Thinking of joining one of Chicago’s many exclusive members-only clubs? Whether for business or pleasure, most offer a plethora of benefits. For help deciding which elite club is right for you, we’ve highlighted some of our favorites.
Soho House Chicago
Maybe you’re not an artist per se, but if you appreciate cool and trendy spaces, luxurious lounges to hang out in with friends and Instagram-worthy craft cocktails, this club tailored toward creative types may be up your alley. The swanky brick warehouse-like building houses multiple intimate spaces that are perfect for networking, socializing, and relaxing. The Rooftop, which overlooks the West Loop, has a swimming pool, comfy seating, outdoor fireplaces, and a bar; the Club Bar on the fifth floor is a posh space with a baby grand piano, ambient lighting, and multiple nooks for intimate conversations; lively events happen each month in the Music Room; and there are versatile spaces for watching movies, working out, and getting work done. Accommodations of various sizes are available for rent, with discounts given to members. Enjoy food offerings at The Club, The Allis Bar, Cecconi’s Roof Bar, and Fox Bar. The Cowshed Spa has a full list of offerings as well. Three different memberships are available: Soho House, granting access to everything at all houses around the world; Cities without Houses; and Soho Friends, with limited access to amenities. For the classic membership, Soho House, members under 27 years-old will pay $1,225 per year; members over 27 pay $2,450 annually.
The Cliff Dwellers
If you’re an art aficionado or a professional in the art space, this artists’ haven might be the club for you. The lakefront facilities, located on the 22nd floor penthouse at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street, overlook Millennium Park and, aptly, the Art Institute of Chicago. This private, nonprofit club provides opportunities for art enthusiasts, art supporters and artists to convene and engage in a social environment. The Cliff Dwellers are also involved in many amazing philanthropic endeavors including an arts foundation that donates grants to art-forward organizations, individuals, and events like concerts, films, and performances. The club has an Artist-in-Residence program to assist young local artists and performers in a one-year program that allows, among other benefits, free membership. Membership is granted to anyone over age 25, however, new members require a sponsor and co-sponsor. For $250, members can enjoy privileges for a three-month trial.
East Bank Club
Ideal for fitness buffs, the East Bank Club in Chicago’s River North neighborhood has it all: pro shop, spa, children’s activity center, salon, business center, dry cleaners, rehearsal space, physical therapy and even a car wash. In addition to a full state-of-the-art workout facility with racquet sports and four indoor and outdoor pools, the East Bank Club also organizes social events including live music, a summer deck party and wine-tasting events. Members can network at the onsite restaurant or bar as well. Initiation membership dues are between $300 and $700 and monthly dues range from $190–$390.
Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO)
If you’re an entrepreneur with an eye on business growth, individual development and community engagement, this large and ever-growing global peer-to-peer system of more than 12,000 business owners in 54 different countries may be the association for you. To be granted membership, applicants must be an owner, founder or majority stakeholder of a company that earned at least $1 million in the most recent fiscal year. EO Chicago annual fees are $4,500, with a one-time new member initiation fee of $3,500.
The Chicago Club
A business/social hybrid with a strict dress code, The Chicago Club offers membership by invitation only, but once granted, members receive access to space for private board meetings, a superb rooftop terrace, fitness center and a luxurious venue for private events. The stunning club has a full-service, full-time catering staff to customize events.
University Club of Chicago
This exclusive club requires a university or college degree from a four-year institution, a nomination form completed by an existing member and three letters of recommendation from existing members for admission. However, upon admittance, members are given the chance to join special-interest societies that offer activities focused on everything from photography to sailing to beer. In addition to access to top-of-the-line facilities, members of the UCC also gain entrance to the club’s nationally renowned squash program. The club has also expanded their offerings to include two modern dining venues, the Living Room and the Parliament.
Union League Club of Chicago
Housed in a 23-story clubhouse on Jackson Boulevard, this organization boasts an impressive membership largely made up of investors, financiers, attorneys, physicians, insurers and politicians. Perfect for those who want to socialize and network, this club offers access to a variety of activities and facilities, including nearly 800 works of art on view, three dining options, multiple event spaces, 180 guestroom accommodations, and athletic facilities with a swimming pool and yoga and Pilates studios. It also provides a number of family-friendly events, such as a family halloween party, a children’s holiday party, a Saturday family program, a father-daughter dance, a children’s summer camp, and so much more. Membership details are offered upon request.
The Arts Club of Chicago
Another option for those who are in the art field or who have a deep appreciation for the arts is The Arts Club of Chicago. The organization offers six different classes of membership: Visual, Performing & Literary Artist, Curator & Academic, Arts Professional, Architect, Designer & Applied Artist and Patron. In addition to the opportunity to network and socialize with art lovers, the club also offers exclusive events such as gallery exhibitions, live critiques and panel discussions. Dues and initiation fees vary by class of membership, and applications require one letter of recommendation and three signatures from members of the club in good standing.
Commercial Club of Chicago
375 active civic-minded business leaders are part of the Commercial Club, a private membership organization that represents business, education, cultural, and philanthropic endeavors in the Chicago region. Members can network and get involved at nine annual lunches, which unite business, government, and civic leaders, working with Civic Committee, Civic Consulting Alliance, Kids First Chicago, and P33-affiliated organizations.
