Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 6, 2021
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Après Conference

20 weekend getaways from serene pampering to outdoor adventure

It's probably happened to you: you're at a medical conference and as you're rushing from one session to the next, you glance around and wish you had some free time to enjoy the city you're in. This year we've selected hotel packages for 10 top North American conference destinations to help you do just that -- by exploring the outdoors or enjoying some unabashed pampering.

Pacific Palisades Hotel
(1277 Robson Street; tel: 800-663-1815/ 604-688-0461;

The Pacific Palisades may be in Vancouver but the decor is very Miami. Spacious rooms decked in bold colours and trendy designs come with huge windows, kitchenettes and Starbucks coffee. The South Beach suites have separate living rooms and dining areas. Yoga kits are available for in-room use and there's a health club and indoor pool at your disposal. The hotel's Zin restaurant serves up tapas and unusual cocktails to guests and locals in the know.

The Path Finder package includes a one-night stay in a South Beach Suite with balcony, breakfast for two at Zin, morning newspaper, complimentary evening wine reception and a fully guided hiking tour with Eco Trail Escapes, a North Vancouver-based adventure company. You'll explore the West Coast rainforest through a choice of seven hiking trails on the North Shore Mountains including Deep Cove, Grouse Mountain and Lynn Canyon. Daypack, lunch, snacks, water and transfers between the hotel and the trailhead are also provided. From $320 per night, double. Available from October 16 to April 30, 2005.

Sutton Place Hotel
(845 Burrard Street; tel: 800-961-7555/ 604-682-5511;

The Sutton is pure luxury -- gleaming marble, crystal and expensive artwork. Rooms have European-style decor and the amenities are suitably old-world posh. All suites come with bathrobes, complimentary morning paper, 24-hour room service and flat-screen TVs. The Gerard Lounge looks like an English gentlemen's club, with heavy leather chairs and fireplace, while the menu at Fleuri restaurant is French continental.

Come January, the existing hotel spa will become the Vida Wellness Spa, with a staggering list of treatments, including dozens of different types of massages, facials and a range of services specifically for men. There's also a sauna, Jacuzzi and private personal trainers are available.

The Body & Soul package includes one night in a deluxe room, parking, full-day passes to the health club, a one-hour massage or facial and manicure per person. From $401 per night, double. Available year round.

Crystal Lodge
(4154 Village Green; tel: 800-667-3363;

Speed demons will love Crystal Lodge's Adventure Play package. They'll be strapped into a harness that's clipped onto a Zipline cable for a thrilling ride that will have them dangling over suspension bridges, gorges and rivers between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain.

The lodge is right in Whistler Village, so you're close to the action. Rooms are standard but comfortable. Junior Suites come with a sitting area, fireplace and kitchen. There are two restaurants, a lounge, heated outdoor pool, fitness centre, indoor whirlpool and sauna and over a dozen shops on site. The hotel is undergoing renovations which will be completed November 25; if you plan to go earlier, some services may be unavailable.

The Adventure Play package includes one night in a Traditional room and a three-hour Zip Trek. From $123 per person, double. Available year-round.

Summit Lodge
(4359 Main Street; tel: 888-913-8811;

In the midst of larger-than-life ski resorts, the Summit Lodge is a welcome change. The boutique hotel's 75 rooms are decorated with muted shades and cherry-wood furniture, and come with balconies, fireplaces, kitchenettes, TVs and VCRs, and aromatherapy bath products. A shuttle whisks guests to the nearby slopes, and there's a pool, exercise equipment, outdoor hot tub and sauna.

Whether you're just back from the slopes or the bike trails, you can pop into the Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa for an escape of another kind. The spa has a Southeast Asian decor and treatments using organic ingredients. The Javanese Queen for a Day package includes a two-night stay in a Deluxe Studio Suite, fresh fruit and bottled water and Pangimbang Raga -- a two-hour spa treatment which includes a Papaya Enzyme Body Polish, choice of massage (Javanese, Swedish or French) and choice of Hydrotherapy Bath (Milk, Aromatherapy, Herbal or Sea Salt). Rates start at $479, single or double. Available year-round.

