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At these five stylish hotels across the country, you’ll want to cozy up indoors and embrace the fall

MTN House, in Canmore, Alta. Handout

MTN House, Canmore, Alta.

Canmore was, for a long time, the place you kept driving through to get to Banff or Lake Louise. But over the past few years, this town about an hour west of Calgary has blossomed into a destination all its own. While other communities in the heart of the Rockies tend to hog the international limelight, Canmore’s chill vibe offers mountain fresh air without the hordes of package tour tourists. And MTN House, a new resort hotel that opened this summer, is an excellent choice to make the most of this little mountain gem.

Why you should visit

MTN House is the latest addition to the growing collection of Basecamp Resorts, founded by Canadian entrepreneur Sky McLean. There’s nary a sniff of log cabin to be found in the decor. Instead, the lobby welcomes guests with a wood-burning fireplace that in winter will be oh-so-cozy, alongside board games and mid-century modern furniture in woods and leathers that whisper, “Take a seat, relax, you’re on vacation.” It’s the kind of space that is so well-designed, so warm and with such attentive staff that it feels more like a home than a hotel.

That aesthetic carries itself into the comfy guest rooms – including our king-size loft, which had a pullout couch on the main floor should you wish to share the space with friends or family (though I might ask you why on earth you would, when you can have a romantic getaway in the mountains without them).

As we stepped into the room, the mountain view through the floor-to-ceiling window inspired a deep breath out and a “whoa,” as the weight of the city, work and everyday life dissolved from our shoulders. Was that helped by the bottle of chilled sparkling French chardonnay waiting for us in the room? Probably.

It’s the little things that bump a hotel room from “oh this is nice” to “I’m not leaving,” and MTN House comes through with extra touches such as kettles for the tea-drinkers among us (and a Nespresso Vertuo for all you coffee kids) and locally made toiletries from Rocky Mountain Soap Co.

The hotel restaurant Rhythm & Howl is now open, but at the time of our stay was only available for room service. It promises to be a welcome addition to the Canmore foodscape, with chef Jason Leizert’s plans to focus on sustainability and local ingredients.

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Chef Jason Leizert’s Rhythm & Howl restaurant plans to focus on sustainability and local ingredients.Handout

Highlights of the menu we sampled included a juicy heirloom tomato salad with the punchy acidic sweetness of 18-year-aged balsamic drizzle, house-made bread with smooth and smoky baba ganoush and a dish of delicate lingcod atop a bed of ricotta-stuffed pasta. (If you spot his cheesecake on the menu, order it immediately.) Breakfast options include an inspired falafel benedict and whipped tofu toast, alongside omelettes, French toast and breakfast burritos.

Room for improvement

MTN House has only just opened after a full building renovation, so it’s still ironing out new hotel wrinkles. The single-operating elevator at the time of our visit was hilariously slow – but with only three storeys it’s a chance to get your steps in. The hotel promises a 10-person hot tub with mountain views very soon, and a Nordic spa, but for now we settled for the mountain views from the room. I also thought small touches such as robes and slippers would make the hotel an even cozier getaway.

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MTN House is the latest addition to the growing collection of Basecamp Resorts.Handout

Since you’re in the neighbourhood

The hotel is a short walk from downtown Canmore, where dining and cocktail options are growing at a rapid clip. You can check out the newly opened location of Calgary’s fantastic Bridgette Bar with its unbeatable happy hour, or grab tacos and margaritas at Cabeza Grande. Or fuel a full day of outdoor adventures with excellent coffee at Eclipse and the Uprising.

The takeaway

With hiking options aplenty and stunning mountain vistas, Canmore is a worthy destination. Rooms at MTN Basecamp start at $180 per night. Family rooms are also available (including pet-friendly ones). At the entrance of the hotel, there’s a deer that looks down at guests through thick-framed glasses, casually smoking a long, Sherlock Holmes-style pipe. This quirky artwork and bespectacled animal busts throughout the hotel are a perfect decor nod to the town’s laid-back atmosphere.

