I didn’t coin the phrase “Downtown Different”. It’s a marketing term used by the Atlantica Hotel in Halifax. But I can’t think of any better way to describe our new favourite family hotel, which is both downtown, different…and great for families.
Let’s start with downtown. Located a 15-20 minute stroll away from the Halifax waterfront, at the edge of the Quinpool Road shopping district, the Atlantica Hotel is smack bang in the middle of the “real” Halifax. The 14-storey monolith has always been popular with the locals, many of whom will remember it as The Holiday Inn at The Willow Tree. Built in 1975, the “newest hotel in Halifax” represented a vibrant, growing urban core. In 2009, when the Holiday Inn franchise expired, the hotel owners decided to transform the already popular Halifax landmark into a local, luxury hotel: The Atlantica.
History buffs will be interested to know that the Atlantica Hotel is on the doorstep of Canada’s oldest urban common, and kids will be excited to hear that the present day Halifax Common has a fantastic playground, skatepark, an outdoor swimming pool and an all-seasons skating rink, The Halifax Oval, which offers free rental of ice skates and helmets in the winter, and inline skates or roller-skates (yes, the real ones, with four big wheels!) in the summer. These are all FREE! If you are visiting Halifax for any length of time, summer or winter, then consider visiting this popular local spot, in addition to all the other amazing tourist attractions that Halifax offers.
One of the things that makes the Atlantica different is the size and conveniences of its family rooms, which are definitely spacious enough to accommodate large or extended families. The room we stayed in had two double beds, a decent sized fridge, microwave, desk, ample closet space, and best of all, a cute little alcove containing a sturdy, full-sized bunk bed and a a children’s chalkboard! I am not sure how the following confession will be received in terms of guest etiquette, but allow me to disclose: the room was so big that we actually played hide and seek in it!
The most important draw for my kids is always the hotel pool. One of the highlights for me was a separate baby pool, about 2 feet deep, perfect for toddlers and non-swimmers.
The main thing that makes the Atlantica feel special is the warm, professional service. From a small toy basket to choose from at check-in, to a fun colouring book at breakfast, I felt that my children were treated like important guests.
During pre-dinner cocktails at the Season’s Lounge, when my daughter precociously requested a Shirley Temple “the way I like it, you know… like they serve at Tess, with blueberries, and cherries too”, our lovely bartender simply smiled warmly and effortlessly produced the most elaborate of children’s cocktails, exactly as my little princess had ordered, with blueberries and maraschino cherries lined up on a thin cocktail stick! I noticed later in the evening, on a framed notice in the lobby, that the bartender, Lisa, had been nominated “Star of the Month”. Well deserved, we thought!
And this Mom’s favourite part of any family vacation? The food! The Atlantica hotel is renowned for its kitchen and award-winning Executive Chef Luis Clavel is somewhat of a local celebrity (this is known as being “Halifamous”). In fact, from time to time, Chef Clavel runs a culinary class and kitchen tour for kids, as part of a family hotel package. How cool! But this evening, my family and I were on the “guest” side of the kitchen door!
The butternut squash soup I had to start my dinner was was sublime and beautifully garnished, although it was served in a hilariously large, shallow bowl. My fish and chips were yummy too. One small disappointment was the burger from kids menu, which was served very rare, or in my daughter’s words, “cold and squishy”. We politely left the burger sliced open so the waitress could see. Ever professional, she whisked it away with apologies, and removed the item from our bill with no fuss.
For dessert, we had the coconut cream pie (pictured above), served with an exquisite homemade ice cream, blueberry salad and chocolate bombs. Divine! Pictured below is a selection of delicious sweets we sampled earlier in the day. Delicious!
When we got home, my daughter wrote in her journal, describing the Atlantica as “the fanciest hotel ever in Halifax”!
The four-star Atlantica has never claimed to be the absolute fanciest hotel in Halifax, but its central location, top class cocktail lounge, great pool, warm, friendly service…and those sturdy bunk beds, make it a pretty fancy place to stay on your next Maritime family vacation.
Special thanks to the Atlantica Hotel for promotional consideration
Atlantica Hotel Halifax Details:
Where: Atlantica Hotel, 1980 Robie Street at Quinpool Road, Halifax, B3H 3G5