Difference between revisions of "Toronto"
Revision as of 17:43, 20 August 2010
Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth most populous municipality in North America. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which contains 6.2 million people, and is part of a larger combined region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe, totalling over 8.1 million residents making up approximately 25% of Canada's population. The city began as a backwoods, English trading post in 1793, but has grown to be the cultural and economic focus of English Canada. Owing largely to the country's liberal immigration policies of the 1960's, and the region's strong economy, Toronto has, in recent decades, been transformed into one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world. More than 80 ethnic communities are represented, and over half of the city's residents were born outside Canada.
When Metropolitan Toronto amalgamated its six internal cities into one in 1998, it created a new "mega-city" known simply as Toronto. Covering more than 600 square kilometres, Toronto stretches some 32 kilometres along the shores of Lake Ontario, and includes a dense, urban core surrounded by a ring of suburbs. The city is laid out on a very straightforward grid pattern and streets rarely deviate from the grid, except if there's a significant landmark in the way. As such, it is extremely easy to navigate. Many of the city's districts and neighbourhoods are named after the intersections in the street grid upon which they are centred (e.g., Church and Wellesley, Yonge and Eglinton, Jane and Finch).
Psychologically, most Torontonians view the city from an east/west dichotomy, with Yonge Street (pronounced Young) being the dividing line. The "old" city of Toronto (before it was merged into the larger mega-city) is the dense, urban core of the city. Downtown Toronto is the heart of this urban core, with Yonge Street running almost directly in the middle of this district. Immediately north of Downtown is Midtown, the city's first streetcar suburb. The West End is generally considered to be everything west of Bathurst St., while the East End is generally viewed as areas to the east of Jarvis St., but sometimes east of the Don River.
From there, the city's suburban districts (which were once independent cities, themselves) — Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough — extend outward to the city's outer boundaries. While there are pockets of density in these districts, they tend to more resemble your typical, older, post-war North American suburb.
Bordered by Front St. to the south, Dupont St. to the north, Bathurst St. to the west and Jarvis St. to the east. This area contains many of the tourist attractions and amenities the city has to offer, this area is commonly referred to by Torontonians as the "Downtown Core" or more simply just as "the core".
The Southernmost part of the district includes the busy downtown financial district with its banks and institutions fuelling the city's financial engine, including Canada's largest stock exchange (and North America's third largest), the TSX.
To the southeast, there is the bustling and impressive St. Lawrence Market at Jarvis St. and King St, a must-see attraction for any visitor to the city willing to visit during its peak hours on a Saturday morning. Further west contains one of the largest nightlife districts in North America, bordered by Simcoe St. to the east, Queen St. to the north, Bathurst to the west and King St. to the south.
The theatre district is also largely based in Central Toronto, along King St. with the Princess of Wales Theatre, Royal Alexandra Theatre and Roy Thompson Hall located within the same block. Furthermore, the city's opera house (The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts) is also near this area at the corner of University Ave. and Queen St., hosting both the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. Other major theatres in central Toronto include the Sony Centre, Panasonic Theatre and the Canon Theatre. Visit during the first two weeks of July to experience the Toronto Fringe Festival consisting of over 150 plays, dance productions and other performing arts fare, all located within or near to the Annex.
Toronto's most important shopping districts are also located here: Toronto's largest downtown shopping centre, The Eaton Centre; The varied offerings of Yonge St.; The trendy, youthful boutiques of Queen West; and the upscale boutiques of Bloor St. West and Yorkville. Central Toronto also contains Toronto's most important sporting venues, including the Air Canada Centre & the Rogers Centre.
In addition to these varied attractions, central Toronto is also the academic and scholastic heart of the city, with the massive St. George campus of the University of Toronto taking up a large chunk of the northwest portion of this district. The heart of the university-oriented neighbourhood of the Annex also runs along Bloor St. West from Spadina Ave. to just west of Bathurst St., where a multitude of restaurants, bars & lounges, book stores, and other shops are located. Toronto's highest concentration of bookstores are located in the Annex, with dozens of eclectic choices to be found on Harbord St., Bloor St., Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.
North America's second-largest Chinatown is on Spadina Ave., between Queen St. West and College St., with several cross-streets like Dundas St. radiating outwards from Dundas and Spadina, and containing many Chinese and East Asian restaurants, shops and businesses.
Adjacent to Chinatown is Kensington Market, one of the most eclectic and unique locations in the entire city. Everything from fresh food markets to restaurants and bars, vintage clothing boutiques, spice markets, and music shops are all contained in two small north-south streets and a handful of cross-streets.
Home to some of Toronto's most expensive shops and restaurants, Yorkville is Hollywood North's home away from home and the focal point of the Toronto International Film Festival, which rivals Cannes as the most important film festival in the world.
Toronto's medical research community also finds its home on University Ave., where many of the city's best hospitals can be found. The world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children is located here, as well as other world-renowned institutions such as Toronto General (Heart), Princess Margaret (Cancer), Mt. Sinai (Obstetrics), and the nearby administrative headquarters of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Central Toronto is also home to a thriving gay community, based mainly in and around Church St., between Carlton St. and Bloor St.. The Gay Village, as its known, has been an important facet of Toronto life for many years, and is a must-see destination for any visitor to the city, homosexual or otherwise.
Central Toronto is also home to the newly renovated Royal Ontario Museum with its striking, controversial Libeskind Crystal, and Frank Gehry's beautiful, sublime renovation of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Each of these sites are world-class institutions with permanent installations to rival the best museums and galleries in the world, and also attract many touring exhibitions from museums and galleries from all over the world.
Divided into two distinct sections, East Toronto includes the East Downtown and the East End, across the Don Valley from downtown.
East Downtown: Roughly bordered by Jarvis St. in the West, the Don Valley in the East, Bloor St. to the North and Lake Ontario to the south. One of the city's oldest neighbourhoods, the East downtown is a tremendously varied area that contains some of the poorest and wealthiest enclaves in the city.
In the south, the Portlands contain Toronto's industrial core, and are also home to the Distillery District, a refurbished 19th century distillery that used to be a prominent location for film shoots and is now home to a number of restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, and bars.