– Emma Graney

Exterior of the Borden House at Evangeline Hotel, N.S. Handout

The Evangeline, Annapolis Valley, N.S.

From the road, the Evangeline is an easy-to-miss stretch of motel rooms tucked behind a handsome historic home. But step inside and those rooms are chic and modern. There’s also a heated pool, hot tub and a taste of the area’s history right on your doorstep.

Last summer, this five-acre inn in the Annapolis Valley revealed completely reimagined rooms. This summer, it welcomed visitors to book the newly renovated, five-bedroom Owner’s House.

Why you should visit

The inn’s rooms are bright and airy, featuring pieces from Nova Scotian ceramic artist Joël Brodovsky-Adams. Plus, there’s a little space to work with a laptop if you need it.

The Owner’s House has a modern living and dining area, fully equipped kitchen and a show-stopping fireplace. It would be the perfect spot for an extended-family Thanksgiving, but my friend and I had the whole place to ourselves. (Choose the blue room if you like a large soaker tub.)

Bring a glass of Nova Scotia wine to the back deck and settle into Adirondack chairs, which overlook the stunning valley below. From this height, you can see the red cliffs of Blomidon Provincial Park and the fields that stretch out to meet the tides. A hot tub on the property was the perfect place to unwind under the stars at night.

Make sure to dine at Longfellow Restaurant – named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote the famous poem that gave the hotel its name. The decor conveys a classic diner feel while also being warm and stylish. But the patio, designed to make you feel like you’re farther from the road and the hotel than you actually are, was a great spot to enjoy a fresh lobster roll for lunch. Not to mention, the espresso martini may be the best you’ve ever had.

The inn’s rooms are bright and airy, featuring pieces from Nova Scotian ceramic artist Joel Brodovsky-Adams. Handout
Last summer the inn revealed completely reimagined rooms. Handout
Dining at Longfellow Restaurant. Handout

Room for improvement

The location of the hotel lends so much to its appeal, but the lack of sidewalk infrastructure makes walking to the nearby attractions, such as the Domaine de Grand Pré winery, feel unsafe.

Since you’re in the neighbourhood

Grand Pré is an underrated part of the Annapolis Valley, known for being the centre of Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755 and also for the deportation of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until 1762.

The area is home to Nova Scotia’s oldest farm winery, Domaine de Grand Pré, where a tour and tasting tells the history of the area and its farmers, featuring wines not sold in liquor stores such as Field Blend and Grand Pré's Tidal Bay, part of the province’s signature appellation.

From the winery, you can walk through the rows of vines to the Grand-Pré National Historic Site for a spectacular look at the 1,300 hectares of farm fields, marshes and dikelands.

On the way home, explore Evangeline Beach. Leave your shoes in the car and walk along the mucky shore if the tide is out, but be sure to give space to the droves of shorebirds who use the tides to feed. Grab a hot beverage at Just Us! Coffee Roastery and wander through the Tangled Garden’s impressive collection of herb plants, sculptures and labyrinth. On the way back to Halifax, Bedard Bakery in Windsor is a must-stop for pastries.

The takeaway

If you, like me, hunt for weekend getaways with a hot tub and a fireplace, the Evangeline’s Owner’s House is a great spot for a really good weekend. Hotel staff offer exceptional hospitality when you need it, but guests maintain some independence with the ability for self-check in and out.

Rooms at the Evangeline range from $180 to $280 per night, the Owner’s House starts at $1,000 a night. Amenities include a heated indoor pool, outdoor hot tub and sauna.

– Caora McKenna

Hotel Julie, a small-scale, boutique property, designed with young couples and small families in mind. Lauren Miller Photography

Hotel Julie, Stratford, Ont.

Just two hours west of Toronto, Stratford draws visitors from across the country for its theatre, art and heritage buildings.

