Radisson Blu hotel is Anaheim’s Four Diamond in the rough

Outdoor seating at the Blu Skybar rooftop restaurant at the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A stunning view of the Anaheim Resort’s skyline is offered from the heights of Radisson Blu’s rooftop where patrons can enjoy fine dining along with it. All of the resort’s iconic sights, from the peak of the Matterhorn Bobsleds to the Anaheim Convention Center’s dome-shaped arena, shape the atmospheric ambiance, one accentuated by Disneyland’s famous fireworks show every night.

The panorama is part and parcel of the hotel’s ambitious, and even audacious, vision.

“Our goal was to turn this rooftop into the best rooftop in Orange County,” said Steve Lindburg, Radisson Blu Anaheim’s general manager, from its perch. “Part of that is location and part of that is how the facility is designed.”


The BluSky Restaurant and Bar at the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The BluSky Restaurant and Bar, which serves Basque cuisine from the rooftop, is just one amenity that helped the 12-story, 326-room hotel earn AAA’s coveted Four Diamond designation last month.

It’s one of only five such distinguished hotels in the city, but the Radisson Blu stands alone in towering over the other side of the 5 Freeway away from the Anaheim Resort’s official boundaries. When developers broke ground in 2018, a ceremonial shovel plunged into the soil of an odd, triangular-shaped plot that rested for years unused.

“It was what is referred to as a ‘remnant parcel’ the city inherited from Caltrans,” said Mike Lyster, Anaheim spokesman. “It sat empty for two decades. Developers looked at the parcel, but it always proved challenging to develop because of the shape and relatively small size.”

But the plot that other developers refused became the Radisson Blu’s cornerstone on the way to accomplishing its Four Diamond feat.

“Everybody was saying that the challenge would be that we’re on the wrong side of the freeway,” said Lindburg. “A lot of our thought before opening was if that would be an issue and, if so, how do we deal with it. Candidly, it has not been an issue.”

Steve Lindburg is the general manager at the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Lindburg worked at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis before joining the Anaheim team in December 2019. He brought 36 years of previous hotel management experience with him.

“We know that one of our challenges is we’re a Radisson Blu and no one knows what that is,” he said. “We were the fourth one to open across the U.S. We have the amenities and the facility to represent an upper-scale hotel, but no one really knows who we are.”

Anaheim and all who visit now have the opportunity to learn as the city is home to the first Radisson Blu on the West Coast. The hotel opened briefly amid the pandemic and ahead of schedule in November 2020. It closed for several months before reopening again in April, just in time for Disneyland’s long-awaited return.

As guests walk through the main lobby, the subtle and overt homages to Disney aren’t hard to miss. The aesthetic throughout the hotel paints a storytelling portrait of light and darkness. A trio of stormtroopers from Star Wars strike a pose at a favored stop for Instagram photos. Framed collections of Disney Lego figurines are hung by elevators.

The hallway carpet of the seventh floor is a canvass of colorful brushstrokes paying tribute to “Fantasia,” and a ground-level pool is shaped as a hidden Mickey when viewed from above.

Stormtroopers at the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

When the Radisson Blu opened in earnest this spring, tourists slowly trickled in to enjoy its aesthetic and amenities at first until occupancy rates boomed in July. As part of its cutting-edge business vision, the hotel is courting a sometimes maligned demographic: Disney DINKs, or “dual income, no kids” couples that visit the Disneyland Resort, in addition to vacationing families. In line with the strategy, the Radisson Blu’s rooftop pool and spa are for adults over 18 only.

“It’s a little edgy, and it’s working for us,” Lindburg said. “No one else seems to be targeting them. For us, the feedback has been very positive.”

Just then, a woman in a Captain America shirt and a man donning a pointy Fantasia hat walked past the BluSky Restaurant and Bar.

“You guys going swimming?” Lindburg asked the young couple.

They shook their head “no” on account of the overcast day.

“It’s a little chilly today,” Lindburg admitted. “But if you’re thinking about dinner, BluSky is really popular so go on OpenTable and select a time. It’s a great experience.”

The rooftop pool and spa at the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Service, style and cleanliness are all key points that an anonymous AAA inspector considers when making an unannounced visit to a hotel. The travel agency giant only bestows 4% of about 25,000 hotel properties in the U.S. and Canada with the coveted Four Diamond designation, which now includes the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.

“There’s some unique elements such as the rooftop restaurant and bar,” said Scott Hammerle, director of the AAA Diamond Program, of the hotel. “One of the key things that stood out was the quality, upscale design. They’ve done a pretty solid job.”

Radisson Blu always aspired to be a Four Diamond hotel before breaking ground. Developers also sought to bring the brand to Anaheim without seeking any transient occupancy tax breaks, despite its location on a parcel abutting a 5 Freeway onramp.

For years, such rebate agreements fueled political rifts at Anaheim City Council. A Four Diamond Hotel Incentive Program previously on the books enticed a trio of luxury hotels to the Anaheim Resort with tax breaks set to tally more than half a billion dollars over 20 years.

Since the program ended in 2016, only the Westin is up and operating from the bunch as a Four Diamond hotel across the street from Disney’s California Adventure.

All remained cordial when BPM Real Estate Group and Greenlaw Partners brought the Radisson Blu project before council in 2018 without seeking any similar tax rebate agreement. The development plan enjoyed a unanimous vote with no contentious debates over subsidies.

The pool with a hidden Mickey at the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I believed it proved our point,” said Tom Tait, Anaheim’s former mayor and a staunch critic of the incentive program. “But I also didn’t want to bring this developer into a big controversy just because they wanted to do something without subsidies, which I thought was a very good thing.”

What did help complement the project were Greenlaw Partners’ plans to transform a business plaza that neighbored the Radisson Blu into a gated-community of townhomes. Construction crews are busy building the Toll Brothers’ “100 West,” the future site of about 300 units.

Radisson Blu is considering “good neighbor” programs for residents to come, including discounted stays and dining at its restaurants. The hotel is also hoping to stand tall as a pillar for future development on the other side of the 5 Freeway, one that will help serve as a bridge between the Anaheim Resort and downtown.

For now, all involved are celebrating the triumph of turning a triangle plot into a Four Diamond gem.

“The commitment of ownership to take the risk on this side demonstrates that they really have seen something of an opportunity and now we want to leverage that into being an anchor,” Lindburg said. “We took a look at everything that differentiates us from our competitors and said we could do it better over here and draw people onto this side. This is a remarkable spot.”

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