Wedged between the lake and the river, River North is a good area to stay and play.
Hotel: In late 2006, the team behind Miami’s Sanctuary quietly launched the Raffaello, a fashionable stay in the historic Raphael Hotel space. After $20 million in renovations, the new Wi-Fi-equipped hotel features 175 oversize rooms outfitted with 500-thread-count linens and flat-screen TVs. A hydroponic garden on the 1,500-square-foot Green Roof supplies herbs and produce for the hotel’s Sanctuary Spa. The Raffaello is still tweaking a few areas, including its 4,000 square feet of event and meeting space and a 2,500-square-foot restaurant, both of which are set to open this summer.
Spa: In February 2007, the posh James Hotel got a new amenity: the Spa by Asha. In a ground-floor, 1,000-square-foot space, the spa, with three treatment rooms, can accommodate events for as many as 70, with guests mingling in the lounge and popping into treatment rooms for no-fuss, fully clothed applications like foot reflexology and manicures.
Wine: Serving local River North oenophiles since September 2006, Swirl Wine Bar is a great spot for some pre- or post-dinner vino. The 3,500-square-foot space is filled with warm light, white brick walls, and cocoa suede banquettes. A private room holds as many as 150 (or as few as 10), and group tastings can be arranged.
Dancing: The Underground, a line-around-the-block, bomb-shelter-themed lounge with black and gray leather banquettes, cargo-crate-esque tables, and walls bearing illuminated world maps (think war room), opened in January 2007. The space, which holds 300, serves tapas-style comfort foods alongside cocktails with names like Agent Orange, 007, and Espionage. Corporate types have been crowding the venue: Maxim, Heineken, and Hennessy have all held parties there.