Night at the Chicago Athletic Association (Hotel Review)
I'll admit it. I've got a new crush. Tall, dark, and handsome.
Haha, well, I've got a hotel crush on the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel with its tall marble staircases, dark mahogany interiors, and its handsome restoration work that revamped the 1890's private club to a modern day boutique hotel with a fine twist. Old-fashioned in looks yet witty with modern quirks, this hotel is right up my alley.
Furthermore, as they say in real estate... location, location, location. This hotel has just about the perfect location for a stay in Chicago: it sits on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago (Loop), right across from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. If you're not into Magnificent Mile's shopping parade, and you want a place that's more pedestrian-friendly than the lakefront maze, then the Chicago Athletic Association will most likely be your best bet in the downtown area, because you'll be, well, in the Loop.
Reopened in summer 2015 after years of renovation, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel sits in a Chicago landmark building that used to unveil its splendor solely to private club members. The project fully preserves the late 19th century neo-Gothic architectural spirit and adds a nice design touch of the early 20th century fascination with athleticism. With a grand lobby as well as five themed restaurants and bars, the hotel is definitely a modern "club" where guests can be entertained all day inside the building.
Right around the corner from the reception, "Milk Room" is a coffee and croissant bar by day and a micro speakeasy bar by night. Guests are offered tokens for hot beverages at the Milk Room: a cozy way to start the day or a chance to get a pick-me-up before evening festivities.
Also on the main level of the hotel (2nd floor), Game Room is a cleverly designed bar with a generous offering of activities: bocce ball bay, billiard, shuffle board, and chess/checker tables.
The cherry on the cake in terms of nightlife offering within the hotel is the rooftop restaurant and bar, Cindy's. For an evening out in Chicago, Cindy's provides a dramatic view over Chicago's riverfront skyline, Millennium Park, and Lake Michigan. The communal-style seating creates a convivial atmosphere and encourages patrons to start conversations with strangers.
The bar at Cindy's evokes a Jules Verne-era apothecary with jars and bottles of potions and elixirs lining the backlit bar shelf. Pots of fresh herbs and floral ingredients on the bar also add to the impression that we're in the hands of herbalists. We tried "Grey Garden", a cocktail made with vodka, vermouth, crème de violette and jasmine pearl tea. It was sophisticated, floral, and pleasantly smooth.
We had a Classic King Room facing the inner court, which didn't provide an interesting view. However, I found that the room was designed with care and attention to detail (by Roman and Williams). Furniture evoking fixtures in an athletic club were employed: the pommel horse bed-end bench, the gym ladder desk shelf, scoring board in-room-dining menu, and tennis racket styled nightstand legs.
Since we booked our stay through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, we had a special welcome with a small bottle of sparkling wine, a box of macarons, and a hand-written note. We also received complimentary in-room breakfast for two and a $50 credit for dining. I highly recommend booking through this program since the added value was practically the same as the room rate.
We enjoyed our stay at the Chicago Athletic Association, and since it was one of those rare trips that we didn't bring the kids, we just had to take full advantage of breakfast in bed.
Continental and coffee for him, American and tea for me. A little taste of Chicago for both of us.