Corporate and efficient, the Intercontinental is easy to find in downtown Toronto--part of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It's less than a five-minute walk to sports venues, live theater and restaurants on King Street West. The hotel has an excellent day spa and fitness centre, a glass-wall restaurant (Azure), and a quiet elegance. Room decor lacks sex appeal, but it's fresh and modern, with clean-lined furniture and linens in calm, neutral colors.
Ask about the juicy packages, including gift cards and free parking at Yorkdale shopping centre, tickets to attractions and complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi at the hotel. To get around the annoying fee structure for different levels of Wi-Fi service, become a member the IHG Rewards Club, at no cost.
Oh, quality sheets cannot be beaten. Equally noteworthy are the rooms' 42-inch flat screen televisions, cozy terrycloth bathrobes, Keurig coffee maker, Sony iHome clock system, in-room safe, and ergonomic work desk. Some rooms have arty sectional sofas, designer lamps, silver accent pillows, golden geese sculptures, herringbone charcoal carpet and modular headboards.
Best lake and city views start in the Deluxe rooms--the 11th floor and above--and the Club Intercontinental rooms, of course.
Bright and clean, the bathrooms have a separate make-up mirror, a scale, decadent counter space, a square sink, a huge mirror above the sink and stylish horizontal tile in the tub/shower.
Expansive like an airport, the lobby and reception area at the Intercontinental exudes corporate efficiency. There is cluster seating, dark wood paneling and spasms of contemporary art mounted on the wall--as if to say, "see, we're not boring!". Nobody's buying it. This is a business hotel, with some weekend leisure tourism. No point denying it. Escalators make for easy access.
Partially enclosed with glass walls, the indoor saltwater swimming pool is 48-feet long and well kept. It leads onto a scenic terrace with a wooden privacy fence and stone sculptures.
YOU SHOULD KNOW While kids are allowed, technically, roughhousing is not encouraged. The ethos is serenity, not silly fun. Keep a tight grip on the little ones.
The 8,000 square-foot Spa InterContinental does a busy trade with local residence, so you know it's good. They have a dazzling array of massages and treatments, plus 10 treatment rooms and a calming solarium lounge. Clearly, this is a destination spa.
Bring a book and stay the day. Get the 75-minute coffee bean and algae body wrap.
Located on the third floor, connected to the spa, the 24-hour fitness centre is fully loaded but subdued. Nobody's pumping up the jam and slamming down barbells. Still, people work up a sweat on the ballet bar, fitness machines and with the free weights. There's a smaller side room with a mirrored wall for dance, pilates and floor work. Locals buy memberships.
There's a more private fitness area with partial privacy walls between some of the cardio machines and "stone" decor. After your workout, enjoy the steam room and salt-water hot tub!
Buttoned down and corporate, the Azure Restaurant and bar goes a bit overboard with dark wood decor. Everything is chocolate brown, with the notable exception of the blue light panels behind the bar (see "Bar" below). However, what they get right at Azure is the food. Generous plates of salmon, steak, burgers and pasta are delicious. This is a classy place to take a client, but maybe not a fun-loving date.
Every night, the floor-to-ceiling exterior glass wall creates a canopy of stars and city lights. Order the prix fixe menu and gaze at passersby.
Azure has many decent bottles of spirits, as you'd expect, then it surpasses expectations with Stuart Reid's stunning glass artwork, Liquid Veil, installed above and behind the bar. It's a great conversation starter and visual focal point, as people sip martinis and swirl scotch in heavy tumblers.
Luma (2-minutes walk), part of the TIFF headquarters, always delivers creative North American cuisine and excellent people watching. The family-owned Kit Kat (5-minute walk) is a casual Italian eatery of note with lively chatter and homemade dishes.
New to the scene, Walrus Pub and Beer Hall (13-minute walk) is a bit more fancy than its name might connote. There are interesting light fixtures, quirky decor items, designer pizzas, and a well-edited list of draft, wine and hard spirits. Or visit 360 Restaurant (4-minute walk) for breathtaking views from the CN tower and creative cocktails. It's a revolving restaurant, so reservations are recommended.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The Intercontinental won't do anything to boost the birth rate, but we love its location on Front Street, right downtown. It's connected to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, just steps away from the CN Tower, Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre and Ripley's Aquarium and Royal Alexandra or Princess of Wales Theatre, among other things. It appeals to successful businesspeople, politicians and government workers who need a certain level of comfort without the appearance of ostentatious luxury. There are fully-outfitted desks in the business centre to handle any work-related emergencies. The fitness centre, pool and spa are great places to mingle with locals who have memberships.