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The Art of Living in Toronto

The Art of Living in Toronto

With its diverse communities, culture and cuisines, a weekend in Toronto is like a quick trip around the world.

Toronto is a city of neighborhoods. And what ties all these communities together is the love of culture. There are amazing galleries, theaters and concert halls celebrating art all over the city. Surrounded by buildings by internationally renowned architects and restaurants run by top chefs, Torontonians have elevated everyday life to an art form. Even jogging past the city’s exceptional outdoor murals and sculptures is an art experience.

Here’s an insider’s guide to nearby neighborhoods that you need to explore in The Six.

THE CROSSROADS OF CULTURE

The Shangri-La Hotel is the place to begin any explorations of Toronto because it bridges three dynamic neighborhoods: the Financial District with its towering skyscrapers and five star dining experiences; the Entertainment District, and Queen Street West, a unique shopping and dining strip.

In fact, your first engagement with Toronto’s globally celebrated cultural community begins just outside of the Shangri-La. The exterior of the hotel is home to the iconic sculpture, “Rising”, by Chinese artist, Zang Huan. Bringing the best the world has to offer together is, in fact, the city’s true talent.

After checking into the hotel, you’ll want to check out of your work week with a relaxing afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge. The lobby is a hub where visitors and locals come together to take in daily live music performances played on the custom-made Fazioli Piano. It’s always buzzing, but after a busy work week, it also provides a zen-like sense of home, thanks to paintings by famed Shanghainese artist Wang Xu Yuan.

The Lounge is also home to a rotating exhibition of vintage couture fashions featuring designers such as, Alexander McQueen, YSL, Chanel, Versace and many others.

Performance Art

At night, you want to make the Entertainment district your destination. Take in an early dinner at Kojin from David Chang and Chef Paula Navarrete. Located above Momofuku, this vibrant restaurant serves a Columbian influenced lunch and dinner menu.

Then cross the road to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. It is home to the National Ballet Company and the Canadian Opera Company. The opera in particular is known for classic performances done in collaboration with visual and other artists such as performance artist Robert Lepage, director Atom Egoyan, and musician Rufus Wainwright. Just a short walk west down King Street, you can hear the symphony at Roy Thompson Hall. Or stroll over to see some live theatre in the nearby Entertainment District (Elgin and Wintergarden on Yonge Street, or the Royal AlexandraPrincess of Wales, on King).

In warm weather, you can talk about performances while taking in a nightcap on the rooftop bar at Lavelle for a masterpiece of a gin and tonic. Or return to the lobby for a delicious cocktail or two.

Good Morning

Toronto’s many outdoor art installations let you enjoy some inclusive culture while you wake up with a walk, bike, or run. Set your course to take you past the Bentway, the Stackt shipping container market or jog over to the Distillery District for many interactive and experiential installations. The concierge service at the Shangri-La is ultra-connected and can help you make a map of outdoor art (or coffee shops for a post jog pick-me-up.)

After your morning workout, relax with a pre-lunch treatment at the Miraj Hammam Spa on the fifth floor of the Shangri-La.

 

NoMad Las Vegas

NoMad Las Vegas

Area: Las Vegas, Nevada

Vibe: Chic and sexy

Style: City

Fun Fact: There are 25,000 books in the NoMad Restaurant

Don’t Miss: The JEMAA pool party

If you’re ready for something new on your next trip to Vegas, here’s a great option: NoMad Las Vegas. Located inside Park MGM—it calls the top floors home—the hotel has all the makings to truly elevate your Sin City experience: gorgeous rooms, great dining led by a world-renowned chef, a weekend pool party and, of course, a casino.

Location: A quick 10-minute drive from McCarran International Airport, the hotel is located right on the famed Strip, close to all the action. But in terms of location, this one is unique: The NoMad sits on the upper four floors of the Park MGM hotel, though it has its own private entrance, as well as its own pool, restaurant, bars and casino. Its central location means it’s easy to check out what the rest of the city has to offer, while never having to stray too far from your home base.

Vibe: Chic and sexy, the hotel has that cool, old-world Las Vegas feel—think lots of wood, antique finishes and velvet textures in jewel-toned colors—while still feeling totally modern. There are close to 300 rooms and suites, from rooms with queen- or king-sized beds to larger suites, like the 1,200-square foot NoMad Suite and the 1,600-square-foot Suite Royale, which sleeps up to four and has its own pool table and dining room. When you’re ready to bring your stay to the next level, check out the Suite Royale Premiere, a two-bedroom, 2,000-square foot suite with a pool table, its own bar, six-person dining room and views of The Strip.

