We just returned from our first-ever stay in the Blue Mountains of Ontario, Canada. It’s a unique ski resort town that sits less than a mile from the South Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. Except for maybe Lake Tahoe, I don’t know of any other ski resort right next to a huge body of water.
This was our “big trip” of the summer and included not only our family of four but also my parents. I was able to book a 2 bedroom suite in the Westin Trillium House for 5 nights (book 4 nights and the 5th is free) for 30,000 points per night or 120,000 total points. This is a Starwood Category 5 hotel. We booked our stay in March before the 2013 spring-time point devaluation.
The 2 bedroom suite redemption was not an option on the SPG website but by placing a phone call directly to the resort they had no problem letting me redeem points for a free stay. I think this was easier due to the off-peak summertime stay.
One thing I wish Starwood provided was an easier way to search for properties by room type point redemptions. For instance if I’m planning a beach vacation I’d like to see all my 2 bedroom suite point redemption options. As it stands now, you have to click through to all the properties, view the room options looking for suites, and then call about point redemptions.
We chose this location for our summer vacation because we were looking for a place within driving distance of Pittsburgh (7 hour drive) that was something out of the ordinary. We had never heard of the Blue Mountains in Ontario and don’t know anyone who’s ever been there. As it turns out, I think this is more of a regional vacation destination. I saw no other U.S. license plates in the area and very few other Canadian Province plates besides Ontario. I’m guessing the locals would like to keep the area a hidden gem!
Unfortunately we unloaded and made a mess of the suite before I could take any pictures (I won’t make that mistake again). The 2 bedroom suite looked exactly like the stock photos on the hotel website.
The first night we stocked up on groceries at the nearby Walmart. We left our SPG Amex Card at home in favor of the Chase Sapphire Preferred to avoid any foreign transaction fees.
The master bedroom had a king size bed with the incredibly comfortable Westin Heavenly Bed. Seriously, it was amazing! I am a terrible sleeper and usually have a difficult time falling asleep the first night in a new hotel. Not the case on the Westin Heavenly Beds!
Attached to the master bedroom was a full bathroom with a single sink and a tub with a waterfall shower-head. The master bath was clean but very standard.
The second bedroom was smaller with a queen size bed. This room was interesting in that it had no closets located inside the room. The bedroom closet was was outside in the main living area.
The bathroom for the second bedroom was also had an entrance outside of the bedroom. This isn’t a huge deal but I think the layout could’ve been better with more privacy for the second bedroom.
The main living area was nice and functional with a full size coach, love seat, and full size dining room table. The couch easily folded out into a bed for big C, and little C used a collapsable “heavenly crib” provided by the hotel.
When I made the reservation I noted that I would like a crib in the room when I arrived. Not surprisingly I had to call down to the front desk when we didn’t find one in the room. Should I expect them to actually read the reservation notes when making up the room? To Westin’s credit it took them all of 5 minutes to have a crib delivered. The two gentleman were exceptionally polite and offered to set up the crib for me. “No I think I can figure this one out.”
Attached to the main living area was nice sized balcony with a table and four chairs. We had an ok view of the ski slopes. We spent more time on the balcony that I thought we would. The cool summer weather (low 70′s) was gorgeous and we could sit on the balcony and watch the mountain bikers come down the mountain (I should say hill).
With this particular stay I put Westin (unintentionally) to a little test. A week before we arrived I was upgraded to SPG Gold status due to $30,000 in SPG card spending for the 2013 calendar year. This was very important as one of the Gold benefits options include free wifi. Ordinarily this would’ve cost $9.95 per night per device! In the room we had 2 laptops, 2 iphones, and an ipad. If we were paying for wifi and connected all 5 devices for the length of the stay it would’ve cost us $250! You can see why SPG Gold status is important for families.
I was hoping during check-in they would recognize my gold status and offer the free wifi. It was not mentioned or acknowledged. Now I understand that when I booked the suite I was not gold but you would think that the hotel database would be updated to reflect the status change. Prior to our stay at the Westin Trillium House my gold status was plainly visible when logging onto my SPG account.
