Radisson Blu isn’t your typical Radisson. In Europe, the Blu brand is well known and respected, and the outposts in Rome and Berlin are pretty damn cool. The first American location, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, opened in Chicago last month inside the truly spectacular Aqua Tower designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. At 82 stories, it’s the tallest building in America designed by a woman (and it’s expecting to receive LEED certification).
Location: The hotel occupies the first 18 floors of the Aqua Tower, which sits at the edge of Millennium Park in downtown’s Near East Side. The cityscape views from this vantage point are incredible. It’s an easy walk to the Art Institute of Chicago and State Street shopping.
Rooms: 334 rooms (of various sizes) are divided into two design styles: Light and airy with clean lines and hardwood floors (dubbed “Naturally Cool”); or dark and moody with plush carpeting and rich fabrics (“Mansion House”). I prefer the former. Most rooms have huge balconies, and all come with complimentary wifi. Nice robes, but no slippers (which should be taken into account before picking a room with hardwood floors in winter).
Dining: Filini serves excellent Italian cuisine—octopus salad, handmade pastas, tuna crudo, seared foie gras—by a chef who’s worked at Le Cirque and Le Bernardin in New York. Hot bar scene, too.
Lobby: This is a great gathering spot. The fireplace stretches the entire length of a very long living room—and it might have just set the Guinness World Record.
What I like least: No slippers in a room with hardwood floors.
What I like best: The balconies and the views. Also, the fitness center—it’s huge, with a basketball half-court and lap pool. There’s even a running trail in the hotel’s very own private park atop the parking garage.
Rates from $157; 221 N. Columbus Drive, 312-565-5258