Why We Love It: Along with the great vintage Vegas vibe and the energy of the city itself, there’s so much to love about this hotel—not least of which is the dining experience, which has Chef Daniel Humm and Restaurateur Will Guidara at the helm. The duo are also behind NoMad’s culinary offerings in New York and L.A., plus the World’s Best restaurant winner, Eleven Madison Park in NYC. In Las Vegas, the hotel is home to both NoMad Bar and NoMad Restaurant. The \restaurant is dark and sexy, with lots of club seating and velvet accents, all surrounded by some 25,000 (!) books. “The robust menu celebrates grand, clubby mid-century dining with a dash of theater—Grande Plateaus of Fruits de Mer, seasonal pastas, our signature black truffle-laced Roast Chicken, and Baked Alaska flambéed tableside,” they say. Also not to miss: The NoMad Casino, which offers “high limit” gaming like blackjack and roulette, as well as its own bar. The NoMad Pool is primed for relaxation on the weekdays—and for partying from Friday to Sunday. That’s when you’ll find the JEMAA pool party, complete with DJs, music, bottle service, and more. Along with these features, there are amenities like a spa and 24-hour fitness center, both of which are accessed through Park MGM, as well as lots of space for meetings and events.

Why Go F1rst: If you book your stay through First in Service, you’ll receive a slew of extra amenities, including a $100 food and beverage credit, early-check and late check-out and a room upgrade, if available.

F1S Tips: Want to relax with a spa service? You can head to the spa at the Park MGM—or have the service done right in your room. Also fun: Jazz fans should reserve Sundays for the Jazz Brunch at the NoMad Bar.

Sensory Deco Daydream Miami

Sensory Deco Daydream Miami

Tap into your Inner Design Junkie with All your Senses

When you hear about a weekend in Miami, perhaps neon lights and the pulsating bass of nightclubs come to mind. But there’s another side to Miami — Art Deco history; a science museum; an innovative shopping bazaar; and tasty cuisine — that makes it a sophisticate’s destination — especially for visually oriented travelers. Aside from the beach and bling,  you can curate your own “high/low”  sensory immersion, from lush accommodation to local street tours.  Here’s our prescription for the perfect adventure.

ROMANCING AT THE FAENA

Stay at the stunning Faena Hotel to create  the perfect fantasy fairy tale where, depending on the room — whether sleeping quarters; public areas; verandas overlooking the sea; or poolside — you can mentally imagine yourself in a romantic European daydream to a lavish Turkish caravan. Created by Argentinian real estate developer Alan Faena — with interiors collaborators— costume/set designers Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann), cherry red accents everything from  opulent chairs to beach umbrellas.   Once you check in and are greeted by the bronze  Damien Hirst  grab a poolside table  for lunch at Los Fuegos, where you can chose from a selection of tasty selection of fish, meat, salads.

Stimulating the senses in Miami

In the afternoon,  head over to  Wynwood to see art collections starting with the Wynwood Walls   — an incredible outdoor collection of street and graffiti artists including Kenny Scarf, Swoon, Shepard Fairy and others — that was started by developer Tony Goldman a decade ago. Each year, new international art stars are highlighted.  The  displays are free of charge. Seeing them feels like visual skateboarding.

Afterwards, take it indoors to the Rubell Family Collection  Contemporary Arts Foundation — housed in the 45,000 square foot former Drug Enforcement Agency — and you’ll see  the work of  Cindy Sherman, Jean Michel Basquiat,  Kara Walker, Jeff Koons and more up close in the permanent collection, as well as other  temporary exhibits.

In the district itself,  you’ll find folks selling sea shell jewelry and taco trucks on the street. So grab a conch and a snack before heading back to the hotel to indulge in one of the spa treatments at the Tierra Santa Healing House before dinner.    Formulated around South American concepts, in addition to massages and facials, you can opt for  a shamanic healing body ritual.  Think muds, scrubs, stones, sacred oils, and healing butters.

