24 Hours in Toronto

Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest city, the 7th most populated city in North America, one of the world’s most liveable, multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting cities, and the place I’m proud to call home. This itinerary is perfect for you if you’re in Toronto for 24 hours or less, as it hits a mix of major tourist attractions and local hideouts for a comprehensive experience.

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Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest city, the 7th most populated city in North America, after Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston (man, those Americans know how to multiply!), one of the world’s most liveable, multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting cities, and the place I’m proud to call my home. It’s also the city that most other Canadians love to hate, but we’re not going to go into that here!

If you’re flying into other parts of Canada or the USA, I highly recommend that you take a few hours or even days in Toronto to go exploring. This itinerary is perfect for you if you’re in Toronto for 24 hours or less, as it hits a mix of major tourist attractions and local hideouts for a comprehensive experience.

When to Visit

Foliage in the autumn, turning orange-gold
In Ontario, autumn is the best time for viewing foliage in all colours of red, gold, and orange.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Toronto is late spring (April-May) or mid-fall (October). The summers here are quite hot and the winters can be frigid (my cousin calls our weather inhuman). In April and May, the weather tends on the warmer side of comfortable and the city is gearing up for the summer, which includes a bunch of food, music, and pride festivals. However, October comes with many advantages as well; the weather is cooler, the air smells beautiful, the leaves turn beautiful colours of red and gold, and there’ll be a bunch of Christmas fanatics excited about the holidays already. TIFF happens in September, so that’s the perfect time to visit if you’re a film buff, though flights and accommodations may be more expensive. Nuit Blanche happens on one night in early October so if you’re up for an incredibly exhausting intense 24 hour experience, this is your time. Pride, Caribana, and Taste of the Danforth, as well as numerous other festivals happen in the summer, so if food, music, pride, and fun are your thing, I would advise you to go then.

Related: How to save more, so you can travel more

Getting Around

Toronto commuters boarding a streetcar downtown
Toronto has a deep love-hate relationship with its transit system. Source: http://www.cp24.com/polopoly_fs/1.1212417.1420668025!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_960/image.jpg

Taking the TTC in Toronto is your best bet for getting around. It’s convenient and easy to learn, especially in the downtown core, where most of the exciting stuff happens. A day pass costs $12 but is only available on weekends and holidays. Single fares cost $3.25 for adults, $2 for students, and nothing for children 12 and under (I’m just gonna take a moment and express the collective displeasure of Toronto’s residents that free rides weren’t available when we were younger).

The city also offers an express train running between Pearson International Airport and Union Station (in the heart of downtown). It’s convenient but the price can be quite steep ($24 for an adult return ticket). If you want to do as the locals, take a TTC or GO bus from the airport to the subway. It’ll give you the genuine local experience of anger, frustration, and overall displeasure at the transit system.

The Itinerary

Morning

Rise and shine, wanderers! I love to get up bright and early, so that I have a head start on exploring. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, make sure to avoid setting out on the TTC between 8-9 in the morning on workdays. This is often when the subway and buses are clogged with people and backlogged with delays.

The interior of the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, filled with any food vendors
The St. Lawrence Market is a Toronto institution, and many still come here for its farmer’s market. Source: http://wpmedia.news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/st-lawrence-market4.jpg

Head to the St. Lawrence Market to grab breakfast. The building is gorgeous, both inside and out. The building was constructed in 1820, on the site of Market Square, where public markets were held since 1803. In 1831, the original wood building was torn down, and a brick building was constructed. That building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1849. The market was rebuilt two more times, in 1904 and 1968, so the moral of this story is that you should probably go see the market before it’s torn down and rebuilt again.

The Toronto Distillery District on a cloudy day, with buildings in the background and busy shoppers in the foreground
The Distillery District houses an incredible collection of Victorian style architecture. Source: http://cdn.narcity.com/toronto/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/07/distillme.jpg

Next, take a walk to the Distillery District. The Distillery District is home to the former Gooderham & Worts Distillery, once the largest distillery in the world, providing millions of gallons of whisky. Today, the booze is gone (darn!) but the Victorian architecture still remains. Many of the tenants in the distillery buildings are studios, art galleries, restaurants, and boutique shops, but there are also numerous events and festivals that happen almost every day in the area. The most well known of these is the Toronto Christmas Market. Don’t forget to snap a photo with your sweetheart under the heart-shaped arch!

