Of all the Toronto getaways we’ve done, our experience at Hotel X Toronto was a first in part because of its location. Overlooking Ontario Place and the island airport, this hotel staycation wasn’t about being in the downtown core but rather getting away from it, enjoying the onsite amenities and entertainment, and being in closer proximity to holiday fun like the Aurora Winter Festival.
Hot Tip: If you’re reading this before Cyber Monday (December 2, 2019), Hotel X Toronto is offering 25% off its Best Flexible Rates with a complimentary fitness class (a $20 value) and self-parking included (a per-night $30 value).
If you’re planning on seeing Alegría, visiting Harbourfront Centre, going to the Aurora Festival or want to check out the new home for Second City’s Improv Showdown show through December — or even if you just want to get away from it all with your kids and do nothing but lounge and eat and swim — Hotel X is one of those Toronto getaways you’ll not soon forget.
Hotel X staycation ideas: Attractions
Any good hotel staycation weekend can be built around one main attraction if you want to balance the rest of your stay with leisure time, or you can go-go-go like crazy and fit in as much action as time will allow. (This might be a fun opportunity to get your kids involved in the planning!)
Hotel X is located within walking distance of a few attractions and is a short drive from the others I’ve listed here. Don’t want to take your vehicle out of the heated underground parking lot to brave Toronto traffic and fight for parking spots? I don’t blame you. Luckily, Hotel X offers a first-come, first-served house car service that will take you to your destination for free. You do have to find your own way back, but a one-way UBER/Lyft ride is a heck of a lot cheaper than parking.
The Second City performance
With The Second City’s longstanding location now being devoted to a condo development, its family-friendly Improv Showdown show has found a new home at Hotel X in its 250-seat theatre during December.
Guests who book a Family Fun Package will get free tickets to this knee-slapping, interactive holiday show that’s perfect for kids and adults alike. It’s also open to the public and tickets are available here for $35 each.
We have actually been to Improv Showdown twice before — including The K Man’s birthday this past summer at his request — and it’s such a blast. In a series of skits, some of which are chosen by the host and some of which are chosen by audience members, the comedians create a whole new show every time. We’d seen some of the skits before but because they take audience suggestions and roll with it off-the-cuff, the show has seemed new to us all three times.
My kids even made it onstage (and, cough-cough, I was voluntold to get up there, too).
- December 13, 2019 at 7:00 pm
- December 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm
- December 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm
- December 20, 2019 at 7:00 pm
- December 21, 2019 at 4:30 pm
- December 22, 2019 at 1:30 pm
- December 26-30, 2019 at 4:30 pm
- January 2-5, 2020 at 4:30 pm
Aurora Winter Festival
Would I come all the way to Toronto just for the Aurora Winter Festival? Probably not. We were done wandering in about an hour and a half. But staying at Hotel X meant it was a short walk across the street to Ontario Place, making it ultra-convenient, and so it was an excellent add on to our hotel staycation weekend in the city.
I definitely recommend going at night because the biggest draw here are the pretty lighting installations. There are giant lit-up unicorns, candy cane forests, little troll houses, a beautiful skating rink (bring your own or rent them onsite!), a heated entertainment tent with a DJ, Santa’s Workshop (the elves will use your camera to take your family’s photo) and more.
There are food trucks and some cute shops, too. Keep in mind that you do need to pay extra for rides.
Bottom line: It’s a feast for the eyes and my kids were mesmerized. The Aurora Festival is a lovely post-dinner activity, especially if you’re right across the street.
Cirque du Soleil
Alegría — currently playing Under the Big Top tent directly across from Hotel X — is a must-see while it’s still in town. It’s a visual treat that’ll have you looking every which way throughout the performance because, like all Cirque du Soleil shows, there’s something to see across every inch of the stage at any given moment!
Hanging out with my kids watching movies ranks as one of my favourite things to do. Whether we’re watching the latest blockbuster in 3D or snuggling on the couch streaming a classic, I don’t care as long as I’m nestled between them.
If you’re not interested in any of the movies Hotel X is showing in its cinema (Frozen and Forrest Gump were both playing the weekend we were there), I also have two other ideas for your hotel staycation movie-watching pleasure:
1. Stay in your room! We decided to spend almost an entire day in bed (we ate lunch and dinner there and watched an old movie on TV, with commercials, huddled together under the duvet). It was total leisurely decadence and it’s not something we’ve ever done in a hotel before. Using our room as the destination rather than just a place to rest our heads at night is what this staycation was all about.
2. Head out to a movie theatre offsite and treat yourselves big time — order the big combo or splurge on the D-Box seats. Do something out of the ordinary that your kids will remember. Miss Q and I really wanted to see Frozen II during opening weekend and since I knew it wasn’t The K Man’s first choice, I surprised him with the immersive D-Box seat experience. This isn’t an option at our little local theatre, but being in the big city meant we had access to all kinds of fancy technology. It turned out to be super cool and I won some serious points. (And thank goodness, because those D-Box seats are $$$.)