For a luscious first night taste sensation,  eat at Wynwood Kitchen for  latin spiced cuisine — and  for dining within futuristic paintings by Shepard Fairey, Christian Awe, and sculptures by David Benjamin Sherry. Or try  Alter,  for multi coursed, responsibility sourced local dishes.

By the next morning, you’ll be ready to strap on your trainers  for the the  Art Deco Walking Tour. Started by the Miami Design Preservation League, it delves into the history of the hotels dotting  the shoreline that  started as stucco cement apartment houses during the Prohibition Era for working class families.  You can stroll with both locals and tourists and imagine yourself in another era,  perhaps as a player in in one of the gambling houses run by mobsters in the 1940’s.  Al Capone was right at home in Miami Beach, as were working class families who moved into these originally cheap and cheerful apartment houses facing the shoreline.  Later, singer Gloria Estefan bought one of the properties. Fashion designer Gianni Versace had to knock one of the original buildings down to make space for his pool.  While the construction seems deceptively simple, with small windows and often four to six floors, they were modeled on rich movements, including  expressionism of the 1920’s; Cubism; and Bauhaus.

Two post tour options to round out the afternoon are the Perez Art Museum  and  the  Frost Science Museum,  where you can tap your inner child surrounded by  tropical fish and sea horses.  Frost  offers immersion into local sea life  with an aquarium;  a planetarium; and exhibits on evolution from dinosaurs to birds. There are interactive schemes so you can explore the mind/body connection or play engineer for an hour in the design lab.

The Perez Art Museum —  right next to the Frost —  features  local and global artists of the last two centuries  and a sculpture garden.   You can tap  off the zen vibes after a walk in the art and flora, by tasting some of the “poke bowls” — marinated fish and vegetables over rice— at the museum’s cafe that overlooks both the outdoor installations and the water.

If you stay the evening in  the design hood,  try  Joey’s Wynwood — located in the Wynwood Art District — for pastas and speciality pizzas.   Or head back to the Faena Hotel for a late afternoon yoga class at the spa. Indulge in  the cooking of  Paul Qui at PAO restaurant, which features  a fusion of Filipino, French,  Spanish, and Japanese flavors. Then try  the spicy margaritas at the Saxony Bar and catch  live music at the Living Room.

Culture and Connection in Cuba

Culture and Connection in Havana, Cuba

First in Service co-founder and CEO, Fernando Gonzalez, spends a long weekend soaking up the history, architecture and food scene in the Caribbean Havana.

From the moment I landed in Havana, I knew there was something special about the city. Open to U.S. travelers just a few short years ago, Cuba is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit—and Havana was the ideal starting point. As a Cuban-American myself, the country is a gateway to my own family’s story—and an experience I couldn’t wait to share with my wife, Awilda, and our daughter, Sofia.

OLD HAVANA

Appreciating the architecture

I’m an architecture and design aficionado, and the sheer beauty of the buildings throughout the city was unparalleled—I was blown away. From the colors to the architectural elements, the detail and creativity that went into crafting each one was evident. Walking through the streets of Havana is a great way to take it all in—and booking a tour guide to provide historical context and background information makes it even better.

Taking in the culture

At 13, my daughter Sofia is an avid traveler—she’s been to some 30 countries—but this trip allowed us to take in a culture that was at once familiar and totally new, and see the country from a totally different perspective. From our home base at the Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, we were able to see and experience much of what makes the city tick. That included going on a tour with a music historian to learn more about the history of Cuban music, visiting amazing art galleries, and shopping at places like Clandestina, a shop where almost all the wares are exclusively designed in the country.

Savoring the cuisine

If you’re a food lover, this is the place to be: the burgeoning culinary scene in Havana is tremendous. In the course of our five-day visit, we ate at about ten different restaurants and they were all excellent. Some to consider on your trip: Al Carbon in Old Havana, El Cocinero, and Otramanera in Havana’s Playa neighborhood. Since we were there over New Year’s, we also enjoyed an amazing gala and dinner at the Plaza de la Catedral.

Overall, if the goal of traveling is not only to enjoy the food and music of a new place, but also to experience the culture and open your eyes to what it has to offer, than going to Cuba—and Havana, in particular—allowed us to do just that. I know my family and I are already planning to visit again soon.

