westin-harbour-castle-featureStaying at a hotel is one of my favourite indulgences. But when you can’t afford airfare and accommodations and all the other expenses that come with a vacation, there’s always the staycation. The Westin Harbour Castle was the site of my recent staycation in Toronto – and getting away for the weekend has never been easier. I packed a small bag of essentials, jumped in my car and was in vacation mode in no time! Whether you live in Toronto or are visiting the city this summer, this hotel is perfectly located to provide access to the best the city has to offer.

The location
The Westin Harbour Castle is a CAA/AAA Four Diamond property and is a landmark downtown Toronto hotel. The 38-story property is just 25 kilometres from Toronto Pearson International Airport and is situated right on Toronto’s waterfront in one of the most picturesque parts of the city. The location is one of the best things about this hotel. Toronto’s harbourfront is a must-visit destination, especially when there’s good weather and fortunately, the waterfront is right outside the hotel’s doors. The boardwalk along Lake Ontario is a pretty place to stroll and is lined with restaurants and outdoor patios. Plus, you’ll find various local markets and events happening throughout the summer months at the Toronto Harbourfront Centre. The hotel is also within easy walking distance to the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre, perfect if you plan on attending a concert or sporting event, the theatre district and the city’s downtown core for even more dining and shopping options.

The rooms
The Westin Harbour Castle has 977 rooms that have lake or cityscape views. I stayed in a large, corner lakeview suite that featured a living area separate from the bedroom so it was plenty big. The room was practical and contained all the basics you’d expect. Both the spacious bedroom and the comfortable living room had flat screen TVs and the signature Westin Heavenly bed was just that … soft, comfortable and sweet-dream inducing. The hotel is pet-friendly and if you’re traveling with your pooch, they’ll even provide a Heavenly Dog Bed. But one of my favourite things about staying at a Westin hotel is the robe! As I’d hoped, I found a soft and luxurious Westin Spa Robe hanging on the back of the bathroom door. If you love them as much as I do, you can buy one here to take home.

The highlight of my room was the view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto islands (Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island) right outside the window.Β  My room also overlooked the ferry terminal so getting to the islands is easy from the Westin Harbour Castle. (This also means that you can hear the ferry’s horn as it departs the dock but the last ferries leave the city at 11:15pm so it shouldn’t disturb your sleep too much!) The Toronto islands provide a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Think: great paths for rollerblading, amusements parks for kids and beautiful spots for shaded picnics.

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Food and drink
When it comes to food, there are lots of options at the Westin Harbour Castle. The Mizzen Restaurant, where I had breakfast, is a casual restaurant on the lobby level and the breakfast buffet is filled with standard fare, especially perfect for families with young children, given the selection of typical breakfast favourites. Toula Restaurant and Bar dishes up Italian cuisine and is a great option for dinner. It’s located on the 38th floor of the hotel and overlooks Lake Ontario, providing diners with spectacular panoramic views of the city. This is the place for a special dinner but if you’re looking for something more laidback, try the Chartroom Bar and Lounge. Situated in the main lobby of the hotel, it’s got a casual vibe and is the kind of place that locals frequent for drinks after work or dinner with friends. Because of its location in the hotel’s hub, it’s usually buzzing and has a vibrant vibe. And die-hard coffee and tea drinkers will be especially pleased to know that the lobby also has a coffee bar with a takeout corner to grab a quick Starbucks drink before heading out for the day to explore. It’s only open until 1:30pm though so it’s good to know that there’s also a Tim Horton’s right across the street. Not to mention lots of bars and restaurants; whether you decide to eat on property or off, there are plenty of places to choose from. I dined at Miller’s Tavern one night, which is just around the corner from the hotel. It’s a casual steak and seafood joint but I had the chicken quesadillas.

The special details
The Westin Harbour Castle is a great hotel in a great location and the service I experienced was polite and professional. But as with many things, it’s really the little details that make something memorable and in this case, that separate one hotel from another. Westin hotels are committed to these details and at almost every turn, I encountered another Westin exclusive offering that made me feel good about my options as a guest here.

When I checked in, I learned about the Westin Weekend Incentive, which means that on Sundays, guests are offered a late check-out time of 3pm. I was thrilled. It was nice to know that I could sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast instead of racing around to check out on time. And speaking of check-out, I also love that you can check out by phone. Provided they’ve already got your credit card information on file, you can simply call a number and leave your name and room number. It’s a service that more and more hotels are providing but one that’s appreciated.

In an effort to further their conservation efforts, Westin also offers guests the option of declining housekeeping. (Let’s face it: We don’t need fresh towels and bed linens every day.) By making this eco-friendly choice, guests will receive either a $5 voucher at participating food and beverage outlets or 500 SPG Starpoints awarded at checkout, for each night they decline housekeeping … except the day of departure, of course.

And lastly, the RunWESTIN program is a great benefit for travelers who want to stay healthy on the road (I always have the best of intentions but admit that my plans frequently get waylaid!) The hotel’s location is perfect for jogging along the lake but this program takes things one step further. The hotel offers RunWESTIN concierges who lead guided runs on weekdays from May to September. And the best part is that if you forget your workout gear or don’t feel like taking up valuable room in your suitcase with running shoes and clothes, you can take part in Westin’s lending partnership with New Balance to borrow what you need.

All in all, my experience at the Westin Harbour Castle reminded me that there’s so much to do in Toronto and that I should spend more time exploring and being a tourist in my own city. And if you’re thinking of visiting our fair city, there’s no better time than now to check out the Westin Harbour Castle. To celebrate Canada Day, guests at participating Starwood hotels (Aloft, Element, Four Points by Sheraton, Le MΓ©ridien, Sheraton, Westin and W Hotels) will save 20% on their stays (book by July 1 for stays through September 1, 2014). Sounds like a good reason to visit Canada or book yourself a staycation. View details of the sale and participating hotels here.

Happy Canada Day!

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