Overview / tips in one, Toronto
Favorite thing: Get on Shanks Pony is an expression used in Liverpool for Get Walking!! Toronto is on a grid system so very easy to navigate your way around with the help of a little city map. You miss so much in the car never mind the hassle and cost of parking. We left our car in the Holiday Inn carpark and hoofed it around except when getting on and off the Shop-Dine-Tour bus.
Having lived a few hours outside of Toronto for much of my life, I always wondered why so many Canadians resented Toronto so much. I know I never liked Toronto much, but that's because I was never a fan of big cities. I found Toronto to be too congested, too insane to drive in, and too polluted.
After seeing other large cities, however, my opinion of Toronto has improved a lot. Although there is definitely a smog problem, the city is quite clean. It's not the friendliest place in the world, but I always feel safe.
But love it or hate it, you can't deny that Toronto offers an endless number of things to do and see. You can easily spend a week in Toronto and the surrounding area and not see it all. I definitely recommend it as a place to stay for a good long visit!
When I visited Toronto in December it was freeeeezing...It didn't snow but there was a kind of white frost on the lawns that just stayed there for days. Now it's no news that that Toronto gets cold in the winter, but what you might not know is that the homes, shops and offices are way overheated.
You come out of these boiling houses and get hit by a blast of icy cold air. The perfect solution is a scarf, which you can pull up over your nose if necessary. Gloves are also a lifesaver. But then you go into a shopping mall and it is HOT. So what do you do with all those Arctic accessories that you peel off one by one? How to insure that you will have your scarf when you need it, and more than one glove by the time you get home?
Rule number one: If you are know you are going to shop, don't overdress. You will curse the day you were born if you head to the mall in a bulky parka. Rule number two: Bring an empty backpack with you to stash all the bits and pieces - coat, gloves, hat, scarf, etc. - until you head out the door.
I don't know if I can call Toronto a "must see". Yes of course it is a city that has quite a bit to offer. But in my view it is still just a big city, nothing out of the ordinary. Mmmmm... maybe it depends on what you are looking for.... I am not a city person, so I am quite hard in my judgement. I wouldn't make a trip with the sole purpose of visiting Toronto. Neither would I spend a week of my vacation here to explore the city. Hahaha, I feel a bit double minded writing all this, I've been here quite a few times so far, and I haven't been bored once. So I guess it is a nice place to be :-)) But I think what I am trying to say is that there are more spectacular cities to see than Toronto.
An introduction to Toronto :
Toronto is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario and was created on March 6, 1834, when the settlement of York was renamed Toronto, the Mohawk word for "meeting place." The British settlement of York was founded as the capital of the new province of Upper Canada by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in the 1790s and had grown to 10,000 people by the 1830s. Toronto is still the capital of the province, now called Ontario, and is the largest city in Canada, with a population of 2.4 million, 4.7 million in the Greater Toronto Area.
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, it is home to more than 80 ethnic groups and more than 100 languages, and is marked by the diversity of distinct neighbourhoods, cultures and communities.
Distinct neighbourhoods include Little Italy (west of College/Bathurst), Queen Street West (a soho-style strip east of Spadina Avenue), the Entertainment district (bounded by Front and King Streets, University and Spadina Avenues), the fashion district (Spadina and King), Greektown on Danforth Avenue, Little India (Gerrard Street East), and three Chinatowns.
Toronto's cityscape is full of interesting architecture, both historic and modern.
Walking around might perhaps be the best way to see all this at a leisurely pace if you have a map, a list of what to see, a good sense of direction, and time to spare, but I was lacking in the last element.
I didn't have a bicycle with me (the only bicycles I saw were too high for me, anyway) and my friend commented that drivers in Toronto, unlike in mainland China, are not as sensitive to the presence of cyclists and thus cycling isn't as easy even when there's substantially less human and vehicular traffic compared to mainland China.
Fondest memory: Being comfortably driven around by my friend was a life-saver which I'm really grateful for. I didn't have to worry about where to go, where to park etc. Only problem was that my digital camera isn't good enough to take good photos from a moving vehicle, especially at night, so I had to give up on taking photos.
The photos I have taken are mainly of the immediate area around Canadiana Backpackers, before sunrise; or enroute from St.Andrew's subway stop to the hostel, at night. This area is the entertainment/arts district and that explains the interesting facades and vibrant display of nightlife. Toronto is much less polluted than mainland China and sunrise colours were a refreshing, beautiful pink. A few of the photos (eg of Eaton Centre) were taken on Dundas Square, while I was waiting outside Hard Rock Cafe.