The Economic Club of Chicago
With a history that dates back to 1927, the Economic Club of Chicago’s 2,400 civic-minded members learn and grow through events that feature top global thought leaders with diverse perspectives. Past events included keynote speakers like Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber; Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of SpaceX; Martin Scorsese; Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, executive chairman of LEGO Brand Group; Former President Barack Obama; Bill Gates; and Bono. Membership requirements include the sponsorship of two current members, with letters of recommendation, in addition to Club Meeting attendance, an application review, and a methodical selection process.
The Chicago Network
With the core mission of empowering women of diverse backgrounds to lead, The Chicago Network has 500 members in over 50 different industries who connect, mentor, and partner with each other to advance women in their fields. Local universities host leadership events; Ask Me Anything sessions are held for young leaders to learn from seasoned professionals; and an annual Women in STEM series engages young women involved in science, technology, engineering, and math. The Executive Women’s Mentorship Initiative partners with the Executives’ Club of Chicago to link mentors with mentees. Listen to member stories on the popular HerStories podcast and attend the annual Women in the Forefront Luncheon. Membership, limited to top female leaders, is invite-only and candidates must be nominated by a current member and supported by two other members before accepted into the club.
Woman’s Athletic Club
Well located along the Magnificent Mile, the exclusive Woman’s Athletic Club—the first athletic club for women in the U.S. and a historic landmark—is a private members-only club established in 1898 (operating in the current location since 1929). There’s a large and elegant ballroom as well as multiple intimate spaces for mid-sized and smaller groups, a large gym and workout studios, a swimming pool, and a spa. Guests are invited to enjoy the spaces with sponsoring members.
This modern social and business networking club, located in Willis Tower, is for diverse professionals and leaders who want to connect with others in similar industries over co-working spaces, a meal, cocktails, a round of indoor golf, or special club events. Connect, host, work, and play are the general aims here. Schedule a tour and explore membership options onsite to get a feel for the space and overall professional-yet-fresh vibe.
For something a little different from all the other social and networking private clubs in Chicago, BIÂN has a spa-like wholistic care atmosphere with distinct amenities like a vinyl listening room; life coaching; a private nap room; a gym, steam room, and cold plunge pool; a well-designed social lounge; a spa; strength, yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes; and an on-site restaurant. Health and fitness classes, social and educational programming, and the locker rooms with steam room and cold plunge pool are all included in membership. Annual membership is $4,000, with a one-time initiation fee of $1,000. This private club allures the health and wellness crowd in spades.
The Executives’ Club of Chicago
The Executives’ Club of Chicago is the nexus of Chicago’s business community where passionate leaders come together to connect, learn and grow. For over a century, they have worked to transform Chicago into the global economic center it is today, while challenging the next generation of leaders to redefine the business world of tomorrow. Some notable past speakers include Bill Gates Chairman (CEO of Microsoft Corporation), Kenneth C. Frazier (Executive Chairman, Merck & Co.) and Rosalind Brewer (CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance). With over 2,400 members the Exec Club brings together well-known thought leaders, provides a platform to foster relationships with other business leaders, and offer expert-led leadership development programming. With more than 100+ programs and events each season, it has become a huge community of business leaders seeking to connect, educate themselves and advance the business world. It is where conversation leads to significant change and world of innovation. This is where the future meets.
Chicago Yacht Club
The organizing authority for the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, this club is intended for those who love on-water activities, social events, and youth programming. Founded in 1875, the CYC is one of the longest-running yacht clubs on the planet. Enjoy more than 125 racing events each year and connect with more than 1,400 active members. The Monroe Station includes a dining room, bar, and seasonal patio. Members have access to docking slips at Monroe Station as well. The northside clubhouse, Belmont Station, has a Sailing Activities Center and meeting and private event spaces. Regular, Associate, and Junior memberships are available; however, prospective members need a sponsor from a current member, seconded by an additional member.
Saddle & Cycle Club
Members and sponsored guests may enjoy the facilities at the Saddle & Cycle Club, a country club on the north side of Chicago in the Edgewater neighborhood. Amenities include an event space (numerous weddings are held here annually), golf course, dining options, athletic facilities, and a skating rink—with instruction—for recreational skating, figure skating, or hockey.
Woman’s Club of Evanston
For over 125 years, the Woman’s Club of Evanston, located on Chicago Avenue, has been giving back to the community through philanthropy and volunteering. Open to all women, members can take part in community events like the Holiday Bazaar and the Spring Benefit. This social club includes 250 members where friends meet up to catch a movie, test their skills at trivia, and attend a theme-based party or summer porch crawl. Annual dues are relatively affordable at $200, which helps maintain the historic building, supports membership programs, and compensates staff.
Birch Road Cellar
For “a new kind of social club,” check out Birch Road Cellar, where everything is BYOB and members can store wine and spirits in a climate-controlled wine cellar and locker. Chicago locations include Roscoe Village and Lincoln Park. Book a tour, meet with a club manager, and join to meet new friends and neighbors. Dues are $125 per month, with no annual commitment, and members have private admittance to the shared spaces from 8:00 a.m.—1:00 a.m. Take advantage of the co-working space with free Wi-Fi, join a mixer or special event, and utilize the private meeting room for your work or social needs.
Other clubs that are tops for networking:
Chicago is home to numerous other elite business clubs that provide excellent networking opportunities and access to industry events. Some are very selective and cost a pretty penny — membership at the American Club Association in Elk Grove Village, for example, is by invitation only and subject to approval by all existing members. Once in, though, members have access to training, advising, education, marketing and social benefits.
Other business clubs that aren’t as difficult to get in to include The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Chicago Loop Alliance and the City Club of Chicago, which are open to all.