by Andrea Guthmann
When you hear the name Radisson, you don’t necessarily think of chic luxury, but the Radisson Blu brand – well, that’s a different story. Opened in 2011, Chicago’s Radisson Blu Aqua was the first Radisson Blu in the United States. Radisson Blu wanted to make a big impression entering the U.S. market, so they hired a big-name architect, MacArthur Genius Award fellow, Jeanne Gang. Radisson must have told her the sky’s the limit, because the Aqua now stands as the world’s tallest building by a female architect.
In a city known throughout the world for its architecture, the modernist Aqua tower stands apart. Playing off the nearby Great Lake it overlooks, the building’s wavy design is striking, and created a new wave of excitement when it first opened. A mixed-use building, its bottom 18 floors make up the hotel. The rest of the 81 floors are condominiums and apartments. With that many people, it’s like its own city and has just about all the amenities any city could want. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool and Jacuzzis and a massive 80,000-square-foot green roof with a running track, fire pit, and communal barbecues. Indoors, you’ll find a massive fitness center, game room, basketball court, communal TV viewing area, restaurant and bar. It even has its own world-class art collection for guests to enjoy throughout the hotel. Download the free “Art of Blu” app to go on a self-guided tour of the collection. Of course, being its own modern city, Aqua also has free Wi-Fi throughout the building.
Radisson Blu Aqua is in a picturesque neighborhood of Chicago, directly across from Chicago’s lakefront crown jewel, Millennium Park. Centrally located, Aqua is a 5- to 10-minute walk from plenty of Chicago’s biggest attractions — Lake Michigan, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Cultural Center and Navy Pier. It’s only a 15 minute walk to just about everything else — Magnificent Mile shopping, the theater district, the Museum Campus and Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play.
With an unbeatable location near popular attractions, standout service and a long list of amenities, the dog-friendly Radisson Blu Aqua is an easy choice for families with older kids, looking to stay in an architecturally notable hotel in downtown Chicago. Although it’s part of a chain, the unique design of the building makes it feel a world away from a generic chain hotel.
Our Editor Loves
- Close to Navy Pier and Millennium Park
- Large indoor/outdoor pools and Jacuzzis
- Indoor basketball court
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
There are 334 guestrooms, 15 suites with one king bed and a pullout couch, and three ultra high-end suites. All rooms include plush robes and slippers, bathroom toiletries, a coffeemaker and coffee/tea, hairdryer, desk, free Wi-Fi and flat screen, cable TV.
About half the rooms have balconies with high railings. Note: There's no elevated door lock, so if you have an energetic, rambunctious toddler who likes to climb things, save yourself the worry and expense of a balcony room.
The luxurious bathrooms are pleasantly large. Half the rooms have a deep soaking bathtub and separate shower, while the other half have only the luxury shower with rainshower head. If a bathtub is important to you, make sure and ask when booking. A unique space-saving sliding door, alternates between covering the toilet or the shower -- meaning that if someone is taking a shower, the sliding door cannot cover the toilette.
Swedish designer Christian Lundwall created two distinct room styles with "Naturally Cool" and "Mansion House." The pet-friendly rooms are decorated in the "Naturally Cool" design, with hardwood floors and lighter decor. The Mansion House rooms are a bit darker, carpeted and exude a more masculine decorating style.
City View Standard Rooms
These rooms have views of Chicago's dramatic skyline, including iconic landmarks like the Wrigley building. City View Standards have two queen beds that can sleep up to four, but do not have enough room to add a rollaway bed. You can choose either a City View Standard with or without a balcony.
Park View Suites
These are the hotel's best rooms for larger families, as they're the only ones (other than the high-end specialty suites) that sleep five. All Park View Suites face south, overlooking Chicago's Millennium Park and the city's magnificent skyline. They all have one king bed and a double pullout couch. A rollaway bed can be added for $30 per night. They all have balconies and luxury bathrooms with separate showers and soaking tubs. It is an open floor plan, meaning the bedroom does not have a door. Park View Suites have two flat-screen TVs.
Lakeshore, Millennium and Aqua Suites
The hotel has one of each of these spacious, luxury corner suites. The 1,700-square-foot Aqua Suite on the 18th floor is the largest and best room in the hotel. The 15th floor Millennium and 14th floor Lakeshore are both 1,300 square feet, compared to the hotel's standard room, which is 500 square feet.
Each of these three luxury suites has a separate bedroom with a king-size bed, a full living room and a dining room that seats six. There is no pullout sofa, but a rollaway bed can be added to sleep three. These corner suites have dramatic wraparound balconies overlooking Millennium Park, and one and a half baths.
Larger families will appreciate that all three of these corner suites can be connected to another room with two queen beds -- perfect if you're traveling with grandparents, friends or teens. These luxury suites also come with access to the 17th floor Business Lounge and a complimentary iPad.
