1. East Bank Club
LOCATION: 500 N. Kingsbury St.
COST: $180 a month; $500 initiation fee
BEST FOR: People who want a country club experience in the city
AMENITIES:Cafe, childcare, wi-fi
Opened in 1980, this is no ordinary gym. Sure, you can pop in for a jog on a treadmill in the cavernous cardio arena, but that’s just scratching the surface at this 450,000-square-foot health emporium. There are courts for nearly every sport, a running track, four pools, an indoor driving range, a group fitness class starting every 30 to 60 minutes during peak hours, hot tubs, a hair salon, a café, a bar, and car detailing. In summer, the rooftop is a massive hangout scene with its two outdoor pools (including one for kids) and a multi-tier sun deck served by a bar and grill. Need expert guidance—on anything? Trainers, sports pros, fitness managers, and a full-time nutritionist are here to help.
LOCATIONS: Gold Coast, Highland Park, Lincoln Park, Loop
COST: $133 to $142 a month; $175 initiation fee
BEST FOR: Sophisticates interested in personal training or classes
AMENITIES: Café, childcare, wi-fi
In Chicago for nearly ten years, this New York City–based chain delivers an intimate, anti-megaclub experience. Members come here to sweat, often with a personal trainer or in group classes—two areas in which Equinox excels. Its certified trainers go through the company’s own rigorous program. Reliably based on the most effective, fun, and cutting-edge trends, classes are developed and workshopped by Equinox’s master team in New York. Try MetCon3, a high-intensity metabolic conditioning workout, Gideon Akande’s TRX boot camp, or Kristie Hawkins’s insanely motivating and sweat-soaked cycling classes. After the steam room, freshen up with a lovely selection of Kiehl’s products.
3. Lakeshore Sport & Fitness
LOCATION: 1320 W. Fullerton Ave.
COST: $136 a month; $199 initiation fee
BEST FOR: Families, triathletes, and fitness fanatics who put in many hours at the gym
AMENITIES: Café, childcare, free parking wi-fi
Since 2010, the new owners have been remodeling every inch of this 185,000-square-foot four-story fitness center in Lincoln Park (they’ll tackle the outdated locker rooms this spring). The club is bright, well laid out, and packed with state-of-the-art equipment in the fitness studios, weight rooms, and two cardio arenas. It also offers 130 classes a week—second only to the East Bank Club—taught by excellent instructors (try anything from Jordan Parker), a lap pool, courts galore, and a roof deck, where you can enjoy a beer and an amazing view of downtown. Coming later this year: a 45-bike cycling stadium complete with a large-scale projection video screen to keep you pedaling.
4. Chicago Athletic Clubs
LOCATIONS: Evanston, Lake View, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, West Loop, Wicker Park
COST: $59 to $105 a month; $150 initiation fee
BEST FOR: Busy professionals who want a neighborhood gym with top-notch essentials
AMENITIES: Childcare, free parking, wi-fi
This chain of Chicago gyms strikes a nice balance between standardization and neighborhood-specific charm, starting with its habit of taking over buildings with history: For example, the Lincoln Park location is housed in the old Lincoln Turner gymnasium, and the West Loop club took over Hoops the Gym, where Michael Jordan trained. Once inside, you’ll have plenty of options, including dozens of group classes a week, lap pools, modern cardio machines, and three-story climbing walls. The smaller size of these clubs might even be a plus—you can get in, do your thing, and get out in a jiffy.
5. Life Time Fitness
LOCATIONS: Algonquin, Bloomingdale, Burr Ridge, Orland Park, Romeoville, Schaumburg, Skokie, Vernon Hills, Warrenville
COST: $103 a month; $50 initiation fee, plus an administrative fee from $109 to $129
BEST FOR: Families who want room to move
AMENTITIES: Café, childcare, wi-fi
This national chain has colonized the suburbs for the past 12 years and in the process has carved a tidy niche for itself as the go-to all-around gym for families. What’s so special? Water slides snake out of both the indoor and outdoor pools. The gymnasium hosts a steady stream of kids in sports classes and pickup games. The childcare centers are huge, and every location offers family locker rooms. But the childless have lots to enjoy, too: Pilates and yoga areas set apart from kids’ spaces, lap pools for grownups only, tons of cardio equipment, a robust group fitness schedule, and spa services.
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Photography: (EBC) Bruce Van Inwegen; (Equinox) Charles Cherney/Chicago Tribune; (All Others) Courtesy of gym