For many folks, summer weekends in Calgary mean only one thing: getting out of dodge. But who wants to rush home from work, pack up the camper and join the parking lot on the TransCanada Highway? Not this gal. That’s something The Huz can do. I’d rather spend my weekend checking into a boutique hotel, throwing back cocktails around a sexy outdoor pool before cozying up inside a temperature controlled, bug-free room. That’s why I checked myself into Hotel Arts.
Perfect Calgary weekend
To be honest, it wasn’t the best weekend for my stay-cation. I was swimming in deadlines (what else is new?) and the weekend threatened rain. But here’s what made me pull the trigger: If I lived my life by the weather app and my overly committed calendar, I’d never do anything just for me. Plus, the promise of a king bed loaded with as many duvets as I wanted AND a remote control ALL TO MYSELF was too good too ignore. Friends, I was about to become an urban escapist.
Set smack-dab in Victoria Park – ground zero for Calgary’s art and entertainment scene, Hotel Arts is one cool crash pad. This is a style-driven property, as evidenced by their funky art collection – which you might be interested to know, includes a life size horse lamp in their restaurant Yellow Door Bistro. You know, for selfie purposes.
The décor is modern (natch!) but not uncomfortably so. I barely glanced at my ample sized room before heading out again within 10-minutes of checking in. I wanted to do it all – pool, drinks, dinner, but first, I had to get my cycle on.
Since bikes are available to all guests free of charge during the summer months, I simply had to go for a spin. Hotel Arts is on the same street as Calgary’s urban bike lanes and minutes away from cycling paths that flank the Bow River. They provided the helmet and lock, while I brought the embarrassing enthusiasm only a gal with very little time to herself can muster.
Being in the fresh air, seeing Calgary alive and buzzing at the start of summer was such a tonic to this work from home gal. Even the hideous line up outside Village Ice Cream didn’t bum me out. Instead, I made a beeline for Sidewalk Citizen Bakery in the East Village. All that exercise deserves some kind of reward, does it not? From there it was onto St. Patrick’s Island, then along the river trials and through Prince’s Island Park, before heading back and sussing out my room. There’s actually loads of free things to do in Calgary, so you’re spoiled for choice.
Luxury rooms at Hotel Arts
At last I could do that thing I love to do on beds when you don’t have to make them yourself. I’m talking about jumping, of course. But I couldn’t work that pillow top for long. I was at risk of losing those last rays of afternoon sun. Swanning about in hotel slippers and a plush bathrobe while piling on the luxe Skoah bath amenities would have to wait. Happy Hour was almost over!
Best hotel pool in Calgary
Vibing like a Vegas pool party on a slightly smaller scale, the scene at Hotel Arts’ outdoor pool is totally fun. Filled with beautiful people and professional dancers (duly recognized because they go to my gym, but we don’t hang), I thought I’d be intimidated with my pasty white skin and cellulite legs. I didn’t.
Like my favourite housewife Bethany, I give zero f#&ks. And nobody else did either. Not the dudes who decided to have an impromptu lap competition, nor the dad with three kids, who all immediately dive bombed into the pool. Day trippers will want to get here early to stake your claim or at least make a rezo for poolside dining and drinks.
On the pool patio you still get the full Raw Bar menu after 4 pm. (Before 4pm they have aPoolside by Hotel Arts menu.) Best is the happy hour they’ve got going on from 4-6pm Monday to Friday with half price appies and $5 cocktails. Did I mention wine is half price on Friday? Any other day, room service glasses of white are only $10, red is $12. Prosecco is $8. Alcohol is the loss leader? How do they do this?!! Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
Raw Bar appies go way beyond your standard poolside nibbles. These are thoughtful fusion dishes, beautifully plated, with complex flavours. Take the Imperial Rolls. It’s a like a spring roll on steroids. Crammed with loads of minced pork, rice paper and lettuce is layered around its crispy exterior (which is now the interior, if you get my drift). The hits of mint, the plum infused nouc cham, the dusting of peanuts and sesame seeds – all these textures and flavours worked together to produce the perfect patio appie.
As I sucked back my second Moscow Mule (it’s got a serious ginger kick, so I considered it medicinal), I thought back to where I was three hours ago. Figuratively, not literally. You think I have any idea what I was doing before I checked-in? The point is, I was majorly stressed. And it wasn’t just the medicinal beverage that lulled me into a state of serene calmness. Sitting in the sunshine, feet dangling into the pool, I truly felt like I was on a vacation. Though I was mere minutes from my home, it felt miles away.
The good vibes stayed with me all evening, and well after my room service burger and fries were washed back with local Fiasco Gelato ice cream. I think I crashed around midnight and woke up perfectly refreshed, just in time for brunch.
A decade after it was hip in the U.S., Calgary has fully jumped on the brunch bandwagon. You don’t need me to tell you Yellow Door Bistro (one of two award-winning restaurants inside Hotel Arts) serves up the city’s best brunch. A host of magazines and newspapers have given this sleek restaurant the honours, too. But what they don’t tell you is that it’s crazy good value.
You get all the stations – hot, cold, fruit and fancy for only $24! Most of the dishes are served in colourful Le Creuset pots, which makes the entire experience more fun, as does the smoothy shot you’re presented with upon arrival.
I immediately tucked into a vibrant fruit salad, this crazy good cabbage and apple slaw, house-made maple bacon donuts (it’s all about balance, right?), the charcuterie board and a chicken empanada for good measure. Round two saw me scarfing back blueberry waffles, eggs Benedict and my fave: shrimp and grits with a perfectly poached egg nestled inside the most adorable mini cast iron Le Creuset casserole dish.
I didn’t want to leave, but needs must. Everything I look for in a vacation had been hit within 24-hours. Good night sleep: Check. Pool party: Check. Elevated cuisine: Check. Explore the city like a tourist: Check. All that was left was left to do was pocket a few bathroom amenities. Purse sufficiently stashed, I was on my way home – refreshed, relaxed and ready to tackle another week.
Planning a getaway with your amour? Hotel Arts just reno’d 28 Studio guestrooms. Rooms are totally bijoux and are perfect appointed for two very close friends.
Staycation packages at Hotel Arts
My free things to do in Calgary included one night in a Luxury Room (with two queen beds), heated underground self-parking, complimentary evening turndown service, plus a $60.00 daily breakfast credit for either Yellow Door Bistro or Hotel Arts To Go service. I recommend you use your breakfast credit towards brunch, for all the reasons noted above.
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Thank you to Hotel Arts for partnering with me on this post.