By: Nicole Pensiero
There is something to be said about the ease of traveling outside of the country without having to cross an ocean. That’s why we looked north, to Canada, and its largest city, Toronto, for a recent getaway.
North America’s fourth largest city, Toronto has plenty to see and do year-round, and draws some 27.5 million visitors each year. This affordable, multicultural city was great for a four-day getaway, offering great meals, fun activities and lasting memories.
After an easy, direct flight from Philadelphia (less than 1.5 hours), we arrived at our hotel, the Cambridge Suites, via the modern and inexpensive UP Express. We checked in to this centrally located hotel, and immediately set off by foot for the city’s most famous attraction, the CN Tower.
Opened in 1976, the 1,815 foot tall CN Tower held the record for the world’s tallest freestanding structure for more than 30 years and remains remains the tallest freestanding structure on land in the Western Hemisphere. The signature icon of Toronto’s skyline, the CN Tower attracts more than two million visitors annually and houses several observation decks, a revolving restaurant, and an entertainment complex. From the sweeping views it provides, you get a sense of how big Toronto truly is.
There are many things worth doing and seeing in this fabulous city:
- The Royal Ontario Museum features world culture and national history, and is the most visited museum in all of Canada. Don’t miss the four massive totem poles. (Acquired in the 1920s, the poles could not be put on display until a museum expansion in 1933, when the building was constructed around them). Hockey fans will want to check out the Hockey Hall of Fame, housed in an 1885 bank building that was lovingly restored in the early 1990s. It houses artifacts, statistics, and hockey’s Holy Grail – the Stanley Cup. The beautiful Casa Loma is another popular attraction. A Gothic Revival castle-styled mansion and garden, it was built between 1911-1914 as a private home.
- Fun for grownups and kids alike, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, located next to the CN Tower, is worth a visit. Opened in late 2013, visitors can get a good look at more than 15,000 sea and freshwater creatures here. There’s even a jazz night, the second Friday of each month, included with admission. Another great attraction for families is the Centreville Amusement Park, located on Toronto Island Park. One of the city’s small offshore islands, it is reachable by ferry and is also home to beaches, gardens, boating activities and hiking trails.
- Toronto has a thriving theater district and the big onstage buzz currently is for Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, which opened in July at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Featuring an all-Canadian cast, it is being billed as the biggest theatre production in the city’s history. There are many other upcoming shows in Toronto worth checking out (Hamilton hits town in early 2023).
- There is great shopping in Toronto, especially at two key locations, Hudson Bay and the blocks-long, four-story tall Eaton Centre. For a more “down home” experience, don’t miss the historic St. Lawrence Market. From flowers to produce to a delicious, inexpensive lunch, this massive market has something for everyone – and all at great prices, too. On the walk there, don’t miss the whimsical Berczy Park Dog Statute, which pays homage to Man’s Best Friend.
- Toronto, like most major cities, has many great neighborhoods worth exploring. If you are interested in funky-chic shops and food markets, check out Kensington. There’s also Chinatown and Greektown (also known as the Danforth), along with the Distillery District, which has been transformed into to a hub of charming shops and restaurants.
We had many great meals during our stay, our favorite being Sap, billed as “Canadian Comfort Food.” We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we ate here twice. Sap also offers a popular weekend brunch. Another culinary highlight of our visit was an elegant lunch at Eataly’s Trattoria Milano at the popular Manulife Centre, a shopping and dining hub. It is a unique and memorable experience to enjoy a meal here. For breakfast, we made it easy, enjoying a quick, tasty meal most mornings at the Sunset Grill. The go-to place for coffee and donuts, however, is Tim Hortons. The Dunkin’ of Canada (but better); there are more than 150 locations in downtown Toronto alone. There are some “Tim’s” in the U.S., including one in South Jersey (Stratford).
Toronto is a less-than 90-minute drive to Niagara Falls, which is a great add-on to a visit here. (On a clear day, you can sometimes spot the falls from the CN Tower). No matter when you come to Toronto, a great time is guaranteed.
For more information visit www.destinationtoronto.com
Nicole Pensiero is a South Jersey-based freelance writer and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. You can follow her on Twitter at @NicoleWrytr
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