To the north, a largely residential area contains some of Toronto's oldest Victorian townhouses and rowhouses, as well as a variety of shops and businesses along King St., Richmond St., Adelaide St., and Queen St, including a multitude of antique shops and high-end furniture shops. North of Queen St., some of Toronto's oldest housing projects can be found, including Moss Park and Regent Park, which is currently in the process of being demolished and rebuilt into mixed-use / mixed-income housing. In the streets surrounding these housing projects, one can find million-dollar Victorians on the same block as group homes, rooming houses, and homeless shelters. Many of the city's outreach programs and institutions are located in the east downtown, which attracts a large transient population to the area. The area can often present striking contrasts, with charming, tree-lined residential streets opening up to poverty-stricken avenues where conspicuous homelessness and drug use is prevalent. Along Jarvis St., and Sherbourne, some of Toronto's old Victorian mansions can still be found, if not visited. At Sherbourne and Wellesley is the massive low-income housing complex, St. Jamestown, home to an extremely varied population of recent immigrants from all over the world. Adjacent to St. Jamestown is the neighbourhood of Cabbagetown, with its restored hundred-year-old Victorians and quiet, tree-lined streets. Over thelast century, sections of this neighbourhood has gone from been one of the poorest in Canada to the one of toniest, with soaring real estate proces, particularly in the last two decades. Cabbagetown's main commercial thoroughfare is Parliament, which becomes quite vibrant north of Carlton, with a variety of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores.
East End: Made up of Riverdale, Leslieville, East York & the Beaches. The East end is a varied, vibrant part of town. Largely residential, the East end is defined by its major thoroughfares (Queen St. E, Dundas St., E, Gerrard St. E, the Danforth), where the majority of the attractions are located, and the residential streets where most of the neighbourhood's residents live. These residential streets are quiet and shaded by old oaks and maples, and contain old homes and townhouses of an astonishing variety of architectural styles. Embedded within these residential streets are a number of large parks, including Riverdale Park, with its breathtaking view of the skyline, Withrow Park, Greenwood Park, Jimmie Simpson Park, Kew Gardens, Beaches Park, and countless smaller neighbourhood parks.
Two of the highlights of the East End are the Danforth, which is the heart of Greektown, the largest Greek neighbourhood in North America, and Queen East with its diverse offerings. Greektown stretches from Broadview Ave. to Donlands Ave., and is full of Greek restaurants and businesses, as well as bars, cafes, and retail shops. Because the subway runs along Danforth, there is a substantial population in the area as well as a steady stream of non-residents who visit the neighbourhood's shops and restaurants, making it a busy, bustling, vibrant place, especially on weekends and during the summer, when the Tastes of the Danforth festival brings over one million participants to the neighbourhood over two days in August.
The other major highlight of the East End is Queen East, which stretches for many blocks from Broadview all the way to Neville Park, this stretch passes through the neibourhoods of South Riverdale over to Leslieville. Along the western portion of Queen East, an enormous revitalization effort has been under way, transforming an area that was once known for little more than its booze-cans, cheap diners, and tacky furniture shops into one of the hippest up-and-coming areas in the city. A plethora of new restaurants, eateries, bars, bakeries and shops have made this a real gastronomic destination, and since it has been the centre of Toronto's film industry for years, the Queen East has finally reached a tipping point, drawing in hip, young, upwardly mobile people from all over the GTA, transforming the area from a low-rent backwater into a trendsetter reminiscent of Queen West in the early 90's.
If you venture further east on Queen, past Woodbine, the long-established Beaches neighbourhood attracts thousands of visitors during the summer, who dine and drink in its restaurants and bars, walk the boardwalk by the lake, sunbathe on the sand beach, bring the kids to the park at Kew Gardens, or walk around the residential streets with their unique homes and laid-back atmosphere. Of course, these are not the only attractions the East End has to offer: there's also 'Chinatown East along Gerrard @ Broadview, a smaller, quieter version of Spadina's Chinatown with many fresh food markets and restaurants; the Little India neighbourhood on Gerrard between Greenwood and Woodbine is especially lively in the summertime when South Asians from all over the GTA descend on the neighbourhood to catch a Bollywood flick at one of the only Bollywood movie theatres in the city, enjoy barbecued corn on the street, chew paan purchased from one of the specialized vendors, browse the many shops, jewelry stores, and sari boutiques, or eat in one of a number of South Asian restaurants.
Perhaps the largest portion of the city, this includes dozens of neighbourhoods, and can be divided into two separate areas for the purpose of this guide: South of Dupont St., which includes some of the city's most vibrant inner-city neighbourhoods; and the area between Dupont and the 401, which includes many unique residential neighbourhoods and some of Toronto's best-hidden gems.
South of Dupont St.: This geographical area covers a large chunk of the city, including essentially everything from Lakeshore Blvd. in the south, up to the Dupont St. in the north, and from Bathurst St. in the east all the way to Jane St. in the west. Because it is such a large area, there are many neighbourhoods contained in its boundaries, and dozens more attractions contained within each of these individual neighbourhoods. Starting in the west, at the southern end of the district is Liberty Village and Queen St. West to the north. These two areas have become the epicentre of young, hip Toronto, and include many of the city's hottest bars, lounges and cafes, including the famous Drake Hotel. In addition to the youth-oriented shops and boutiques along Queen West, there are also a number of galleries, particularly in Liberty Village, the once derelict industrial area that has recently been revitalized and turned into lofts, home to many of Toronto's young artists and musicians. North of Queen West and Liberty Village is Little Portugal, centred on Dundas St. West and College St. west of Ossington. While the name of the neighbourhood is pretty self-explanatory, some of Toronto's finest Victorians can be found on the north-south residential streets that stretch from Queen St. to Bloor St., including many historic properties. The main thoroughfares are lined with many Portuguese businesses, though the neighbourhood caters to many ethnicities and is one of the most diverse in the downtown area.
College St. between Bathurst and Ossington is one of two Italian neighbourhoods in the West End, and is the older and more established of the two. Even though many of the original Italian residents have left for the suburbs, College St. remains one of the West End's most vibrant areas, and is one of the most popular nightlife hot-spots outside the entertainment district. Dozens of trendy bars, nightclubs and lounges line College, along with all kinds of restaurants and cafes, as well as bakeries, delis, and retail shops many of which maintain a decidedly Italian flavor. The residential neighbourhood around College is extremely popular with renters and homeowners, and densely packed with homes, townhouses, and old walk-up apartments.
North of College is a decidedly anonymous stretch of Harbord that is an extension of the Little Portugal neighbourhood which continues up to Bloor St. West, which morphs from Little Korea west of the Annex, to a hodge-podge of ethnic eateries and businesses between Christie and Dufferin. West of Dufferin, Bloor St. runs through the working-class neighbourhood of Junction Triangle, which is undergoing a much-needed revitalization as derelict industrial buildings are converted in loft, studios, and residential units. The dense residential neighbourhood that makes up the Junction Triangle has a strong Portuguese character, and is home to a high rate of rental units.
