Chicago is a metropolis whose attractions come easily to mind: the art museums of The Loop, the swanky shops along Magnificent Mile, and the suburbs. Yes, the suburbs. Unlike many big cities that strive to be islands unto themselves, Chicago enjoys taking credit not only for its own culturally rich urban center, but for its environs, as well. And for good reason. Woodsy communities less than an hour from downtown produced Ernest Hemingway, inspired Frank Lloyd Wright and gave executive travelers the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center.
Set on 150 acres of fertile fairways, picturesque lakes and vast lawns dotted with trees, this property feels far from the hustle of city life. What was once the Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort is now the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center. The resort was designed to be the sort of place where you can attend meetings and genuinely unwind, all in the same day.
Along with the big draw the 18-hole, championship Willow Crest Golf Club, which includes a putting green and pro shop the resort offers basketball and sand volleyball courts, and even a heated outdoor pool.
One feature that can disappoint at conference hotels is accommodation. Properties geared for business travelers often fall into the trap of providing generic rooms that feel like extensions of a sterile office environment. Not at Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center. It has done a fine job of appointing its rooms so that they are tasteful and comfy. Standard guest rooms are done in a contemporary style that verges on hip without losing its dignity. The avoidance of stark whites keeps the ambiance warm. Amenities include work areas, two phones, data ports, speaker phones, voice mail and high-speed Internet access.
Accompanying the guest rooms is a collection of suites that includes the Presidential Suite, whose residential look is infused with a designer's touch. The décor relies on a neutral palette that provides a backdrop for striking accent fabrics, tasteful artwork and mellow wood finishings. The suite has a living room with fireplace and wet bar, and there is dining for eight. It also offers a bird's eye view of the golf course; what may be a water hazard when you're on the fairway becomes a tree-shrouded lake vista when looked upon from above.
Although it is an easy drive into the city, there are some nice dining options if you choose to stay in. Overlooking the fairways, Windows is the main venue for conference buffets. It also serves seasonal themed meals on Saturday evenings and a Sunday Champagne Brunch. It is wrapped in rich, red-toned wood paneling, which feels like a nod to the old manor houses of Scotland. For a more casual meal in a sporty atmosphere, try The Grille, just steps from the 18th hole.
The resort was designed with conference goers in mind, but it's easy to forget this fact, given the wealth of recreation on offer. The idea, of course, is to make working a pleasure, and this is ensured not only by the abundance of ways to spend the off hours, but also by the convenience, flexibility and comfort of the meeting spaces. There are over 30 meeting rooms, an amphitheater, executive boardrooms, a Grand Ballroom, a Junior Ballroom and an outdoor seasonal tent. The spaces are attractive, and the boardrooms, with their hint of deco style, are dignified without being stuffy. Groups will also find all the meeting essentials, from on-site IT and AV techs to professional catering managers.
Clearly, Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center knows how to satisfy an executive clientele; fortunately, it also knows better than to rest on this laurel. Along with nourishing the corporate mind, it soothes the leisure-loving body and soul.