Among the neighborhood’s art-minded hotels, the Gladstone is the most interactive, with shows, classes, and ongoing events. The 37 rooms, all designed by local artists, have breathed new life into the 126-year-old icon, which filmmaker Christina Zeidler revitalized in 2003. The Victorian landmark, named for its avenue (in turn named after four-time Canadian Prime Minister William Gladstone), has been a gathering spot for almost a century. And it was home to legendary Toronto characters like cowboy Hank Young, who manned the hand-operated elevator from 1961 to 2009, and Peter Styles, former host of Karaoke Night, with applause sign in hand. The legend of Hank lives on in a framed photo in the stairwell en route to the second floor.
The Gladstone continues to push the boundaries of community and culture with creative events like its educational workshop series, Get School’d, and its annual alternative design event, Come Up to My Room (CUTMR), which runs alongside the city’s Interior Design Show. Begin your stay in this architectural gem with a drink at the Café or Melody Bar (that is, if you’re not first thrust into Shameless Karaoke Night).
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Arty and gritty, on the edge of West Queen West and bordering Parkdale before the Dufferin Jog (tunnel), the area is near the city’s historic exhibition grounds (home to the Canadian National Exhibition every August and big craft fairs like One of a Kind in spring and winter). Walking east on Queen from the hotel, art enthusiasts will stumble upon the massive mural at MOCCA, Angell Gallery, and Edward Day Gallery. Lit lovers will find the weird and fantastical Monkey’s Paw on Dundas West and Canadian lit–filled Type Books. Pick up a read and head to Trinity Bellwoods Park or El Almacen, where you can read while sipping a yerba mate. In Parkdale, have a bite at Electric Mud BBQ before hitting up honky-tonk bar Cadillac Lounge, craft brewery Duggan’s, or the new tiki-style Miss Thing’s. Discover an array of vintage shops like the Future of Frances Watson, and walk behind the Gladstone to see Shepard Fairey’s mural “Peace Bomber,” part of his Obey Giant series (the other piece, “Obey Eye,” is located on Dundas near the AGO). Tour Guys offers a curated walk of Toronto’s graffiti, which is a fun and informative way to experience the Queen West area.
Need to Know
Rooms: 37 artist-designed rooms. From $179. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Hotel guests receive coffee and tea service on the third and fourth floors from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily. The intimate Café offers a diverse, seasonal menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and brunch on weekends. Inventive options for vegetarians include the cauliflower burger and vegan BLT. In the Melody Bar on weekends, enjoy cocktails and share plates with friends. Spa and gym details: Though there is no gym or spa, guests can use the facilities at 99 Sudbury, or, for a $5 drop-in fee, take a Thursday yoga class in the Gladstone’s second-floor gallery space. Single-speed cruiser bikes are available for exploring the surrounding neighborhood.
Who it's for: Open-minded couples wanting an interactive art experience while remaining close to the action; business travelers looking to be at the heart of the art scene; friends who want a fun slumber party and proximity to Toronto’s nightlife. Our favorite rooms: Immerse yourself in nostalgia in the Canadiana Room (Room 404). An ode to the cottage is painted on its woodsy back mural, the railway is featured on furniture, and woolly textures are in the curtains. Couples might opt for the sultry Red Room (Room 303). The newest room, the Surreal Gourmet (Room 403), is curated by Food Network personality Bob Blumer. This playful nod to food features a kitchenette complete with a panini maker, Shun knives, paintings of pop culture food mascots, and foodie films on DVD hand-picked by Blumer. The two-level Tower Suite (Room 409), curated by the Zeidler family, is like living in your own Toronto apartment. With 360-degree views of the city, it’s the ultimate honeymoon splurge. Good to know: The hotel’s president conducts art tours of the Gladstone every Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. That said, each room comes equipped with a Samsung Galaxy Tablet with a digital concierge system and free Internet. Extras like a TTC day pass are available to guests at an extra cost—convenient since a streetcar stops outside the hotel’s door (and you can "ride the rocket" on the 504 all the way to the beach in Queen East). There is always something happening here, so make sure to check the event schedule.