Where Dundas crosses Bloor just west of Lansdowne, it snakes north and becomes the Junction proper, an old blue collar neighbourhood with a conservative history and a slew of historic old buildings lining its main thoroughfare. The Junction was a dry neighbourhood up until a few years ago, which has kept many young people from moving to the neighbourhood, and prevented the neighbourhood from undergoing the rapid development and change other west-end neighbourhoods have experienced as older residents move out and make way for newer ones. As a result, the Junction has a unique character that distinguishes it from other Toronto neighbourhoods.
Bloor St. west of Dundas, on the other hand, is the upscale neighbourhood of High Park. High Park is both Toronto's largest park and a residential neighbourhood with two major thoroughfares: Bloor St. & Annette St. West of High Park between Runnymede and Jane is Bloor West Village, an upscale, family neighbourhood with an eclectic variety of bars, eateries, shops and cafes. Bloor St. and Annette are the major thoroughfares, though Bloor St. is busier and more established because the subway passes through. Markland Wood  is the most western residential community along Bloor St. and Toronto.
To the south, Dufferin marks the eastern boundary of Parkdale, an older residential neighbourhood in Toronto's southwest end. Although Parkdale is often associated with urban blight and social problems, it is actually home to some of the city's most stunning Victorian homes. Furthermore, as renters are priced out of locations further east, Queen West seems to push further and further west along with the young hipsters who fuel it. Parkdale is now home to many art galleries, furniture boutiques, trendy lounges, and antique stores along King St. and Queen St. W. The western border of Parkdale, Roncesvalles, is a street with a long history that has recently shed its quaint Eastern European character and adopted a more modern, sophisticated flavor, complete with jazz bars, trendy restaurants, bakeries, and the many gorgeous residential streets lined with stately Victorian homes that surround it. Roncesvalles also combines ground-level businesses with multi-story apartments on top, creating a dense streetscape that is busy and bustling during the summer months and is conveniently located steps from High Park.
This area covers the enormous swath of land north of downtown Toronto. The region includes Toronto's wealthiest neighbourhoods, such as Rosedale. It also has several extremely vibrant neighbourhoods, mostly centred along Yonge St and Eglinton and St Clair Avenues. Due to the location of the subway, the stretch along Yonge Street also has several high density office-shopping-residential districts including several of the tallest buildings outside of downtown, the focal point being the Yonge-Eglinton intersection.
The Toronto Islands lies in Lake Ontario, just offshore from the Canadian city of Toronto. They are connected to the mainland by the Toronto Island Ferry Services, which provide access to the islands for recreational visitors, access to the mainland for island residents, and access to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is located at the western end of the island chain.The Toronto Island is a chain of islands in Toronto harbour and home to a small residential community, an airport, a small amusement park, kilometers of bike trails, spectacular city views, picnic grounds and even a clothing-optional beach. The short and inexpensive ferry ride alone is worth the trip, but one can easily spend a relaxing day or two here. The islands comprise the largest urban car-free community in North America, though some service vehicles are permitted. Recreational bicyclists are accommodated on the ferries, and bicycles, quadracycles, and canoes can be rented on the islands as well.
The central area hosts Centreville, a children's amusement park which was built in 1967 with a turn-of-the-century theme. The park includes a miniature railway and Far Enough Farm, and is open daily in summer.
There are several swimming beaches on the islands, including Centre Island Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan's Point Beach and Ward's Island Beach. Hanlan's Point Beach includes an officially recognized clothing optional section.
Recreational boating has been popular on the islands for over a century. The Islands are home to four yacht clubs: Harbour City Yacht Club, Island Yacht Club, Queen City Yacht Club and the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. There is a public marina, the Toronto Island Marina, and several smaller clubs including the Toronto Island Sailing Club, the Sunfish Cut Boat Club and the Toronto Island Canoe Club. There is also a dragon boat regatta course and grandstand, where the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival is held annually.
For many years, Caribana has held an annual arts festival at Olympic Island on the Simcoe Day weekend. Other Island events include the Olympic Island Festival, an annual rock concert initiated in 2004 by Sloan's Jay Ferguson.
North York, north of the former City of Toronto, City of York and Borough of East York, comprises about 25% of the land area of the new City of Toronto (or the old Metro Toronto). North York is home to Parc Downsview Park, Canada's first national urban park, Downsview Airport (used by Bombardier Aerospace) and the North York Performing Arts Centre. The Willowdale area is the focal for higher density development in North York, including condominium and office hi-rises and is the location of the North Civic Centre.
Etobicoke, in the west, comprises about 20% of the total land area of formal Toronto and is largely industrial and suburban in urban makeup. It is not as well served by public transit as denser areas of Toronto. Kipling station (along Dundas St. West) is the western terminus of the Toronto subway. The airport service area and hotels, most airport facilities are located within Mississauga, just to the west. Possible other sites of interest include major parks and shopping centres, although Mimico has a somewhat small town feel with a Condominium boom in progress and the extensive Humber Bay Park for recreation.
Scarborough has characteristics of a suburb of old Toronto, but retains much of its own character and flavour. Certain neighbourhoods in Scarborough are popular destinations for new immigrants to Canada, who bring their own culture to Scarborough. Because of the topography of the Bluffs, the Rouge Valley, and other creeks and minor tributaries, Scarborough is said to be the greenest and leafiest part of Toronto, despite some generalizations of it as a moonscape of post-war surbaban development. It covers the east part of Toronto and is home to the Toronto Zoo.
York is formerly a separate city, it was one of six municipalities that amalgamated in 1998 to form the current city of Toronto. Its population, as of the 2001 census, was 150,255, the second smallest of the six former municipalities, yet it is one of the most ethnically diverse. By the 2006 census, the population had fallen somewhat to 143,255.
The York Civic Centre is located at 2700 Eglinton Avenue West, between Black Creek Drive and Keele Street, near York's Museum and York Memorial Collegiate Institute.
York has a local community newspaper called the York Guardian. It is published by Metroland Media Group, which also publishes several other local papers in the Toronto area.
East York was formerly a semi-autonomous borough within the overall municipality of Metropolitan Toronto before East York, North York, York, Scarborough, Etobicoke and Toronto were amalgamated into the new "megacity" of Toronto in 1998. One of East York's claims to fame was that, before the amalgamation, it was Canada's only borough.
It is separated by the Don River from the former City of Toronto. Traditional East York is southeast of the river, and the neighbourhoods of Leaside, Bennington Heights and densely-populated Thorncliffe Park are northwest of the river. The heart of East York is filled with middle-class and working-class homes, with extensive high-rise developments along peripheral major streets and in Crescent Town and Thorncliffe Park.