What Stratford hasn’t traditionally been known for is as a destination for younger visitors. And that’s where Hotel Julie hopes to change things. The brand-new, nine-suite hotel bills itself a modern twist on an old classic, one that’s “designed for poetic moments.”

By poetic, they might well mean “Instagrammable.”

Every angle of the hotel is designed with drama – and social media – in mind. Each room feels sumptuous and moody, decorated in deep shades of maroon, moss and ochre – and offers an endless variety of photo opportunities.

The design takes inspiration, sometimes quite literally, from Shakespeare’s plays. Here, curtains are embroidered with poisonous flowers; the paintings on the walls depict hearts bursting into flames.

The brand-new, nine-suite hotel bills itself a modern twist on an old classic. Lauren Miller Photography
EEach suite isequipped with all of the essentials, including pots and pans, basic dishes and cooking supplies for the kitchen. Lauren Miller Photography

Why you should visit

The hotel is, in fact, the star of its own show. Its redesign and construction are the subject of a CTV Life Channel reality show called Staying Inn: Hotel Julie.

Each episode of the series, which began airing in August, documents creative director Autumn Hachey and designer Jillian Smith-Moher’s journey as they transform the 19th-century rowhouse-turned-budget-rental into an upscale hotel.

This is a small-scale boutique property, designed with young couples and small families in mind. There is no lobby, common area or even elevator. Each suite is accessible through one of three main hallways, which, for those of us who in recent years have become accustomed to Airbnb, makes coming and going simple and efficient.

Each suite is thoughtfully equipped with all of the essentials. Our kitchen came with Our Place pots and pans, basic dishes and cooking supplies – even coupe glasses for cocktails. There was San Pellegrino waiting for us in the refrigerator, along with chocolates and coffee from local businesses to enjoy.

All of the mechanics of staying in the hotel, meanwhile – from booking the room, to checking in and accessing our suite – happened online and via touchpads. We received text messages throughout our visit, ensuring we had everything we needed.

For the less technically inclined, this might pose a challenge. But for us, it made the entire process easy and convenient.

Room for improvement

Any theatregoer knows that lighting is essential. Thoughtful lighting can change the mood and overall atmosphere.

And while Hotel Julie makes use of lighting to create dramatic spaces, this is sometimes at the expense of functionality. One closet in our suite, for instance, was lacking any kind of light fixture either inside or around it. And because it was painted a beautiful but dark shade of plum, it was impossible to see or find anything inside.

Other spaces, such as the bathroom and dining area in our suite, would have benefited from additional lighting options, too. After all, what’s a photo without good lighting?

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Every angle of the hotel is designed with drama – and social media – in mind.

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Lauren Miller Photography

Since you’re in the neighbourhood

The hotel is about a five-minute walk from the heart of Stratford. Go for a stroll downtown and browse the home decor shops, cafes and galleries housed in heritage Victorian buildings. Take a pedal-boat ride on the Avon River. Or soak in a film at the very charming Little Prince Micro-Cinema, which, with just 13 seats, boasts the title of world’s smallest movie theatre.

Younger visitors who are fans of the town’s most famous millennial, the Stratford-born Justin Bieber, may also want to visit the Stratford Perth Museum. The museum’s Bieber-themed exhibit has already been extended several times since its opening in 2018, and includes many items donated by the pop star’s family.

The presence of the Stratford Chef School (which turns out some of the region’s best cooks) means that the town’s culinary scene punches way above its weight. The town’s Savour & Sip Trail – a-self-guided tour that allows you samples from your choice of the town’s restaurants and food shops – is a great way to try it all.

The takeaway

Stratford has always been an idyllic getaway. But now, with the arrival of Hotel Julie younger cohorts are finally poised to discover the picture-perfect place for themselves. if only to post on their socials.

Suites at Hotel Julie range from $161 per night for a studio to $390 for a two-bedroom.