Afternoon

A street corner in Kensington market, with a fruit stall in the foreground
Kensington Market is a quintessential hippie neighbourhood for Torontonians. Source: http://wvs.topleftpixel.com/photos/2006/01/kensington_market_st-andrew_corner_01.jpg

If you’re looking for a place to have lunch, check out Chinatown. Located along Spadina Avenue, a bit farther west than the downtown core, there’s a bunch of delicious ethnic restaurants for hungry travellers looking to relax and enjoy their meals. After lunch, consider checking out Kensington Market, just west of Spadina. It’s known (and sometimes bashed) for its hippy-dippy feel, but is also a favourite among locals. Food, postcards, potted plants, and healing crystals can all be found within the small stores that make up Kensington. If hippy-dippy doesn’t sound like your thing, why not check out a museum or art gallery (but not both at once!) You could easily spend whole months immersed in the art galleries and museums in Toronto, but for a visit of a few hours, I recommend heading further uptown to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). There’s nowhere better to spend a rainy afternoon, with some ancient Chinese pottery or Egyptian mummies. On a separate note, it’s really kind of cool (or depressing, depending on your point of view), knowing that your body just might become part of a museum exhibit in a couple thousand years.

The modern portion of the Royal Ontario Museum architecture
The ROM: quirky or eyesore? We’ll let you decide. Source: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/images/jpgs/toronto/royal_ontario_museum_daniellibeskind010507_7.jpg

For an afternoon snack, why not try eating at Tim Horton’s, the fast food chain synonymous with Canada? If it’s cold out, try out our local slang by asking for a double-double coffee, a coffee with two creams and two sugars. Alternately, if it’s warm out, get an ice capp (or iced cappucino, for you non-Canadians out there), so that you can drink a day’s worth of calories in 15 minutes! Timbits (donut holes) are another quintessential treat at Tim Horton’s.

The Toronto skyline as viewed from the ferry terminal on Centre Island
Centre Island is a great place to have some fun and have a gander at the Toronto skyline. Source: http://www.torontosnaps.com/p3/m/Toronto-Island-Park/Centre-Island-a-view-10011.jpg

In the late afternoon, go to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal downtown (a five minute walk from Union Station) and catch a ferry to Ward’s Island or Centre Island. You’ll notice that the CN Tower is conspicuously absent from this itinerary, and it’s because I just don’t think the tower is worth going up. You don’t get a sense of how beautiful the city is from the tower, the wait times are long, and it’s just a tourist trap. However, from the Islands, you get a great view of the Toronto skyline as the sun is setting, plus, who doesn’t like water and beaches? Make sure to check the ferry schedule so that you can pick the optimal time to go.

Evening

Two houses in the Annex, Toronto's historic neighbourhood
The Annex, one of Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods. Just look at those houses! Source: https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/bd/7f/a8/the-annex.jpg

Get your dinner in a mom and pop shop in one of TO’s neighbourhoods. My favourites are the Annex, perfect for people more interested in trendy food, and Koreatown, located around Bloor and Bathurst.

People clubbing at a live music event
Toronto has many different options for party animals. Source: https://studentwire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Clubbing-Anna-Omelchenko.jpg

Queen St. W. and Ossington are some of the currently hip places to go dancing or have a drink in the city. Though Toronto is a bastion of diversity, you can head to Church and Wellesley for a more historically LGBTQ+ experience. If partying isn’t your thing, try out a board game cafe. There are a bunch in the city, and they’re open pretty late.

Hopefully, with all these tips, you’ll be all set to have the best of times in Toronto! Let us know where you want to visit in Toronto in the comments below. Happy travels!

 

A good day in Toronto

Because it is now summer break and I can do things that don’t involve school, my friend and I met up downtown to wander around. Wandering is always a good idea.
We started at 10:30, with brunch at a location called Eggspectation. It’s a cute diner located right behind Old City Hall. The food is average but they do give you a lot of it for the money you pay. The service is great and the location is pretty nice.
After eating brunch, we wandered through Eaton. If you drop by Toronto, the Eaton Centre is a nice place to take a stroll but not to actually shop. It tends to be overpriced, even during the huge savings season that happens this time of year.
Heading west along Dundas, we saw a lot of major TO landmarks from a distance. The AGO is on the south side, there are restaurants on the north side, and we could see down the streets to the CN Tower, partially obscured by fog. We also wandered the southern part of Spadina, through Chinatown and the large dividers of green space down the middle of the street. Then, we went down into PATH, one of the nicest parts of underground TO. It was raining so we went mostly through PATH where we visited my two favourite places down there, Indigo and Papyrus, and from there, headed to Union Station.

Happy travelling!

-Chelsea

Guide: Toronto, Canada

Toronto is the capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. Its name was derived from the word tkaronto, meaning “place where trees stand in water” from the Iroquois, who inhabited the area before European arrival. It was established by the English as the town of York in 1793. York was sacked by the Americans during the war of 1812, which led to the Burning of Washington. Karma sucks, doesn’t it? In 1834, the town of York became the City of Toronto.