 

Equinox Hotel New York City

GFG

Equinox Hotel, New York City

Area: New York, New York

Vibe: Sophisticated wellness

Style: City

Fun Fact: Can’t sleep? Ask for the Equinox Sleep Coach

Don’t Miss: The 60,000-square-foot Equinox Club 

Fitness and wellness take center stage at this new Hudson Yards hotel—the first for the Equinox brand. That includes access to the 60,000-square-foot fitness center and SoulCycle studio, the signature Electric Lemon restaurant, and guest rooms that help prioritize sleep—plus so much more to make you centered and happy during your stay.

Location: Set in Manhattan’s newest neighborhood, Hudson Yards, the hotel is located at the corner of 33rd street, between 10th and 11th avenue, at 33 Hudson Yards. And it’s quite the new neighborhood: You’ll also find lots of restaurants and shopping like Dior, Fendi and Neiman Marcus (plus so many more), as well as the climbable Vessel, which is fast becoming a must-see for tourists and New Yorkers alike. The area, on the west side of the city, is accessible by bus and the 7 subway train—and is about an hour from JFK airport, and half hour from both LaGuardia airport and Newark International Airport.

Vibe: Sleek and modern, the hotel is the place, as they say, “where the science of fitness meets the art of travel.” There are 212 rooms and suites, which are “dark, quiet and cool”—a motto you’ll see carried out throughout. It’s in the contemporary décor and black and white colors, the blackout blinds, the soundproofing, the shower with three showerheads, and the “proprietary sleep system.” All the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, some with views of the Hudson River and others with a full-on city view. The largest of the suites is the 1900-square-foot “EQX two bedroom corner suite,” which sleeps up to six and includes a separate living and dining room space.

Why We Love It: Just as the name implies, this hotel puts fitness and wellness at the forefront—and then takes it one step further. Here’s what we mean: Upon check-in, all guests receive 24/7 access to the huge (we’re talking 60,000-square-feet) Equinox Club. There, you can stick to your usual fitness routine, try your hand at any number of classes (you can even take some on the Vessel!), go one-on-one with a personal trainer or take a SoulCycle class in their dedicated studio. But that’s just the start of the wellness options: The 27,000-square-foot spa features everything from cryotherapy to an infrared sauna to the traditional offerings like facials and massages. Need more? There’s an indoor saltwater pool, an outdoor pool with great views, you can have an in-room IV vitamin drip or hang out in the super-relaxing sounding E.Scape Pods, where you can “enjoy a meditation session incorporating our intelligent audio library and EEG data, developed with sleep scientists, to help you manage stress and switch off.” Now, on to the dining options. Electric Lemon, the hotel’s signature restaurant, sits on the 24th floor—the views from the 8,000-square-foot terrace alone are worth the trip—and offers American cuisine, plus everything from cold-press juices to drinks and dessert. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and there’s also a bar on-site, as well as in-room dining, including the RoomBar, their take on the mini bar, with cocktails, snacks and more.

Why Go F1rst: If you book with First in Service, you’ll receive daily continental breakfast for two, a $100 hotel credit, and early check-in/late check-out as well as a room upgrade, if available.

F1S Tips: If you take sleep seriously, then this is the place to be: From the blackout curtains to the “ high-grade STC (Sound Transmission Classification)” for quiet to the lux bedding and the Equinox Sleep Couch on hand, you’ll truly be able to rest and relax.

Belmond Cadogan

BELMOND CADOGAN

London, England

Modern and historic

City

Oscar Wilde often stayed in the Royal Suite

The hotel’s Swarovski-encrusted peacock, Oscar

Originally built in 1887, this London hotel recently reopened after a multi-million dollar historic renovation—and the upgrade is evident: With access to gardens, rooms and suites that offer lots of amenities and great dining all in one location, the property feels stylish and fresh while still retaining its historical significance.

Location:

Right on Sloane Street, the hotel straddles both the Chelsea and Knightsbridge neighborhoods in London. It’s easy to choose your direction, too: Use one exit in the hotel and you’ll wind up closer to the Chelsea side, use another and you’re on the Knightsbridge end. The hotel itself is only about 35 minutes from Heathrow airport, and the central location make it easy to access the entire city.

Vibe:

At this more-than-a-century-old property, you’ll find lots of whites and greys, with golds and reds throughout. There are 54 rooms and suites, including a few one-bedroom “specialty suites,” like the Royal Suite, where a certain famous author with the last name Wilde once regularly called home. And in the rooms themselves—some of which look out onto the garden—there are lots of special touches, from statement headboard pieces above each bed by British female artists, to specialty tea sets to help you really get into the English spirt.