– Ann Hui

Owner Brett Van Sickle, a former National Ballet of Canada dancer, took a 19th-century farmhouse and transformed it into The HighAcre boutique inn. Andreea Muscurel

The HighAcre, Dundas, Ont.

The idea of “transformation” comes up a lot at the HighAcre.

A stay at the new Dundas boutique inn – just an hour’s drive west of Toronto – is “transformational,” the website promises. Within minutes of checking in, owner Brett van Sickle says it himself: “People say they leave feeling transformed.”

It’s a seductive proposition. After all, what is the promise of travel, other than the potential to leave transformed? To return home a happier, better, more rested version of our old selves?

To this tired, stressed-out working parent (who left her small child at home), it was an immediate, absolute yes.

Why you should visit

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At the core of the HighAcre’s promise is wellness. And as is often the case when it comes to the wellness industry, that means products, technology and stuff.

At the HighAcre, there are red-light LED masks in every suite, which claim to reduce fine lines and inflammation. Blue-light glasses promise to help with eye strain. (The evidence around the efficacy of both types of products is so far still inconclusive). QR codes are scattered throughout, prompting guests to pause for meditation exercises. And inside every single suite is its own infrared sauna and Hammam steam room.

The genius of the HighAcre is the understanding that sometimes, we want to get away without having to go anywhere. Or even having to change out of our bathrobe.

Here, guests can enjoy the full spa experience – cycle through as many sauna, steam and cold plunge “circuits” as you like – without leaving your room. There are fuzzy slippers and a Turkish cotton muslin robe to lounge around in. Farm-fresh eggs and fresh croissants to bake for breakfast in your own private kitchen.

You can spend an entire stay without having to speak to a single other person. Which, for some – okay, me – is the utter definition of luxury.

Van Sickle, a former National Ballet of Canada dancer, took a 19th-century farmhouse and, um, transformed it. He was involved in every aspect of the renovation, restoring the original floors and wood and beam attic often with his own hands. Every one of the four suites is a showcase for his elegant, understated style.

Guests can enjoy an outdoor pool, built into a sundeck surrounded by rows of blooming lavender. Andreea Muscurel
Each suite is like stepping into a Parisian apartment. Andreea Muscurel
In the bathrooms guests find a sauna, steam shower and standalone bathtub. Andreea Muscurel

Each suite is like stepping into a Parisian apartment. There are antique gold mirrors above the mantles, vintage light fixtures and thick Moroccan rugs on the floors. In the bathrooms, the sauna, steam shower and standalone bathtub beckon.

If you do choose to leave the room, there’s also an outdoor pool to enjoy, built into a sundeck surrounded by rows of blooming lavender. Close your eyes and you’ll feel like you’re in France.

Room for improvement

The inn is located on a parcel of land that was, in its original form, a 100-acre farm. Large chunks of the land have been sold off over time. That leaves the inn standing on the last remaining acre of the farm – hence the name “HighAcre.”

Because of this history, the inn is located on what is otherwise essentially a residential street. Two of the adjacent properties belong to Van Sickle’s family. But there are other private homes neighbouring the property as well. The hotel has tried to allay this with privacy curtains in the suites and dense greenery in the garden. But if you’re looking for something completely secluded, this may not be the place for you.

Since you’re in the neighbourhood

Hamilton is the city of waterfalls, and the inn puts you in the perfect spot to explore them. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Tew Falls, which leads you on a hike up to the top of the Dundas Peak, and grand views of the Dundas Valley. Also nearby is Webster Falls, a popular hiking trail.

If nature isn’t your thing, you’re also just a five-minute drive from the historic town of Dundas, with its cute bakeries and cafes. Wander down any of the side streets and get lost amidst the neighbourhood’s many historic and heritage homes.

The takeaway

Was I transformed? Of course not. But was it a brief and blissful reprieve? Absolutely, yes.

