The former flophouse-turned ‘hot bed for culture’ is the epicentre of the West Queen West social strip. It’s central if your focus is on the city’s coolest nightlife and most interesting restaurants and on exploring some of Toronto’s quirky residential neighbourhoods. If downtown’s big-draw tourist attractions, such as the CN Tower or the Toronto Islands are on your schedule, the 24-hour Queen streetcar stops right at the Drake’s door and downtown is just a 15-minute ride away. When I first moved to Toronto, the olde style 1950s-esque streetcars were one of my favourite things about the city.
Rooms at the Drake come in four sizes: S, M, L and XL (or crashpad, den, salon and suite, as they’re slightly pretentiously called). The restored red brick building features airy 10-foot ceilings and a cool mix of old and new (exposed walls in some rooms plus iPod docks, DVD players and flat screen TVs). One of the first things I noticed on walking into the bright, cosy room was how nice it smelled – rooms are misted with holistic aromatherapy sprays before guests arrive. There are loads of other thoughtful details throughout the Drake – they even have a Smart Phone App so you can request that your room is cleaned, have new towels sent up or check who is playing in the Drake Underground without even speaking to a human. As the hotel is fairly venerable, there is no lift, so it definitely feels like a bit of a hike to the second- and third-floor rooms.
The lobby area is pretty functional, just a reception desk and a (working) retro photo booth with a couple of chairs alongside, really.
Eating and drinking
The Drake is as well known for its nightlife as for its sleek guest rooms. I lived a block away for a while and trekked past the lines of aspiring locals waiting to get in pretty much every night of the week. Lucky hotel guests get in first. The café is one of my favourite brunch or coffee destinations on a sunny morning - the comfy outdoor half of the café stretches up the side of the hotel away from Queen Street, while still allowing great people watching. The inside section is bright and airy.
The lounge and restaurant are prime see-and-be-seen spots, but the staff are refreshingly laid back, food is excellent and drinks are exquisite. It gets slammed in here, especially during Toronto events like the Film Festival and the NXNE music festival. The other venue is the Drake Underground where a slew of Toronto bands have got their starts. Monday nights are when a handful of possible next big Toronto things take to the stage (and there’s a free pasta buffet for starving artists). In summer, head for the Sky Yard - it is the best al fresco bar in the city. Summer nights see tequila concoctions, tacos and outdoor movies; winter days see the tiki bar go ‘après-ski’ and tequila replaced by hot cider.
Staff can arrange passes for a nearby gym - about five minutes' walk from the Drake.
The hyper hip staff are always friendly and down to earth. They’ve got a great team here and are on hand when you need them, but not in your face when you don’t. If you really don’t want to be bothered, opt for the hotel’s MConcierge Smart Phone App.
Who stays there
Low-key celebrities, stylish gay couples, design-conscious business travellers and tourists all flock to the Drake.
The Drake always has some quirky packages that work better for tourists than business visitors. They usually have a cultural or shopping element to them.
- Business Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Room Service
- Business travellers
- Culture vultures
- People watching
- Design and architecture
- Nature / wildlife
Pros & Cons
- Great nightlife
- 20 minutes from downtown