a VirtualTourist member
Your post is helpful but am wondering if there is much to do and what the nightlife/restaurants are like. We stayed at Lake Garda and found the resort very quiet, the ferries stopped at 7pm so we were stuck near our hotel. We are a couple in our early 50s who like relaxing surroundings but are happy to let our hair down in the evenings.
We stayed on Isola Prescarori which is just a short distance from Stresa. Yes, Stresa is very slow during the evening. Your hotel, the Bristol, also owns a hotel which we stayed at for four nights, Hotel Verbano. We didn't care much for the Bristol as we it was kind of overly decorated and almost gody. The staff seemed kind of aloof and not overly friendly. Parking for our hotel, Hotel Verbano, was located in the Bristol's lot.
The Hotel Verbano is an old fashion Italian hotel that has retained all its wonderful Italian charm. They have two really great restaurants that seemed to fill every night with local Italians from the mainland. The ferries also stop running in the evenings also, however, the restaurant/hotel has a private launch that will pick you up on the mainland. There are also many private water taxis available. Be sure and negotate the price of the taxi. If the weather is nice there are great views from the garden restaurant.
Also Stresa is pretty quiet after dinner time, and the Isola dei Pescatori is even more so, with only cats around at night.
In Stresa I know a restaurant and cafe that sometimes has music after dinner, and also tango nights, it is named L'Idrovolante, in Piazzale Lido.
There's also a music cafe named Isla Bonita, but I have never been there. It's in Piazzale Lido as well.