It only takes a few steps into the La Banque Hotel to know that you have entered a lap of luxury. From the marble fl oors to the exquisite wall coverings to the majestic bank lobby hinting at the hotel’s historical beginnings, it’s no wonder that so many guests craving a high-end hotel experience have fl ocked to the intimate venue. Inside are 18 guest rooms, a worldclass fi tness center and lavish meeting rooms. There is only one thing that seems to surprise the guests of the resort-style hotel: its location.
“People are always shocked that it is so pretty and high-end, and that it is in Homewood,” chuckles Meg Sakka, hotel manager. “Many are also surprised that our La Voûte Bistro and Bar is so good and affordable. [Most] expect it to be very expensive.”
Indeed, the small south side suburb of Homewood is not an area immediately thought of when searching for high-end accommodations, and the hotel is the first of its kind in the area to offer such a boutique feeling to travelers, business clients and even residents looking for a worthwhile staycation.
La Banque is actually at the site of the landmark Homewood State Bank building, originally erected in 1925. When the most recent tenant Great Lakes Bank closed its doors in 2013, longtime conservationist and owner of nearby Ravisloe Country Club Claude Gendreau purchased the space, and La Banque was born, paying homage to its past. Even the bistro uses three bank vaults and safety deposit boxes as the backdrop for the bar.
“I think what sets us apart from other meeting spaces within the south suburbs is our capability to host bigger meetings and events as well as golf outings at our sister country club,” explains Sakka. The on-site meeting room, which can seat 26 for dinners and 30 classroom-style, also has an 80-inch smart TV with computer hookups. “We also hold small functions, up to 50, in our lobby and lounge area,” Sakka furthers.
Yet, La Banque Hotel is just one example of the notable venues showcasing Chicago’s Southland hospitality. Here are some more team-building and entertainment options, banquet facilities and dining attractions every planner should know.
Team-Building: Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center
A clear indication of the success of any meeting is how the team works together once they get back into the daily grind. For many, Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center in Olympia Fields has been one of Southland’s hidden gems when it comes to team-building and bonding. Located on more than 38 acres, Irons Oaks features a Teams Development Course including everything from a 40-foot climbing tower to two high ropes courses (the latest opened in May) as well as opportunities to go crate climbing.
“During a team development program at Irons Oaks, co-workers interact in a more informal atmosphere,” says Darren Jasieniecki, marketing and public relations manager at Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, which operates the center. It has welcomed groups such as American Greetings, Advocate Children’s Hospital and Chicago Public Schools. “Colleagues build deeper relationships,” Jasieniecki adds, “which in turn helps them to interact more effectively once they return to their jobs.”
Also check out: The Badlandz Paintball Field, Haines Wayside Disc Golf Course, Fitzjoy Farm Riding Academy
Banquet Facilities: Georgios Banquets, Quality Inn & Suites Conference Centre
Georgios Banquets, Quality Inn & Suites Conference Centre in Orland Park—which remodeled in 2015—is the talk of Southland at the moment thanks to its all-encompassing nature. With more than 22,000 square feet of flexible conference, meeting and banquet space, the facility also has a 14,000-square-foot grand ballroom able to hold up to 2,000 people.
“We offer a rare suburban luxury of banquet hall, hotel and conference center all in one location,” explains Catering and Sales Director Valerie Doulas of the facility, which also has Black Sheep restaurant and an Enterprise Car Rental office on-site. “[Because we are] familyowned and operated, Georgios focuses on providing excellent customer service to all our guests, paying attention to every detail.”
Also check out: Odyssey Country Club, Jacob Henry Mansion Estate, CD+Me
Entertainment: Brookfield Zoo
Seldom can visitors travel to Chicago’s south suburbs without a visit to the award-winning Brookfield Zoo. Serving as home sweet home for more than 450 species of animals on 216 acres, Brookfield Zoo not only serves as the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon, but one of the most unique places to host a meeting. Countless companies have taken advantage of the renowned zoo for events such as “Cocktails with the Animals,” where up to 300 people can enjoy some fellowship time amongst an array of monkeys, apes and bears.
“Our evening events start off with guests being transported via Motor Safari to an animal exhibit for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a Motor Safari tour en route to their dining venue,” explains Diane Wehrmeister, director of catered events. “We also have the Discovery Center, Bocaditos, the Pavilions and the new ITW White Oak Room in the Bramsen Animal Ambassador Pavilion available for a wide array of private events.”
Also check out: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Kindig Performing Arts Center, Flossmoor Sculpture Gardens, Lotton Art Glass Galleries
Dining: Harvest Room
Located in the upscale southern suburb of Palos Heights, Harvest Room is known as one of the area’s premier farm-to-table restaurants that utilizes locally grown and seasonal products from Zeldenrust and Richert- Philips Farms. Companies from across the suburbs have come to host private meetings in the Harvest Room’s Side Room, including Johnson & Johnson, Phizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Stereotaxis, RC Securities and Verus Capital.
“I think the main thing that sets Side Room apart from other spaces is being able to offer your guests our three-star rated service, including from-scratch food and hand-crafted cocktails,” explains Harvest Room Partner Carri Sirigas. “The food we offer follows our concept of grass-fed beef, antibiotic-free chicken and other high-quality ingredients created from chef Harootunian.” The Side Room also offers a cozy, library atmosphere with leather chairs, full audio/video capabilities and private bathrooms for up to 48 guests.
Also check out: Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, Chuck’s Southern Comforts Café
CHICAGO SOUTHLAND BY THE NUMBERS
1.5 Million people and counting call Chicago's South and Southwest Suburbs home, boasting an average household income of just under $75,000.
3,500+ spectators will be on hand to watch the 2016 STHL Timbersports Series U.S. Championships at the Tinley Park Convention Center, which will also be nationally televised on ABC and ESPN.
62 cities make up Chicago's South and Southwest suburbs.
6 interstates run through Chicago's South suburbs.