Travel Bug in Toronto

Toronto, Canada


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I took a last-minute trip to Toronto from Saturday, May 24 to Monday, May 26, 1997. Special thanks to Mary, Paul, and the US Airways E-Savers program for their assistance in planning my trip.

Time. I would say you need at least 3 full days in Toronto. Include one day to travel to Niagara Falls (something I failed to do but intend to do next time).

Must-See Attractions:

I am not sure if everyone would rate these as the must-see tourist spots of Toronto, but they are the two areas of Toronto that I was most reluctant to leave:

  • Kensington Market--A diverse neighbhorhood of clothing stores, bakeries, butcher shops, grocery stores and much more. Start at the intersection of College and Augusta (west of Spadina) and head south. Say hello for me to the two Russian butchers selling veal schnitzel and beef turnovers. Or stop at shop or restaurant selling empanadas for a Latin American version of the turnover. Continue on to the Asian fruit and vegetable market. If you are there on the weekends, be sure to stop by El Buen Precio grocery store for a pupusa (a cornflour pancake filled with cheese or meat). Backtrack to Baldwin street for Trinidad food, fish, a Canadian bakery, and a few international cheese shops.
  • Toronto Islands--A sandbar between Toronto Harbor and Lake Ontario which has paths for bikes or rollerblades, beaches, an amusement park, a couple of restaurants, and a year-round residential area. The ferry from the Toronto harborfront (near the Westin hotel) takes only 15 minutes and costs $4 return (round-trip). I was lucky to be there early in the season when it was a little cool but also very serene. I can't guarantee the same for July and August. Still, it's worth checking out.

Other Major Attractions:

  • CN Tower--"The tallest free standing structure in the world" is hard to miss among the Toronto downtown skyscrapers. One adult admission costs $12.
  • Queen's Quay Terminal--A mall and outdoor shopping area on the Toronto waterfront (Queen's Quay W. between York and Bathurst).
  • Eaton Centre--One of the largest shopping malls in the city, anchored by Eaton's department store. Located at Younge and Dundas streets. After visiting Eaton Centre, be sure to go around the corner on Dundas to the World's Biggest Bookstore.
  • Chinatown--Located at Elizabeth and Dundas, and on Spadina north of Dundas.
  • Koreatown--On Bloor Street west of Bathurst.
  • The Danforth--Greek neighborhood on Danforth Street (subway stop: Pape).

Day Trips. Niagara Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world, is only two hours away from Toronto. I do not recommend trying to rent a car because the insurance is expensive and the two places I tried (Rent-A-Wreck and Budget) offer only 200KM free per day. VIA Rail has trains that run to Niagara, or you can take a bus tour for about $50-75. Ask at your hotel or check one of the links below for more information.

Food. There is something for everybody in Toronto, at reasonable prices. I've already raved about the food at Kensington Market, which was rock-bottom cheap--a veal schnitzel was $2, and doubles (a Trinidad chickpea fritter dish) was only $1. For the less adventurous set, there are several pizza places selling a slice of pizza and pop for $2. There are also many Indian, Sri Lankan, and Chinese restaurants. For Carribean dining, the Real Jerk on Queen Street East is highly recommended.

Lodging. I stayed at the Neill-Wycik College Hotel, downtown near the Ryerson Polytechnic School and around the corner from the Toronto HI hostel. It was a nice place with a great view of downtown and at $32 a night (with HI membership discount) for my own room it was a real bargain. I would stay there again. Note that Neill-Wycik is only open during the summer.

Language. Canada has two official languages, English and French. It is more common to hear English than French in Toronto, though signs and packages uses both languages. Even so, those coming to Canada from another English-speaking country should watch for slight differences in usage. For example, in Canada you say washroom rather than the restroom or toilet and return instead of round-trip. If you do not speak English or French, try the Foreign Languages for Travelers site.

Transportation. I flew into Toronto's Pearson International Airport. From there I took a Pacific Western bus to the Delta Chelsea hotel and caught a connector bus to the Neill-Wycik. Pacific Western runs directly to several hotels downtown for $12.50, and to the subway for $6-8. The city has a nice subway and streetcar system administered by the TTC. It costs $2 with free transfers from subway to streetcar (or streetcar to streetcar) and runs until 2 in the morning.

Nightlife. Most of the bars, pubs, and clubs are on Queen Street or King Street W. (subway stop: Osgoode). Pick up a copy of the free weekly Now for more information.

Related Links

Toronto Star--The Web site for a local newspaper.