The drive up to the hotel was quite picturesque and when you see the hotel it is hard not to be impressed. Check-in was quick and although our room was not ready, we were given keys to the amenities. We sat down for lunch at Cottages restaurant and by the time we were done eating we were checked in and allowed into our suite.
On this trip, we were joined by another solo mom and her two children and thus booked a two-bedroom suite. One of the children travelling with us had a severe peanut allergy and we warned the hotel of this before our arrival. The hotel took every precaution imaginable. When we arrived in the room, we were blown away by its sheer size and cleanliness.
The hotel room we shared had one bedroom with a king bed and a separate bedroom with 2 queen beds as well as a pull-out couch. The kitchen was gorgeous and equipped with Miele and Sub Zero appliances. The room also feature three bathrooms each which large bathtubs and separate showers. All in all, there was more than enough room for all of us and the kitchen made feeding the kids a lot easier. The only downfall was that for most of the vacation that was only one television in the three bedroom suite.
Pool, Skating Rink and More
The best part of the hotel is definitely the pool. In winter, the main pool remains open with a warm indoor section, a cooler outdoor section and a large hot tub. The kids and I had a lot of fun playing in the snow and jumping in the water and the juxtaposition of the hot and cold made for a twist on our usual vacations.
There are many more amenities on-site including a games room with ping pong tables and a Wii as well as a toddler indoor play area. Our favourite on-site amenity besides the pool was the skating rink found on the lawn behind the hotel and overlooking the lake. The rink is small and child-friendly and the hotel has a variety of skate sizes for children and adults.
The hotel has three on-site restaurants open in the winter, Cottages, Lakes and Teca. Lakes is a large sitting room filled with sunshine and comfortable tables and couches. After a long day, families gathered to play board games, watch the Olympics and order food without worrying about tired kids getting bored in a traditional restaurant. Cottages serves rustic food and has the best homemade chicken burger I have ever tried. To be sure, I tried it twice. The restaurants all have large fireplaces and are quite cozy and delicious.
The best restaurant on site was Teca, an Italian restaurant. The food at Teca was incredibly fresh and like all the food served at the hotel was clearly made on-site. The nightly specials were delicious and the chef working knew how to perfectly sear a scallop. The restaurant was remotely pricey but nothing compared to what you would pay for similar food in Toronto.
On busy weekends everyone is mostly eating on-site and the food can take a long time to arrive. That being said, the food always arrived pipping hot and fresh including the food on the breakfast buffet.
The hotel unfortunately had no dedicated childcare. All of the children’s additional programming had an added price but you had to attend with your children. The flaw in this plan is that if you are alone with children, you cannot enjoy amenities like the spa. The hotel is quite secluded but I was told they had a list of local babysitters who were available to babysit children in the rooms. We did not inquire further and thus I didn’t have the opportunity to test out the spa.
All in all this hotel is beyond impressive. Upon arrival, I discovered I left my jacket in Toronto and Can, a sometimes cook sometimes bellman, took it upon himself to lend me his JW Marriott jacket for the entire three days we were there
Although the hotel is a relatively short drive from Toronto, it often seems like it is a world away. The staff operates like a small family and clearly works as a close knit team. There were a few less than welcoming people particularly some of the ladies at the front desk but all in all, the staff in this hotel really blew me away. The vibe of the hotel is relaxed and extremely family orientated. Children are welcome everywhere and guests are welcome to put their feet up and relax.
In essence, the JW Marriott in the heart of Muskoka, gives you everything you love about a cottage with none of the hassle. The roads are plowed, food is cooked and rooms are cleaned. You can borrow skates and snow shoes at no additional cost and every winter activity you can think of is available on-site including dog sledding and snowmobiling and ice fishing.
And hey, if you hit a patch of ice like this solo mom did, they will even send a friendly team of engineers to dig you out of the ditch. Truly an experience to not be missed in one of Ontario’s most beautiful locations.