Toronto getaways should include as much local flavour as possible, and there’s always something interesting happening at the Harbourfront Centre! From cultural festivals and dance performances to creative workshops and DJ Skate Nights, this is a hot spot any time of year. And it’s just an eight-minute drive (OK, eight minutes without traffic…) east of Hotel X.
Remember to ask if the house car is available to take you at least one way so you can avoid parking, and grab a taxi or ride-share back when you’re ready to chill in your room.
Hotel X staycation ideas: Activities
Some of the best Toronto getaways we’ve had include a mix of me-time, together time, downtime and action-packed activity time.
If your hotel has a swimming pool, activity No. 1 is already baked for you. Bring your swimmers and flip flops, grab your robes from the closet and hit the pool together! We liked the rooftop indoor/outdoor heated pool at Hotel X (though the indoor portion is very small) and agreed we need to come back in the summer and hang out there during a beautiful, sunny day. It’s gorgeous up there!
We kicked off our staycation in the city weekend with a Mastercard Priceless Cities experience (which I featured as one of the best experience gifts for kids in this year’s Experience Gift Guide): doughnut-making at Von Doughnuts. I heard “Mom, that was SO COOL!” at least half a dozen times all weekend, and my wallet was happy that it was only $25 per person!
There are hundreds of Priceless Experiences around the world for Mastercard holders, and they’re constantly changing, so no matter where your staycation — or vacation — is happening, it’s worth checking out ahead of time. Here’s some family-fun happening in Toronto right now for Cardholders, aside from the doughnut experience:
- Lollipop-making workshop
- A Christmas Carol performance with Soulpepper
- Peter Pan (and meet the cast!) with Soulpepper
I’ve also seen behind-the-scenes Cirque du Soleil experiences offered and family photo sessions listed here in the past. In other cities, there are cookie workshops, cake-pop decorating, helicopter tours, sporting events and concerts with the best seats in the house, storytelling sessions, ice cream tastings, mother-daughter shopping tours, and sooooo much more.
One of the ways I created my own me-time during our stay at Hotel X was by taking advantage of its onsite Play Centre. The K Man is old enough to stay in the room on his own without me, but Miss Q isn’t there yet. At $15 an hour, I was able to drop Q off with qualified childminders and get to a Pilates Reformer fitness class at 10XTO, the private members-only club (it’s an extra $35 for hotel guests for this specific class). She spent her time colouring and doing crafts, but there were also gaming stations with PS4s, an activity floor with sports nets and equipment and plenty of toys and books.
Me-time can also mean a spa service or simply finding a moment to read the morning paper with a hot coffee. Because this is your getaway, too.
You can also just stay in and watch the sunset or sunrise from your floor-to-ceiling windows…
Hotel X staycation ideas: Food
Well, you know me — I’ve got to write at least a little about food! Our Toronto getaways are usually a foodie explosion, but that also means we’re often planning activities around meals, criss-crossing the city to make it to various restaurants. This time we just wanted to stay put, so — in an unusual twist for us — we ate entirely onsite.
Maxx’s Kitchen (open for lunch and dinner and available through room service with a $5 charge and 18% gratuity) on the second floor of Hotel X is super kid-friendly, with lots of hearty pastas, pizza and other Italian fare. I can’t rave enough about the warm squash salad I had; I ordered it sort of on a whim because I felt like my body needed a vegetable. It turned out to be my favourite dish of the night. I also thought the seafood bisque (soup of the day) was one of the most flavourful bisques I’ve had, presenting a surprisingly nice little kick at the end of every spoonful.
The Casarecce pomodoro pasta dish is relatively plain, but when you cook pasta to perfection and drench it in a beautiful sauce, it doesn’t really matter. The Margherita flat bread fell short for us, but the spicy meatball one was a nice mix of flavours and textures. Maxx’s signature fries with truffle aioli were excellent, the roasted mushrooms arrived gloriously drowning in butter and our dessert was creative and delish, but sadly no longer on the menu (it was a gorgeous blend of pistachio, lemon and black cherry flavours).
I’d never tried UBEReats before but when we wanted three different things for our lunch- and dinner-in-bed, I decided it was worth the cost of three big orders from three different places that we could have for both meals in favour of not leaving our room or the hotel grounds at all. Use my promo code to get an UBEReats discount: eats-andreat7976ue. We just packed up our leftovers, popped them in the fridge, watched our movie and The Second City show, and ate the rest for dinner. Money well spent.
If you book a suite at Hotel X, you’ll also get Club Lounge access and the breakfast is included! (It’s a great spread, too — the croissants are Paris-worthy.) There’s also an afternoon reception with bevvies and appies, but we were too busy being lazy to check it out.
We ultimately travelled just an hour from home and stayed for two nights, but you could easily scale your hotel staycation down to one night or up to three and still have an equally amazing family escape. At the end of the day, it’s not about where you are, but about who you’re with.
DISCLAIMER: Hotel X provided us with part of this experience to facilitate this post, and I amped it up with experiences of my own to round it out and give you LOTS of fun ideas for your own staycation.