Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago

by on October 24, 2013 · 14 comments

in Club Carlson, Hotel Reviews

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I have stayed at a number of Radisson Blu hotels over the past year including recently the Radisson Blu Prado in Madrid, and while I was in town for the Chicago Seminars earlier this month, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the towering Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago that opened in November 2011 since a lot of readers list it as their favorite Club Carlson property.

This was originally meant to be a two-night stay, costing $267 for Friday night and $329 for Saturday (it was a busy weekend as the Chicago Marathon was on). I liked it so much, however, and I had to stick around for my Fox television interview on the Monday that I opted to stay for a third night at the same rate. As it is a Club Carlson property, I was able to earn 30 Gold points per dollar spent on my stay for being a Gold Club Carlson member (thanks to my Club Carlson Visa which gives me automatic gold status), plus 10 points per dollar for paying with that same credit card. plus a 2,000 point bonus for booking online.

The 18 floors of the Blue Aqua Chicago.

The 18 floors of the Blu Aqua Chicago.

One of the newest of the Radisson Blu properties, the sparkling silver hotel is located on the first 18 floors of the 81-story Aqua tower, this hotel has 334 luxury guestrooms with flatscreen TV’s and balconies. They also offer business-class rooms with access to the Business Class lounge on the 17th floor offering complimentary breakfast and an evening reception (unfortunately I did not get upgraded to one of these rooms since club lounge access is not a benefit of Gold Status).

The hotel is an architectural landmark in and of itself. Located within walking distance of Millennium Park, North Michigan Avenue and the Chicago lakefront, it has a really distinctive exterior with wavy lines.

The lobby of the Blue Aqua also glitters with gold.

The lobby of the Blu Aqua also glitters with gold.

The modern exterior is reflected inside as well, with sparkling tiles on the lobby walls that reflect the light from the modern fixtures hanging from the ceiling.

Here’s a video walk-through of my room:

I got a City View Balcony room with a King bed, that overlooked the Chicago skyline – which is always one of my favorite city views. My room was a corner room and had its own balcony, so I could get some fresh air while admiring the panorama, though due to the extreme wind there is no furniture on the balcony, which limits its usefulness.

When entering, there was a small office area with a desk, lamp and telephone and then a short hallway to the bed and bath.

I got a Business Class room.

I got a City View Balcony room.

Decorated in a sleek, contemporary design with hardwood features and deep blue furnishings to match the brand’s name, the room included complimentary WiFi, a flatscreen TV, Anne Semonin bath products, and a coffee and tea maker. The black and white bedding was nice, clean touch, as were the hardwood floors, and I liked how many lamps and little other decor touches there were including colorful throw pillows and vases.

Blu Bathroom

The clean lines of the white marble bathroom.

The bathroom was all marble and had a single sink and separate WC and shower stalls that clossed off from one another with rolling frosted glass doors.

A big perk of the hotel is free high-speed WiFi- no code needed, just simply enter your room number.

As I got a corner balcony room, there was a side office which offered plenty of space to work using the complimentary WiFi.

As I got a corner balcony room, there was a side office which offered plenty of space to work using the complimentary WiFi.

Unlike the Radisson Blu Copenhagen, which was a little cramped when I stayed there last August, the room was large and there was plenty of space for me and Team TPG to work on preparation for my presentation.

Aqua Pool

The running track and rooftop pool at the Aqua is renown.

Sadly I didn’t have time to work out when I was there, but the hotel is an exercise-lover’s dream thanks to a landscaped 80,000-square-foot outdoor garden, which features a 1/5-mile running track, sundeck, fire pits, cabanas, dedicated yoga space, 25-yard lap pool, wading pool and hot tub. Inside, there is an 8,000-square-foot fitness center for cardio or weight training, and basketball court, spinning facility and indoor swimming pool. Luckily my balcony overlooked the pool and track, so I got to see other people exercise at least!