ON A BUDGET:
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) - Free on Fridays 4:30pm-9pm. Dinosaurs, Native Indian art, mummies, Underground Railroad, Ancient Egypt, Rome, etc.
From the Yonge-University-Spadina line, get off at Museum.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) - Free on Wednesday nights. Beautiful paintings and sculptures, but if you're not into art you'll be soooooo bored.
From the Yonge-University-Spadina line, get off at St. Patrick.
Harbourfront - Always some sort of festival going on.
Chum/CityTv Building - Kind of like MTV Studios. Catch a glimpse of a rock star or be part of the audience.
Corner of Queen and John.
IF YOU GOT MONEY TO SPEND:
Canada's Wonderland - lots of rollercoasters and fun gentle rides. Not worth your money if you don't go on any rides. You must have some FUNNEL CAKE if you go here.
Medieval Times - Meet the King or Queen and cheer for your Knight in the tournament as you dine on Dragon Soup, Dragon Scales and Baby Dragons.
CN Tower - The World's Tallest Building. If you're afraid of heights, you won't be able to handle the glass floor.
be part of the multitudes of spectators of a Blue Jays game in an open-roof evening at the SkyDome. The domed roof illuminated by warm glow of funky purple lights canopy'd many of baseball actions, but with much attention given to the city's Jays. Or you might want to take yourself out to an ice hockey game, the country's most popular sport, and cheer behind the glass for the Maple Leafs. Otherwise, watch the Raptors in action and experience the ambience of an NBA game. It's no question that Toronto is a sports city and no surprise if the Torontonians will bid on the summer Olympics again.
Next to SkyDome stands the CN Tower - a lanky structure that serves as an important telecommication hub and Toronto's most recognizable icon. Never will you want to miss escalating to the top and watch the world under your feet through the glass floor of the tower. The ultimate, when it isn't too busy, is to try lying down on your front with your arms spread out. I double challenge you it's a sure thrill without the spill.
These two most visited landmarks are sandwiched between Spadina and University avenues in downtown Toronto. In their immediate nearness is a hot spot for musicals, concerts, restaurants and dance clubs which collectively form the Entertainment District. East of University Ave, the Financial District is shawdowed by its notably modern skyscrapers. This area is networked with an underground passage-way which houses a maze of shops and eateries.
Along walkways around the city, the graffiti which brightens the walls and billboards is perhaps some of the best I've ever seen. These street-art pieces are all over town, conspicuously put up along sidestreets in the Queen West area between Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue.
Along Spadina Avenue between College and Dundas streets is a district which is home to many immigrants from the Far East. The street is a collection of wholesalers, fabric shops, designer goods, fruit stores and grocers. The colorful sights and cramped sidewalks of the district form the reputable Chinatown, one of Toronto's exclusive neighbourhoods. Asian eating houses are ubiquitous and almost invariably inexpensive. Be sure to smack your lips with roasted ducks/chickens and juicy tropical fruits before you unmingle yourself out of the almost Cantonese community.
Northwest of Dundas and Spadina avenues is the culturally collaged Kensington Market which holds innumerable types of businesses. The market has an eclectic combination of ethnicities and cultures that includes Eastern Europe, Portugese, Carribean, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese. I hope that's complete but in all, they're represented by the array of ethnic grocery stores and food shops.
By the Lake Ontario south of downtown is a venue for arts and recreation. The district known as HarbourFront stages a myriad of outdoor concerts in summer. And if you're game to hit the lake on a boat, the sailing club is most possibly where you want to head. Or take a short and easy ferry ride to Tornoto Islands which offer sandy beaches and peaceful views of Toronto. In winter, ice-skaters predominate on the outdoor artificial ice rink by the lake. Lakefront attractions also include the waterfront nautical museum housed in the Harbourfront Centre. Nearby, the Harbourfront Antique Market showcase a wide collection of antiques from hundreds of antique dealers.
So there are lots to see, much to do and tons to consume in such a richly diverse cultural city. I bet there will be something that satisfy your taste. Check it out soon.
I am a big fan of walking around a city to get a feel for the places and people. Toronto is a city made up of ethnically aligned neighbourhoods, so you can do this in a number of different locations and get a different experience each time. Personally, I like: downtown (Yonge south of Bloor) during the daytime for the vibrancy and the people; Yorkville for sitting and watching the world walk by; the Danforth area for a very late evening (one of the few places where you can get a good meal at 4am); and Kensington on the weekend; and the Beaches almost any time; etc....
