CHILL Ice House
82 Bathurst Street - Toronto
There are ice hotels and ice castles but the CHILL Ice House is - according to the billing - 'Canada's first and the world's largest permanent ice lounge'. Twelve months a year, if offers a taste of frozen Toronto to tourists and locals, doubling as a family friendly attraction by day and a cool (couldn't resist!) cocktail lounge by night.
CHILL is the brainchild of Gresham Bayley, who worked for the innovative family business Iceculture for years before opening the lounge. Iceculture is a Canadian success, having become one of the world's leading purveyers of specialty ice and ice sculptures and creators of innovative ice designs over the last three decades or so. I guess it should come as no surprise that Canadians can ace the ice. They've often led the world in innovations like the beaded ice curtain and chandelier and export their expertise to clients worldwide. Iceculture has even worked for NASA, producing precise ice components for the Return-to-flight program of the shuttle. It all started with a patented process that takes all the air bubbles out of the water as it freezes to produce clear, glass-like blocks and shapes of all kinds.
For Iceculture, Bayley became a globe trotting ice lounge installation expert. The company's projects took him to Dubai, Greece and India. He worked on projects like the Disney fairy-tale castle in Times Square, New York City, the World Ski Championships and a global warming exhibition in Oslo, Norway at the time Al Gore received his Nobel Prize.
What is The CHILL Ice House?
It's a lounge where everything is made of ice from floor to ceiling, including a private (sort of!) seating area, decorative elements and a sleek bar where you'll order the coldest shots of vodka you've ever had. The room is kept at a chilly minus 4 degrees Celsius and your cover charge includes rental of a blue or white quilted cape to keep you reasonably warm and toasty. To keep it interesting, the decor is changed all the time, including the theme, sculptures and features of the bar/lounge area. When you touch one of the exquisite sculptures with your hand, the flawless surface begins to get wet... only to refreeze as soon as you move on.
Tip: You may be thinking this is the place to check out in the heat of summer but if you do go during warmer months, be sure to wear solid shoes. Skimpy sandals don't last long at that temperature.
If you get too cold, there's an unfrozen side of the bar as well, a roomy space with wood panelled walls, a long bar with hip beverage selections, a nice menu of house made charcuterie and other nibbles - and a coat rack for those blue and red capes.