This year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary so where better to celebrate the country’s sequential birthday than the thriving city of Toronto? Keya Modessa finds out there’s more to it than just beer and baseball…
There’s a buzz about Toronto that’s hard to resist. The city pulses with activity all year round. It’s vibrant, colourful, massively diverse and in a nutshell – fun. Through the years Toronto’s population has grown (mainly down to immigration) and is now Canada’s largest city. As a result, it boasts more than 200 different nationalities speaking over 140 languages. Brimming with museums, galleries and theatres, as well as top-notch restaurants, Toronto really is the place to be. Visit in summer when the city plays host to numerous festivals and unmissable outdoor events. During this season, snow boots are swapped for shorts and locals flock to their favourite hotspots to soak up the much-awaited sun and this summer there’s a host of activities taking place to help celebrate their big year.
Start off by heading to the top of the city’s landmark, CN Tower (cntower.ca). Standing tall at 1,815-ft the tower offers stunning views over Lake Ontario. Watch as the city buzzes underneath the glass floors. Thrill seekers can book tickets to the outdoor EdgeWalk (edgewalkcntower.ca) which is exactly what it says it is; walking along the edge of the tower strapped in with a harness. Dare you lean back? For those less inclined, book a table at 360 Restaurant and enjoy the views from inside.
Art aficionados will love the smorgasbord that’s on offer in the city’s thriving cultural hub. The Royal Ontario Museum or ROM, as it’s also known (rom.on.ca) is the largest museum in the country. From the outside, it looks like a giant crystal and is just as impressive inside. Filled with dinosaur bones from the famous fossil fields of Alberta as well as other exhibitions, the museum is Toronto’s answer to London’s Natural History Museum. The Art Gallery of Ontario (ago.net) is home to a collection of more than 80,000 works of art and over at the Bata Museum (batashoemuseum.ca) shoe-lovers can admire the largest collection of footwear, everything from ancient Egyptian sandals to Queen Victoria’s ballroom slippers.
Pass by the regenerated Distillery District (thedistillerydistrict.com) and mooch around some of the local boutiques housed in reclaimed 19th and 20th-century factories before sampling your way around 120 local artisan food stalls at the bustling food Mecca that is St Lawrence Market (stlawrencemarket.com). Don’t miss the pea meal bacon (Canadian back bacon) on a bun – a popular sandwich choice for locals. Next, hop on the 509 street car that’ll take you to the waterfront. This 46-kilometre lakefront is nestled along the shores of Lake Ontario. Throughout the summer you can expect a range of attractions and activities from beach volleyball, boat cruises there’s even a BMX park. Enjoy a drink on the lakeside patio or take a dip in busy Woodbine Beach or simply take a leisurely stroll.
If you fancy getting away from the bustle of the city, the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal will take you to the leafy surroundings of Toronto Island in a mere 15 minutes. You can enjoy a slower pace of life here and enjoy great views of the lake and the city skyline. Explore the island further on a bike, canoe, kayak or pedal boat all available to hire from the island.
In recent years Toronto has grown, no, rather burst to the forefront of North America’s foodie scene. Street food is big here and tasty and when you’re sightseeing, it’s the perfect thing to grab and go.
Bombay Street Food (www.bombaystreetfood.ca) is a pop-up that focuses on homemade Indian dishes but with a modern twist. Chicken frankie roti rolls, eggplant pav bhaji (sandwiches) and masala haddock are just some of the food on offer. Rasta Pasta (eatrastapasta.ca) combines Jamaican and Italian food and everything is homemade from the pasta right through to the jerk chicken marinade.
For something a bit more upmarket, book a table at Alo (alorestaurant.com). This restaurant offers a variety of tasting menus served in stylish, surroundings. Here, dinner can be a nine-course meal or more depending on what you pay – think Japanese sashimi, French foie gras or Dungeness crabmeat. It isn’t cheap but it’s worth it for the experience.
Hibiscus (hibiscuscafe.ca) is a cosy vegetarian eatery with a pretty outdoor patio, offering sweet and savoury crêpe, salads and more.
Meanwhile for drinks head to Baro (barotoronto.com) in the King West neighbourhood where you can sip on fancy drinks with edible petals all paired incredibly well with tasty bar food like empanadas, chorizo potatoes and more.
Cool down with a burnt toffee or orange cardamom ice cream at Bang Bang or try their tempting and massively indulgent ice cream cookie sandwiches.
The stylish Thompson Toronto (www.thompsonhotels.com) is slap bang in downtown. Rooms are spacious, warm and modern; think wooden floors, designer lamps and all. Take a dip in 40-foot infinity roof pool and sip on some cocktails before settling in for a spot of dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.
Sleep in a work of art at the Gladstone Hotel (www.gladstonehotel.com) located on trendy Queen St. West. Each of the 37 rooms has been designed by local artists so expect feature walls, antiques, neon lights or 1940’s furniture.
For the ultimate in luxury – we’re talking actual butler service – book a room at The Windsor Arms (www.windsorarmshotel.com). The hotel is in the affluent Yorkville neighbourhood and has hosted a bunch of Hollywood stars. Inside, all 28 rooms are suites and come with giant bathtubs, fluffy robes, Molton Brown toiletries and quirky touches including musical instruments which, yes, you’re encouraged to play.