All guests staying on the 17th and 18th floors have access to the Business Lounge and its breathtaking 17th floor views. Staffed by a friendly attendant who'll likely know your names by the second day, it's open 24 hours for drinks, coffee and light snacks. It also serves a generous breakfast buffet until 10 a.m., including juices, a specialty coffee bar, bagels and assorted fresh Danishes, a variety of fruit, yogurt, cheese, as well as hard boiled eggs and hot oatmeal with nuts, cranberries and other toppings. It's a breakfast that will fuel the whole family for a day of sightseeing. The breakfast combined with access to snacks and drinks throughout the day and complimentary wine and hors d'oeurves from 5 to 9 p.m. could make Business Class an economical choice for a large family.
Complimentary newspapers, magazines and one of the best views in the hotel will make the Business Lounge one of your favorite places to relax.
Great location, very clean. We stayed for a romantic getaway and then went to the bears game. The bears played the lions and they won!!!! We had a corner room with a balcony and it was a spectacular view.
The location and lobby/bar/ect for this hotel was fantastic and the customer service was great but the rooms have definitely seen better days. Things were very worn and not super clean. It was a little disappointing for the price and popularity of the hotel. The staff were super accommodating though and even sent us some chocolate and wine after we told them it was our anniversary. Overall a good experience but the guest rooms definitely need some attention and repairs/deep cleaning.
Green Roof Outdoor Garden
The massive 80,000-square-foot manicured outdoor area on the third floor features a 1/5-mile running track, yoga space, outdoor lap pool, wading pool, hot tub, sundeck, fire pit, barbecues, cabanas, a wading pool and a hot tub. Although the roof garden is open year-round, the amenities are only open during the warmer months (generally May through September), except for the running track, which is open year round.
On the third floor, you'll find a 25-yard heated indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi that's open year-round. It has floor-to-ceiling windows and chaise lounges and chairs with thick cushions surrounding the pool. Towels are provided. During the warmer months (generally May through September), there's an outdoor heated lap pool, Jacuzzi and wading pool for the kids. All pools are open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and there's no age minimum for the hot tubs. The outdoor pool has stunning views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan, with iron deck furniture, cabanas and towels provided.
Kids will love having their shot at the hotel's awesome half-court indoor basketball court, open 24 hours. It's part of the massive second floor fitness center that's complimentary for guests. Basketballs are also complimentary, but anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
On the second floor you'll find a stylish game room, open 24 hours. With a pool table, card table and large flat-screen TV, it's intended for both adults and kids. There are no arcade or video games, but it does make for another enjoyable communal space for the family to hang out. Like all the other services, the hotel's policy is that kids under 18 should be accompanied by an adult.
Early birds will benefit from the complimentary specialty coffees, granola bars and fresh fruit, available from 5 to 6 a.m. in the lobby restaurant. If you can't make it down in time, the hotel offers a breakfast buffet ($31 per adult, $15 for kids under 12) and an a la carte breakfast menu in the lobby restaurant.
Open 24 hours in the hotel lobby, the Coffee Bar offers bagels, pastries, yogurt parfaits and specialty coffees.
This modern Italian restaurant and bar is by no means just for hotel guests. The world-class food and atmosphere are hip and trendy enough to attract locals for an evening drink or dinner. There's a wide array of pasta dishes -- from gnocchi to tortelloni -- as well as main courses including chicken, veal, sea bass and tenderloin.
Although Filini's a trendy downtown restaurant, it still caters to families with its kids menu, high chairs and booster seats. There's spaghetti, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, ranging from $6 to $9.
Filini offers live jazz on some nights. Make sure and ask ahead of time if there will be live music during your stay.
Room service is available 24 hours.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Radisson Blu Aqua has free wireless Internet service throughout the hotel.
On the second floor, guests have 24-hour complimentary access to six computers, printers and fax machine.
A massive 8,000-square-foot fitness center has plenty of cardio equipment, as well as weights, a sauna and steam room.
Coloring books and crayons are available at the front desk
The Art of Smart Timing
Summer months (June through August) are high season in Chicago, but the Christmas holidays also bring plenty of tourists to Michigan Avenue.
There's no need for a car, as parking downtown is extremely pricey. Hotel valet parking with in/out privileges is $63 per night. The self-parking garage is $49 for up to 24 hours, and you have to pay each time you take the car out.
You can take Chicago's elevated subway, known as the El, from either Midway or O'Hare Airport to within a few blocks of the hotel or take a cab, $40 to Midway, $50 to O'Hare.
This is a bustling, pedestrian-friendly area of Chicago's Loop. There's a playground and enclosed dog run across the street in Lakeshore East Park. Chicago's crown jewel, Millennium Park, with its many concerts, gardens and newest addition, Maggie Daley Park, and its stunning playground and ice skating ribbon, are also across the street.
For Mom and Dad
Although Radisson Blue Aqua does not have a kids' club, the concierge is happy to arrange a babysitter if given 72 hours notice. Chicago's a destination known for its comedy clubs, blues and jazz scene, or visit Chicago's theatre district, which is just a few blocks away.