City Spotlight: Toronto

CN Tower in Toronto (www.cartantours.com)

CN Tower

I have been to Toronto at least once a year since the late 1970’s.  When I worked for Air Canada, it was multiple times a year.  So, what brought me to Toronto and why keep going back?  Well for one, it is one of the easiest cities to get around.  The subway or the streetcar will take you just about anywhere you’d like to go.  The underground shops and restaurants can have you walking from one end of town to the other without going outside or needing a coat in winter.  However, in summer I recommend being outdoors and enjoying the incredible architecture, parks, and local ethnic neighborhoods.  Toronto is an extremely eclectic city with a wide variety of things to see and do!

Given that I’ve been to Toronto so many times, I’ve put together a list of the best things to see and do while you are there:

1)    Hockey Hall of Fame: Located in what was previously a Bank of Montreal, this shrine to hockey is a MUST see, even if you are not a hockey fan (but I am!).

2)    CN Tower:  The tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere (1,815 feet), it offers great views of Toronto and the surrounding area.

3)    Toronto Island: Great views of the city with lovely parks and restaurants.  You can spend an entire day enjoying this exciting area

4)    Theater in Toronto:  Depending when you plan your stay, Toronto has an excellent theater district.  I have seen Tommy (My favorite – I’m a fan of The Who), Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and We Will Rock You just to name a few.

5)    Royal Ontario Museum or ROM:  This museum allows you to experience the influence of science and civilization on the earth and it’s cultures and how it is expected to change in the future.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Hockey Hall of Fame

Recently, I found myself walking south on York Street from Queen.  It was cold and most people were focused on getting to their destination and out of the elements quickly.  Suddenly the man in front of me asked, “Do you know which way to Front Street?” Both the woman ahead of him and I indicated that he was heading in the right direction, and then we had a good laugh at our simultaneous answer. When she discovered that someone from Chicago was giving directions in Toronto, it was even funnier, and sparked a nice conversation about why I knew my way around Toronto so well.

In a nutshell, that’s Toronto (and most of Canada for that matter)!  The people are incredibly friendly!  I told her how I had been visiting “her” great city for many years and that I have always loved traveling there.  I also reminisced about bringing my wife for her first visit to Toronto.  During that time too, I was asked for directions and helped out with ease.  My wife was shocked that I knew exactly where I was (and that I gave the correct information out!)

And while you are spending time in this great city, of course you’ll need to eat!  Here are a few of my favorite places:

1)     The Keg: There are multiple locations throughout Canada; although the Keg Mansion in Toronto is my favorite. They are known for their quality of steaks!

2)    Joe Badali’s:  A lively Italian restaurant with great food and atmosphere, it’s located just a few steps away from the Fairmont Royal York and the VIA RAIL station.

3)    Quinn’s:  A great Irish Bar and restaurant that you’ll want to visit again and again, it’s located inside the Sheraton Wall Centre.

4)    Real Sports Bar:  If you are looking for a sports bar atmosphere with great food – and a place that’s hopping during a game – look no further than Real Sports Bar.  Located across from the Air Canada Centre where the Maple Leafs play hockey and Raptors play basketball, it’s a fun time even when there isn’t a game in town!

5)    Street Carts and Food Trucks :  They can be found all over town.  The delightful aroma of sausages being grilled makes your mouth water! A variety of sausages and condiments to choose from for a quick bite.

Me with Mike O'Connor at Quinn's Irish Bar

Me with Mike O’Connor at Quinn’s Irish Bar

Toronto is getting ready to host the Pan Am games in July 2015.  There are so many projects going on right now to improve the city it’s impossible to list them all, but it certainly doesn’t take away from the charm of this great city.  One of the best improvements, in my opinion, will be a rail link from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Union Station, which will take only 25 minutes!

So what are you waiting for?  Come visit one of the most exciting cities in the world, Toronto!

Maybe we will meet on the street and I can help with directions – Warren