Today, the City of Toronto is a multicultural mosaic. There are several significant, distinct, and easily recognisable ethnic enclaves scattered around the city. Chinatown is located around Spadina and Dundas West. There are many restaurants, markets, and shops that add to the atmosphere of a unique blend of Chinese and Canadian cultures. Little India, on Gerrard Street East houses the Gerrard India Bazaar, the largest South Asian market in North America, selling a variety of imports like textiles and ingredients. Greektown, situated along Danforth Avenue, boasts a wide variety of Greek food from a selection of restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. Little Italy, between Euclid Avenue and Shaw Street along College, used to be all about Italian food, but now is a major center of bars and nightclubs as well. Koreatown, along Bloor Street, is mostly famed for its small eateries selling Korean specialties.

Toronto also plays host to a bunch of neighbourhoods that aren’t ethnically divided. The Annex, for example, is the student neighbourhood in and around the University of Toronto, with character, many cheap eats, and stores that sell used clothes, books, and bongs. Really, though, there’s a store that sells bongs. The Distillery District farther downtown was once the site of the largest distillery in the British Empire. Today, the neighbourhood showcases industrial architecture from the Victorian era. If you miss this neighbourhood, you’re missing out on a lot. The Beaches in East Toronto, as you can tell from its name, boasts four beaches: Balmy, Scarboro, Kew, and Woodbine, and the water is actually clean enough for you to swim in! Harbourfront, located along the shores of Lake Ontario, hosts many festivals and outdoor markets, especially in the summer. If you’re looking for dance performances, concerts, or readings, this is the place for you. Looking for vintage and unique? Look no farther than Kensington Market, which is not actually a market. Looking for an actual market? The St Lawrence Market, a Toronto landmark and the largest indoor market in the city, boasts 2 full floors of food and crafts.

Many famous landmarks in Toronto are also great for visiting. The CN Tower, standing at 553 meters, once the tallest building in the world, offers great views and great dining. If you’re feeling bold, try standing on the glass floor, or going on the EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), half traditional and half modern, is seen as an eyesore by some, but is the largest world culture and natural history museum in Canada. It does look pretty nice inside. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), is another exhibit that people are sure to enjoy. It’s warm and cozy inside, and though it doesn’t house artworks of the same magnitude as those in the Louvre, or in the Pablo Picasso museum, it makes for a pleasant viewing experience. Casa Loma, the childhood dream of Sir Henry Pellatt, sits atop a hill along Spadina. After his bankruptcy during WWI, the city turned the castle into a tourist attraction. Despite being the epitome of excess, the castle boasts majesty, charm, and mystery in the secret passageways and rumoured ghost sightings. Centre Island, by and far, is the nicest patch of almost green area near Toronto. A short ferry ride away, it has beaches, a splash pad, and a small amusement park. Exhibition Place is known for hosting the Ex every summer and less known for hosting smaller exhibitions, like the Home Show and the Flower Show year-round. Nathan Phillips Square, located in front of City Hall, is the site of many happenings, like Nuit Blanche exhibits, the Cavalcade of Lights at Christmas, and the outdoor skating rink in the winter.

Toronto also hosts many events around the year, which include the Cavalcade of Lights, Santa Claus Parade, and Christmas Market in the winter, Hot Docs, Doors Open, and the Pride Festival in the spring, Caribana, Luminato, and the Ex in the summer, and Nuit Blanche and TIFF in the fall. This year, you can even catch the Pan Am and Para Pan Am games in the summer!

It’s a common misconception that there’s nothing to see in Toronto. However, you would be missing out on so much if you thought that was true. Toronto is a world class cultural, business, and arts center that you definitely should visit in your lifetime.

Happy travelling!

-Chelsea

The 6 best places to watch Canada Day fireworks

Ottawa
Ottawa River, 10:00. Where better to celebrate our country than the capital? Arrive early if you want the best seats, at Jacques Cartier Park, Major’s Hill Park, Victoria Island, or just basically anywhere where you have a clear view out over the river.

Toronto
Ashbridges Bay Park, 9:30 PM. One of the most popular spots in Toronto to view Canada Day fireworks, because what beats lying on the beach, watching fireworks over the lake? Correct answer: nothing. Be sure to snag a good spot early on, because it fills up quickly.

Vancouver
Burrard Inlet, 10:30. This fireworks display will be simultaneously set off at two different barges, Coal Harbour and Dundarave. Over the Pacific Ocean too!

Niagara Falls
Niagara Parks, 10:00. Set against arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Canada, the Niagara Falls, these fireworks are spectacularly beautiful.

Halifax
Halifax Harbour, 10:00. Huge fireworks against the Halifax skyline, near the Atlantic Ocean. Enough said.

Calgary
Centre Street Bridge, 10:45. You can view these fireworks from anywhere along the Bow River. It’s synchronized to live radio music too! Man, I wish I could be there this year…

Keep in mind that all of these cities have many different Canada Day activities beforehand, if you want to check them out. Go show your patriotic Canadian spirit! Or, your unpatriotic Canadian spirit. Let’s face it, everybody wants to be Canadian.

Happy travelling!