Chicago Athletic Association is an imposing gothic building, which when originally built in the 1890s was an athletic club. It’s conveniently located across from Millennium Park, where you can join the throngs of tourists instagramming their warped reflection in The Bean.
They’ve kept the athletic theme going by incorporating gym equipment into the rooms – our room had a pommel horse at the end of the bed, and climbing bars repurposed into a desk. One can imagine it doubles as a great destination for fetishists and S&M enthusiasts, but thankfully the rooms seem quiet and well soundproofed. The huge locker-room style bathroom was stocked with C E Bigelow products, and boxer style bathrobes. The one disappointing thing about the spacious room was the lack of any storage space, except a small hanging rail. With no drawers to store clothes in, we reluctantly displayed our underwear for all to see on the shelves above the minibar. Likewise the bathroom had nowhere to place personal items. That aside, the room was quiet, comfortable and had free wi-fi – you also get tokens to exchange for free coffee in the Milk Bar each day (coffee bar by day, prohibition style speakeasy by night).
The rooms are just one small part of this hotel though – the wood panelled gothic lobby is a great place to grab a coffee and pretend to work under one of the antique style desk lamps, or to admire some of the artwork. The entrance features an ornate marble staircase, incongruously sitting next to the entrance to Shake Shack, for which you will be eternally grateful when rolling in at midnight after sampling many of Chicago’s excellent cocktail bars – they also deliver straight to your room. Try and ignore the calorie count next to each food item, lest you discover that your cinnamon pie shake contains more calories than you usually eat for lunch (better still, say sod it and actually have one for lunch).
Other food offerings include the noisy but fun Game Room with billiards, chess, and other games I don’t quite understand, the sedate Cherry Circle Room with its 1930s feel and wood panelling (worth going for the corned beef and duck hash alone) and Cindy’s – an upscale bar and restaurant on the roof, with amazing views.
Curiosities in the Cherry Circle Room
City hotels can often be bland and uninspiring – a place to sleep after a day exploring. But Chicago Athletic Association is a destination in its own right. It’d be all too easy to spend a weekend here working your way around each of the restaurants, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel.
Slow rating – 10/10
Rooms – 8/10
Design – 10/10
Service – 9/10
Food – 9/10