Our summer is usually peppered with weekend road trips but work at home has kept in the city. A weekend at the Eaton Chelsea was the perfect escape to enjoy a little family fun.
An urban hotel, the Eaton Chelsea is easily accessible from both of Toronto’s streetcar and subway systems. For my family it is an easy streetcar ride away. Parking is available but like most urban hotels it’s not cheap though they do offer in and out privileges if you plan on doing some sightseeing.
When we arrived Friday night the lobby was teaming with activity. The weekend was even busier with wedding receptions, airline crews, tour groups and families, lots of families. Even with the crowd the front desk greeted each guest as though they were the first. They were friendly and tried to keep the lines moving without making you feel rushed. One afternoon we stumbled upon a pop-up popcorn and lemonade stand in the Eaton Chelsea lobby offering free snacks to guests, something they do on busier days. Another sign of the hotel’s family focus.
The big appeal for families has to be the Eaton Chelsea’s Family Suites. These rooms provide enough space for families to enjoy a vacation together without being right on top of each other. Of course their popularity means they are hard to come by in the busy summer months but they are certainly something to keep in mind to get away when school and work are taking their toll.
Baring the unavailability of the family suites, Eaton Chelsea does have other accommodation options perfect for families, such as adjoining rooms. I’ve talked about the many benefits adjoining rooms have to offer. On our weekend escape we had a deluxe room with two queens plus a parlour. If you hate sitting on a hotel bed to watch television or have a conversation, the parlour provides the perfect spot. Come nighttime the parlour converts into a second bedroom with a pullout sleeper sofa. You can request a portable bed but my son created a perfect sleep structure from the two armchairs.
Having the kids in the parlour with their own television and bathroom gave us parents our own space to watch what we wanted. Plus it was nice not to have to wait for the shower, a true vacation luxury.
The location of the Eaton Chelsea makes it easy to find fun downtown eating options, like the Queen and Beaver across the street, but if you’re looking for something onsite you have four options:
Market Garden and Espresso Coffee Bar
For families I think this is the best choice, breakfast, dinner, or lunch. This is more cafeteria style where you can choose from ready to serve items (oatmeal, fruit salad, pastries, sandwiches) but they also offer fresh made items. We enjoyed breakfast there twice, with French Toast and breakfast sandwiches. The kids could have the same option with a cup of fruit plus a cheaper price. Plus you can get Starbucks coffee onsite, which made my husband happy.
There area is spacious, tidy, and well stocked and the staff on hand are courteous and friendly. It’s surprising how much seating is available as it is tucked in behind the food area. The floor to ceiling windows make the place very airy and open but if you’re looking for a real dining treat take your meal out to the Eaton Chelsea’s private courtyard. It’s like a little oasis from the city. In the warmer months the hotel also uses this spot to provide guests with entertainment or barbecue cookouts.
The Monarch Pub
If you don’t feel like carrying a tray you can always drop into the Monarch Pub on the lobby level. The pub is actually more spacious inside than the entrance implies. Although the feel doesn’t evoke my definition of a pub (no padded booths and old wood) it is more inviting than the food court seating presented at the entrance. I liked the mix of bench seating and high back chairs along with standard dining tables.
You’ll find light pub snacks here as the Monarch Pub is only open after 5 p.m. making it a good stop if you’re looking for a light, early dinner. After 9 p.m. the atmosphere changes as the live music starts. Live entertainment can be a treat for parents but the low lights, loud music (and patrons), and maybe inappropriate lyrics may not be conducive to a night out with the little ones. As my kids are older we stayed to catch the Danny Marks Band, a treat since I’ve only heard him on the radio (though they were doing classic rock versus traditional blues).
They do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and if you’re looking at a nice way to end your weekend getaway breakfast at the bb33 Bistro & Brasserie may be the place to go. The modern dining room feel makes for a nice atmosphere to enjoy a classic eggs benedict or brioche french toast. They also offer a paired down kids menu. Reading the menu after the fact I wish I had stopped in for breakfast. I think this will be on my list to try next time.
It is possible to enjoy adult pursuits when enjoying a little family travel. Experiencing a handcrafted cocktail is one aspect my husband and I both enjoy on trips. When we heard Eaton Chelsea’s TBar created not one but five specialty Ceasar cocktails (a truly Canadian drink) we had to pop in one night for a sample. Did you know the Eaton Chelsea makes its own clamato juice for their Ceasar creations? I’m not a Ceasar fan or even a clamato fan but when our server gave us a sample I was impressed. It was a nice spicy tomato. I could easily drink this on my own. Rumour has it they will be selling this mix to patrons for at-home consumption which will be a nice treat for cocktail fans.
Eating aside, the main thing my two youngest wanted to do was visit the Eaton Chelsea’s Family Fun Zone located on the second floor. There’s a teen lounge with pinball and pool table. I liked that the pinball machines cost only fifty-cents to play making it an affordable option for kids (and the fee avoids one person hoarding a game all day). Although this is right within the family pool area we discovered you couldn’t enter with your swimsuit on.
Across the hall is the quiet Activity Center for younger kids. You could play games, do crafts or sit and read. Of course we had to visit the bunnies. There is a staff member on hand but parents are required to stay with their kids. You can co-ordinate some babysitting in the kid zone for a fee should you wish to take advantage of the adult only pool on the Club Level or maybe pop over to the Elmwood Spa that is right next door.
Speaking of pools, the Family Fun Zone is also home to the family pool with corkscrew waterslide. I must admit for a family pool I was surprised at its somewhat small size and not having a more shallow entrance for little kids. I can see this area being rather busy during the hotel’s high season.
My son enjoyed the corkscrew slide saying it was dark and fast. It actually starts in the building and goes outside before coming back into the building again. As the slide empties into a fairly deep part of the pool, all kids are required to do a quick swim test (swimming the width of the pool and back) in order to receive a wristband for slide access.
Although my oldest wasn’t too interested in the Family Fun Zone, she did love the Eaton Chelsea’s proximity to the Eaton Center and Young street stores. She was quiet content to spend the day shopping while her younger siblings swam. It was the best of both worlds for my kids.
When it comes to family travel we often think we need to leave town to get a little family time. The Eaton Chelsea is a fun destination for families looking to enjoy the city’s downtown atmosphere but it is also great for city families just looking to get a break. Next time you’re planning on seeing a game (the hotel offers a great shuttle bus right to the Dome), take in some theatre, do a little shopping, or just get away from the walls in your house, Eaton Chelsea is one destination where you know the family is welcome.
Thanks to the Eaton Chelsea for the opportunity to experience some family fun.