East York is also home to various sports teams. The hockey teams are the Bulldogs, playing out of East York Arena, and Victoria Village, playing out of Victoria Village arena. Both leagues offer entry level and competitive select hockey for various ages, being played in the North York Hockey League. East York is home to East York Soccer, playing out of East York Collegiate, and Clairlea Soccer, playing out of various locations, who both offer entry level and competitive soccer for all ages. Baseball wise, East York is home to organizations such as East York and Topham Park. East York provides entry level and AAA baseball for all ages, while Topham Park only provides entry level. East York is also home to a provincially-known figure skating club, a gymnastics club, a lawn bowling club, and a curling club.
In 1998, the cities of Toronto, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, and York and the Borough of East York amalgamated to form the current City of Toronto. This is also known as Metropolitan Toronto or "the 416" after its area code (although now there are some new area codes, the overwhelming number of area codes in the Toronto are still "416") and has a population of over 2.6 million people. More than half of these were born in some country other than Canada - a fact obvious to any visitor immediately, as the city has many vibrant bustling neighbourhoods with street signs in several languages.
Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are collectively known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Outlying suburbs are also known as "the 905" after their area code, although technically this code is also used in both Hamilton and the Niagara Region, stretching to the border in Niagara Falls. The entire area including Toronto is known as the "Golden Horseshoe" and has a population of over 8 million people.
A popular urban myth has it that the United Nations rated Toronto as "the most multicultural city in the world". While the UN and its agencies are not in the habit of rating cities, it remains a fact that Canada is a nation of immigrants, and Toronto demonstrates this abundantly. A UN agency lists Toronto as second only to Miami as the city with the most foreign born residents, but Toronto's residents represent far more cultural and language groups, which is arguably a better measure of multi-culturalism. Most immigrants either pass through Toronto on their way to other parts of the country, or they stay in Toronto permanently. Many born abroad immigrants consider themselves Canadian as much as born Canadians and will be offended if treated otherwise. This contributes to the overall cultural mosaic that is Toronto today. Within Toronto, most ethnic groups will work their way into the fabric of Canadian society but some still retain their distinct ways such as language, dress (for special occasions), customs, and food.
As a result of this cultural mosaic, Toronto is home to many ethnic festivals throughout the year. Toronto also boasts several radio stations which broadcast in various languages as well as at least two multicultural television channels. The City of Toronto officially deals in 16 different languages while the Toronto Transit Commission (public transit) has a helpline that deals in 70 languages. Even large department stores such as The Bay in downtown Toronto proudly advertise service in 9 languages. The lingua franca of Toronto however, remains English.
Sports teams & arenas
Toronto has several major league sports teams:
The Air Canada Centre  (40 Bay Street) is sometimes referred to as "The Hangar".
The Rogers Centre  (1 Blue Jays Way) is often referred to by its original "SkyDome" name.
The Buffalo Bills  of the National Football League are under contract to play one exhibition and one regular season (home) game at the Rogers Centre through to the 2012 season.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (IATA: YYZ)  is about 30-50 minutes by car from the downtown core (depending on traffic) and is serviced by most major international carriers. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 hosts all Air Canada flights and a few other international (mostly Star Alliance) carriers while Terminal 3 hosts all other airlines.
Several options exist for getting downtown from Pearson:
Toronto City Centre Airport (IATA: YTZ)  (commonly known as "The Island Airport" by locals) handles short-haul regional flights only. Its main tenant is Porter Airlines , a low-cost carrier that operates flights using turboprop planes to many cities in eastern Canada (Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City,Halifax and St. John's) and the northeast United States (Boston, Chicago, New York/Newark and Myrtle Beach). One of the main benefits of flying into this airport is its proximity to the downtown core. Upon landing, you can be downtown within ten minutes.
A free ferry service makes the short crossing (just 121 metres - the world's shortest regularly-scheduled ferry route) between TCCA and the mainland every 15 minutes, 6:45AM-10:07PM. Once on the mainland, a free shuttle bus connects the terminal with Union Station.
Hamilton International Airport (IATA: YHM) , located about 80 km from downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls, is served by the British budget airline Flyglobespan, as well as WestJet and Air Transat. Flyglobespan customers can take advantage of the shuttle service from the airport to downtown Toronto for £9 (one-way) for UK customers or $17 (one-way) for Canadian customers. In Toronto, it drops off and picks up passengers at the Bond Place hotel (a block from the Dundas subway station). The shuttle to Hamilton leaves Toronto three hours prior to flight time. The shuttle must be booked in advance. Alternatively, you can take a $25 taxi ride to the Hamilton GO Station (36 Hunter Street East) in downtown Hamilton, where you can catch a GO commuter bus to Union Station in downtown Toronto ($9 one-way). Buses run every 30 minutes.
For frugal travellers coming from the United States, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (IATA: BUF)  is another option, as flights to Buffalo tend to be significantly cheaper than to Pearson. Megabus  (prices vary, book early) runs from the Buffalo Airport to Toronto; the trip takes 3 hours (including the border crossing). Rental cars are available at the airport if you prefer to do the drive yourself. Buffalo Airport Limo  offers a flat rate of $175 to downtown Toronto from BUF.
The main bus terminal in Toronto, the Toronto Coach Terminal (also known as Bay Street Terminal or the Metro Toronto Coach Terminal), is used for intercity coach travel and is served by Greyhound, Coach Canada, New York Trailways, and Ontario Northland.
The bus terminal's main entrance is on Bay Street immediately north of Dundas and the terminal's departures building takes up the northern half of the block bounded by Bay Street, Dundas Street, Edward Street, and Elizabeth Street; the arrivals building is located immediately across Elizabeth Street from the departures building. The departures building is connected by the underground PATH walkway system to Dundas subway station on the Yonge line via the Atrium on Bay shopping centre. The terminal is also several blocks east of St Patrick subway station on the University-Spadina line. Unlike Union Station, the bus terminal has lockers in which people may store luggage, the cost is $3 for 24 hours and you must get a token from one of the token machines located next to the lockers; the lockers are located in the hallway connecting the departures building with the arrivals building, storing items in lockers overnight is not advisable as break-ins are common at night. Certain items too large to fit in a locker may be stored in the information booth at an extra cost.