Banff Springs Hotel
(405 Spray Avenue; tel: 800-257-7544;

The quintessential Rockies hideaway, the Banff Springs has maintained its old-world grace but modern amenities ensure guests don't want for much. Several restaurants, pubs and lounges are on-site, and afternoon tea is offered daily. There's also a fitness centre, pool and bowling alley.

The Ski the Canadian Rockies package includes one night's accommodation, breakfast for two, two tri-area lift tickets for Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, shuttle service, valet parking and gratuities. Dogsledding, skating, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and plenty more can be arranged on-site to keep the non-skier in the family entertained. From $418 per night, double. Available as long as there's snow on the ground.

Rimrock Resort
(100 Mountain Avenue; tel: 800-661-1587/403-762-3356; www.rimrockre

Nestled above the Banff townsite, the Rimrock Resort offers grand views of the Spray and Bow Valleys and Mount Rundle. Rooms are all beautifully decorated with rich furniture and earthy tones and come complete with in-room movies, Aveda bath products and Sony PlayStations. As part of the Leading Hotels of the World group, the amenities -- including indoor swimming pool and whirlpools, gym, two lounges and two elegant restaurants -- are a cut above.

The Spa package includes one night's accommodation, fruit basket, bathrobe, access to the fitness centre and a $150 credit at the spa for everything from manicures to massages. From $350 per night, double occupancy. Available year-round.


High Fields Inn
(Concession 3, Zephyr; tel: 888-809-9992/905-473-6132; www.highfields. com)

This sweet inn is less than an hour and a half from downtown Toronto. Rooms are comfortable with country-style furnishings and feature VCRs, CD players and video library. Almost all of them come with whirlpool tubs and some have fireplaces. The 18-hole Mill Run golf course is just 10 minutes away, and 70 hectares of groomed hiking trails are right outside the door. There's also an exercise room, a wet sauna and a spa with everything from Belize mud wraps to Himalayan body treatments. In the evening, the Dining Room -- a converted barn with a huge stone fireplace -- offers entrees such as grilled yellow-fin tuna steak with pineapple and peppercorn salsa or leek and goat cheese tart.

The Overnight Cycling package includes one night's stay, a relaxation massage, breakfast and dinner for two, and an afternoon bike ride around the Ontario countryside. From $430 per night, double. Available as long as weather permits.

Millcroft Inn and Spa
(55 John Street, Alton; tel: 800-383-3976/519-941-8111; www.millcroft. com)

The Millcroft Inn is housed in a renovated 1880s knitting mill in the rolling Caledon Hills, 40 minutes from Toronto. Its 52 guest rooms are divided among two main buildings and 20 two-storey chalets. All have lovely antique furnishings and plenty of space; some come with separate living rooms and Jacuzzi tubs. You can hit the outdoor hot tub after an afternoon of canoeing, hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding or a stroll through antiques shops and art galleries nearby. There's a games room with billiards and the restaurant offers Four Diamond-rated cuisine with a focus on local products, like pan-seared Canadian beef tenderloin with crêpe mushrooms, artichoke tart and Madeira sauce. The spa's offerings are fantastic -- milk and honey body wrap, Swiss shower massage and sea salt and ylang-ylang body polish.

The Winter Spa Getaway includes two nights' accommodation, one dinner for two, breakfast buffet each morning and two $100 credits at the Spa. Rates start at $190 per person, per night. Available from November 1 to December 23 and January 2 to April 30, 2005.

Fairmont Kenauk at Le Château Montebello
(1000 chemin Kenauk, Montebello; tel: 800-257-7544;

While most Montrealers head to the mountains north of the city for their fall getaway, why not head west? The Kenauk is about an hour and a half away near Montebello in a pristine lake-dotted wildlife sanctuary where deer, moose, bears and coyotes roam. Chalets, with one to five bedrooms, have refrigerator, stove, baths and screened porch. Go hiking, canoeing, clay shooting or fishing. There's no restaurant on-site but you can bring your own food and cook in your cabin's fully-stocked kitchen. Le Château Montebello and its three renowned eateries are minutes away, and a chef can be booked to cook up your fresh catch of fish.

