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Hotel Insider

HOTEL INSIDER: Hôtel de Glace

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
The only ice hotel in North America, and inspired by the Ice Hotel of Sweden, construction on the Hôtel de Glace begins each December, when the structure is built from scratch in preparation for the season (approximately January to March). The process involves 30 workers and 15 sculptors who use 30,000 tons of man-made snow, which is more humid and dense. Snow is then blown into metal molds of different sizes and shapes, including arches and domes. A wooden wall helps to strengthen each shape; it can take several days for each piece to solidify.

Ice blocks that each weigh about 300 pounds are then brought in to create the furniture, ranging from tables and chairs to the ice bar.

BY THE NUMBERS
Size Spread across 32,000 square-feet, and built from 30,000 tons of snow and ice blocks
Rooms 44 rooms and themed suites
Price $199 and up per person for an overnight stay. Guided tours are $18.25 adults, $16.25 seniors and students, $9.25 children (ages 6-12), children (up to 5 years) free, $45.75 families
Facilities The hotel can be booked for corporate events and weddings

AMENITIES
There’s a Nordic relaxation area with a hot tub and saunas for a soak beneath the stars that is open from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Though romantic and idyllic, this area serves a practical purpose as well: overnight guests are encouraged to warm their bodies before going to bed.

The Celsius Pavilion contains lockers for storing personal items. There is also a dining area here where breakfast is served from 7 to 9:30 a.m.

An ice bar, ice chapel and a grand ice slide are also part of the premises.

The Hôtel de Glace is affiliated with the Four Points by Sheraton Québec; depending on your hotel package, some guests may have access to the Four Points’s outdoor spa and breakfast.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR STAY
A special training session is provided for overnight guests with knowledgeable guides. A three-layer technique is recommended, which includes undergarments that allow for humidity to escape your body. A middle layer of wool, flannel or polar fleece to isolate air and control humidity forms the second level of clothing, while the exterior layer includes wind-proof apparel that will still allow you to move around. Plus, hats, scarves, gloves or mittens to cover exposed parts of your body, as well as boots.

Guests are advised to bring a second set of clothing that includes a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, socks and long underwear.

9500 rue de la Faune, Québec City, Québec, 1-877-505-0423; hoteldeglace-canada.com

 

 

HOTEL INSIDER: Drake Devonshire

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
Dubbed “Drake by the Lake,” this Prince Edward County outpost of the ultra hip Toronto establishment is set alongside Lake Ontario in a former foundry building, circa the late 1800s. A two-year renovation led by design firm +tongtong under the creative direction of John Tong and the Drake Hotel’s CEO Jeff Stober transformed the space into a rustic yet artsy homage to Canadiana chic.

Incorporating some of the building’s original elements, such as the main entrance, a carved maple staircase and a fireplace in the parlour, whimsical accents and cheeky touches infuse the boutique hotel with a contemporary feel that also nod to the Drake’s signature aesthetic. Rooms are bold and striking, with walls painted in a palette of turquoise, sky blue and mauve, and vibrant wallpaper from Flavor Paper. Interspersed throughout the hotel is a mix of vintage items, which were sourced by the Drake’s in-house stylist (and one of the Drake’s co-founders) Carlo Colacci at flea markets and antique shows across North America, as well as custom designed and handcrafted pieces.

Art is prominently displayed at the hotel, with the Drake’s in-house curator Mia Nielsen having secured works by Canadian artist Rick Leong, who painted a custom mural in each room. A rotating roster of artists are also featured throughout the hotel, alongside permanent works by local artist Don Maynard, as well as Toronto artists Jennifer Murphy and Team Macho, and Brooklyn artist Faile.

Among the in-room amenities and luxuries are custom-crafted armoires, walk-in marble and glass showers, Malin + Goetz toiletries, MacAusland blankets, Bose bluetooth wireless speakers, and DVD and iPod listening libraries.

BY THE NUMBERS
Rooms
  11 rooms and 2 suites
Price  $229 and up
Conference Facilities  Though none of the spaces are specifically for conferences, the Drake Devonshire can accommodate groups of eight to 80 in its various rooms, including the Glass Box, Pavilion and Dining Room for meetings and team building sessions.

AMENITIES
The Drake Devonshire features multiple gathering spots throughout its space, each with a distinctive personality of its own.

