Toronto’s Exploding Luxury Hotel Scene

North Amer­i­cans would be hard-pressed to find a city out­side of Toronto that, in the past 18 months, has opened a Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La, Trump and Four Sea­sons hotel, plus added a buzzy bou­tique ALT near the airport.

We had the plea­sure of tour­ing our friend­liest north­ern neigh­bor last week dur­ing the city’s biggest yearly event — the Toronto Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (TIFF) and had the chance to explore many of the city’s new luxe offer­ings. We walked away con­fi­dent that this Cana­dian gem was one we’d return to time and again– after all, it was only an hour-and-a-half flight from our home­town of DC– plus all of the things that a vaca­tioner would seek: friendly, afford­able, vibrant and clean.

Here’s what lux­ury travel mavens need to know about the Toronto hotel scene.

If You’re Seek­ing Shop­ping: Four Sea­sons Hotel Toronto

Open­ing on Octo­ber 5, 2012, Four Sea­sons Hotel Toronto will open its sec­ond loca­tion in Toronto — the orig­i­nal prop­erty closed ear­lier this sum­mer to make way for the new iter­a­tion in the brand’s cor­po­rate head­quar­ters city. What can you expect? A prime Yorkville loca­tion, close to lux­ury shop­ping, din­ing and cul­tural attrac­tions, plus 259 spa­cious sunlight-filled gue­strooms includ­ing 42 suites fea­tur­ing state-of-the-art ameni­ties and a 30,000 square foot lux­ury spa (the largest lux­ury hotel spa in Toronto). Of course, Four Sea­sons din­ing des­ti­na­tions will be top notch as well — the sig­na­ture restau­rant will be Café Boulud by Daniel Boulud.  We’ll have a full report when we return for the open­ing in a few weeks.

If You Love Asian Inspi­ra­tion: Shangri-La Toronto 

For just the sec­ond time, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts — the Asian-based lux­ury hotel group — will bring its leg­endary offer­ings and hos­pi­tal­ity to life in North Amer­ica. The Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto opened on August 31, just in time for TIFF, and isn’t totally ready to receive guests– but in a few weeks when the hotel is 100% oper­a­tional, expect ameni­ties never seen before in Toronto, includ­ing the open­ing of Momo­fuku by acclaimed New York hef David Chang; a dra­matic multi-storey sculp­ture that begins out­side and winds its way into the hotel lobby by inter­na­tion­ally renowned artist Zhang Huan; and a state-of-the-art the­atre. The mas­sive glass-fronted build­ing is a mod­ern mar­vel, a tes­ta­ment to Asian con­cepts of feng shui, and tech­no­log­i­cally one of the most advanced in the city. We can’t wait to come for a stay.

If You Crave Glitz, Glam and Great Views: Trump Inter­na­tional Hotel &Tower Toronto

The tallest build­ing in Toronto is none other than the Trump Inter­na­tional Hotel & Tower — would you expect any­thing less? The oasis of glam is a choco­late and cham­pagne mas­ter­piece ris­ing 32 floors above the city sky­line (with res­i­dences above) and fea­tur­ing a spec­tac­u­lar bi-level Quartz Crys­tal Spa™, fea­tur­ing a 65-ft. marine-grade, heated, zero-edge nat­ural salt lap pool (the only one of its kind offered by a Toronto hotel), see-and-be-seen steak­house and mod­ern con­tem­po­rary restau­rant STOCK and the pop­u­lar happy hour cock­tail lounge, Suits. Did we men­tion that STOCK has a choco­late cave? It does — a mas­ter­piece of a space ded­i­cated to form­ing the finest treats known to man. Spa­cious rooms (half of which are suites), offer excep­tional ameni­ties includ­ing push-button light and drap­ery con­trols and gas fire­places. Mr. Trump must approve.

If You Want the “Club Level” Ser­vice (and A Primo Busi­ness Loca­tion): The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto 

It’s hard to say any­thing bad about one of the orig­i­nal grande dames of lux­ury, and The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, lives up to expec­ta­tions. The “old­est” of the new lux­ury hotel set, the Ritz has a bit over a year of his­tory under its down­town roots, mak­ing it the first new lux­ury hotel in the city’s vibrant finan­cial dis­trict. Ideal for guests seek­ing a hockey game at Rogers Cen­tre or vis­it­ing the CN Tower, the Ritz brings its sig­na­ture ser­vice to great use. We enjoyed a fab­u­lous stay on the hotel’s club level, which offers up daily meal pre­sen­ta­tions and pri­vate concierge ser­vice, as well as a room over­look­ing the city har­bor, afford­ing excel­lent views of the planes com­ing and going from nearby Billy Bishop Air­port. If you have the chance, a visit to the hotel’s 16-room spa offer­ing treat­ments by Clar­ins’ new My Blend line (the only of its kind out­side of Paris) is not to be missed.