While I didn’t use it on this booking, the Aqua is a great location to take advantage of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa‘s bonus award nights benefit, which means that when Gold Points are redeemed for two or more consecutive award nights, the last night is free. Room rates in October at the height of convention season are $281 or 50,000, but with the two-night discount you get a point value 1.12 cents per point.

For more information on the Radisson Blu Aqua and other hotels in Chicago, read this previous post: Destination Of The Week: Chicago

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Carey

    Bummer you didn’t get the 17th floor upgrade. I was there over 4th of July this summer utilizing my Gold status from the CC Visa. I emailed the hotel manager a couple weeks before my trip informing him of my stay and schmoozed a little bit. He put a request for an upgrade in for me. Just a tip!

  • finfife

    I work in the building adjacent to the Aqua, and have dined at the Filini Restaurant there (which was very good), but have never stayed. My in-laws did stay there last fall, and were nearly devoured by bed bugs. The staff was quick to move them into a new room — which happily turned out to be bed bug free — but a bit disconcertingly, the staff was equally quick to check another unsuspecting couple into the bed-bug-infested room. I hope they did more than replace the sheets.

  • Joe

    Definitely not the Frugal Travel guy, are you? Spending over $900 for this property seems crazy considering the line of work you are in. 50K points gets you 2 nights at this property if you have the credit card. You should change your name to the Luxury Travel Guy.

  • thepointsguy

    I’m not the Frugal travel guy- have never said so. For business trips I like to pay so I can reburse/write off and earn a boatload of points
    To be used on leisure stays. You can’t always use points and never earn them

  • Ben Price

    I’m as cynical as the next guy, but I keep having to defend this guy (and I’m not one to defend wealthy bloggers!).

    Did he ever claim to be the Frugal Travel guy? If that’s what you’re looking for, try or the NY Times Frugal Traveler. Both are great blogs.

    I guess I just don’t get why people come to TPG then bitch about the content. If you don’t like it, don’t come.

  • jimmy

    I have stayed at this hotel on the Friends and Family rate for $80 plus tax..A great value for a Great hotel in downtown Chicago

  • Jerry

    Hi there,
    I forwarded your review to the property as i know someone working at the management there
    he’ll appreciate it for sure

  • Lark

    “Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago that opened just last November ”

    If I remember correctly, the hotel opened October or November of 2011.

    We stay at the Fairmont across the street typically. Not as new or modern as the Blu, but nice comfortable suites and a very good Gold Floor lounge.

  • Shannon

    Agree. I stayed at the newly opened Radissan Blu at the Mall of America in MN and I asked for an upgrade(stayed on points). They gave me the club level with the lounge. It was fantastic. My three kids loved it. They still talk about the lounge. Every other hotel after, didn’t compare.

  • Joseph May

    I stayed there over the summer – had a corner room on the 18th floor. Liked the hotel and facilities very much. Will stay there again next year. Used points -50K for 2 nights with credit card. I also paid for the Business Class room upgrade. Was a good use of Points and $$$.

  • Ric Garrido

    The exterior design of the Radisson Blu Aqua won an award from PETA for bird-friendly design. Thousands of birds die each year flying into the windows of skyscrapers when they reflect the sky. Apparently birds can see the Aqua Tower with its wavy exterior lines.

    I attended the media event in November 2011 when the hotel opened.
    Location is great for proximity to Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago River Architecture boat tours, and walks through the parks to Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of Natural History and Soldier Field football stadium.

  • JW

    have plans to go to Chicago this summer and have been wanting to go to Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago for a long time!

  • Seth

    I would love to use the vouchers for the Blu Aqua in Chicago. My young son has gotten really into art lately and I would use the opportunity to take him to the awesome Art Institute of Chicago which he has never seen. Historically, I thought of Radisson hotels as a kind of standard brand, but I really like the sleek, modern look of the Radisson Blu brand.

  • Seth

    Thanks for that upgraded tip!

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