My stay at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago

The opening of Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago on November 1, 2011 marks the debut of the Radisson Blu brand in the U.S. Loyalty Traveler was invited to attend the U.S. press media tour November 14-15, 2011 with complimentary airfare from San Francisco to Chicago and a three night stay at the hotel.

Take the CTA Blu Train from O’Hare to downtown Chicago (when you don’t have a car service waiting for you).

On top of paying for my flight and hotel room, this trip included airport transportation from O’Hare directly to the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel. Being the investigative hotel blogger that I am, and the fact that I overlooked the email last week notifying me there would be a car waiting at the airport, I rushed through the airport terminal and directly onto the CTA – Chicago Transit Authority -Blue Line train that runs between O’Hare Airport to downtown Chicago for a $2.25 ticket.

I love that airport transportation deal. Some things in the midwest are really inexpensive compared to California.

Hearing from hotel reception, Carlson PR and communications people, Radisson Blu hotel managers and my wife who said a driver at O’Hare was looking for me, I had the distinction of being reminded repeatedly over the next 24 hours as the guy who took the CTA train into downtown Chicago and walked to the hotel rather than use the private car service.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on the CTA Blue Line

The advantage of traveling into Chicago by train was the opportunity to see an amazingly substantive advertisement presence throughout the CTA train and stations in Chicago.

Radisson Blu ads on the CTA Blue Line train from O’Hare to downtown Chicago.

I thought it was rather cool to see the train plastered with advertisements for the Radisson Blu hotel opening. That kind of built up my suspense to see the hotel more than having ridden into the city in a private car. I did take the private car on my return to O’Hare Airport and it was definitely a nicer transportation option.

Arriving in downtown Chicago at Clark/Lake station meant a changeover from the Blue Line to the Orange or Green lines to get just a little closer to the hotel at State/Lake station. Changing platforms revealed the extent of the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel ad campaign in the Clark/Lake station downtown Chicago.

Feel Blu – Smile. 360⁰ Chicago Smile.

Wall-to-wall advertising in CTA station for Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago.

I arrived at the hotel after about a ten minute walk from the CTA station. I had seen the Aqua building in October 2010 when I stayed at the Sheraton Chicago and I knew approximately where to find the hotel on foot.

The Radisson Blu hotel sign was a welcome sight after 10 hours of travel to get there from Monterey, California.


Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Lobby

The hotel has a blue glass covered entryway outside and doormen were always present during my stay. The reception desk is to the right inside the front door entrance.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago Reception Desk.

The lobby seating is directly in front of the blue entrance to the hotel. The story I heard is the hotel interior designer Jim Hamilton liked a brass metal piece he saw in Egypt and commissioned the craftsperson to build a wall of brass lattice.

Bronze lattice wall in lobby of Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago.

Here is another view of the bronze wall with 40 ft. fireplace (not on in the photo). Hotel lobby elevators are to the left of the bronze lattice near the hotel entrance.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago – bronze wall lattice in lobby.


The guest floors at Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago are 4-18. The indoor lap pool and a couple of meeting rooms are on Floor 3 and also access to the large outdoor deck with a pool, gardens, barbecues and a 1/5 mile jogging path circling the hotel building. Floor 2 holds one of the largest fitness rooms I’ve seen in a hotel which includes a basketball court. There are also a sauna and steam room, two private massage rooms, game room with pool table and card table, media room and business center on Floor 2.

Fitness room of Radisson Blu Aqua includes a basketball court.

The Aqua Tower is a mixed use complex with the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on the first 18 floors and CVS Pharmacy on the ground floor adjacent to the hotel. The remaining floors in the Aqua Tower are residential and the large 80,000 square feet of outdoor deck with pool, gardens, fire pit and jogging path are the rooftop over the Radisson Blu Aqua conference center and CVS pharmacy.

The outdoor deck provides urban green views for Aqua tower hotel guests and residents.

80,000 sq ft. outdoor deck of Aqua Tower/Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

Here is what the property looks like from street level.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago showing lower 18 floors Aqua Tower.

I checked into my “Naturally Cool” room and felt like I had stepped into a Scandinavian designed room. My press kit states the room design was developed by Swedish designer Christian Lundwall. The room decor had an upscale IKEA look. I saw about six hotel rooms during my stay and they all looked different in layout with some common pieces of interior furnishing.

I’ll cover the rooms in a separate post to follow.

Room 604 Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago

I felt like a beer after ten hours of travel and a quick self-guided tour of the hotel. Since I did not know yet I could have bought a 12 pack of Stella Artois at CVS for $14, I headed to Filini Bistro bar where I found Italian Peroni draft beer. The Filini bar area has colorful non-blue lighting.

Filini Bistro table lighting and tile floor, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago.

I like Peroni beer and the price wasn’t too bad at $6.50 a glass.

This couldn’t be a Loyalty Traveler hotel review without one comment of something I didn’t like. The bar at the Filini Bistro is a cool pattern of pyramids.

Filini Bar stools. Watch your knees!

After hitting my knee for the third time before being half-way through my first beer I moved to a table seat.

Aqua Tower (center background) seen from Millennium Park Chicago

There will be several follow-up posts on Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel and Chicago tourism. I figure this whole three day trip was about $1,000 in free travel for me so I’ll give my sponsors some coverage. I am unclear how the whole operation works, but I believe this was a joint venture between Carlson Hotels, the Rezidor Group, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau to bring US and international media to Chicago for this debut tour of the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel and some city attractions and fine dining. My thanks to everyone who made my trip possible.

Related posts on Loyalty Traveler.



  • worldtraveller2 November 18, 2011

    But did you get your 50,000 points?

  • Richard November 18, 2011

    I was wondering the same and during the beer, said to myself: If he charged the beer to the room and it earned GPs…


  • Ric Garrido November 19, 2011

    If I get 50,000 Club Carlson points for buying two beers then that will be my new story for least expected way I ever earned points :).

  • Cook November 19, 2011

    My disappointments with up scale hotels, after their grand opening week is that more often than not, the attractive facilities are “Out of Service” or “Unavailable” for a variety of pretty silly reasons. In the end, they’ve wasted the space and and just keep them closed to save a few bucks. In one case, the Complimentary Breakfast Buffet that looked staggeringly beautiful on the promo pix was closed due to “Equipment Problems.” They graciously offered me a $2.50 credit. (Yes, Two Fifty!!) in the main dinning room. As a practical matter, I’ve given up on the highly promoted 4-star houses and rely on the lesser 2-stars or so – becasue they usually deliver. That basketball court a fun attraction and makes a good picture. Reality: No ball or a flat ball and staff that has no clue. Glas that you had a nice freebie trip. How was the food?

  • Ric Garrido November 19, 2011

    @Cook – Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago is actually in a “soft opening” mode. The Business Class Lounge is still unfinished, large suites still unfinished.

    The Radisson Blu Aqua official “Grand Opening” gala will be in January.

    The fitness facilities also accommodate building residents and are completely ready.

    Honestly, the food at the Filini Restaurant was my favorite meal, even though we had two meals at other one-star Michelin rated restaurants.

  • Shep November 19, 2011

    Was there a craft beer selection?

  • Ric Garrido November 20, 2011

    @Shep – great question and I do not know the answer. I saw Peroni draft and never ventured any farther into the beer selections.

  • […] Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago (Nov 18) – this post has links to a few other articles I wrote about the Radisson Blu hotel stay in Chicago. I never finished the series to tell about the restaurants. Perhaps one of these days I’ll post the food photos. […]

  • […] My Stay at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel(Nov 18, 2011). […]

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