Aug3

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Part of any travel is a home base to end the day. Calgary has numerous hotels of all sizes and for all budgets, but one of most unique and upscale properties is the Hotel Arts.

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Located in Calgary’s downtown core, this spacious boutique hotel offers 175 designer rooms with pillow-top beds, breakfast in the Raw Bar lounge, and close proximity to the Stampede grounds as well as to many landmark destinations and activities.

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I checked into a king deluxe room with full bathroom, a balcony with a view of the Calgary Tower, and every amenity I needed for a comfortable stay. The hotel has a green policy with regard to daily changing of towels and linens, as do many Canadian hotels.

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Each floor’s hallway ceiling is adorned by beautiful glass lighting fixtures by local artist Barry Fairbairn. A larger masterpiece gracefully hangs in the lobby, affording all sorts of colour variations.

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In the evening, I turned off the airco. All was quiet and the room never felt stuffy, even with the balcony door shut. With the amount of walking I was doing each day, it felt great to catch up with a solid snooze at night.

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The hotel’s inviting, deep blue-tiled lap pool is surrounded by tables, lounge beds, and a few sculptures. During the week, I was the only taking a dip early one evening. On the weekend, a DJ played to a packed crowd of young city dwellers who enjoy Calgary’s only hotel poolside patio.

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The hotel offers complimentary wifi in the lobby, at the Raw Bar, and at the poolside patio. In-room charges are $10.45 per day. There’s also heated underground parking available at a daily rate for guests (or longer term by month). There’s a fitness centre free of charge for guests (open 6 am to 10 pm) on the second floor.

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Several wedding parties were streaming through over the course of the week, as the hotel arranges receptions, banquets, and meetings within its dedicated event spaces. In fact, there’s an entire event planning team at your disposal for event production.

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What I liked most about the hotel (aside from the vast array of art and very comfortable bed) was the friendly, attentive service I received at every turn. Within the space of a few days, I found the staff easy to talk to for dining advice, walking directions, or any tidbit about Calgary that came to mind.

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Breakfast options include continental buffet, full buffet, or a la carte (priced separately). The Raw Bar offers Pacific Rim-inspired dishes that can be enjoyed either in the lounge or poolside.

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I ordered Chili prawn cigars with curry potato wontons, served with nuoc cham dressing and citrus yogurt ($12) along with a few New Brunswick Fancy (small batch) oysters on the half shell ($3/each).

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The cocktails are well known here; Raw Bar’s bartenders are starting to become recognized through awards, including the Calgary Summer Cocktail Challenge. Fresh ingredients and premium liquors are standard here. I chose the refreshing Derelict (Skyy vodka, house made pear and lemongrass nectar, lychee liqueur, pineapple) to compliment the flavourful appetizers.

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Raw Bar is also open for lunch, late afternoon, dinner, and dessert and can be booked for special occasions via the website.

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The hotel has a local music scene past: it’s on the site of the former Westward Inn. The Westward was a popular venue for live music, and served as a major stop for many 80′s and early 90′s indie rock bands, including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Nirvana, The Cowboy Junkies, Soul Asylum and Sarah McLachlan.

The club was even referenced in Michael Turner’s novel “Hard Core Logo“. Here’s a link to a video showing the Highrollers 2008 performance of “Freak Out” during the Westward Inn’s heyday.

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Hotel Arts is located at 119-12th Avenue SW in Calgary. My accommodation, breakfasts, and poolside appetizers/cocktails at Raw Bar were courtesy of both Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary.

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