Suites at the HighAcre start at $500 per night, which includes a private sauna/steam room, access to the lounge and swimming pool, breakfast and yoga classes.

– Ann Hui

The Vogue Hotel building has been around for decades, but was recently spruced up by Hilton to its current level of luxury and hospitality. Handout

Vogue Hotel, Montreal

This assignment came at a really, really good time. Two nights of staycation at a four-star hotel in downtown Montreal? If the person offering had a forked tail, it wouldn’t have stopped me from asking where to sign.

My wife and I are expecting fraternal twins in the fall (a boy and a girl!). We are both writing research-intensive non-fiction books. We are, for some reason, renovating our guest room. Our constant stream of house guests seems not to have noticed.

A little hiatus in a king-sized bed, with those hotel sheets that feel like sleeping in a cloud, sounded like just what the doctor ordered. (Actually, faced with my wife’s third trimester insomnia, the doctor ordered Benadryl.) No pressure, Vogue Hotel Montreal, Curio Collection by Hilton, but we really needed this to be good.

Why you should visit

The overall impression of the hotel was one of luxury and hospitality. The building has been around for decades but was recently spruced up by Hilton. The crib sheet on the plush lobby talks about Italian walnut and Turkish travertine. I’m no expert on high-end building materials but everything looked densely expensive. To leaven the deluxe vibe with modern cool, the Montreal marketing and design studio Sid Lee –the people behind the Toronto Raptors We the North campaign – did the decor.

Our junior suite was the cocoon of comfort we needed. It had the biggest TV I have ever seen. The bed –the bed! – was extra king-sized. The thread count on the sheets must have been 10 times whatever we have at home. Now I know what the pharaohs felt like being laid down in those gold sarcophagi. I slept the sleep of a thousand sleeps.

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Sleek modern rooms with beds covered in sheets that feel like sleeping in a cloud.Handout

That night we dined at the hotel’s restaurant, Yama, run by the famous Montreal chef Antonio Park serving his excellent, usual blend of Latin and Asian cuisines. Try the pisco sour and the sushi tacos. The bartender also made off-the-cuff mocktails for my very pregnant wife, which she claims were the best part of the meal. Points for creativity there.

For us, the best part of the Vogue is the staff. Everyone is so Montreal: warm and informal in two languages, sometimes three or four (Russian, Korean, Spanish – it’s a cosmopolitan crowd); not too precious, able to laugh and be funny. There were waiters we wanted to be friends with. The maître d’ claimed to be new but you would never guess. I would go back just to hang out with some of those people.

Room for improvement

Set aside the Tony Montana bathtub and related aesthetic excesses in our bathroom – those things can be chalked up to taste. And the robes felt like what I imagine taking Benadryl feels like – so druggily soft and heavy I almost didn’t mind the weird stain on the cuff.

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The hotel is on the western side of downtown, within walking distance from museums, galleries, and plenty of restaurants.Handout

Since you’re in the neighbourhood

The hotel is on the western side of downtown, near the Concordia University campus, surrounded by good, cheap Asian restaurants. You have to try Kazu, an informal Japanese place at 1844 Saint-Catherine St. W., serving what I think of as Japanese comfort food. No sushi. There will probably be a line. It’s worth it. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with its sleek Moshe Safdie pavilion, is always worth a visit, if only for its architecture and excellent permanent collection. The Redpath Museum, across the street from McGill – where maybe you’re touring campus with your kids – gives a rich flavour of Montreal history. It’s all within walking distance.

The takeaway

When the twins come, it may be a while before we feel as comfortable as we did at the Vogue. Life is about to get crazy: With two babies, you’re supposed to have 150 diapers on hand – a week. But at least we’ll have our memories of those sheets and that pisco sour.

Vogue Hotel rooms start at $350 a night, depending on when you stay and the type of room. Valet parking only, for $54.

– Eric Andrew-Gee

All writers visited as guests of the hotels, which did not review or approve the story before publication.

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