I’m a Toronto boy, born and bred. When friends visit from out of town, they always ask me to suggest a nice place for them to stay. “Well, I stay at my place — and it ain’t nice,” is my usual response. I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Toronto; never had to. So with WorldPride coming up at the end of June, I thought I’d check out what my city has to offer its varied visitors. I selected five hotels in the downtown core, from luxury to economy, to assess their pros and cons from a guest’s point of view.
1. Trump Tower
325 Bay St
Okay, the Trump Hotel is not for the stingy or cheap. It’s pricey. The lowest rate the website shows for a room is $425 per night. The company’s motto is Live the Life, and when you check in, you do. This hotel is gorgeous, with the award-winning Stock Restaurant on the 31st floor, the Quartz Crystal Spa oasis and the tranquility of the infinity pool and gym. And the rooms themselves are divine! If the hotel were just these rooms and nothing else, it would still be exceptional. Heated stone floors in the bathrooms. Enormous stone tubs with room for two. Separate showers with huge rain showerheads, plus the bathroom mirror has a TV embedded in it. High-speed internet and local calls are included. The drapes are remote controlled, as are the lights and temperature. But most importantly, the beds are beyond comfortable and the pillows are perfection. I’ve never slept so soundly in my life. As far as location is concerned, the Trump Tower is right at the corner of Adelaide and Bay, so it’s great for checking out more than the Church-Wellesley Village. A quick skip up Bay Street will put you on the Queen streetcar heading west to the “Queer West Village.” A five-minute walk west along Adelaide will put you in the heart of Toronto’s club district. And a trot east to Yonge Street will put you on the subway north to Church and Wellesley or into the Eaton Centre for some shopping. Maybe your budget won’t let you spend a week at the Trump Hotel, but we all deserve to splurge on at least one night there. We’re worth it!
200 Victoria St
This gorgeous hotel is affordable luxury at its finest. Located at 200 Victoria St, at Shuter, about a 10-minute walk from the gay village, it’s also right behind Dundas Square, around the corner from the Eaton Centre, across the street from Massey Hall, steps away from both the Elgin and Pantages theatres and right above Fran’s Diner. With the subway and streetcars just steps away, you couldn’t ask for a better location, at any time of year, never mind WorldPride. The rooms are gorgeous and start at $225 per night. There are suites with full kitchens and even washers and dryers available. Most importantly, the beds are just as comfortable as the Trump’s — but don’t tell them I said that!
33 Gerrard St W
The Eaton Chelsea is that building off Yonge Street, just south of Gerrard, with the water slide sticking out the side. With more than 1,500 rooms, it’s a big hotel and that water slide equals kids — lots of them — so the lobby can feel more like Union Station. Unfortunately, all this activity can also mean an extended wait for an elevator. The rooms are lovely and most have balconies. WiFi is included, and the beds are super-comfy. Standard tubs mean no sexy baths, but rates start at around $180 per night for a room and $220 for a suite with a kitchenette, depending on what loyalty programs you use. As for location, Eaton Chelsea is across the street from Madonna’s Hard Candy Fitness and a hop, skip and jeté over to the Village. The Chelsea’s restaurant, Bb33 Bistro and Brasserie, is lovely; I highly recommend you have at least one meal there. As for breakfast, the hotel’s cafeteria is pricey, but there are lots of options right outside the doors.
4. Holiday Inn
30 Carlton St
The Holiday Inn on Carlton Street is perfect for WorldPride. Near the corner of Carlton and Church, it’s seconds away from the south end of the Village and the location of Pride weekend’s South Stage. It’s within walking distance of the Eaton Centre, Dundas Square and Yorkville and provides easy access to the TTC. Of course, a good location does have its drawbacks: a standard room can start at around $268, but the beds are comfy and you can’t get closer to the heart of the WorldPride action than here. One thing to note: since the building originally was built as a university dorm, there are common areas in the halls with sofas and chairs, which can be super handy if you’re travelling in a group — or potentially loud and invasive if you’re travelling alone.
5. Spa Excess
105 Carlton St
Okay, first off: Spa Excess is a men’s bathhouse. So, my apologies to any women who may have got their hopes up based on the name. Secondly, Spa Excess isn’t a hotel, but lots of gay men stay at bathhouses when travelling, so I thought I’d check out one of our city’s popular maisons des bains. Imagine my surprise when they informed me that they actually have a “hotel room” for rent. It’s a quiet little room with its own TV and en suite bathroom and shower. At $80 for 12 hours on the weekend, the price is right, and, since you get your own key, you can come and go as you please (in more ways than one). Spa Excess has a fabulous bar, nightly events and one of the nicest, private rooftop patios around.