Travelers should be aware that the bus terminal in Toronto is very poorly designed, forcing passengers to queue in a space that is little more than a shed with walls on two sides, as a result passengers queueing are forced to inhale the diesel exhaust fumes from the coaches as well as endure the cold winters and hot summers. In addition, there are often queues so long for the commuter coaches that they block other coaches from reaching their platforms. Platforms are also poorly mark, and it is not difficult to queue up for the wrong bus. Do not hesitate to ask anyone for help. Most people in the terminal have plenty of experience with it and understand how difficult it is for a tourist. It is advisable that passengers arrive at the terminal at least 30 minutes before their coach is scheduled to depart. Passengers can avoid the hassle of having to purchase their tickets at the terminal. It is generally faster to buy tickets online if possible. If you must purchase tickets at the terminal, be weary of peak travel periods, as the line can take up to 20 minutes. But be aware that Greyhound tickets purchased at the terminal can be used at any time (although they may have blackout periods) while tickets purchased online force you to reserve on a certain bus.
Coach Canada buses to Montreal and Greyhound buses to Peterborough and Ottawa also stop at the Scarborough Centre bus station to the east of central Toronto, this station lies on the Scarborough RT mass transit line. Greyhound buses to Kitchener, Guelph, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and New York and Coach Canada buses to Buffalo and New York also stop near Union Station, either in front of the York Street entrance to the Royal York Hotel or on University Avenue north of Wellington Street. Two new, heavily-discounted services between Toronto and New York City now operate from the sidewalk in front of the Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station. Both advertise electrical connections at each seat, wi-fi, movies, and more legroom than traditional buses. If purchased far enough in advance, tickets can be found for $1 although in reality, most seats range from $15 to $50.
GO Transit  runs the commuter transit network in the Greater Toronto Area. Their bus services are designed to supplement their commuter trains, most of which run only during rush hour. When the trains are not running, GO runs buses on the same route. Most GO buses run to the Union Station Bus Terminal, adjacent to Union Railway Station. GO Transit also operates services to bus stations at several subway stations, including: Yorkdale Mall, Finch, York Mills and Scarborough Centre.
All scheduled passenger trains in Toronto run into and out of Union Station  which is located at 65 Front Street, between Bay and York Streets. Opened in 1927, Toronto's Union Station is generally considered to be one of the grandest, most impressive train stations in North America; with an enormous great hall, the ceiling rising to a height equivalent to seven stories. Despite this impressive hall, most of the activity in the station takes place in the underground concourses which link the commuter rail platforms with the subway station. The great hall is still used for purchasing intercity rail tickets with a row of ticket booths and several ticket machines. The train station is served by a subway station with the same name, accessible from the GO concourse. The main intercity concourse is accessed from the great hall, but all commuter rail platforms are accessed from the underground GO Transit concourse, as is the Union Station Bus Terminal across the street. The GO Transit concourse is accessed by taking any one of the three large staircases in the great hall or directly from the subway.
Most intercity rail travel in Canada is provided by VIA Rail . Union Station is one of VIA Rail's main hubs and connects several of their lines. Railway lines operated by VIA Rail out of Union Station include:
Major highways leading into Toronto are the QEW, the 404, the 401, the 400, and the 427. Toronto is in the enviable position of being the largest city in Canada, so it's relatively easy to find a sign pointing you in the right direction. Be advised that traffic on incoming highways can be extremely heavy. In the downtown core there are many turn restrictions, particularly from main thoroughfares to other main thoroughfares (e.g. Yonge to Dundas Streets).
The main streets in Toronto are laid out in a grid pattern that makes it one of the easiest cities to get around in by car. Getting from point to point anywhere in the city can be achieved with only a few turns. Parking in the downtown core can be expensive and hard to find, but is plentiful and inexpensive or free throughout the rest of the city.
Toronto follows some bylaws related to the transit system that often confuse or surprise visiting drivers:
Additionally, drivers are advised that Torontonians generally take their obligation to give a wide berth to emergency vehicles quite seriously: if you hear sirens or see lights, pull over to the side of the road safely but quickly.
Toronto is huge, and most roads run for very long distances. Use the public transit if your destination is downtown. Otherwise, it is probably easier to drive. Be aware that the highways regularly backup during rush hour (7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM). Toronto has plentiful parking garages downtown, but these are usually expensive.
TransitNew York City and Mexico City). It consists of buses, streetcars, subway lines, and the quasi-subway Scarborough Rapid Transit line. Buses and streetcars are prone to get caught in Toronto's notorious traffic during rush-hours, though some streetcar lines have dedicated lanes.
Toronto's long streetcar lines have resulted in chronic "bunching", where one might wait for thirty minutes at a stop, and then 4 streetcars will arrive bunched together. In contrast to this, the subway system is quite fast and efficient; the subway lines extend well into the suburbs and have spurred a great deal of high-density, high-rise development in far-flung neighbourhoods that would not otherwise have had any large-scale development. A prime example of this is the neighbourhood of North York, filled with high-rise development right on top of three subway stations. As a result, the subway is the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to get around the city.
Cash fare is $3.00 (discounted to $2.50 if you buy 5 or 10 tokens at a time). It should be noted that when using the subway, one can just pay $2.50 as booths sell tokens, anyway. Be aware that some token vending machines are out of service, but do not have signs on them to indicate that, otherwise making it safer to use manned ticket booths whenever possible.
A day pass is available for $10. This pass allows unlimited travel on all TTC services within the City of Toronto, except for Downtown Express buses. For one person, it allows unlimited one-day travel on any day of the week, from the mid-morning (9:30AM) until 5:30AM the next morning. On Saturday and Sunday, and statutory holidays, up to 6 people (maximum 2 adults over 19) can travel with one TTC Day Pass, from the start of daytime service until 5:30AM the next morning. The day pass does not have to be purchased on the day of use.
A weekly pass costs $36.00 a week. It allows unlimited travel from 5:30AM Monday morning, to 5:30AM the following Monday. The weekly pass is transferable, meaning it can be used by more than one person but only one person may be travelling under that pass at any given time.
A monthly pass, termed the Metropass, costs $121.00 per month. This pass is also transferable, with no pass-backs.
Tokens, daily, and weekly passes are available at subway stations, variety stores and newsstands throughout the city. Most businesses that sell passes and tokens have a TTC logo sticker on their front door.
Subway & LRT
There are three subway lines and one "RT" line:
Other TTC services are provided by buses, streetcars, the Scarborough RT line, and Wheel-Trans vans (for people with disabilities). There are also a number of Downtown Express buses that run during rush hour, for which additional fare must be paid.
Toronto is one of the only cities in North America (the only city in Canada, in fact) to keep any of its streetcar route and, while the original streetcar network was much larger, the Toronto Transit Commission is planning to replace several of its busiest bus lines with high capacity LRT lines.
Caution: When getting on and off streetcars, make sure that the traffic is stopped in the lane next to the streetcar. While drivers are required by law to stop behind open streetcar doors, some drivers don't do so. This does not apply when there is a safety island between you and the traffic lane(s). Also, be aware of pickpockets in crowded rush hour situations. Do not keep your belongings on outside pockets.
