ONTARIO Travel Guide
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This is the kind of hotel that makes you feel like sitting around a fire and singing camp songs. Looking like a cross between your cabin at the lake and a quaint country inn, the Drake Devonshire opened this week just outside of Toronto.
Owned by the folks who brought us hipster hangout, The Drake Hotel in Toronto, you can see that “Drake-by-the-Lake” is complementary in style but with a more pronounced cheeky nod to rustic Canadiana.
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Introducing our newest hotel guide--HotelChatter's Must-Stay Hotels--where we pick four hotels for four different types of travelers in a particular neighborhood of one major city. This is also a seasonal guide so the options may change depending on when you're going. Got a question about where to stay and when? Email us.
Looking for a hotel in Toronto? You can troll online review sites, crowdsource on Facebook and comb through endless Best Hotels” lists but why do all that when we’ve done all the work for you already?
Here are four different hotels to try when you head south of the border to one of Canada’s largest metropolises, all located in Toronto's downtown area. Whether you’re going for pleasure or work and whether you’ve got cash to throw around or have pennies to count, these hotels will fulfill your wants, needs and desires.
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The Drake Hotel was one of, if not THE, first boutique hotel in Toronto when it opened. When we heard that dot-comer Jeff Stober was opening The Drake west of Queen West, we thought it impossible for the hotel to survive in the then downtrodden boonies. We were wrong, so wrong—not only did The Drake persevere but it quickly became a hotspot for locals who lined up to get into its basement band venue and kickass lounge. Now, ten years on, we set out to discover whether The Drake Hotel still had true cachet.
We walked in on a wintry Saturday afternoon and the place was overflowing with bohos and hipsters alike, most waiting for a table in the recently-reno’ed (and enlarged but still full to capacity) restaurant and lounge. If you ever wondered what the Canadian design aesthetic is, you need to come here. There’s lots of natural wood, industrial lighting, earth tones, forest motifs and—to take it one step further—The Drake has a kitschy camp feel that reminds us of every camping trip we ever took as kids, sans mosquitoes.
The rooms carry on that mid-century modern campground feel but with modern ModCons. You can see inside the rooms in the photo gallery, but there are a few things that deserve an extra shout-out. First, let’s hear it for “Hairy Chest Man.” This particular doll for adults with leather studded collar is handmade and you can find a different doll in every room. Next, the “pleasure menu”: The Drake purports to be the first hotel in the world to carry one and while we can’t vouch for that, we can say that it is probably the most extensive menu of its kind that we’ve had the “pleasure” of seeing (yuk yuk). We also loved the owl light and the toiletries by Malin + Goetz.
Next up in our Toronto tour is the 18-room hotel, The Beverley, found on hipster hangout, Queen West. After some initial confusion as to whether to head up or down the stairs (go up to check-in and down to go to the popular restaurant and lounge), we met up with GM Scott Newnham who showed us around this tasteful minimalist boutique property.
The hotel’s motto is, “Everything you need and nothing you don’t,” and we think this is a pretty accurate depiction of what the hotel’s all about. Cool, white minimalism takes over the rooms — with a happy shock of vivid color coming from the bathrooms — and what’s there is luxurious: Frette linens; local spa Body Blitz toiletries; fluffy cotton robes; and flat-screen TVs mounted on the ceiling or wall.
Have a look at the photo gallery below to see for yourself!
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For a new hotel that’s not opening in the heart of the city but in the country, there sure is a lot of buzz around the Drake Devonshire Inn. Mind you, it is opening in a quaint little town with a quaint name — Wellington in Prince Edward County — but we suspect it’s because The Drake name holds a lot of clout in these here parts (for a peek inside The Drake Hotel Toronto stay tuned until next week when we’ll bring you inside it’s hallowed halls).
In keeping with The Drake Toronto, we’re expecting a certain cheeky Canadiana charm to fill the twelve-room Inn, which is expected to open early summer. The architects have taken an existing historic building and are melding it with the new to create a rough-luxe design aesthetic where flannel would be appropriate. The hotel’s aim is to bring the big-city cool kids to the country — a sort of adult year-round camp — and that also means an old-school games room, farm-to-table dining in an indoor and outdoor restaurant that serves home cookin’ with a twist, loads of local entertainment and maybe the odd pillow fight.
And while you’re hanging out on the outdoor deck sipping a Pinot, it’s--quite literally--hanging out over Lake Ontario.
Rates aren't available yet, but we hope to know more soon.
[Renderings: Drake Devonshire Inn]
We popped in to 12-room boutique Hotel Ocho during our recent excursion to T.O. We found an industrial-style crash pad with Danish minimalism and shabby chic décor thrown in for good measure.
The hotel opened in May 2011 in an area underserviced by the big-name brands. Next to Chinatown and in the trendy Queen West area (you can rent a bike right outside the hotel to get around), it attracts the creative class with its basement restaurant and lounge offering martini and wine nights. The hotel’s reception is also in the basement level, although you might just miss it if you're not aware, since check-in is located behind the stairs leading up to the second level (as you can see, there’s some quirk here too!).
Once you hit the rooms—on the top two floors of the four-storey building (and yes, there is an elevator)—you’ll have a choice of a Standard Room, Superior Room or Deluxe Room. All have wood-plank ceilings, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. We had a peek at a Superior Room and it also had a little desk, an open bathroom concept and walk-in shower, and La Source toiletries. The Standard Room also had the open concept bathroom and was... cozy.
The hotel showcases local artists and rotates the work about every two months, giving the hotel a lot of character. See for yourself in the Photo Gallery below!
