Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 940-3552

This hotel is on our list of The 11 Best Hotels in Chicago.

Set directly across from the Art Institute of Chicago, this former members-only men’s gymnasium is now the Chicago Athletic Association, which is part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection. Enter at street level off Michigan Avenue and walk toward the back to find a staircase that leads to the old swimming pool, now a venue for parties and pop-up concepts. Take the nearby elevator to the restaurant, Cindy’s, easily the best rooftop scene in the city, with highly Instagrammable terrace views overlooking Millennium Park, the swooping Frank Gehry–designed bandshell, and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (aka the Bean).

Park yourself in the second-floor lobby and hang with locals as they tap away on their laptops and sip lattes by the two oversize fireplaces. Walk through that expansive by Roman & Williams–designed room, where light beams in through ornate stained-glass windows, and you enter a warren of table games and darts, all festive and typically open to the public. There’s also the secret six-seat bar, the Milk Room, a relic of Prohibition, and the James Beard Award–winning Cherry Circle Room—a sexy, dark restaurant with a circulating martini cart and a meat-centric menu.

Upstairs in the 1893 landmark, 240 guest rooms reflect the building’s former life, with gym horses as foot beds, working fireplaces in some rooms, plasterwork ceilings, ornate carved wood wainscotting, and a clubby vibe. Some of the rooms are rather small, but the location is hard to beat, and the cozy, wintry ambiance makes it a popular (and fun) place to spend a weekend. And because the CAA keeps an eye on its water conservation, sources its food locally, and adheres to strict recycling standards, eco-conscious travelers can feel good sleeping here.

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Hotel with history

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 and added Cindy’s, a vaulted rooftop atrium restaurant space styled after a modern Lake Michigan beach house offering stupendous views of both the lake and Millennium Park from its alfresco terrace. Cooper Hewitt award–winning design team Roman and Williams preserved the massive 19th-century working fireplaces and elaborate sports-themed woodwork in the original members’ Drawing Room, filled with vintage chairs, modern sculptures made out of antique sporting trophies, and various books about Chicago sports heroes, politicians, and mobsters. Guest rooms feature stylish riffs on athletic-club culture including leather settees that resemble pommel horses; leather club chairs and sofas, updated versions of brass beds, and national park blankets add to the retro vibe. The famous pool where Johnny Weissmuller swam laps with club members did not survive the transformation (it’s now an event space), but kids of all ages love the huge, dark-wood retro Game Room with bocce balls, billiard tables, and chess.

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