Photo courtesy of Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
Hyatt heir John Pritzker spared no expense repurposing the 1893 home of the Chicago Athletic Association into one of the city’s most original, not to mention best located, boutique hotels. Local architects Hartshorne Plunkard retained the Venetian Gothic exterior, ornate millwork, stained glass, tiles, and cast-iron reliefs while erecting Cindy’s, a startling rooftop restaurant space styled after a modern Lake Michigan beach house and offering stupendous views of both the lake and Millennium Park from its alfresco terrace. Cooper Hewitt award–winning design team Roman and Williams preserved 12 original working fireplaces and elaborate sports-themed woodwork in the original members’ drawing lounge, filled with vintage chairs, modern sculptures made out of antique sporting trophies, and an oversize scrapbook archive of vintage newspaper clips about Chicago sports heroes, politicians, and mobsters. Non-suite rooms tend toward the small and dark but feature creative riffs on athletic-club culture including pommel horses repurposed as settees and vintage baseball bats or tennis rackets used for stool legs; leather club chairs and sofas add to the retro vibe. The famous pool where Johnny Weissmuller swam laps with club members did not survive the transformation, but kids of all ages love the huge, dark-wood retro Games Room with bocce balls, billiard tables, and foosball.
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The hotel is directly across the street from Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Millennium Park and an easy walk to concerts at the Frank Gehry pavilion. The new Maggie Daley Park, between the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the lakefront, is a kids’ playground paradise with rope bridges, a roller-skating ribbon path, and ice skating in the winter. Just down Michigan Avenue, amid restaurants at all price points, you’ll find the Chicago Art Institute and the Chicago Architecture Association (224 S. Michigan) where Loop walking tours meet. Runners can skip the gym and head for the Lake Front Trail leading south to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Field Museum.
Need to Know
Rooms: 241 rooms. From $220. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The hotel has poached chefs and sommeliers from some of the city’s best restaurants and bars and has become a dining destination in its own right. The Cherry Circle, the original dining room (and still the best for a tête-à-tête) serves American classics tweaked with Asian and Latin flavors, and hearty grills including a three-pound T-bone. The tiny Milk Micro bar is the place to grab a quick espresso or rare spirits, while the Games Room serves $4 local beers and retro snacks such as lobster rolls and corndogs and fried pickles. Drinks with a view and loud communal tables are the rule at Cindy’s rooftop bar and restaurant. The ground-floor outlet of Danny Meyers Shake Shack is the place to grab a picnic for free concerts at the Frank Gehry–designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, across the street. Spa and gym details: An elegant but smallish gym features a vintage leather punching bag (the original gym and basketball courts are being transformed into ballrooms). No pool or spa, though treatments can be arranged in the guest rooms.
Who it's best for: Architecture buffs, foodies, families with kids and teens. Our favorite rooms: Founders suites in the former library retain original architectural features; suites on upper floors facing Millennium Park offer the best views. Time it right: Hotel guests can skip the line for Cindy’s at any time; go at the 3 p.m. opening to avoid crowds that impede the Instagram view.