Life Travel

The JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District is Literally a Game-Changer

The new JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District redefines the luxury hotel experience in Alberta’s capital (but sometimes overlooked) city.

In short, it’s a game-changer – quite literally. Hockey fans, business travellers, local foodies, spa-seekers and explorers of Edmonton, Alberta now have an elevated and convenient place to wine, dine and unwind in sophisticated, yet approachable style. 

The shiny new 346-room hotel officially opened for business on August 1, and is part of Edmonton’s new up-and-coming ICE District, which – among residential developments, retail stores and community spaces – houses the new(ish) home of the Edmonton Oilers, the Rogers Place arena. In fact, the hotel is attached to the hockey arena, making it a quick go-to for hockey fans looking to make a night out of it, complete with a post-game stop at ICE District’s new Grand Villa Casino Edmonton.

The JW Marriott ICE District is the first luxury hotel to open in downtown Edmonton and is the type of place you, frankly, don’t have any desire to leave. The large and bustling Lobby Bar offers as good of a vibe – and crowd – as any downtown Edmonton hotspot does. Judging from how busy this area was throughout the duration of my stay in late September, the secret is already out among both the locals and travellers, whether they’re there for business or pleasure. 

Another refined watering hole at the hotel is the fifth floor cocktail bar, Alchemy, which comes to life upon entry through a “secret” bookshelf door. Here, guests can sip handcrafted vintage and modern cocktails and enjoy elevated bar snacks, like charcuterie and cheese, mac & cheese bites, mushroom empanadas and sweet potato spring rolls. The space features a large heated patio with views of the impressive ICE District, making it a coveted option for event planners. 

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While Edmonton’s restaurant scene is having a major moment right now, the JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District offers dining from celebrated Toronto-based restaurant group Oliver & Bonacini (O & B), so you don’t have to feel bad about not venturing outside the hotel (especially in the brutally cold winter months) for a decent, foodie-approved meal. For a hearty and home-style dinner, Braven – located on the main floor, tucked behind the Lobby Bar – offers dry-aged steaks with that famous Alberta beef, quality chops, heartening pasta and fresh seafood. Here, guests can either order a la carte, or off of a prix fix menu. 

Also on the main floor is O & B spot Kindred Food + Drink, which has a Southern California vibe and serves up fresh and creative takes on classic lunch and dinner dishes. An assortment of colourful salads – like the jam-packed cobb salad – and bowls fuel those on a health kick, while classics like burgers (including a Beyond Beef option), sandwiches, tacos, pasta and bannock pizza comfortingly hit the spot when calories are irrelevant. Word of advice: order a chicken potpie and the pierogis to share with the table. 

From the facials that virtually take years off your face, to massages that leave you feeling like butter, the spa at the JW Marriot ICE District is well worth the additional splurge. The peaceful Spa by JW – downtown Edmonton’s only luxury spa experience – offers the full range of services you would expect from a luxury brand, in addition to a large whirlpool and indoor swimming pool that’s large enough to swim laps. Notably, all five treatment rooms – including a serene and cozy couples suite – feature huge rain shower and an outdoor patio/balcony.

Perhaps the star of the show at this hotel – something that really sets it apart from others – is Archetype, the massive state-of-the-art gym. Even if you don’t work out, it’s worth checking out. Occupying one and a half floors of the hotel, Archetype brings the most innovative experience to the Edmonton market, with a focus on health coaching and high-performance living. Led by Edmontonian fitness pro Simon Bennett, the space features cutting edge brands, housing things like Sorinex rig systems, Keiser compressed air technology, Woodway, ICG 7 spin bikes and a Somadome meditation pod. Hotel guests also have access to four custom curated group studios, with experiences ranging from yoga, boxing, spin and HIIT-style classes.

The sleek hotel suites range from spacious guest rooms with either a king-sized bed or two queen-sized beds, to sprawling deluxe and presidential suites. All suites are corner units, and the presidential options cater to the rich and famous, with designated spaces for security detail and a separate entrance for housekeeping and room service. It’s safe to assume that some famous artists will call these spaces home after their concerts at Rogers Place – apparently, some already have. For the rest of us, prices for rooms start around $200 CAD/night and increase from there. 

For guests who opt to upgrade hotel accommodations, the fully stocked 22nd floor Executive Lounge features snacks, sofas, reading material and a record player with an assortment of vinyl to choose from. The hotel also offers 22,000-square-feet of meeting and conference space, all of which are named after Edmonton Oilers alum. Other perks worth posting about in this futuristic hotel include an in-room ice menu of flavoured ice cubes, editorial-worthy décor and a partnership with Rogers Place that allows prime access to guests, like behind-the-scenes arena tours and meet-and-greet opportunities with Oilers Alumni.

The JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District is just the latest development to open its doors in ICE District, which will become Canada’s largest mixed-use and entertainment district once completed.  A public plaza is expected to open next year, and, earlier this month, two new sports restaurants were announced. The hotel is within easy walking distance to Edmonton’s Arts District, River Valley (which, as I learned, is best explored via Segway) and the Edmonton Convention Center. 

It’s difficult to fathom that in the not-too-distant past that this coveted piece of real estate was nothing but parking lots in the heart of the city. Now, it offers a whole new reason to get excited about Edmonton and the city’s storied hockey team. 

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