All but one (Route 99) of the TTC's bus and streetcar routes have a subway station somewhere on the loop, and while many routes will take you into the station and beyond the ticket barrier, some of them (especially downtown) will take you only to the outside of the station. In this case, you can enter the station by presenting a valid transfer. If you don't have one, you need to pay another cash fare.
Transfers are free, but should be obtained at the first vehicle or station you enter on your journey. If your journey starts on a bus or streetcar, ask for one as you pay your fare (simply saying "Transfer, please" to the operator will suffice). If you start at a subway station, look for a red machine just beyond the ticket booth with a digital time clock on its face. Press the gold button and collect your transfer.
Connecting public transit services
The areas that surround Toronto—Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, Durham Region—have their own transit systems. There are no free transfer privileges between the TTC and these other transit systems. To use both the TTC and another system, two fares must usually be paid (though see GTA Pass below). In many places, these networks do overlap, so you can transfer easily. Prices are similar to prices for the TTC.
A weekly GTA Pass (Greater Toronto Area Pass) is available for $47. It is valid on the TTC and the transit systems in Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, but not Durham Region. This pass is also transferable, although only one rider may use it at a time. If you are traveling through the fare-zone boundary in York Region with a GTA pass, you will have to pay an additional $1. A new region-wide integration system will be in place in 2010, known as 'Metrolinx', and will provide seamless connections between transit operators.
A system of regional trains and buses, GO Transit , connects Toronto to its surrounding areas. The majority of these services, especially trains, are oriented to weekday commuters traveling to and from downtown Toronto. Go Transit charges fares by distance. Trains are large and comfortable, and the vast majority run only during rush hours. The main exception is on the Lakeshore Line, running between the suburbs of Burlington and Oshawa, via Union Station. The GO bus network is much more extensive and fills in for trains in the off-peak hours. The vast majority of tourist destinations are reachable by TTC, although you might want to use the GO to get to the Zoo, or to the homes of family members or friends in the Greater Toronto Area.
Discounts on the fares for connecting transit services are available under certain conditions, if you are traveling to or from a GO Transit rail station. The GTA Pass is not valid on GO Transit.
NOTE: in many cases, a GO bus will not stop unless the passengers-to-be indicates indicate waiting to be picked up, even if they are standing at a designated stop. Users must flag the bus down, usually just by raising their hand or ticket in the air as the bus approaches. That is because GO stops often share stops with other municipal transit systems.
Also, be aware of the GO Transit Guards; they are well known for being overbearing, grouchy and intolerant. The transit guards are known to be rude and offensive to passengers that have an invalid ticket in their possession; guards have been known to curse at and threaten such passengers. Train hoppers and passengers with invalid tickets are usually punished. Depending on the mood and disposition of the guard, a mere warning may be issued; however, fines of up to $200 are not out of the question. Furthermore, passengers found train hopping are often unceremoniously kicked off the train at the nearest stop.
Taxis are plentiful and safe, but not cheap. As with most big cities, driving a car downtown can be annoying; parking is often hard to find and expensive, and traffic along certain streets can make vehicle travel slower than mass transit. However, traveling longer distances, when not close to subway lines is often significantly faster by car or taxi.
Toronto is trying very hard to become a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes being added all the time. There are many casual cyclists out all the time. And it is fast: door to door, in all of downtown Toronto, a bike beats a car or transit nearly every time.
There is a lack of clear understanding about regulations regarding bicycles and as a result, there can be hostility between automobiles and cyclists. Generally speaking, if you are on the road, you are expected to obey the same laws as cars, and you are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. In reality, cyclists have all sorts of driving styles; expect the unexpected.
The city is predominantly flat, aside from a general climb away from Lake Ontario, and post-and-ring locking posts are present throughout the city. There are many bike-only lanes on major roads and threading through various neighbourhoods and parks. The city publishes a cycling map, available on the city website . Several businesses offer rentals .
It is a provincial law that cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet, and all riders must have a bike with reflectors and a bell. This tends to only be enforced when the police go on their annual "cycling blitz".
Some recommended cycling routes:
See Downtown district article for more possibilities & further information:
The venue was noted for being the first stadium to have a fully-retractable motorized roof, as well as for the 348-room hotel attached to it, with 70 rooms overlooking the field. It is also the most recent North American major-league stadium built to accommodate both football, as well as baseball, although some of the newer baseball parks have been known to host the occasional college football game, such as AT&T Park, Chase Field, and Safeco Field.
Soon after its opening, the stadium became a popular venue for large scale rock concerts and is the largest indoor concert venue in Toronto; it has hosted many international acts including Metallica, Madonna, U2, Depeche Mode, The Rolling Stones, The Three Tenors, Radiohead, Simon & Garfunkel, Garth Brooks, Backstreet Boys, Roger Waters, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Limp Bizkit, Eminem, Janet Jackson, Avril Lavigne, Jonas Brothers, and Cher, the latter for the Halloween extravaganza in 2003. Michael W. Smith and N'Sync also performed in the Rogers Centre.
The stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2015 Pan American Games as the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
See also Wikitravel's district articles
Since the early 1990s, a Koreatown has also emerged in North York along Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and just north of Steeles Avenue. The area comprises parts of North York, Ontario (Willowdale, Toronto and Newtonbrook) and Thornhill, Ontario (Vaughan, Ontario and Markham, Ontario).
The new Koreatown has many retail stores, Korean grocery stores (some quite large), karaoke bars and family restaurants catering to younger Koreans and those living in the north part of the City of Toronto and York Region. A larger proportion of this neighbourhood are recent immigrants or visa students from South Korea.
Money & costs
Most Canadians don't carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying on their credit cards, ATMs and direct debit cards. Unlike the USA, personal cheques are rarely accepted. Also, many places in Toronto accept US Dollars - with a rough 1:1 exchange rate.
Interbank ATM exchange rates usually beat traveler's checks or exchanging foreign currency. Canadian ATM fees are low ($1.50 to $2 per transaction), but your home bank may charge another fee on top of that.
Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards are widely accepted in Canada. Credit cards can get you cash advances at bank ATMs, generally for a 3% surcharge. Beware: many US-based credit cards now convert foreign charges using highly unfavorable exchange rates and fees.
Always change your money at a recognized bank or financial institution. Some hotels, souvenir shops and tourist offices exchange money, but their rates won't put a smile on your dial.
