Proof that spring has sprung in Chicago: this past weekend’s gorgeous weather and everyone outside looking for great alfresco options. Go straight for the gold with these six rooftops, each just opened or opening this month atop a killer Chicago hotel.
Opening: Late May (an insider says May 27)
Why Go: Locals and visitors will be clamoring to see the insides of the new Chicago Athletic Association, an 1890s Venetian Gothic landmark turned 241-room hotel. Formerly a private men’s club, the opening later this month will mark the first time the CAA will be open to the public. While it’ll be hard to tear yourself away from the insanely ornamental and remarkable interiors, most recently designed by Roman and Williams, beeline to Cindy’s, the brand-new 13th-floor rooftop space. Think Michigan beach house meets historic train shed. The outside terrace flanked by two big fire pits faces the lake with amazing views right over Millennium Park and the Art Institute. The inside is just as beautiful: Find long cherry wood tables and stools, string lights and big amber globes, and a library, all under a glass rooftop framed by steel. Rooms currently start at $369.
Opened: April 29
Why Go: While the January opening of the 250-room Virgin Hotels Chicago was one of the most anticipated in the country, it was also a bit half-baked: Two of the hotel’s main dining establishments—its spa and its rooftop—were still to come. The two restaurants—Miss Ricky’s and Two Zero Three—have since opened, followed by last week’s opening of Cerise, the hotel’s 26th floor rooftop venue. Following suit with Richard Branson’s playful hotel, Cerise is pure fun. Picture bold reds, blues, and greens; an outdoor terrace that wraps around three sides of the 1928 building, anchored by two glass-topped bars (one with a butterfly collection!); puffy pillowed couches both inside and out; and a small-plates, Izakaya–inspired menu (try the Tradewinds Punch and shrimp dumplings). Views face opposite the lake, but you’ll likely be more focused on the many curiosities within, if not the DJ-spun music (Wednesday through Saturday until Memorial Day, then seven days a week). Rooms are from $239.
Opened: Late April
Why Go: Of the 60 hotels named in Condé Nast Traveler’s just-released 2015 Hot List, Soho House Chicago is the only hotel in Chicago—and the Midwest—to win a spot. And it’s only club members and guests of the 40-room hotel that get access to the sixth-floor rooftop. Once you arrive, find a beachy, laid-back scene that’s partly glass-enclosed with semi-circular booths and a kitchen with a pizza oven, and part stainless steel pool surrounded by day beds. No matter where you sit, views from the hotel’s Fulton Market District location span a horizon of towers from the John Hancock to the Willis. By summer, the rooftop will reveal South Bar, its new rooftop bar addition. Rooms are from $300.
Opened: Open year round, with the outdoor patio weather pending
Why Go: In case you missed the reveal this past February, come check out the new retractable glass rooftop covering, which now connects the outdoor patio with the inside bar of this 13th-floor rooftop. That means rooftopping doesn’t stop in winter or on rainy summer afternoons. Anyone who has been will tell you the views are spectacular, with a location that hovers above the sprawling Lincoln Park and looks out across the lake and city. The J. Parker is managed by the Boka Restaurant Group, so you also score with a menu by Paul Virant and cocktails by Allie Kim. Rates at the 184-room Hotel Lincoln are from $189 and include a nice bump to the front of the long lines that form for J. Parker, especially on weekends.
Opening: Early May
Why Go: Want to sit in the sky with some amazing Chicago architecture or get a better seat for the fireworks at Navy Pier? It’s hard to beat the sophisticated 16th-floor Terrace at the 339-room Trump hotel, especially at night, when you’ll feel part of the glimmering skyline. This is a place for special celebrations: Break the bank with splurges that include a $100 sundae with 20 scoops of ice cream, a great bottle from Sixteen’s wine foyer, and seafood platters that start at $100. Or just settle for a new Guava Batida cocktail with Cabana Cachaca, guava puree, Prosecco, and fresh cane syrup from the bar’s new raw sugar cane press. Rooms from $625.
Opening: Memorial Day weekend
Why Go: Since its opening in late 2011, the 334-room Radisson Blu Aqua has been home to one of the city’s biggest pool decks, complete with cabanas and outdoor grills, as well as one of the best—and little known—outdoor rooftop pools. It gets better this season: At last, servers will appear poolside to take drink and small-plates orders from menus inspired by the hotel’s Filini Bar & Restaurant. Sip and savor in the shadow of Jeanne Gang’s 82-story Aqua Tower, with views over Lakeshore East. Room from $249.
50 Things to Do in Europe Before You Die
Shop the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, eat oysters in Croatia, sail around a fjord on a Viking ship in Denmark, get lost in the Louvre, sip afternoon tea at Claridge’s—add these and more to your Europe bucket list. See all 50 at Condé Nast Traveler
Which Frequent Flier Programs Are the Best?
“American Airlines AA Advantage frequent flyer miles is the only program to withstand any devaluation, and continues to be one of the best,” says founder of Absolute Air, Todd Bliwise, who points to three other top frequent flier programs. More at Afar.
Free Admission to Indiana’s State Parks This Saturday
From the Indiana Dunes to Turkey Run, take a quick trip to your favorite Indiana state park this Saturday, May 9, and get free admission. The freebie is part of Visit Indiana Week (May 2 to 10). More at Visit Indiana.