We recently took a couple of days to check out what’s going on in the Toronto hotel scene and, diggin’ what Trump has been doing lately (their Trump Attaché service and Trump Wellness Program, for instance), here’s an insider’s guide on the treats to be found at Trump Toronto.
1. Glam ‘n glitz: No surprise that the design aesthetic is pure glam, and we had heard going in that “champagne and caviar” was the theme. We have to admit that we were more than a little skeptical; it sounded very “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leach.” But, you know, it works. Dramatic blacks and whites are softened by greys and purples. There’s lots of crystal thrown in for good measure and displays are voluptuous with flowers. Our favorite “caviar dream” piece is the pure black Louis XIV chairs found in STOCK Restaurant and Bar.
2. Trump-toiletries: They lean towards the masculine (consider where you are) in what we would describe as a woody citrus, but what was surprising was the bounty! In addition to the regulars—shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel and lotion—there was a salt scrub, bath salts and a body balm, all in easy-to-take-home sizes.
3. House-made chocolates: ’Nuff said.
4. Room reaction: They’re huuuge, some of the largest in T.O., and the one-bedroom suite we were in had a fireplace, wet bar, and two bathrooms. If we had some of The Donald’s cash, we’d redo our home to look this this. Have a look at the photo gallery for the full reveal!
Nothing average about a regular room at Four Seasons Toronto
This month, Four Seasons Toronto, the flagship hotel that opened last October in the Canadian city where it all began for Four Seasons, celebrates its one year anniversary. We thought we'd do a birthday solid and call out what might be the hotel’s best asset: its 217 "premier" — aka standard — guest rooms.
Step into one of these rooms with its plush furnishings, abundant wood touches, huge bathroom and thoughtful design (who knew you could do so much with muted gold tones and white) and you’ll have to do a double take, wondering if you’ve accidentally stumbled into a suite (there are also 42 suites).
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Who can believe the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is one year old? They grow up so fast...
The hotel is marking its big birthday by partnering with Sunny Fong of luxury women’s wear label, VAWK, to create spiffy new Lobby Lounge outfits. Celebrities have traipsed down the red carpet in VAWK designs worldwide, including the Cannes International Film Festival, the Grammy Awards and the People’s Choice Awards.
For the Shangri-La Toronto the designer drew inspiration for the sexy and sophisticated outfits from the “artwork in the lobby, the Ming vase tea library and the ornithological theme that is prevalent in the hotel, and the Zhang Huan ‘Rising’ sculpture.” The dress design borrows from traditional Asian design with shoulders reminiscent of the pagodas found in Chinese gardens and a sleeker silhouette of the traditional qipao with mandarin collar. The goal was to create something dramatic, almost theatrical, and holy-cremolely, he did achieve that.
And then there's the VAWKtail.
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In April we told you about Toronto’s Delta Chelsea becoming an Eaton-branded hotel on July 1 – the first Langham property in Canada and the first Eaton Hotel in North America. If you've been waiting with bated breath for more details, now's the time to exhale.
Langham Hotels has been pouring millions into transforming the soon-to-be Eaton Chelsea hotel. The renos to the lobby and Market Garden Restaurant (which, when we were there many, many years ago, seemed to be the biggest buffet restaurant on the planet) will be the first of a few changes to the hotel.
Aside from the restaurant and lobby renovations, the hotel is also replacing the former Elm Street Lounge with the more modern T|Bar (an Eaton brand signature feature). The hotel is expecting that one of the things that will make this one of TO’s go-to spots will be their take on that most famous of Canadian cocktails: the Caesar. (For you Americans, it's a clam-infused version of the Bloody Mary.)
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The brand has decided to take over the Delta Chelsea in Toronto, which, at 1,590 rooms, is Canada's largest hotel.
As of July 1, the hotel will officially be known as Eaton Chelsea, thus becoming the first Eaton hotel to open in North America. (For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Eaton is an offshoot brand under the Langham umbrella, with several properties throughout Asia, including Eaton Hong Kong and Eaton Smart New Delhi Airport.)
Langham's parent company has owned the
Delta Chelsea Eaton Chelsea for nearly two decades, but has finally decided to take over management duties as well. This is most likely due to Langham's steadily growing presence in the US, with The Langham Chicago one of the most anticipated openings of 2013 (and not just because of the free WiFi!).
Similar in many ways to Langham, Eaton is known for its "smart, modern and uncomplicated interiors and an enthusiastic 'can do' service culture," as explained by Eaton Chelsea Regional VP Josef Ebner. The hotel itself will undergo major renovations to the exterior, lobby, Market Garden restaurant, and meeting facilities.
One of its main attractions is the "Corkscrew," downtown Toronto's only indoor waterslide.
Rates from $131/night.
[Photo: Eaton Chelsea]
One of the corporate giants largely responsible for the growth of the gambling and gaming industry in the U.S. is now knocking on our northern neighbor's door.
MGM Resorts is making progress in its bid to build its first hotel and casino in Canada. MGM chairman and chief executive officer Jim Murren (in photo) stated on TV earlier this week that the project has a 50-50 chance of being approved by the city of Toronto. “If it doesn’t happen here there will be one somewhere in Ontario,” he said during a press conference. “Our preference and the OLG’s preference is to be in Toronto.”
It's said that the city of Toronto and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. are mulling it over, though The Star reports that the decision won't come for about a year. Apparently there's been some lobbying going on behind-the-scenes, but that shouldn't surprise anyone.
It is interesting to us that some large stakeholders in Vegas -- MGM and Wynn, for example -- are investing in other cities as opposed to re-investing in Vegas.