Fondest memory: When I'm away, I tend to miss the sense of quiet safety.
Toronto’s waterfront – one of North America’s largest recreational waterfronts – provides a scenic backdrop for many popular and entertaining attractions including Harbourfront, Ontario Place, SkyDome, the CN Tower, and the Toronto Islands. It’s also the setting of many big events including the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival, Caribana, Winterfest and the Canadian National Exhibition.
Downtown Toronto offers museums and art galleries galore including The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) , Canada’s largest museum and one of the top 10 in the world; the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Canada’s oldest art gallery and home to more than 15,000 paintings; and the Ontario Science Centre, which entertains and educates 800,000 visitors a year.
At the northeast end of the city, Canada’s largest zoo, the Toronto Zoo, features more than 5,000 animals in their natural environment. Just north of the City, Canada’s largest theme park, Paramount Canada’s Wonderland, features more than 160 attractions and 50 rides in a thrilling environment.
Day or night - always something going on!
Fondest memory: Spending 10 minutes in Toronto before flying to Chicago. I had to run fom one plane to the other, also worth noting that I was the only passenger they were waiting for...everyone had already boarded the plane. haha.
I think the most fun thing to do in Toronto on a Saturday is to walk down Spadina Avenue where it is open to markets of fresh food and produce, clothing and jewlrey... The fun part is negotiating the price and stopping for a bite to eat.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory is when I lived there. July 1st is a huge celebration at Ontario Place which is an amusement park, boating spot, restaurants, etc.. surrounded on lake ontario. They have the fireworks contects during that time against other countries. Its called 'Fire of Lights'.
To get there... take the streetcar from Queen's Quay West to Exhibition Place and just walk thru the park. Its best to go in the day and spend the whole day and evening there. There is also an outside amphitheatre which is always being used in the summer for concerts and stand up comedy.
When visiting Toronto you must visit the tallest tower in the world, the CN Tower, also the Casa Loma which is so beautiful. For amusement park lovers and the kids CNE, Exebition place is for you.
Must also visit Little Italy and shop around in little corner stores.
Fondest memory: Whenever I thin kof Toronto I get a picture in my head of Policeman on horses, and statues of Mooses al over town.......it is so great.
Favorite thing: There is actually a lot to see and do in Toronto, depending on what you are interested in of course. There's the most common attractions such as the CN Tower (amazing views from the top), the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), for those looking for a little culture, and of course the Eaton Center for the shoppers in us all (although personally I don't recommend the Eaton Center, it's overhyped and overcrowded all the time, I say skip it). If shopping is your thing I would go down to Queen St. West which is the place to be, especially in the warmer months. Sit on a patio, have a pint and watch the people go by. It's lined with bars, pubs, restaurants and a million stores of all kinds: music, clothing, furniture and home decor, jewellery, shoes, books, and so on and so forth. For the those with a little more money to burn there's Yorkville. Great bars and restaurants and all the designer shops you could ever dream of.
CN Tower, the Sky Dome...catch a LEAFS game if you can (hockey)!!
Fondest memory: I live here.....it's nice....not sooo crowded....home of Iced Tea (they don't really have it in Europe nor do they have Cheese Cake!). It's cleaner than most cities....probably because we don't have as many people as say...New York.
Zip to the top of the world's tallest building, or take a stroll along the world's longest street - Toronto is packed with enough unique attractions and fascinating museums to keep you occupied for weeks.
Of course, the Toronto calendar is chock full of annual and one-time special events - from fairs to festivals to fireworks! One aspect of the city that doesn't change: the terrific shopping. Whether inside one of our renowned shopping gallerias, on a fashionable (or funky) shopping street, or 'down under' in Underground City (the world's largest).
When night falls, celebrate the good life in Toronto's friendly cafes, or in a neighbourhood bar.
There is a lot to see and do in Toronto including the CN Tower, & Sky Dome mentioned below. There is also Ontario Place (a kind of entertainment park with IMAX theatre and various shows), Toronto zoo - situated in Scarbourough - , the Science centre and the theme park Canada's Wonderland which is not far from Toronto and a lot of fun!
Fondest memory: Probably the day we spent at Canada's wonderland. We had a fantastic time even though we didn't go on any of the big rollercoasters, there were plenty of other rides plus a couple of shows to enjoy. We really didn't want to leave at the end of the day!