On a clear day you can see the skyline of Rochester, New York, across the sparkling blue Lake Ontario from most rooms at this mid-range hotel built for conventioneers and hockey fans. Guest rooms have expansive windows, but need fresh decor. Thankfully, the Westin's signature beds make you forgive and forget. Take the glass elevator to Toulà, the hotel's rooftop restaurant, which serves pricey but delicious Italian meals. Other features include a heated indoor pool, a massive gym, roof-top tennis courts, and an enclosed walkway that links the hotel to the Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The spectacular views start on the seventh floor. Avoid rooms on floor five and six if you want to see Toronto Island and the lake. Get a corner room. Note that guests have had erratic check-in and check-out experiences.
Dull and ready for a makeover, the rooms need inspiration. A splash of colour would be nice. However, the big Westin Heavenly bed and the fluffy white bedding almost makes up for the rooms' lack of style. The mini fridge is a thoughtful touch, as is the ample work desk. Suites and delux rooms have more updated decor.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Psst! There's a $16.99/day fee for Wi-Fi, unless it's included in a special package. That's preposterous, as is the shortage of USB ports.
Clean. Simple. Small. The beige bathrooms do the job, with hair dryers and house products. Some have marble counters and separate soaker tubs.
Expansive and wide open, the lobby is a tad barren--even after a recent renovation. New light panels on the pillars help, as does the Harbour Coffee Bar, and Mizzen restaurant. The space is often enlivened by business people, conventioneers and excited concert goers. With hundreds of guests arriving and departing at any given time, it's never boring.
At reception or when you book, ask about the special 3 p.m. checkout on Sundays!
The lap pool serves serious swimmers and waders alike. Poolside, there's a play area for kids, huge windows and a separate hot tub. Adults like the teak lounge chairs and seasonal sundeck.
You can swim until 11 p.m., so the kids won't drive you crazy rushing through supper.
Fitness buffs, take a knee. The gym is massive, clean, state-of-the-art and boasts great views from the treadmills. New Balance is on board with a lending program (think shoes, apparel), and there's an energizing nature mural on the inside wall. The change rooms are expansive and swish with a steam room. Ask about the running program.
There are roof-top tennis courts, plus a basketball half-court for a game of three-on-three.
The Italian restaurant on the 38th floor is all about the 360-degree panoramic view and its gold-leaf ceiling. That's fine, but aim higher--for the Savoury experience, a private meal for up to 10 people at a chef's table in the kitchen. For something fast and fun, graze at the lobby's casual restaurant, The Mizzen, or the adjacent Chartroom Bar and Lounge.
Right on the harbourfront, the Westin is a hub on the south edge of downtown, connected directly to its conference centre. Valet parking is $50 per day, but public parking can range from $15-$30 per day. However, Union subway station is a short walk away and the hotel is connected to the PATH transit system. Ubers and taxis are common.
For a noisy night of dim sum and Chinese classics, try Pearl Harbourfront (5-minute walk). Equally fun is Against the Grain (7-minute walk), for avocado toast, tacos, salads and excellent burgers. Both places have breathtaking views of Lake Ontario.
You can't beat the Amsterdam Brew House, a 14,000 square-foot lakeside pub, for craft beer paired with local cuisine (10-minute walk). Another option a few blocks north is Miller Tavern (15-minute walk), for mixology and unpretentious chat with both staff and strangers.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Tailor made for conferences and sports fans, the Westin specializes in housing large groups of travelers on the go. We love their spacious fitness facility (notice we didn't insult it by calling it a gym), the roof-top tennis and basketball, as well as the kids' activity room and play area beside the pool. The business centre is handy, or rent the Tangent high-tech work space to rent for video conferences. Easy proximity to the subway and PATH is appreciated, while guests with cars enjoy the huge driveway approach for unloading luggage and organizing parking options.