The ultra comfortable Living Room was inspired by the concept of a farmhouse parlour. Mismatched furniture with an eclectic mix of prints and styles and a cozy fireplace makes this an ideal spot to read a book, write or for some quiet relaxation.

The aptly-named Glass Box has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a garden and Lane Creek. A riff of a family rec room, guests can play ping pong or board games, or watch a movie here. The space is alternatively used for weddings and corporate gatherings.

The Pavilion is a striking all-season space, though it particularly shines during good weather. Douglas fir beams and a dramatic floor-to-ceiling mural by Brooklyn artist Faile make for an eye-catching backdrop for live shows, special events, seasonal markets and holiday activities.

Enjoy the waterfront views from The Deck and bleachers, or grab a seat around the fire pit. The hotel’s food and drinks menu is also available here for alfresco dining.

FOOD
The cantilevered dining room with pristine views of Lake Ontario is a picturesque spot to tuck into chef Matt DeMille’s seasonally-changing menu of farm- and lake-to-table offerings that include Drake favourites as well as new items that pay homage to the region. Try the likes of chicken and waffles, smoked brisket hash or blueberry scones for breakfast or brunch, smoked chicken pot pie, crispy eggplant parmesan, slow roasted short ribs or the Devonshire burger for lunch or dinner.

A select wine list includes vintages from Prince Edward County wineries like Huff Estates, Hubbs Creek and Norman Hardie, as well as from further afoot, including Kendall-Jackson of California, Domaine la Montagnette of France and Cirelli of Italy. Try the house wine, Vintner’s Daughter, which was made in partnership with Wellington’s Rosehall Run Winery. Inventive cocktails include a bourbon con leche—cinnamon-infused bourbon mixed with condensed milk, coffee syrup and tiki bitters.

24 Wharf St., Wellington, Ontario, 613-399-3338 or 1-844-898-3338; drakedevonshire.ca

HOTEL INSIDER: Great Wolf Lodge

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
This American chain of resorts first opened its doors in 1997 in Wisconsin, followed by additional outposts across the United States, including Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio. The first—and thus far only—location outside of the U.S. is in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Beloved by families, Great Wolf Lodge is best described as a resort-meets-waterpark with a glamping ambience. Rustic in decor, a log cabin theme pervades the property with such touches as totem poles at the front entrance, antler chandeliers, and a fishing cabin-themed guest service counter.

Rooms are similarly decked out in a woodsy manner. Choose from 10 suite configurations between standard, themed and premium options. Standard rooms can include one or two queen sized beds, a sofa sleeper, in-room microwave and mini fridge. Themed suites have queen sized beds with a separate sleeping area for kids, which are outfitted with bunk beds and a TV. Premium spaces include loft-style suites, rooms with private master bedrooms and semi-private living or breakfast areas. Most rooms have access to a private balcony or patio.

Most of the resort’s communal space is geared towards families, with such activities as board games in the Grand Lobby, two daily performances by animated forest creatures, and nightly story time with resort mascots Wiley, Violet, Brinley and Oliver.

The resort uses a waterproof wristband system, which means you can go anywhere during your stay without your wallet or purse, or worry about forgetting your room key. Each wrist band can unlock your room, and can also be pre-loaded with money to be used throughout the resort, including the arcade, restaurants, bars, gift shops and other services, or wrist bands can be tapped for purchases and billed to your room.

BY THE NUMBERS
Size 
A 25-acre site that overlooks the Niagara Gorge, complete with a 103,000 square-foot waterpark.
Rooms  406 suites.
Price  $219.99 to $799.99
Conference Facilities  5,000 square-feet of flexible conference space is available complete with support from sales and banquet teams. There are five meeting rooms in total that range in size; options include Fallen Timbers A and B, which can seat up to 174 people together theatre style to the more intimate Eagles Landing, which can seat 16 people. Two other rooms, Northwest Territory A and B, can seat up to 200 guests combined in a theatre style.

 

AMENITIES
The big draw here is without a doubt the expansive on-site indoor waterpark, Bear Track Landing, as well as an outdoor waterpark, Loon Lagoon that is open seasonally. Together, 2.5 million litres of water fill the space, which boasts 13 waterslides, six pools, and a four-storey treehouse water fort. There are myriad of water play options for everyone, whether its lounging in an inner tube in the lazy Crystal River, playing in the Rainbow Lake wave pool, riding the Niagara Rapids Run water roller coaster with its 52-foot vertical drop, or sliding down a waterslide. The tiniest of guests can get their toes wet in Chipmunk Cove, a zero-depth entry pool with interactive toys.