After we were settled into our room and I scoped out the internet situation (no wired connection) I made my way back down to the lobby to ask about the free wifi with my gold status. They pulled me up on the system and told me they don’t have me as a gold member. I explained I just attained that status the week prior. The ultimately took my word for it but it was annoying having to explain it to them while they might have thought I was making it up.
As the front desk was making out my wifi authorization codes she asked how many devices I had. Mistakenly, I told her four. Once I was back in the room and was activating devices I realized I needed another authorization code. I called down to the front desk and had to explain the situation all over again. Again they mentioned that I wasn’t gold status. Eventually I received the 5th authorization code but she only made it out for 24 hours, not the length of our stay! It took another call to correct the authorization code to be valid for the length of our stay.
Not immediately recognizing my gold status is not a huge deal, but I would be nice if the systems updated in a more efficient manner to avoid the suspicious looks.
I should note that while the in-room wifi costs money, as usual the Westin Lobby had free (and fast) wifi.
Most days during our stay I used our boys’ nap time to get some work done in the lobby. This Westin had a nice second floor lobby with a couch, two comfy chairs, and a high desk area with lamps and outlets. I spent 4 “nap times” in this lobby and not once did I share the place with anyone else.
We didn’t eat at the hotel restaurant, Oliver and Bonacinni, (thanks to our in-suite kitchen) but I heard good things about it from other guests. It looked a little slow until after 8pm when the bar seemed to pick up.
The pool and workout area was nice and never crowded. This is most likely because there is just so much to do outside the hotel in the Blue Mountain Village.
The first night we arrived myself and my 4-year-old spent some time in the giant jacuzzi. The water wasn’t too warm and there wasn’t a single other person in the pool area so I thought it was ok to have a kid in there with me.
During peak ski season I’m guessing the jacuzzi would be full after a long day of skiing or snowboarding.
What makes the Westin Trillium House special is it’s location in the “Blue Mountain Village.” The Westin, The Mosaic, and The Grand Georgian are the three main hotels that surround a very nice common area full of shops and restaurants.
Here are some of the village restaurant options (all within 5 minute walk of the Westin):
On the Westin side of the village is a very nice little pond for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboating, along with a nice seating and viewing area.
The other two hotels are closer to the mountain and the gondola.
After peeking inside the lobby of both the Mosaic and the Grand Georgian I can say that I’m happy we stayed at the Westin.
It’s hard for me to emphasize enough all the different activities available at Blue Mountain. I thought it would be challenge for our young family with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old to find enough age appropriate activities. Not the case at all!
We purchased an “active pack” from the front desk for $60 which included 8 tickets that could be used in a variety of ways. We played a few rounds on the incredible mini golf course, took a ride up the mountain on the Gondola, went paddleboating with the 2-year-old, and took a horse-drawn carriage ride. The rest of the week we spent exploring the surrounding area including the Blue Mountain private beach and the town of Collingwood.
The South Georgian Bay of Lake Huron is dotted with some really nice beaches. Wasaga Beach (the worlds longest freshwater beach at 14km) is only 15 minute drive away.
If you’re staying in the Blue Mountain Village you also have access to a private beach reserved only for guests. It was nice but don’t expect to do much swimming. You can walk out a half mile and still only be in water up to your knees.
The coastline of the lake is absolutely beautiful so the more time you can spend near the water, the better. We didn’t take the time to explore the many lighthouses in the area but that is always an option.
To recap, we absolutely loved this vacation. It was nice traveling north to escape the heat and it’s always fun to explore a new area. The Westin Trillium House was a great launching point for our activities with a really friendly staff. The local area is beautiful, it’s not too busy, and the Canadians seemed very welcoming.
I’m not sure if we’ll go back while the boys are young but once their older I wouldn’t be opposed to taking another summer trip to take advantage of the more adventurous activities (mountain biking, high ropes, etc..)
The week in the 2 bedroom suite was well worth the 120,000 Starwood Points. With six of us we never felt over-crowded.
Here are some helpful resources if you’re planning a trip to the Blue Mountains of Ontario:
- Blue Mountain
- Visit South Georgian Bay
- Plunge Acquatic Center
- Blue Mountain Apple Pie Trail
- Bruce Trail
- Scenic Caves
Anyone else visit the Blue Mountains? Let me know about your experience.