Bird-friendly Aqua Tower and Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago is an 18-story hotel in the 81-story Aqua Tower skyscraper centered in the Lakeshore East District of Chicago. Not being from Chicago, the Lakeshore East district has no meaning to me. Millennium Park is a large green zone area and there is open space with paved paths nearby the hotel when you need a break from the airspace filled with skyscrapers in downtown Chicago.

Last year I toured about 20 hotels in downtown Chicago and along the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue.  As a tourist I like the location of the Aqua Tower with its proximity and easy walking access to the Art Institute of Chicago, the second largest art museum in the U.S.

Chicago Skyline with Millennium Park green spaces

All the photos in this piece are courtesy of Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago.

The Aqua Tower Chicago was completed in 2009 and has the distinction of being one of the largest skyscrapers in the world built by a lead female architect, Chicago-based Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects.

The Aqua Tower includes 80,000 square feet of rooftop space adjacent to the building.

The green space around the building includes a jogging path, fire pits and outdoor pools.

PETA Proggy Award 2009

In a list of architectural awards for the Aqua Tower from various architectural design organizations was one particular standout award that caught my attention.

Why would a skyscraper win an award from PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals?

Turns out the Aqua Tower was recognized for bird-friendly design in a skyscraper. Apparently some 34 million birds are killed each year flying into North America urban skyscrapers. PETA honored Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects for designing a skyscraper with bird-deflecting elements. The visually attractive exterior form for humans apparently is more visible to birds flying through the city than the typical glass exterior common to skyscrapers, including many of the skyscrapers surrounding the Aqua Tower.

Aqua Tower Chicago exterior form with bird-friendly function.

There will be detailed posts of the Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago hotel rooms, facilities and restaurant to follow. I am on a three day press media FAM trip at the hotel and they have a 14-hour schedule planned for us today.

Yeah, life is tough hanging out in Chicago drinking and eating with the Radisson Blu Aqua managers and touring the city with Carlson Hotels managers and Chicago tourism representatives along with a group of journalists.

This job is for the birds.


Aqua Tower Chicago - Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel is lowest 18 floors.


Loyalty Traveler Disclosure

The past two nights I have stayed at the Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago. This is my first press trip to a hotel, known as FAM trips (familiarization trips) in the travel and tourism industry. I will have more to say about FAM trips when there is time to reflect on my quick three day trip to Chicago. I know there are other bloggers who want to know how this side of the industry works.

The main point to disclose here is the Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago is a sponsored trip for Loyalty Traveler and there were plenty of free perks with this trip like guided tours of Shedd Aquarium and the Art Institute of Chicago in addition to restaurant dinners with the General Manager of the hotel and Carlson Hotels managers and about a dozen other journalists. Certainly not my typical hotel stay experience.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. I would love to learn more about this part of the industry, FAM stuff and all. Should I start my own blog to have the same experiences? Do you also get free points? 🙂 Or do they require a certain level of hits before you can get this press stuff? Will the 9 people who will visit my new blog be enough? 🙂

    The hotel looks really nice. The birds think so too!

  2. Hi Ric,

    There is stay one night get a free promo I just got the email yesterday and I have sent this info to you already.
    Register and win We are giving away up to 50,000 nights to celebrate the U.S. debut of Radisson Blu with the opening of our new Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago.

    Register for our Big Night Giveaway promotion and stay at a Radisson® hotel in the U.S., Canada, or Caribbean through December 30, 2011 to receive 50,000 bonus Gold Points®. That’s enough points for a free night at any Radisson hotel worldwide!

    Too bad that there are only 2 radisson hotels in Chicago (Aqua being one of them).

  3. @gpapadop – At the Travel Blog Exchange conference in Vancouver June 2011 i think I met a number of bloggers who have 9 readers and traveling on press trips.

    Seriously though, I think I am the only blogger on this trip. Rudy Maxa ( and Alain Gayot ( are here along with people who write for many of the airline magazines.

    I guess I should talk these guys up and find out how to move in the big circle of consumer travel journalism.

    I was wondering why there were representatives of the Chicago Tourism and Convention Bureau here and I just learned the G-8/NATO summit is happening in Chicago in May 2012.

    The event is going to be a huge international showcase for Chicago and probably a coinciding large activist demonstration movement.

  4. Good for you, Ric. You deserve a few junkets and boondoggles!

    We still expect you to speak out when things are not so rosy, however!

    Anyone else thinking that the Radisson promo out there has got to be one of the best that no one is really talking about? I mean, I signed up friends and family and have been telling them to get out for a “staycation Saturday” if necessary to rack up the points. Am I off base here?!?

  5. I asked Radisson marketing people today and I was told the 50,000 registrants limit for 50,000 points after a Radisson stay has not been reached yet.

    Sign up your friends and family.

    Radisson Big Night Giveaway is probably the best hotel promotion of 2011 in North America for an easy to earn high-value bonus in that you can stay just one night at a Radisson and get points for several more free nights.

    SPG from May to July with 3 stays = 1 resort night and HHonors right now with 4 stays = 1 free night are good value offers, but certainly require more hotel spend and effort to earn the free night.

  6. Is it just me or does that hotel look like it has something (mold? frost – Help! My air conditioner fins are frosting up!) growing on it? I keep trying to make some sense of what the design is supposed to be, but I haven’t succeeded so far. Is is supposed to look like something or just be for the birds?

    Have fun on your FAM trip! Sounds like they are making you work for it!

  7. The post was edited from 82-story hotel to 81-story.

    The official hotel press release states an 81-story tower. Wikipedia states the Aqua Tower is 82 stories. The first floor lobby of Radisson Blu Aqua is actually a two level lobby with Filini Restaurant dining on upper floor of lobby.

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