Why we love it:

Aside from the enviable location and the impressive history, (The paparazzi would have definitely set up shop outside: It’s said that socialite Lillie Langtry and the Prince of Wales courted there, among other gossip-worthy tidbits) the hotel offers a chance to unwind and relax in fun and unique ways. There’s dining, of course, including the hotel’s signature restaurant, Adam Handling Chelsea, which serves up a contemporary twist on English favorites. There’s also a bar, as well as Afternoon Tea served in the lounge, named Cadogan’s. Private dining options are available—and as you enter one of the dining rooms, you’ll be greeted by a Swarovski-encrusted peacock. (His name is Oscar, in case you were wondering.) But there are even more special touches. Here’s one: Guests have access to Cadogan Place Gardens, which are normally reserved only for residents, and the hotel can provide everything from a tennis set to yoga mats to take into the gardens. Another? “In-room libraries,” where you can kick back with a book from local bookstore, John Sandoe Books Ltd. (which has been around since the 1950s). Then there are the traditional de-stressors, from a spa to a 24-hour fitness center. The hotel caters to family life too, with kids menus and in-room board games.

 

Why you should Go F1RST:

When you’re ready to book, doing it through F1S will snag you VIP welcome treats, breakfast for two every day of your stay, your choice of complimentary lunch or quintessentially English tea for two, and a complimentary upgrade, if available.

Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ONE DALTON STREET

Boston, Massachusetts

Chic and lux

City

It’s the third tallest building in Boston

The many wellness offerings—cryotherapy, anyone?

This new hotel marks the second Four Seasons property in Boston and is located in the heart of Back Bay—steps from global business, art and music. With a focus on wellness—including an entire floor dedicated to the hotel’s spa, pool and fitness center—and great dining options, you’ll love what’s on offer, whether you’re visiting the city for business or just for fun.

Location:

The 61-story glass skyscraper makes for a great home base. The hotel is about half an hour from Boston’s Logan Airport, close to the T (that’s the metro system, for first-timers) and is a quick walk to must-see spots, like Newbury Street and Fenway Park, as well as to the many great restaurants, museums and concert halls in Back Bay itself.

Vibe:

Sleek and modern are the words the hotel uses to describe itself—and the description is spot on. From the glass façade of the property to the sophisticated offerings inside, the vibe is chic and lux. There are 215 rooms and suites—with a number of “specialty suites,” including the 1300-square-foot Charles Suite, which features an 8-person dining room and the 1600-square foot Presidential Suite, which sits on the 21st floor and comes complete with a grand piano (impromptu concert, anyone?). The rooms themselves boast floor-to-ceiling windows, offering spectacular city views, with lots of white, greys and wood tones throughout. Along with the hotel rooms, there are privately-owned residences as well, should you decide you really never want to leave.

Why we love it:

Nothing beats having a stylish place to stay when you’re visiting a city, whether the trip is for business or pleasure. And this hotel checks off all those boxes. The “guitar pick” shape itself, as we’ve mentioned, begs to be recognized, as do the floor-to-ceiling windows and the art throughout the property. One of the coolest features, perfect for either unwinding post-business meeting or relaxing after a day of walking The Freedom Trail: “The Wellness Floor at One Dalton,” the seventh floor wellness sanctuary where you can try everything from cryotherapy to a massage with custom-mixed essential oils in one of the spa’s five treatment rooms to the 24-hour fitness center to the on-site salon. Of course, no city escape would be complete without some great food. And even in a city with lots of terrific dining options, the choices at Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston leave their mark—and that includes its signature restaurant, Zuma. This location marks the 12th for the restaurant, where you’ll not only find Japanese favorites along with over 70 (!) sake variations. In addition to Zuma, there’s One + One, for breakfast and lunch, and on tap is the Trifecta Bar (opening fall 2019). Rounding out the offerings? Seven meetings and event rooms, where you can host everything from a conference to a wedding.

Why Go F1RST:

Booking with First in Service means you’ll get breakfast for two (which you can have in your room or at the restaurant), a $100 hotel credit, a room upgrade, if available, and a welcome note at check-in.