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2006 Best Hotel Gyms in the U.S.
by Jim Kaese, December 2006

As you can imagine, our editorial staff (www.athleticmindedtraveler.com) sees a superabundance of hotel gyms throughout the year: big ones and small ones; gyms with little equipment and some with a ton; some with mirrored walls and some with walls that barely stand; some that stink like mold and others that pump in flower scents; some occupied by gaggles of beautiful people and others without a soul to be found…

On very rare occasions we stumble upon a hotel gym that rattles our sweat-craving souls and excites our aerobically fit tickers the moment we walk in. Finding one of these treasures is our “kid in the candy store” moment. And the only action that delights us more than uncovering one of these exercise utopias is relaying the discovery to our fellow athletic-minded travelers.

Many U.S. hotels are finally grasping that millions of travelers care about exercising while on the road. But, which hotels are “fit” for a workout king? Which accommodations will impress to the core the most hard-core? AthleticMindedTraveler.com sorted through its research of over 3,000 hotels to arrive at our 2006 list of the Best Hotel Gyms in the U.S. Staying at one of these hotels and not working out is akin to visiting a 5-star restaurant and ordering only a bottle of water. 

1. Houstonian (Houston)

Ironically, our #1 hotel gym is located in a city that often tops the “fat” lists. Visiting guests need not worry about Houston’s unhealthiness as the Houstonian is an athletic-minded paradise and refuge. The hotel’s health club is an enormous 125,000 square feet of fitness bliss with equipment, weights, and machinery lined up as far as the eye can see and encircled by a 1/9-mile indoor track! 

Twenty-two ellipticals, 16 treadmills, 14 upright bikes, and 8 step machines stand at attention. Those in search of a strength session will benefit from the mix of 35 selectorized weight stations and 12 Hammer Strength free weight machines. 

Swimmers will do flip-turns over the Houstonian’s outdoor lap pool. Marked with floating lines and bottom stripes, the 25-yard rectangle is a competition level pool with all the bells and whistles, except for backstroke flags. 

Additional athletic-minded highlights of this urban paradise include: the Trellis Spa and Salon, playing privileges at the private Redstone Golf Club (home of the Shell Houston Open), and access to a multitude of tennis, paddle, racquetball, and basketball courts. 

Who knew Houston could be so healthy?

2. Park Hyatt at the Bellevue (Philadelphia)

Another city not known for its physical fitness and healthy local fare (can you order a Philly-Cheesetofu sandwich yet?), athletic-minded visitors to Philadelphia can experience the second best hotel gym in the U.S. by staying at the Park Hyatt. Guests receive complimentary access to the adjoining Sporting Club at Bellevue—a 93,000 square foot fitness behemoth with a multi-level atrium floor plan that includes a NBA-sized basketball court on the lowest floor and huge surrounding balconies on the way up (think rectangle with the middle cut out). A 1/12-mile indoor track, weight and cardio areas, racquet sport courts, and a café/juice bar are offered on the upper levels. 

The fitness floor is adorned with a ton of the industry’s latest technology and exercise favorites. Those wishing to push their anaerobic threshold can choose among more than 20 treadmills, nearly 20 recumbent bikes, 15 ellipticals, a dozen upright bikes, and seven 4400 PT series Stairmaster Free Climbers—many of which have individual plasma televisions. The club’s weight selection is just as strong with close to 50 selectorized weight stations, 15 Hammer Strength machines, 8 benches, 2 squat racks, and plenty of other equipment. Over 90 group exercise classes are offered, so those looking for strength in numbers will find it here.

Swimmers are included in the fun. Sporting Club’s 25-meter competition lap pool is easily the best around. Fins, kickboards, pull-buoys, and a pace clock, sit on deck of this 4-lane beauty containing floating lines and bottom stripes. A Masters program is even available from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (call to confirm time).

We could easily spend all day here—especially given the fully stocked plush locker rooms and spa services.

3. Four Seasons (San Francisco)

A premier luxury hotel chain, it’s no surprise that one of Four Seasons’ properties makes our “Best” list. Boasting over 100,000 square feet of health conscious opportunities in a museum-like environment, workout addicts will never want to leave. Hundreds of the latest cardio machines, many with attached plasma screens, sparkle like new. Any strength routine is possible in the 10,000 square foot weight training gym—the size of some entire health clubs. Whatever your passion, you’ll find it here. Life Fitness’ 9700 series treads and 9500 series computerized bikes, StairMaster’s 4600PT model steppers, fixed weight barbells, and Lemond spin bikes. Group therapy makes a strong showing too with endless class options displayed on wall-hanging 42-inch interactive plasma screens.

With all the space, there had better be a true lap pool, right? The Four Seasons comes through with its 8-lane, 25-yard water box marked with floating lines and bottom stripes. Narrow lanes preclude sharing, but they are wide enough for one hard-core swimmer. 

4. Embassy Suites Lakefront (Chicago)

Do not confuse this stellar athletic-minded accommodation with its sister property on Ontario Street. The “Lakefront” Embassy Suites on Columbus Drive hits a home run for travelers with a penchant for heart and muscle pumping.

Guests should skip Embassy’s lobby-level gym and head straight to the adjacent Holmes Place Health Club. For a reasonable $10/day admission (Embassy Diamond members get in free), guests receive full privileges to this modern and swank health club. Plasma screens adorn the walls, light hardwood floors provide a stylish terra firma and plush locker rooms contribute upscale primping facilities.