American Express (905-474-0870, 800-869-3016; www.americanexpress.com/canada) branches in Toronto only function as travel agencies and don't handle financial transactions. Instead, tackle the banks, or try Money Mart (416-920-4146; www.moneymart.ca; Yonge Street Strip, 617 Yonge St; 24hr; Wellesley).
Affiliated with Marlin Travel (www.marlintravel.ca), Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.ca) branches include the following:
Bloor-Yorkville (416-975-9940, 800-267-8891; 1168 Bay St; 9am-5:30pm Mon-Fri; Bloor-Yonge)
Financial District (416-366-1961; 10 King St E; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri; King)
Travelex (www.travelex.com/ca) has branches:
Financial District (416-304-6130; First Canadian Place, Bank of Montréal, 100 King St W; 8am-5pm Mon-Fri)
Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 Arrivals (905-673-7042; 8:30am-midnight)
Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 Departures (905-673-7461; 3:30am-10pm)
Another organization, Calforex Currency Services (290 Queen St West) give good rates for cash, buying and selling GBP, USD, EUR; on substantial sums can be as little as 1% from interbank rates.Fremdh 15:28, 16 January 2010 (EST)
Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop and find deals:
Toronto is generally considered to be one of North America's top food cities. It has the same variety as New York or San Francisco and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. As one of the most (if not the most) multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has authentic ethnic cuisine like no other city in North America. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.
Surrounded by the extensive fertile farmlands of Southern Ontario, Toronto has an abundance of farmer's markets - one is happening, in season, almost every day. Several markets are year round, while others are seasonal, generally running from May to October.
Other farmer's markets in Toronto:
Interesting food districts
See district articles for further information
The majority of nightlife in Toronto is centred on the appropriately named Clubland and in the fashion district on Queen Street West. Nearly everywhere is packed to the brim with pubs and bars, but none so much as Adelaide and Queen Street in those districts. Clubs tend to operate on Richmond and Adelaide streets (both run east-west, 1 block apart); names change frequently, but the district keeps on going. Three other clubs of note outside this district: The (long-lasting) Phoenix (on Sherbourne), The Guvernment (Toronto's largest club - on the harbour east of Yonge Street) and the Docks (literally operating on part of Toronto's commercial port, but this place has an outstanding view of the city on warm summer nights, and boasts an extensive entertainment complex).
Newly opened Circa is currently the hottest club in town. Worth $6.2 million until the next major opening, Circa represents the mecca for any visitor interested in clubbing.
Hip art and music oriented crowds tend to gravitate towards Parkdale (Queen West past Bellwoods Park). The hipsters hangout and comment on their outfits (and sometimes the art) in the wide array of bars, galleries and clubs that dot the area - in particular the Stones Place (mostly Indians and sometimes gay crowds), The Social (a mixed bag), and the Drake and its poor cousin Gladstone Hotels. The same folks also frequent the Annex / Kensington Market Area of the city at night for club nights, casual drinks and art / music events. One of the main "corsos" of the city is Little Italy: College Street, between Bathurst and Ossington flows over with music, sidewalk cafes and excellent food and a crowd that enjoys the summer heat and the offerings. The drinking age is 19.
Toronto is also home to a number of microbreweries. These include Mill Street, Steam Whistle Pilsner, Cool, Amterdam, and Great Lakes. The breweries offer free samples and some have restaurants. Although a tour of the Steam Whistle Brewery costs $8, it includes a gift.
Most hotels and hostels are situated directly outside the downtown core. Prices for rooms generally range from $150+ for a standard hotel, $60-80 for a motel, and $20-40 for a bed in a hostel.
Toronto has a wide variety of hotels that can suit every budget.
Toronto has several youth hostels, including ones in the downtown area. Global Village Backpackers at Spadina and King is perhaps most famous, with its garish colour scheme. Equally well-situated is a Hostelling International located at the foot of Church Street or Canadiana Backpackers Inn located on Widmer street.
Bed & Breakfast
Another popular alternative for over nighters are bed & breakfasts, of which Toronto has hundreds, many of them in the downtown core. Prices range from $60 to several hundred dollars depending on the house and amenities offered. The Toronto Townhouse  are Toronto Tourism award winners and still is one of the better ones. They have two locations - one in Cabbagetown and the other in the Annex area.
Another popular inexpensive place is Castlegate Inn Toronto Bed and Breakfast  because of its proximity to the Spadina subway station and the University of Toronto.
International students often prefer to study in Toronto because of its safety, proximity to other tourist destinations, and favourable exchange rates and visa policies. However, despite its status as the largest city in the country and Canada's economic centre, it is surprisingly under-served by universities. This lack of post-secondary education has led to the development of major universities in the mid-sized cities that surround Toronto: the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, the University of Guelph in Guelph, Brock University in St. Catharines and Trent University in Peterborough. The universities in Toronto remain some of the best in the country:
For an emergency, dial 911 (you can dial it at the pay phone without putting in any coins).
Local calls at the pay phone cost 50 cents. Local calls are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. However, due to the popularity of cellphones, there are fewer pay phones than before; but contrary to what some believe, they are not disappearing, rather there are fewer street booths than were found 10 years ago. Despite this, most large public facilities still have ample pay phones to use. In malls, pay phones are usually located between the inner and outer doors at the entrances.
In addition, many public facilities (such as shopping malls) now also have phones which provide free local calls, which are funded by advertisements run on colour LCD screens. Watch for large, wall-mounted ovals in high-traffic areas.
Toronto has two area codes: 416 and 647. These area codes overlap. That is, they are both associated with the same geographic area. The suburban areas outside of the city also have two overlapping area codes, 905 and 289. As a result, Toronto has 10-digit local dialling. You must always dial the area code as part of the number you are trying to reach.
International calling cards are widely available to many countries for reasonable rates.
Toronto is a city with many internet cafés, especially on Yonge Street around Bloor, and also on Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst. It's not hard to find a place to call home and the costs are relatively low, from $3 for 30 minutes. However, currently internet cafés are opening and closing at an astounding rate, so on repeat visits to the city, you may find that the one you used last time has disappeared. For a guide to some of them, see YYZTech's Internet cafe reviews online . Most major hotels offer high-speed internet in their rooms and in their business centres. Many coffee shops, donut shops and some food courts in the downtown core offer wireless, high-speed (some free, some not). The widespread availability of high-speed internet access in homes, businesses and hotels means that internet cafes are largely becoming a thing of the past.
Toronto Hydro Telecom operates a public WiFi network called One Zone  that covers six square kilometres in the downtown core. Rates are $4.99 for one hour, $9.99 for a day, or $24.99 for a month, but you must have a cell phone capable of receiving text messages to access the network.
