Cheap downtown Toronto hotels
Many downtown Toronto hotels come with awesome views, stellar amenities, and world-class reputations. But screw that; what if you just want a roof over your head for a night? Downtown Toronto has a few spots that offer accommodation at a fraction of regular cost, while remaining in walking distance to major city attractions. Impossible? Nah. Just don't expect a mint on your pillow. Uh... better yet, hope for nothing on your pillow. I visited three Toronto hotels with some of the cheapest nightly rates in the city to find out if you really will sleep better knowing you saved a buck or two.
My first stop was Dundas Square Hotel at Dundas and Church. Even if you've never heard of it, you've probably seen its big yellow and red banner proclaiming, "Hotel $49.00 & up." And I thought such subtle dignity was only served at The Ritz. I sauntered up to its front steps on Church and breathed deeply as I approached the door. I assumed it would be my last fresh one for a while. And in I went. So far so good. The lobby was innocuous looking enough, so I approached the short, old man behind the counter.
"Hi," I began. "I was wondering if you have any vacancies."
"For you?" he asked, and unleashed a grin. Few teeth, but a full smile all the same.
Admittedly, I was a little creeped out at first, but soon realized that he was genuinely just trying to be friendly.
"I have just one," he said looking at his screen. "But it's being cleaned now."
Cleaned?! I was shamefully surprised. All of those delicious discount hotel horror stories I had read about online were quickly losing legitimacy.
"Can I see it anyway?" I asked, now pleasantly intrigued.
"Sure," the man said. "Sure, come, let me show you."
He led me down the hall and pushed open a door, pressing it into the woman on the other side.
"Whoops," he said. "I'm just showing her the room."
Of course, the grand tour took all of twenty seconds. The room was an ivory box with a bed and a TV. There was no furniture, and just one set of hooks fastened to the wall with all the clasps broken off. The TV--one of those boxy-looking 80's tubes--sat adjacent to the naked bed with a pack of cigarettes on its head. Hey, cigs on the TV beats mints on the pillow, right?
"And here's the bathroom?" I asked, peeking through the open door. Though after stepping into the small space, I quickly darted back in horror. For someone's poorly digested dinner sat maliciously staring at me from the bowl.
In fairness, I had unexpectedly walked in on a cleaning, so I didn't expect the space to be pristine. But if it were I cleaning the room, last night's naughty decisions would've been flushed before the door shut behind me.
The cost? $50 plus tax.
Next was the Waverly Hotel, conspicuously located next to the Silver Dollar at Spadina and College. A Toronto landmark, maybe, but I wasn't expecting vintage charm.
Stepping off the streetcar, I trudged through the slush and entered Waverly's front door where a sopping towel on the floor tried to soak the snow from my boots. Up a flight of stairs, through another set of doors and another, slightly less sopping wet towel met my boots at the frame. The man behind the counter looked at me like I was lost.
He and a kindly woman sitting in a chair in the lobby area (her connection to The Waverly I never did figure out) told me I could get a room for $55 or $65. The $65 room came with a private bathroom, but since I had previously decided to go balls out with the cheapest option, I asked to see the $55 room with the shared bathroom. I was handed a key to room 109 and buzzed through another set of doors.
I sailed down the black and white checkered-floor hallway, trying to ignore the musk of expired man. The odour wasn't so much gym-locker-room as it was men-on a-three-day-unshowered-Playstation-binge. Luckily, I quickly found a grey door labelled "109" (with something illegible etched in the finish underneath--I'm thinking "boobs"-something) and let myself inside.
The room was pretty dark, even with the light switched on, but there were some attempts to brighten up the space, at least figuratively. Framed forgettable prints hung on the wall beside the bed, which was made complete with pink pillowcases and a floral comforter. The closet was open with a few stray objects inside, and the dresser, which was marked by the pens of inhabiters of yore, was missing a drawer or two. Still, there was a box of fresh tissues and a clean-ish looking sink to wash some of those worries away. As I exited the woman by the front, she told me, almost apologetically, that some of the other rooms currently occupied are a little nicer.
The final hotel on my list was Filmore's, where your entertainment and accommodation comes all under the same roof. Now, normally sleeping at a strip club involves too many beers and friends who break promises to "stick together," but Filmore's actually has lots of rooms for guest stays.
Being so close to Ryerson, I imagined my former professors staring at me as I pushed through Filmore's doors. "Boy, that journalism dream sure failed her quick!" Little did they know, I was checking out a room for $55 a night!
The man behind the counter was remarkably friendly (a pleasant trend at these places, or so it seems) and agreed to show me a room.
"Don't worry, it's good," barked an old man, sitting staunchly in a chair by reception. "There's a TV in there."
Indeed there was a TV, along with a made bed, terrible red curtains and a 1970's style diner set of table and chairs. The bathroom here was also shared, but the room had a sink and somewhat pleasant looking window. And the dresser--dare I say--actually had a bit of antique charm. Besides the enduring smell of stale cigarettes and knowledge of what must go on in these rooms, Filmore's seems like the most viable option.
Granted, I'd still probably fork over the extra cash for a more run-of-the-mill experience, but if I ever feel like nestling up to a pair of pink pillows or having my furniture and reading material all in one, I'll know where to go.
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