With the launch of the new Aer Lingus all year route and Air Canada’s summer route to Toronto coming up, getting to one of my favorite cities, Toronto, is now even easier which makes me very happy. There are so many reasons I love Toronto – I’ve been many many times for work, my husband’s work, leisure, to see family that live there. There’s so much to do, like all good North American cities, you can shop, shop and shop some more but Toronto also has some fantastic restaurants, bars and cafes. Just over an hours drive out of Toronto and you are surrounded by vines and vineyards… and this ability to combine a great city break with a relaxing holiday is really what does it for me when it comes to Toronto.
So after many years of travelling there here are my favourite things…from hotels to restaurants to things to see and do…starting with the city itself – Toronto.
Hotels & Getting Around…in Toronto
When staying in Toronto, we tend to stay downtown in The Sheraton – ideally placed, short walk to the Eaton Centre (more on this later!) and lots of place to eat, drink and explore nearby. The rooms are also great often with wonderful views across the city, down to the lake and on the other side back to midtown.
The Fairmont Royal York is another great hotel in the downtown area, with lots of history, the hotel is located directly in front of Union Station, handy for onward travel in Canada. When we stayed here, we had first been in Montreal and took the train into Toronto – so handy to get off the train and you are at your hotel. There’s also car hire places conveniently located here, so you can have your few days in Toronto and then hire a car to travel out of the city.
There are so many options for places to stay, from luxury to boutique to independent hotels, guesthouses and apartments. The transport network with the subway makes it easy to get around. There’s also a streetcar (tram) and buses, along with plentiful taxis. Toronto is also an easy city to drive in, mostly we tend to have a car from the airport and its no problem finding your way around the city in a car.
Eating & Drinking … in Toronto
I’ll start with a really good one, Canoe – located at the top of the TD Tower. Canoe is one of Oliver & Bonacini’s restaurants.Oliver & Bonacini are Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini who first joined together in 1993 to open Jump on Bay Street growing to be 11 restaurants across Ontario. You can read more about them here. Back to Canoe… on the 54th floor of the TD Tower, it has incredible views but more than that incredible food and wine with really great unpretentious staff despite the fine dining feel of Canoe. The focus is on Canadian cuisine and quality ingredients creating quite stunning dishes. It was definitely the highlight of that visit to Toronto and I’d go back to Canoe in a heartbeat.
For casual dining, Milestones Grill & Bar is perfect; Milestones is a chain type of restaurant but don’t let that put you off. We particularly like the one on Dundas Square – it’s on a higher floor with a lovely terrace which you can sit out on to eat when the weather is fine. In fact we have sat out here for lunch in early November as it was warm! A great lunch spot…
The Keg Steakhouse & Bar – a great one if you’re staying in The Sheraton as it’s across the road. Avoid on Friday evenings – jam packed with the after work crowd! Another place worth a stop into though for steak, a cocktail and the like.
Here’s a quirky one – Allens… you will need to find your way out of downtown though and to the Danforth. In theory it’s an Irish bar but not really as you know it – it’s a restaurant with really really good food and a fab patio at the back for those warm summer days – it’s one of our favourites and we go at least once every visit!
The Distillery District – this kind of belongs in this section and also in the ‘things to do’ in Toronto one… Not so long ago, maybe just over 20 years ago, this area was a collection of derelict victorian industrial buildings falling into ruin until it was revived with a plan to attract people with design, food, and style. And so the 47 buildings that make up this district were included in a restoration plan and work began. It opened in 2003, and now you will find galleries, shops, restaurants, bars side by side – a wonderful place to while away a few hours on an afternoon. We’ve enjoyed food and drinks at the Mill Street Brewery – think nachos, burgers – that type of menu! There’s a lot of choice though so go explore and find what you want.
Bymark at the Toronto Dominion centre is another good one to remember – really great cocktails and good food, what more could you want of an evening!
Toronto also has a fab ethnic food scene with vietnamese, chinese, thai and japanese cuisine all well represented along with Greektown and little Italy – unfortunately I can’t recall the names of the places we have eaten before, often stumbling upon them rather than planning a visit. Whatever type of food you are craving you will find it somewhere here.
Things to See and Do… in Toronto
Take a trip to Toronto Island – you can take a short ferry ride across the lake to Toronto Island. Great way to spend a morning in the sun, wandering around, coffee, ice-cream, hire a bike and potter around the island. You can pick up a return ferry ticket for around $7 – there’s lots for kids and families to do here and for the views back to Toronto alone, worth it!
Visit the Royal Ontario Museum – a pretty spectacular building with exhibitions, galleries and centres of discovery exploring different topics like ancient cultures, space, art and so on. Ticket prices can vary according to what you want to see but in and around $20 per adult.
Go to a Game! Toronto’s MLB (baseball) team are the Blue Jays and it is absolutely worth getting tickets to a game if you’re there when they are on. The Blue Jays play at the Rogers Centre – there’s tickets at all price points, we actually booked a table at Sightlines Restaurant – open air, views directly onto the field, glass of wine while you’re watching – my kind of way to watch sport live!
CARS! As anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I’m a big motorsport fan! And I’ve been to the Indy race in Toronto a couple of times. It’s normally in July and is great fun, if you’re into fast cars on a street track – you can find out more on the Honda Indy Toronto site. This is definitely on our list to go back to, Indy is great to watch live, so much action and you get brilliant insight into the pit stops from the seats. This year as well there are 2 races, one on the Saturday and one on Sunday which makes it brilliant value weekend.The track runs around the harbour are in Toronto, a perfect backdrop for a race.
The CN Tower – I couldn’t really leave this one off but to be honest not my favourite! Yes the views are good, and definitely go up for a look if you’re visiting – I’ve done it, wouldn’t bother doing it again really… also went to the restaurant there – do not, I repeat, do not eat there – it’s fine but there are a zillion better places to eat in Toronto! And for views there’s plenty other restaurants and hotels with nice elevated locations too that you can enjoy!
Visit The Beaches – this is a neighbourhood of Toronto, on the east side. Cute shops and cafes along Queen Street East and the boardwalk running along the beach itself. We would normally drive out and park somewhere nearby, however you can also take the streetcar which runs along Queen Street. Its a nice place to spend a couple of hours, particularly if the weather is good – in fact if the sun is out you could spend the day in this area.
As mentioned earlier in this post – The Eaton Centre – is not to be missed if you like shopping. It’s huge, I mean ginormous! 230 shops and restaurants – I recommend allocating a decent amount of time for this. I don’t need to go into the details here – it has every shop you can think of!
Holt Renfrew – this is a department store, which is quite similar to Brown Thomas in Ireland but still worth a visit. There’s a few Hold Renfrew’s around the city – including on Bloor Street. Typical department store – all the usual designers and normally very good sales! We also visit another Holt Renfrew which is in Yorkdale…
Yorkdale Shopping Centre – if you have a car head out Yorkdale way – big modern shopping centre, easy to get to and lots of parking. Some nice restaurant & eating options here along with lots of shops you will want to visit.
And then there’s all the independent shops and stores in the city and suburbs which you will come across as you travel around.
I’m trying to be somewhat brief and include the things we love and like to do in Toronto – I know I’m leaving LOTS out!
So then it’s time to leave Toronto and head to wine country… hire your car and get on the QEW, vineyards await!, along with the Falls and great restaurants and wine… did I mention the wine… all in the next blog post as if I were to start that here this would be a VERY long post!
Here’s a sneak peek of the next post…