Hotel Review – Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, USA

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

Radisson Blu is a familiar hotel brand to us in Scandinavia but the company has only recently opened its first US property which they chose to locate in Chicago. My three nights in the Windy City seemed like a good opportunity to check out how they were approaching the American market.

I guess the chance of staying in a luxury hotel less than six months old must have been quite tempting too?

It was. Not only is the hotel centrally located in Chicago but the building itself is a local landmark; indeed its rather unique ‘wavy’ design is highlighted on the river trips run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Trivia fans take note: this is the tallest building in the world to have a woman as lead architect.

So what were your accommodation criteria?

Knowing that decent hotels in Chicago were going to be pricey, I was trying to find somewhere under US$200 a night. Note that as in many US cities Chicago imposes a state tax and a city tax on hotel stays – together this will add 16.4% onto your bill. I left this out as it’s usually payable on departure and not included in quoted rates. Being walking distance from ‘the bean’ and some Batman locations was a nice plus in addition to the aforementioned central position.


Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, 221 North Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL 60601 (01) 312 565 5258





Mid-April 2012.

Vital stats:

Four stars. Opened November 2011. 346 rooms over 17 floors.

Location, location, location?

The hotel is located a couple of blocks south of the river and a few blocks west of Lake Michigan. Millenium Park is at the end of the road and the nearest L-train stop can be reached in 10-15 minutes. The surrounding area contains offices and plenty of other hotels. If you come across a taxi driver who does not know where it is ask for the more established Fairmont Chicago hotel which is right over the street.

What about parking?

Should you be driving you can choose between self parking in the garage under the hotel or valet parking. Neither comes cheap – US$43 and US$53 respectively.

Why choose this place?

It’s new, it’s very funky (check the lobby area below with its wall of fire) and it’s well-located. There are two pools and the rooms are well appointed. If you can’t quite run to the Trump International or the Intercontinental then you can still get a taste of luxury here. Make sure you book as far in advance as possible and watch out for good deals – the price I paid was far below that offered on other sites and was booked through the hotel’s own homepage.

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

Also, if you like to go green this is a perfect choice – the hotel is run according to environmentally-sound principles and has been Green Key Gold Certified. All the wood in the furniture comes from sustainable forest sources and hotel cleaning is carried out using an ‘Ionator’ which doesn’t use any chemicals. Breakfast is of course organic.


There are essentially three different types of room – City and Park View, Business Class and Suites. There are a range of different suites including one type aimed at families. You can request a discount upgrade on booking and if you’re lucky will pay a minimal charge to move up the ranks. I wasn’t lucky, but was very satisfied with my City View corner room, which was large, light and airy with a modern feel.


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The room had the following features: flat screen LED television with the usual mass of cable channels, writing desk with chair, private safe big enough for a laptop, telephone, iron & ironing board, blackout curtains, non-opening windows (which I don’t like but probably has to do with health and safety legislation), a fancy coffee machine, radio with iPad dock. And a great bed.


Yes, this is the US after all so carpets are the norm. Mine was scrupulously clean so thumbs up there.



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The bathroom was large, modern and practical with a double shower, separate toilet and washbasin. Nice Anne Semonin toiletries. Hair dryer provided.

Free internet I hope?

Yes, free and fast. No complaints here.


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