Five Culinary-Inspired Spa Treatments

Often times, before I get to a des­ti­na­tion, I’m not sure what I’m going to write about. Most stories—or, at least, the best stories—come from the unex­pected, only unfold­ing after I’ve truly immersed myself in a place. And many times, the story doesn’t truly reveal itself until I go some­where else; mean­ing that I might find some­thing inter­est­ing in Hawaii, but I don’t find the true story until I head to Mex­ico, Whistler, and Turks & Caicos. Such was the case for this story, one cen­tered around the grow­ing trend of spa treat­ments that incor­po­rate food (some good enough to eat!). 

It all started ear­lier this year when I found myself at The Four Sea­sons in Whistler, British Colum­biaOn the evening of my arrival, I dined at the award-winning steak­house on prop­erty, Side­cut. The very tal­ented chef, Edi­son Mays, offers nearly two dozen choices of house­made spice rubs to com­ple­ment his vari­ety of steak cuts (Edison’s Medecine on the Kobe steak is not to be missed!). The next day, after an after­noon on the slopes, I headed to the spa, where I dis­cov­ered that Mays had devel­oped a sim­i­lar line of bespoke rubs to use in spa treat­ments. The ser­vices, like “The Awak­en­ing” (a rub made from epsom salts, cit­rus zest, cit­rus and lemon­grass essen­tial oils), didn’t offi­cially hit the spa menu until June, but they’ve already taken the spa by storm. If you’re headed to the area, I highly rec­om­mend the “Romance Rub”, a blend of Epsom salts, cin­na­mon and cin­na­mon essen­tial oil that brings blood and nutri­ents to the skins sur­face and relieves mus­cle ten­sion.

No mat­ter where you are, though, you’ll likely be able to find other culinary-inspired spa treate­ments on the menu. Here are four more I can per­son­ally vouch for:

At the recently ren­o­vated spa at The Regent Palms in Turks & Caicos, guests can choose from a vari­ety of culinary-inspired treat­ments, like the indige­nous island “Zareeba” treat­ment, a ser­vice where guests inhale an aro­matic steam from a blend of freshly brewed ther­a­peu­tic herbs, or the “Ori­en­tal Essence Cer­e­mony”, a ginger-infused salt scrub inspired by ancient Asian and Indian tech­niques using an aro­matic spice sachet filled with smooth peb­bles and soaked in warmed exotic oils. 

The 50,000-square-foot Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea in Maui recently launched two new treat­ments based on the power of the “Niu,” the coconut palm tree in Hawaii known for cre­at­ing radi­ant, smooth skin. The Royal Niu Coconut Dream for Two is a win­ner! The two-and-a-half hour treat­ment employs fibrous coconut husks (nat­ural exfo­lia­tors) to apply a mild coconut scrub, which is fol­lowed by a coconut but­ter body cocoon, com­plete with a scalp and foot mas­sage. Next comes a 25-minute coconut milk bath, fol­lowed by The Royal finale, a 50-minute mas­sage employ­ing coconut oil, shells and husks.

The spa at Grand Velas Riv­iera Maya takes guests on a culi­nary jour­ney through Ancient Mex­ico with treat­ments like the “Cof­fee Ritual”, an exfo­li­a­tion fol­lowed by a relax­ing cir­cu­la­tory mas­sage with cof­fee oil extract, the “Cocoa Rit­ual”, which uses a smooth, fresh mint choco­late cream to leave your skin invig­o­rated and full of vital­ity, the “Puri­fy­ing Vanilla Facial”, a deep cleans­ing treat­ment, or the “Olive Clay Wrap”, which begins with a honey exfo­li­a­tion fol­lowed by a puri­fy­ing hot clay mask made with guaraná-mate, and a cold clay mask made from olive and mint (both of which boast ton­ing and slim­ming effects). 

At Travaasa Austin’s award-winning spa, you don’t want to miss the “Invig­o­rat­ing Avo­cado Wrap”, which uses sump­tu­ous avo­cado body but­ter blended with essen­tial oils of laven­der, pine, orange and lemon to bal­ance, purify and tone. Other foodie-centered treat­ments include the “Ancient Purification”, which begins with an organic pan­ela sugar scrub made from fos­silized Dead Sea mud and organic herbs of chamomile, dan­de­lion and lemon balm, and the “Detox­i­fy­ing Juniper, Olive Stone Exfo­li­a­tion & Pol­ish”, which employs juniper, sea­weed and cypress (all of which have a rep­u­ta­tion for puri­fy­ing and revi­tal­iz­ing the body and mind and jump-starting the metabolism).