The Fishing package includes three nights in a fully equipped cabin, a boat with outboard motor, fishing rights on your own private lake (provincial fishing license is extra, and sold at the entrance) and access to the sports facilities at Le Château Montebello -- including its dramatic pool. Prices Sunday to Thursday are $417 per person, double, and $477 Friday and Saturday. Available while weather permits.

Hotel Omni Mount-Royal
(1050 Sherbrooke Street West; tel: 514-284-1110;

Steps from the Museum of Fine Arts and the downtown shopping district, the Omni Mount-Royal brings a touch of Southern Plantation style to Montreal's urban core. Marble, dark woods, rich colourful fabrics and lush fresh flowers are everywhere. Robes, CD players and wireless Internet access are standard, and in-room coffeemakers are available on request. There's a massive health club, a heated outdoor pool (open year round) and the Four-Diamond Zen restaurant servies elegant Chinese cuisine. Then there's the inviting Amerispa (one of seven in this Quebec-based chain of high-end resort spas) which offers four-handed hot stone massages and such Belle Province classics as a maple-sugar body scrub. The Experience Spa package includes one night's accommodation, continental breakfast for two, a Vichy shower massage and body scrub. Rates start at $474 per night, double. Available until December 31.

Casino Nova Scotia
(1983 Upper Water Street; tel: 888-6 GAMES6/902-425-7777;

A casino isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you're looking for a little relaxation, but this hotel is more peaceful seaside resort than glitz and glam. The 352 rooms have standard amenities, there's an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, five restaurants and entertainment. The Interlude Spa offers a pool, dry sauna and steam room, as well as sea-tinged treatments like salt scrubs and marine mud or algae wraps. There's even a full lineup of treatments designed for men. The fitness centre specializes in Pilates.

Nautical-themed 44 North's menu features Digby scallops, baked oysters and crab cakes. The kitschy Governor's Grill is replete with -- what else? -- seafood, but has several comfort-food dishes like chicken pot pie and prime rib with Yorkshire pudding. After dinner, head to the casino for a few games of roulette, baccarat or blackjack. The Downtown Link, an underground walkway, connects the hotel to the casino as well as plenty of boutiques, restaurants and bars.

The Spectacular Spa Getaway includes one night's accommodation, $80 worth of spa treatments for two, free parking, coupons for the casino and a $30 gift certificate for breakfast at 44 North, one of the resort's restaurants. From $114 per person, double. Available year-round.

Keltic Lodge
(Middle Head Peninsula, Ingonish Beach; tel: 800-565-0444/902-285-2880;

The Keltic Lodge is an hour and a half from Halifax, but well worth the drive. Set in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the cliff-top resort offers sweeping Atlantic vistas. There are 32 rooms in the historic main lodge and another 70 scattered in the newer Inn at Keltic and a number of two- to four-bedroom cottages. Furnishings are somewhat plain, but comfortable. If you can, try to get one in the lodge -- they're quieter and offer better views. Although the 18-hole course is the main draw, there are plenty of other activities available, including hiking, fishing, sea kayaking, tennis and biking. The resort's cuisine is purportedly the best on the island and no wonder: the chef is award-winner Dale Nichols, who serves up fresh fish and seafood at the Purple Thistle Dining Room. The Highland Sitting Room offers nightly entertainment and drinks.

The Lodge's Stanley Thompson-designed Highland Links course -- ranked by Golf Magazine as the best public course in Canada -- is a perennial favourite. The Golf Getaway package includes one night at the hotel, breakfast, gourmet dinner and a round of golf. From $216 per person, double. Like most Maritime resorts, Keltic Lodge is open seasonally, May 21 to October 17.


San Francisco
Argonaut Hotel
(495 Jefferson Street; tel: 866-415-0704;

Perched on the edge of the Bay at Fisherman's Wharf, the Argonaut Hotel offers excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Coit Tower. Some of its 252 brightly coloured guest rooms incorporate original brick walls, timber posts or steel doors from the 1907 building. All rooms have complimentary high-speed Internet access, flat-screen TVs, Nintendos, CD/DVD players, coffeemakers with Starbucks coffee and Aveda bath products.

