfectly fine. We only had our two carry-on bags as luggage so the lack of storage wasn’t a problem as we just kept them on the luggage stands under the artwork.  Most important to us was that the room had a plethora of plugs. One nightstand had a dock with two plugs and two USB connectors. The other nightstand was near the desk and had numerous plugs for devices, computers, etc. This is the main problem we have with hotels nowadays, but wasn’t an issue here.

I did sign up for the Kimpton Karma rewards program before our stay and took advantage of the perks that we were given, such as free wi-fi and the “raid the bar” credit. The free wi-fi in the room worked fine and we were able to sign on with as many devices as we wanted.

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I used the credit to pay for a drink we had at the hotel’s restaurant. This isn’t explicitly covered but I asked at checkout if it could be applied and they did, no questions asked.

When I first looked at hotels in Chicago, the prices were pretty low for the dates of our trip. However as the date approached and I hadn’t booked a room yet, the prices went up significantly. I’m guessing this was because of the Lions Convention in town along with the three concerts happening the same weekend. The Kimpton Hotel Allegro was priced reasonably compared to other hotels but it was still more than we’d normally pay for a weekend trip. It does have a great location to walk around Chicago and is also conveniently located near several different lines of the ‘L’ trains. The decor was stylishly done but we decided that Art Deco just isn’t our taste for an entire hotel. I’d definitely stay here again but I’d check to see if anything else is available in the area first. For our next stay in Chicago for Frequent Traveler University, we’re spending a night at the Intercontinental Chicago Miracle Mile for the evening before the event starts. It’s another classic old hotel, built in 1929, and I get to use my free night I get from having the IHG credit card.

Do you have any favorite hotels to stay at in Chicago? Do you like to stay in renovated hotels or do you prefer to stay in a modern environment?  Let us know!

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