If the aquatic exercise isn’t enough of a workout, the Iron Horse Fitness Centre is accessible 24 hours a day, and has equipment such as treadmills and elliptical machines.

Or, if a little pampering is in order, there are two options: Elements Spa is an ideal spot for adults who are in need of some “me” time. The spacious facility offers a range of treatments including manicures, pedicures, facials and massages, as well as couples’ treatment rooms. For pint-sized guests, book an appointment at Scooops Kid Spa, which is exclusively for children ages 3 to 12. The colourful space is inspired by an ice cream shop, and offers manicures and pedicures, as well as a gift shop carrying the likes of foot masks, bath fizz and scrubs.

FOOD
There are eight family-friendly options at Great Wolf Lodge, which means that even picky eaters can find something to satiate their appetites or quench their thirst. Tuck into the buffet at either the Antler Shanty or Camp Critter Bear & Grille, or a fresh pie from Northwoods Pizza Company, or perhaps some ice cream at the Bear Claw Café. Buckets Incredible Craveables is located right in the waterpark, and has a menu of easy-to-eat kid-favourites like hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken strips. (Seasonally, Crazy Loon is open at the resort’s outdoor facility, Loon Lagoon.) For a jolt of java or a tea, there’s Canoe Coffee, or for cocktails and beer, there’s Grizzly Rob’s Bar.

3950 Victoria Ave., Niagara Falls, 1-800-605-9653; greatwolf.com/niagara

HOTEL INSIDER: The Ivy at Verity

BY LINDA LUONG

ABOUT THE HOTEL
This boutique hotel located in a restored 1850s chocolate factory boasts four pristine rooms, each outfitted with Hästens beds, Italian linens, and a private terrace overlooking a secluded courtyard. Part of the Verity Group, which also owns George restaurant, Sweetgrass Spa and Verity women’s club, founder Mary Aitken wanted to ensure that guests feel right at home. As such, heated bathroom floors, generous counter space in bathrooms, ample closet space and full-length mirrors are among the simple luxuries that can be found in each of the rooms. Another Aitken touch is the colourful decor—the wallpaper, upholstered headboards and chairs are awash in cheery hues and prints, reminiscent of a charming Parisian hotel.

BY THE NUMBERS
Rooms
Four custom-designed rooms
Price $399 per night. Room packages are available for $449 and $559, which can include dinner and a spa treatment.

AMENITIES
Guests of The Ivy are privy to many of the services and facilities of Verity, including the club’s concierge and members’ lounge. Female guests also have access to the fitness centre and swimming pool.

Sweetgrass Spa is a women-only oasis (though male guests can have Swedish massages in their hotel rooms) with a carefully edited menu of signature treatments, such as the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, a 24 karat gold facial using products from the Dr. Hauschka line, a Tata Harper red carpet facial, and a Medico oxygen facial. Pre- and post-treatment, (female) guests can enjoy the infrared sauna, whirlpool, ozonated swimming pool—where there is even an underwater spin bike—or relax in the lounge with freshly-pressed juice, coffee and cocktails. By appointment, a hairstylist can also do blow outs; the spa can also bring in additional hair stylists and estheticians for larger groups wishing to have their hair and makeup done.

FOOD
The elegantly-appointed dining room at George restaurant is well-served as a destination for business lunches and dinners, as well as a romantic meal or fun feast with friends. Headed by chef Lorenzo Loseto, who has won Canada’s National Culinary Championship among other accolades, an oft-changing menu of seasonal dishes utilizing fresh local ingredients could include the likes of pork belly with agnolotti and cardamom mustard or ahi tuna with potato samosa and cauliflower. Or simply entrust chef Loseto with your meal and tuck into a tasting menu, with or without wine pairings. (A three- or four-course lunch ranges from $55 to $70; five-, seven-, 10- and vegetarian-course dinner is about $85 to $150.)

Queen-Richmond Centre, 111 Queen St. E., Toronto, Ontario, 416-368-6006; theivyatverity.ca.