My friends and I have been talking non-stop about a getaway together. We drafted up a wishlist of what we wanted to see, do, and eat (of course). Arts and culture were top of mind as we love to be inspired. One in our group loves photography and wandering looking through her lens and this time of year is magical. Toss in a new restaurant or two, a little shopping, a little quiet time and we have a perfect escape. But why not here, in the city? There’s always lots to do especially over the holiday season.
We packed our weekend bags for our urban getaway. We planned everything to be within walking distance or public transit accessible. We had fun rediscovering and exploring what our city has to offer. It wasn’t just the perfect rest & recharge but since we gravitate to experiences, this also inspired us to make this an annual weekend getaway here are some suggestions…
When I thought about places to stay for us, I wanted more than just a clean and safe place to unpack our bags and sleep. Accommodations are very much part of the whole travel experience- whether it’s away or here in the city. We tend to look for places where we look forward to returning to as much as exploring when we’re out. The Soho Hotel & Residence (318 Wellington Street West) in Toronto is ideally situated in the city’s entertainment district and within walking distance to many great attractions and restaurants.
Recently the hotel unveiled its multi-million dollar renovations and updates to amenities by Gluckstein Design to the 89 rooms just in time for the holiday season. Luxurious Italian marble bathrooms, with heated floors and Canadian maple wood are found throughout. Rooms and suites are noticeably more spacious than average. Back when the hotel first opened 18 years ago, rooms were designed with more space in mind and that square footage hasn’t changed.
We also learned each room here is equipped with its own HVAC system — something the hotel had implemented when it was originally designed and well before this pandemic. Knowing that each room has its own air circulating, and not from the rest of the hotel, is something many travellers today may be interested in. It was fun to also see a few different rooms and suites throughout the property including the Soho Suite — a popular one amongst visiting celebrities.
What we are surprised to discover was the incredible contemporary art collection at this property in the lobby, common areas, and individual suites. It starts with Dale Chihuly’s stunning glass work, Persian Ceiling, at the entrance way to the Soho. Once you check in you’ll meet the eyes of Steve Jobs in the iconic portrait by Albert Watson. You’ll also find a great range of contemporary Canadian artists — worth taking time to explore!
If you’re interested working out, the hotel has also renovated their fitness centre on the second floor. You may even want to book in a personal training session with Dalton Brown (certified) …pssst, he’s worked with many celebrities. A heated salt-water pool and jacuzzi is also accessible on this floor to guests. Make sure you book your time to visit as we all adhere to the city’s health and safety pandemic protocols, there are limits to the number of guests in the fitness areas. Which, in our case, was welcoming!
What else you should know about this property? There’s an app for that! No, really. But hey, in addition to accessing property information, make specific requests, you can also use the app to check in and have room access remotely via your mobile device for a contactless experience.
WHERE TO EAT
Hotel restaurants in this city have impressive offerings and that goes the same here with Moretti’s Italian Restaurant. The popular Montreal-originated restaurant is worth visiting and you won’t even need a coat! I’ve eaten here several times prior to this stay and the dishes are deeply satisfying. Cocktails, pizzas, pastas, and more. Try their Moretti Salad and their Chitarra All’Aragosta (lobster!) pasta dishes. Whoa!
For a quick bite, Moretti’s Caffe is an Italian caffe bar offering salads, paninis, pastries and that perfect cup of coffee or espresso-based beverages any time of day. Great if you’re in a hurry and want something fresh and tasty!
If you’re looking for casual and relaxed dining, Wahlburgers is literally around the corner and the vibe is great. Friendly, easy going staff and stellar line up on the menu. Try the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger with all the festive trimmings (loaded with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato mash) — a personal favourite! Make sure you order a side of tater tots.
If you’re needing a slice of paradise, then Chef Nuit Regular’s SELVA Resto & Bar is worth a visit and within walking distance. The space is bold and colourful. The food is South American meets Thai. Fresh with lots of gluten-free, keto friendly options on the menu that excite. Chef Nuit’s other popular restaurant PAI Northern Thai is also within walking distance where you can often find me inhaling an order of her Thai Chicken Wings and slurping her Khao Soi curry noodle bowl.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
During the holiday season, The Nutcracker with the National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre is a tradition for many. This particular production is considered one of the best in the world and an easy 15 minute walk from the hotel.
TIFF Bell Lightbox always has incredible films that you may not necessarily find in the bigger theatres. In December, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro presents his personal selection of Film Noirs from 20th Century Studios. The gift shop is a great stop if you’re looking to pick up more unique gifts.
The Princess of Wales Theatre is nearby and in-person productions are back. Mirvish Productions always has great slate of shows on stage. Coming up is the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. A block away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre is where the popular Come From Away will return to the stage mid-December — a not-to-be-missed production that is enduring and truly restores the faith in humanity. Check Mirvish.com for details on what’s on stage.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) major exhibition Picasso: The Blue Period continues through the holiday season until January 16, 2022. It is the first exhibition in Canada to focus on the early works of the modernist master Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973).
An easy ride on the King Streetcar heading eastbound will take you to the Distillery District with its winter market now up and running. The decorated massive tree and cobblestone walkways gives a victorian era feel to the holidays. Warm yourself up with hot cocoa and treats at the various cafes and restaurants along the walk.
If there’s anywhere in the city that gives you that feeling of being in another part of the world, it’s Kensington Market. Explore the sights, sounds and taste of many nations in this amazing neighbourhood. Go hungry. There’s lots to eat around here. Jumbo Empanadas, Pancho’s Churros, Patty King, are just a few to fill your bellies. Check out the shops too.
Looking for artisanal items? The One of a Kind Show happens late November, early December at the Enercare Centre (CNE Grounds). This year over 400 Canadian artisans are featured with everything from unique food items, jewellery, apparel and more.
REST, RESTORE & RECHARGE
We woke up early Saturday morning to sneak in time at the hotel’s heated indoor pool and jacuzzi before heading out. But also located nearby is one of my favourite spots, Hoame Meditation Studio. Here you can take in a restorative meditation session, rest in the salt cave, take in a sound bath and more.
WHERE TO WANDER DURING THE FESTIVE SEASON
Wander south past the Skydome (Rogers Centre) and stop to check out the SteamWhistle brewery and the CP locomotives out on display at the foot of the CN Tower. Keep going and you’ll find yourself at Harbourfront.
CNE grounds is where you’ll find the Polar Winter Festival happening (tickets available online). Thousands (if not millions) of twinkly holiday lights and many displays bring the magic of the season.
Financial District and its public spaces are brimming with festive lights and larger than life trees. Check out Brookfield Place for its always breathtaking soaring high displays.