A little further down the bay is one of San Francisco's most lavish public golf courses, the Presidio. Once the domain of presidents and military brass, it's now part of a national park and run by Arnold Palmer Golf Management. The hilly landscape lined with mature Eucalyptus and Monterey pine is just 10 minutes from downtown, so you'll spot brightly coloured Victorian row houses between shots. The Presidio Play & Stay package includes one night's accommodation, two rounds of golf and golf cart per package, transportation to and from the hotel and a Presidio-inspired golf amenity. From $US296, additional nights without golf from $US159. Also available at the Hotel Monaco and the Serrano Hotel. Visit or call (800) Kimpton for rates. Available in-season.

Casa Madrona
(801 Bridgeway Sausalito; tel: 866-FOR-ROCK; http://casamadrona.rock

Half an hour from San Francisco is the pretty seaside town of Sausalito. The ornate mansion that was once the home of a lumber baron is now Casa Madrona. Brick paths lined with flowers and fountains lead guests to the 63 spacious rooms, half of which are in the original buildings with Victorian-style furnishings; the other half are new with modern decor. Many of the suites have private decks, fireplaces and Sony Dream Machines with CD players. All come with ultra-comfy mattresses, designer bedspreads and complimentary Starbucks coffee and Tazo teas. The popular Poggio restaurant serves great Tuscan cuisine. The Avanyu Spa takes inspiration from its coastal locale, putting seaweed, mud and sea salt on the menu. Its range of treatments also includes a deep tissue massage, an essential-oil body wrap and a gentlemen's facial.

The Couples Spa Retreat includes a two-night stay in a loft suite and one spa treatment per person, per day. From $US630, double. Available year-round.

New Orleans
W Hotel
(333 Poydras Street; tel: 888-625-5144 /504-525-9444;

In a city filled with aging Southern everything, the W is a breath of modern air. All 423 rooms feature sleek furniture with rich gold, black and red accents, fluffy down-feather beds, Aveda bath products, 27-inch TVs equipped with Internet, VCRs and CD players. Zoe Bistrot features French cuisine with a contemporary twist. The king of nightclubs, Rande Gerber, opened the swank Whiskey Blue at the W. Take a seat at the backlit mahogany bar, sip a pineapple martini and get ready to see and be seen. There's also a fitness centre, rooftop pool and in-room massages.

The State Farm Bayou Classic is one of the biggest college football games in Louisiana. The traditional game has been taking place in New Orleans since 1974 and is between rivals Grambling and Southern Universities. The Bayou Classic Game package includes one night at the W and all hotel taxes, a ticket to the Bayou Classic and discounts for riverboat cruises, restaurants and attractions. From $US304 per person. Available November 26 and 27.

Windsor Court Hotel
(300 Gravier Street; tel: 888-596-0955/ 504-523-6000;

The Windsor Court has held its title as one of the best hotels in New Orleans for 20 years. Its office-building exterior belies the interior's opulence -- you feel like you've just stepped into an English manor. The guest rooms are ultra posh, decorated with subdued floral patterns, warm hues and rich dark woods. The Windsor's claim to fame, however, is its museum-quality art collection. Original 17th- to 19th-century paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Van Dyck, among others, adorn the walls. All have Italian marble bathrooms and VCRs and many have private balconies and wet bars. Nicest extra: turndown service comes with homemade pralines. The Grill Room's well-heeled clientele are crazy about Chef Jonathan Wright's porcini risotto and chocolate fondant cake with caramelized bananas. The Polo Club cigar lounge has an extensive menu of martinis, ports and cognacs and afternoon tea is a favourite. The health club has an outdoor pool, sauna and steam room.

With this kind of luxury lurking behind closed doors, why leave your room at all? The Spa Sensations package includes accommodation in a Junior or Full Suite, breakfast and a choice of up to $US250 worth of in-room spa treatments -- manicures, pedicures, massages and facials. From $US529 per night. Available year-round.

