Regardless of your budget, this guide will show you how to experience and enjoy Toronto, one of North America’s most vibrant and dynamic cities
Contrary to popular belief, Canada’s largest city, Toronto, has more to offer tourists than just the famous CN Tower or nearby Niagara Falls. Liberal, laid back and lively, it truly has something for everyone.
What to do
If the sun’s out then take a tram east on Queen Street to The Beaches. There you will where you will find clean sands set against the clear blue waters of Lake Ontario. Those that want to expend some energy after sunbathing can play volleyball on the beaches’ courts or make use of the area’s attractive walking and cycling routes.
With a theatre culture second only to New York's in North America, you ought to do some research into what productions will be showing at Toronto’s 12 theatres during your trip (www.showmetoronto.com/toronto_theatres.htm).
Art lovers and history enthusiasts should go to The Royal Ontario Museum (www.rom.on.ca) at 100 Queens Park on a Friday between 4.30pm and 9.30pm for discounted tickets at $11 for adults and $9.50 for concessions. Additionally, it’s worth visiting The Bata Shoe Museum (www.batashoemuseum.ca) at 327 Bloor Street West for its surprisingly fun and quirky exhibitions.
If you like to shop ‘til you drop then you’ll find yourself in retail heaven in downtown Toronto. Weave your way through Queen Street West’s trendy boutiques and vintage shops. Then wander down to Yonge Street where you will find the colossal Eaton Centre. The sheer enormity of this world-class shopping mall may intimidate you at first, but it’s open until 9pm so take your time and don’t put too much stress on the credit card!
For a fun day trip, journey out on one of the ferries that leave the foot of Bay Street every half hour. Your ferry will take you to Toronto Island Park for return fares of $6.50 for adults and $3 for children. Island Park offers secluded stretches of beach (watch out for the nudist area if you’re with the kids!), a children’s fairground and petting zoo, bicycle and rollerblade hire, an award-winning golf course, and scenic walks. The catering facilities leave a little to be desired, so it’s best to go armed with a picnic. You may want to take an evening picnic, as the park’s northern shores offer perfect spots for watching the sunset over the city’s striking skyline.
Dining, Drinking and Dancing
Toronto is first rate for diverse restaurants and bars. Go to College Street, the location of the city’s Little Italy, for high quality cocktails and Mediterranean cuisine. Meander down Spadina Avenue for Korean barbeque, delightfully tacky karaoke bars and plenty of authentic Chinese food in the city’s large Chinatown. Vegetarian and health-conscious diners should visit The Magic Oven (6 Wellesley Street West) for its deliciously innovative veggie menu. King Street West has emerged as a fashionable strip in recent years for more expensive and refined eateries. Alternatively, go to Bloor Street West for food at more savoury prices. I'd particularly recommend Simply Thai (2253), New Generation Sushi (493) and the gastro-cuisine at Insomnia (563). Afterwards, you may want to pop to The Green Room (296 Brunswick Avenue, off Bloor West), a bar popular with a bohemian crowd for its affordable menu and avant-garde atmosphere. Futures Bakery (483 Bloor Street West) is famed among locals, and justifiably so. It is an absolute must for brunches or a cup of tea/coffee with a slice of one the delectable cakes on offer.
In terms of clubbing, the city boasts a plethora of choice. If all you require for a good night out is cheap beer, merry crowds and unpretentious surroundings, then head to the alternative music venue Dance Cave (529 Bloor Street West).
The city’s gay village, found on Church and Wellesley, promises an enjoyable night out for anyone. Start off with drinks in the friendly atmosphere of Crews (508 Church Street) before moving on to The Barn (418 Church Street) for a fun night dancing into the small hours.
Circa (126 John Street) should be at the top of any serious clubber’s list. Brought to you by the former owner of NYC’s famous Studio 54, party powerhouse Circa combines four clubs in one. You needn’t worry about getting lost as there are 2-4 bars on every floor. You will even find bar areas in the toilets! A spectacle to the eyes and ears, Circa is well worth experiencing for the $15 entrance fee.
Where to Stay
For those that can afford to sleep in style, The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) is a good option. The Residence College Hotel (90 Gerrard Street West) is a more budget-friendly option for travellers who expect some comfort. Those visiting Toronto on a shoestring should definitely check into All Days Guest House (572 Sherbourne Street) which is clean and centrally located.