Want the low-down on all the highs of a visit to Toronto, Canada’s most multi-cultural city? For all you urban explorers, culture vultures and foodies out there, here is the inside track on arguably the country’s best kept secret – TO (local slang for Toronto…).
Looking for some night-time culture?
Toronto (don’t pronounce the second ‘t’!) has an incredible live music scene with none of the entrance fees or queues that one usually finds in London or other European cities. Whether you are looking for a guitar jam session at the legendary ‘Horseshoe Tavern’ on Queen Street or a relaxed evening of jazz at the ‘Reservoir Lounge’ (the food is great too!) there is something to whet any music lover’s appetite. The Jazz Festival in June attracts world class performers and there is nothing like hanging out on one of the Wellington Street patios, downing local micro-brewery beers, listening to the beats from the nearby marquee in Nathan Phillips Square.
Possibly the best venue in town has to be down at the waterfront where the Harbourfront centre plays host to numerous indoor and outdoor events. Sitting in the open-air amphitheatre watching saxophonist Maceo Parker get the crowd on their feet or listening to the fabulous wilting tones of Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan with the sun setting over Lake Ontario ,sipping out of your carefully disguised ‘brown-bagged’ beer (there is a no alcohol in public policy – frequently abused) is one of summer’s highlights in TO.
Fancy whetting the taste buds?
For the WOW factor look beyond the disappointing and inevitably rather touristy ‘360’ restaurant atop the CN Tower and head to the 54th floor of the Wellington TD Tower and ‘Canoe’ restaurant and bar. Enjoy superb martinis whilst looking over Toronto Island and the bubble like roof of the Skydome before dining on an eclectic menu of shrimp tartar, foie gras and venison in black truffle sauce.
For the bar to end all bars check out the buzzing ‘Jump’ (under the same ownership as ‘Canoe’) in the downtown financial district. Floor to ceiling shelves filled with a mouthwatering selection of liquors greet you. Chinwag with the city slickers before moving onto the equally fabulous dining area for some out of this world seafood. The age-old ‘Bloor Street Diner’ is the place to head to for brunch offering the city’s best ‘Eggs Benedict’ along with a glass of ‘Morning Glory’ (or ‘Bucks Fizz’). For a lively evening of good old home-cooking and live music an eternally popular spot is ‘C’est What’ on Front Street – a traditional cellar bar with an electric atmosphere to boot. Plus they produce their own ‘Best of C’est What’ CD compilations – for once a really useful holiday souvenir.
For those looking for physical exertion in TO why not hop on a ferry from the waterfront and head to Toronto Island where you can walk for miles along traffic-free paths looking back to the stunning Toronto skyline. Or take a trip out to the Beaches area to the east of the city and go for a run, roller-blade or even roller-ski along the miles of boardwalk there. An hour or so away lies the iconic Niagara Falls – why not hire a bike and cycle from the inevitably rather touristy centre to the quaint settlement of Niagara-on-the-Lake – through endless picturesque vineyards producing surprisingly quaffable wine.
For the ultimate Canadian outdoor experience though you have to leave the city streets behind and take a 3 hour trip north to the stunning Algonquin Park – a haven of lakes, forests and hiking trails. Home to moose, bear, wolf and beaver you can walk, bike and canoe to your heart’s content or try portaging – carrying a canoe on your head between lakes and campsites. During winter you can also go dog-sledding or cross-country skiing here – or head back south to the Muskoka area and enjoy some downhill skiing at Ontario’s top ski resort, Blue Mountain – with none of the queues or lift pass prices of Courchevel.
See our Northeastern BLT trip
See our Northeastern Explorer trip
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