In the true heart of downtown, near almost every tourist attraction you could imagine and right down the street from Milennium Park on one side and the Chicago River on the other sits the highly stylish Radisson Blu Aqua (221 North Columbus Drive). The over 334-room hotel is less than two years old but is already making its mark as one of the must-stay hotels in the city. Not only is it the first North American Radisson Blu Hotel, it’s also the largest hotel designed by a lead female architect (Jeanne Gang).
I love the concept of the hotel, it’s incredibly stylish, environmentally conscious and Chicago-centric without rubbing your nose in it, and it has a certain humility that’s extremely refreshing. When you walk into the aqua entranceway, an inviting lobby greets you. The front desk is tucked off to the left so you don’t feel the energy of a hotel, it’s like you’re entering a massive home. There’s a sitting area directly in front of you that has a long fireplace running alongside of it that’s surrounded by an ornate wall of brass trinkets on one side and a brick wall with a not-so-hidden secret on the other.
The secret of the brick wall is the way it was constructed, it’s made entirely of reclaimed brick and the openings leading to the other part of the lobby are at different heights and widths to symbolize the Chicago skyline with lights positioned inside the brick to symbolize the windows in the buildings, it’s awesome and easy to miss if you don’t pay attention. There are so many Chicago-based design aspects hiding in plain sight like the rug in the lobby, the walls in the meeting rooms on the guest floors, the material used throughout the hotel on room numbers and signage, and so much more. But it’s definitely the theme of the lobby, it has so many nods to Chicago that fit so perfectly into the hotel’s aesthetic that you wouldn’t know they were there unless someone told you or you’re impressively attentive.
Once you walk through the brick openings you will see four areas, a small art gallery featuring art from some of Chicago’s brilliant artists, the intimate “Blu Bar,” down some steps is the incredible Filini bar (try a Rossini, you will love it) and lastly you will see some stairs that lead up to the restaurant part of Filini. I was invited to dinner there and it was deliciously incredible. It was a five-course meal sent from the culinary heavens. I don’t even really like scallops but Filini made me a believer, mostly because of the mushroom ragu it was paired with. The pasta was great as well, it had prosciutto, mascarpone cream and truffle oil. The main dish was the filet though, it was cooked to my personal liking, and I think my plate was clean in less than two minutes; I devoured it. Safe to say, I highly recommend checking it out.
Actually I recommend the Radisson Blu Aqua in general. From the welcoming lobby, to the proximity to attractions like Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile, it’s just a great place to call home for a few days whether you’re on a “staycation” or vacation. And I would highly suggest getting a business class (17th and 18th floor) room so you can have access to the lounge on the 17th floor where you can get breakfast and late afternoon snacks, or just relax. And if by some strange reason you’re still not convinced to head over to the Radisson Blu Aqua, maybe the 80,000 square foot green roof and recreation deck featuring gardens and gazebos can change your mind (we made s’mores on the fire pit on the deck, in the middle of downtown!). Or the 8,000 square foot state-of-the-art fitness and spa area with an indoor lap pool, outdoor pool and hot tub with cabanas, indoor basketball (half)court may entice you. If you’re intrigued (you should be) find more information on the Radisson Blu Aqua by visiting http://www.radissonblu.com/aquahotel-chicago or calling (312) 565-5258.
Photos Courtesy of Gadling/Radisson Blu