Long before former Mayor Rob Ford made Toronto the darling of late night comedians, or Drake bathed it in an aura of international cool, Toronto was Toronto the Good. The biggest city in Canada, The6 (nicknamed for the last digit in the Toronto area code 416), is one of the safest, most livable cities in the world with a vibrant downtown core and one of the most multi-cultural populations on the planet. Every language on the planet can be overheard on the subway, every esoteric food delicacy can be procured at a corner market or found on the menu of a hidden gem restaurant.
Yonge Street, known as the longest street in the world, bisects Toronto into east and west and is the spine of the subway line. Bloor Street is the major east-west route of the subway line and divides the city into its north and south sections. Things are either north of Bloor or south of Bloor, west of Yonge or east of Yonge.
The subway is just one part of the TTC (Toronto Transit System) that includes multiple bus and streetcar routes to get Torontonians from one end of the city to the other. Compared to public transit systems in other major metropolitan areas, the TTC is slow, somewhat inefficient and relatively expensive. One ride will currently set you back $3.25, payable either by token (which can be purchased directly from the TTC at booths or at various corner stores) or by exact change — streetcar and bus drivers do not make change, so don’t try to pay with a $5 bill and expect money in return. On the upside, it’s safe and clean and will (eventually) get you where you need to go.
So what are you going to do with all your subway tokens and a few days in the 6?
If Toronto brings to mind only one thing, it’s probably the CN Tower. Once the tallest freestanding building in the world at 553.3 m or 1,815 ft, it has been recently eclipsed by the Burj Khalifa. One of the modern seven wonders of the world, the CN Tower attracts millions of visitors every year.
And they were all there the day we visited. Before stepping into the glass elevator that would, in 58 seconds take us up to the panoramic glass lookout 346m / 1,136 feet above the ground, we endured a 2-hour wait, with very little entertainment and no food or water to be had. Experience suggests purchasing a timed ticket rather than a general admission. Nevertheless, it’s a spectacular view from the top. Feeling brave? Step on the glass floor and see the Toronto Aquarium below or look into the open roof of the Rogers Centre (aka The Skydome).
Feeling flush? Take the Edgewalk around the edge of the skypod. You’ll need to be harnessed in, but for $225 (plus 13% tax), you can dangle off he edge of the world (or at least the Tower).
The weird thing is that because the CN Tower is such an iconic part of the Toronto city skyline, when you are looking out from the Tower on to the city, it’s actually hard to tell what city you’re looking at!
Wait, what? Toronto has a castle? Casa Loma, perched at the top of Spadina Road, this gothic revival style castle was build by Sir Henry Pellet over the course of three years (1911-1914), with the labour of 300 men and at a cost of $3.5 million, or about $8.4 million today. Complete with a secret passageway and an underground tunnel spanning about a kilometre, Casa Loma is worth a few hours’ distraction and transport to a bygone era.
From the ‘hood
Little Italy. Greektown. The Junction. Roncesvalles Village. Little India. The Annex. Bloor West Village. Chinatown. The Entertainment District. Parkdale. Cabbagetown. The Distillery District.
Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct flair and reason to visit. Unlike many cities, there are no areas that are “off limits”. Take some time to discover what makes various areas of the city unique. And don’t forget to eat something while you’re there!
On the Waterfront
Not just a 1950s movie starring Marlon Brando… Toronto hugs the shoreline of Lake Ontario (one of the five great lakes, and the 13th largest lake in the world) and should definitely be viewed from its waters.
There are a number of boat cruises to choose from, we took a 2 hour sail on the Tall Ship Kajama. Discounted tickets cost $18 each. — take a jacket, as it gets nippy on the water.
You can also get really, really close to the jets landing at the Toronto Island Airport. In fact, it looks like one might just land on the ship’s deck.
Brews in the City
Patios and rooftop bars make Toronto an excellent place to try out the myrid of craft beers that are on offer. When Toronto finally shrugs off its collective parka, the streets and sidewalks come alive with cafes and bars. Hearty folk, Torontonians don’t venture back inside until late in the fall, thanks to patio heaters and a desire to eek every bit of street gazing and people watching out of the season.
Of course, this is just the tip of the proverbial ice burg. There are as many things to do in the city as there are people who live in it. From festivals and events, to galleries and restaurants, there are things to do for all ages, persuasions and pursuits.
You’ll find more things to do and see than you ever have time or money for.