Oak Brook Hills Resort
(3500 Midwest Road, Oak Brook; tel: 630-850-5555;

The resort is located in the upscale neighbourhood of Oak Brook, 40 minutes from downtown Chicago. Overlooking the championship golf course, rooms are decorated with overstuffed armchairs and come with Sony PlayStations, two-line phones, wireless Internet and coffeemakers. Suites have wet bars, marble fireplaces, separate living and dining rooms and Jacuzzi tubs. There are also indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, three outdoor tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts, jogging trails nearby and, in winter, cross-country skiing.

The 18-hole, championship Willow Crest course winds its way around the entire 60-hectare resort, with multi-tiered tees offering some great challenges. The Stay & Play for 2 Golf package includes one night in a deluxe room, parking, 18 holes of golf and a $25 credit at Windows restaurant. From $US298 per night, double. Available through October 31.

The Peninsula Chicago
(108 East Superior Street; tel: 312-337-2888;

The buzz around the Peninsula's opening in 2001 was well deserved and this beacon of style has lived up to the lofty expectations. The 339 guest rooms are bright, spacious and decorated with soft, earthy tones. Setting the mood is a breeze -- control panels allow you to adjust the lights, curtains and room temperature without having to leave your bed. High-tech extras like DVD players, stereos and flat-screen televisions are the norm here. Marble bathrooms have separate oversized tubs and showers with TVs. Shanghai Terrace is one of the city's best Chinese restaurants -- try the Five Spiced Duck and Lemongrass Panna Cotta -- and Avenues, the higher-end eatery, is another award-winner. The gentlemen's club-style Bar is a favourite among Chicago's yuppie set.

The Peninsula Spa takes up the top two floors and has a fitness centre offering yoga, kickboxing, Pilates and personal trainers as well as an atrium-topped pool. The urbane list of spa treatments includes Thai massage, lavender salt glow, green tea treatment or Japanese mint aromatherapy. The Serene Indulgence package includes one night in a deluxe room, his and hers bathrobes, one-hour massages and a Mandi Susu milkbath gift. $US599 per night. Available until December 31.

Las Vegas
Stardust Resort & Casino
(3000 Las Vegas Blvd. South; tel: 800-824-6033/702-732-6111;

While it's not as flashy and amenity-filled as the newer resorts, the Stardust sign is still Sin City's ultimate icon and its location smack in the centre of the strip is hard to beat. The hotel's 2431 guest rooms are split between a newer 20-storey tower, an older nine-storey wing and motel-style rooms around one of the swimming pools. The tower rooms have marble or glass tables and wicker furniture. Amenities include nine restaurants, eight bars, two pools, a video-game arcade and, of course, the 7895-square-metre casino. Last but certainly not least, Wayne Newton -- Mr. Las Vegas himself -- has taken up residence here and performs regularly.

The National Finals Rodeo (NFR), the Superbowl of rodeos, comes to town in December. Fifteen of the top cowboys from the US and Canada will be competing. The NFR package includes three nights' accommodation and two tickets for two days of the rodeo. From $US312. Two and four-night packages are also available. To reserve, call (800) 634-6757 and ask for the Rodeo Desk. Available from December 2 to 12.

The Venetian
(3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South; tel: 877-883-6423/702-414-1000;

The real question is what doesn't the Venetian have? The all-suite resort's standard rooms are a whopping 60 square metres. King-size, canopy draped beds, sunken living rooms with two TVs and three phones are all standard. Huge marble bathrooms have separate showers and tubs. There are 17 restaurants, five outdoor pools, a massive shopping mall, the Guggenheim Hermitage museum and an outpost of Madame Tussaud's. After dark, head to one of the hotel's trendy clubs -- V Bar, Venus or La Scena. The sprawling, two-level Canyon Ranch SpaClub has an impressive menu of treatments, including massage, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic treatments, facials and body scrubs.

The Reflect Spa package includes one night's accommodation in a Luxury or Bella suite, admission for two to the spa, 20-percent off in-room massages, two-for-one "wellness:" services and Canyon Ranch robes and bath amenities. From $US259 per night, double. Available until December 24.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.