Toronto's two main dailies are the Star  and the Sun . The Star is a broadsheet that tends to lean liberal and is the more serious of the two and the Sun is a tabloid that tends to lean conservative. Canada's two national dailies, the Globe and Mail  and the National Post , are published in Toronto and tend to focus more on that city than anywhere else. The Globe has ties with Bay Street banks and has endorsed The Conservative party in the last few elections. The National Post is more right-leaning and owned by the Asper family of Winnipeg. Toronto also has a free daily, Metro , which reports on local, national and international news and includes movie and television listings. Metro is distributed in boxes on the street and in subway stations.
Free weekly newspapers, distributed from boxes on street corners and in racks in stores and restaurants can be good sources of information on cinema, dining, music, theatre, and other events and local news:
Depending on where you go in Toronto, you will be able to find locally printed newspapers in a variety of languages. For example, in Chinatown, you will find Chinese newspapers. In "Little Italy", you'll find Italian newspapers. You'll also find newspapers in Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Tagalog, Greek and more.
On the whole, Toronto is remarkably safe and the streets are vibrant with pedestrians and bicyclists, even at night in most neighbourhoods. If you use common sense, you should have no trouble at all: don't walk around alone late at night and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid the club/entertainment district at closing time, as fights between drunken patrons do occur, rarely escalating to where weapons become involved. Police have recently increased their presence in the club district (Richmond St area) to limit problems, but caution is still advised. There are few (if any) violence issues around hipster areas.
Toronto's downtown core has a series of safe, underground interconnected shopping centres called the PATH. These are frequently used by locals and tourists to escape harsh weather while comfortably navigating the core. Be aware; the PATH system, while very safe, is somewhat confusing, and is largely abandoned and shuttered after business hours and on weekends. Refer frequently to the posted maps or ask a security guard or store clerk for directions as needed.
The overall violent crime rate in Canada, and particularly in Toronto, is much lower than that found in major cities the United States. Petty crime is generally not a problem in Toronto, but as always is the case, keep vigilant with your possessions. One exception to relatively low crime rates is that both car and bike theft are comparable to other large North American cities.
There are, of course, neighbourhoods which are known in the media and on the street as being more dangerous, though police statistics are not commonly used to justify these beliefs. Nevertheless, while assaults and other crimes can happen anywhere, especially late at night when few people are around, it is reasonable advice to avoid certain areas (again, generally late at night). These areas include Crescent Town, Regent Park, Parkdale, Jane and Finch ("Jane Corridor"), Lawrence Heights, Flemingdon Park/Victoria Village, the Peanut (ie. Don Mills and Sheppard), Rexdale/Jamestown, Malvern, Weston-Mount Dennis, Kingston-Galloway, Steeles-L’Amoureaux, Dorset Park, Westminster-Branson and Eglinton East-Kennedy Park. It is advised to simply stay away from any "housing projects", slums, shanty towns, and other dodgy looking areas. Drugs, prostitution and violent crime do occur. The good thing is these neighbourhoods become noticeably worse from a visual standpoint, giving the casual tourist ample time to turn around. Armed robbery occurs rarely and mainly in poor neighbourhoods at odd hours.
Toronto also has a large homeless population, many of whom will ask you for money. If you do not want to offer them money, simply look the panhandler in the eye and say "No thank you" or simply ignore them. There have been several recent occurrences of over aggressive pan-handlers, with one resulting in a fatality. As a result, if a pan-handler becomes aggressive, move away quickly and alert a police officer. Toronto has a larger homeless population than many other similar-sized cities because there is a law allowing homeless people to remain on the sidewalk, as long as they are not aggressive.
Be careful when getting off the streetcars and look always to your right before leaving the car. Although vehicles are supposed to stop when the streetcar doors open, some motorists and cyclists will ignore this and keep going.
For the average tourist, Toronto's weather can present some inconveniences. Among the major world tourist cities, Toronto has the third-coldest winter temperatures, comparable to Chicago or Boston, but not as cold as say, Moscow or Montreal. Mild periods do occur melting accumulated snowfall from time to time, but nevertheless you must come prepared and dress warmly, preferably in layers as conditions are changeable. The average January high/low temperature in Toronto is -1°C/-7°C. In January, February, and early March, temperatures can drop as low as -30°C or colder factoring in the biting windchill. Exposed skin will freeze in minutes at these temperatures. In July, the average max/min is 27°C/18°C with sometimes hot, humid conditions, but the city has many parks or public spaces with gardens to cool off. Most evenings are a little muggy. Bring an umbrella at any time of the year, rain and/or snow are common during the colder season and sudden, usually brief thunderstorms are frequent in summer; however, you will experience sunshine on most days.
Areas north of the city experience a colder winter and more frequent poor driving conditions with snow drifts and icy conditions, as well as more severe summer storms. Avoid river/creek banks or bridge underpasses during periods of excessive rain or melting snow.
On occasion, during the winter months, Toronto will be hit with a severe winter storm accompanied by significant snowfall (quite often mixed with freezing rain/ice/sleet), be prepared for possible travel delays. Avoid driving during and immediately after the storms if at all possible. This is especially true for those unfamiliar with winter driving and controlling a car in a skid. Take the public transit or stay inside. Only in the most severe storms or after a series of storms, however, surface transit and air travel can be significantly delayed or even shut down altogether.
Toronto is a great starting point for exploring southern Ontario. The Niagara Region, including Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, is about an hour's drive south of Toronto. For those wanting to go to the United States from Toronto, Buffalo and Western New York state is about a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto. The Canadian capital of Ottawa is about a 4.5 hour drive from Toronto. The Niagara Escarpment, is a world biosphere, protected by UN mandate running from the Falls west to Hamilton then northward to Georgian Bay, its covered by forest with high cliff views along the Bruce Trail bordering the western edge of the Greater Toronto Area, at its closest point about is about an 1/2 hour drive from the western end of Toronto.
The Waterloo Region, which is 1 hour west has large univeristy campuses, rolling farm hills and Mennonite culture.
Muskoka,about 2 hours north, and The Kawarthas 1.5 hours northeast, are cottage country areas with more rocky and hilly terrain speckled with hundreds of lakes and waterways. These regions are known for their country inns, cottages, spas/resorts, provincial parks, and a wealth of outdoor activities including camping, fishing/hunting, nature viewing, and hiking set amongst natural beauty.
There are also several golden sand beaches along the clean fresh waters of the Great Lakes that are ideal for hot summer days. Popular beach destinations within 1.5 - 2.5 hours of Toronto include Wasaga Beach, Sauble Beach, Sandbanks, Grand Bend, Long Point, and Turkey Point.