Holmes’ cardio and strength equipment defines “cutting edge.” Whether you prefer a sweat standing up, sitting down, or some position in between, this place has you covered. Plenty of classes are offered as well.

Swimmers are treated with equal respect by Holmes’ 25-meter lap pool. Three lanes are divided by floating lines and bottom stripes, so swimming straight is no sweat. Kickboards add variety, but bring a watch for intervals—one of the few items missing in this club is a pace clock.

5. Venetian (Las Vegas)

Inside this enormous all-suite resort sits the independently operated Canyon Ranch Spa—a 69,000 square-foot wellness facility adorned with the hottest cardio and weight equipment. Reaching the club requires a lengthy hike through the seemingly endless Venetian Mall—so wear your workout shoes and ask for directions. 

All fitness equipment is located on Canyon Ranch’s lower level. Descending the stairs you cannot help but notice the enormous 40-foot rock climbing wall that shoots up to the ceiling. Beyond the faux rock, sweat fiends discover Canyon’s cardio zone where late edition treads, bikes, ellipticals, and steppers (4400PT) await—all with attached personal plasma screens.

In yet another huge space, strength training is the focus with cutting edge stack-loaded machines, computerized resistance machines, and a healthy supply of free weights. And for those with group activity in mind, loads of classes are offered including cycling, yoga, and fitness testing. 

Swimmers must give their Speedos a break. Despite all the space and more on the way, Canyon Ranch has no intention of installing a lap pool of any size—disappointing since not one of the 4 outdoor Venetian pools is “lap-swimmable.”

6. Bellevue Club (Bellevue, WA)

The Bellevue Hotel and Athletic Club is private, private, private. However, it’s also huge, huge, huge. A 50-meter pool, racquetball, basketball, squash, and tennis courts—you name it, it’s here. Best of all, the cardio and weight areas are pumped up with the latest and greatest machines and equipment. 

Many local families belong here, so you’re just as likely to work out beside a high school student as a member of AARP. But, the club’s exclusivity means that working-in or waiting on machines is kept to a minimum. A restaurant and bar are also on site and a multitude of group classes and community events are held here as well. 

7. Inn at Ponte Vedra (FL)

If you are in the hunt for a luxurious beach and golf destination that offers state-of-the-art workout facilities, look no further than the Inn at Ponte Vedra. Athletic-Minded guests are spoiled by a huge workout facility boasting Atlantic Ocean views and high-end equipment options. Classes are available as well and a dramatic 25-yard, outdoor lap pool that stretches to the sandy beach is an immaculate venue for any fish-like friends. 

8. Grand Hotel (Minneapolis)

Grand Hotel patrons receive privileges at no cost to the 58,000 square-foot facility owned by Lifetime Fitness Corporation. This stately health club maintains an entrance adjacent to, and downstairs from, the hotel lobby. We were awed by the opulent design and detail throughout the club. For example, the main fitness floor’s cherry wood paneled walls, art deco railings, plasma TVs, and 30-foot ceiling, reminded us of a private theater rather than a public sweat house. 

While surroundings are important, good equipment seals the deal—and Lifetime comes through with flying colors. No expense was spared in stocking the gym with top-of-the-line cardio machines, weight-stations and free weights. Plenty of classes are offered, and sporting courts top off the center’s athletic options. Only serious swimmers will feel somewhat slighted by the short, 20-yard lap pool.

9. JW Marriott Grande Lakes (Orlando)

If you can convince the kids to stay beyond the Walt Disney Resort grounds, JW will satisfy your athletic-minded desires with a fantastic indoor health club, a 4-lane/25-meter lap pool, an 18-hole Greg Norman designed golf course, and three lighted tennis courts. The large and airy fitness space contains a multitude of cutting-edge sweat equipment. All treadmills have attached plasma screens (headphones provided), and the other cardio units are new, new, new, with Precor ellipitcals offered in force. A combination aerobic and strength routine is no problem here as a ton of weights in varying forms are supplied. 

10. Ritz Carlton Boston Common

Be sure to book the right Ritz! Boston sports two Ritz properties located on opposite sides of Boston Common. The athletic-minded traveler’s choice by far is the Avery Street locale. Situated in the Theater District and connected to the Sports Club/LA, this Ritz hits a home-run with the best stay/sweat option in Beantown. Simply put, the fabulous on-site 100,000 square foot Sports Club/LA will satiate any exercise craving.

11. Le Parker Meridien (NYC) 

Guests receive complimentary access to the chic Gravity Health Club on LPM’s lower level. A separate bank of elevators transports you to this impressive 15,000 square foot spa and gym. Inside, the floor space is loaded with new equipment of every brand and model. We especially were keen on the 11 Hammer Strength machines and numerous stack-loaded weight stations. Classes are offered here too, including cycling and aerobics. If you prefer to shower before returning to your room, all the necessary amenities are available.

About Athletic Minded Traveler LLC
Athletic-Minded Traveler LLC is an active lifestyle media company offering print and online business solutions to thousands of individuals and Fortune 500 companies such as KPMG. The San Diego based company services its clients through an expert staff of athletic-minded consultants at 1-877-272- 6657 and online at http://www.athleticmindedtraveler.com/. Athletic-Minded Traveler products and services have been recommended by Newsweek Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Men's Health, Outside Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Health, Shape, Runner's World, and others. All trademarks acknowledged.

Contact:

AthleticMindedTraveler.com 
Carolyn Day
(619)491-0132
media@athleticmindedtraveler.com

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Also See: The Exercise Room in Your Hotel - Sweating the Details / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
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