Difference between revisions of "Toronto"
Revision as of 18:27, 13 August 2006
Toronto  is a city in Canada and is the largest city in Canada, and 5th largest city in North America, with a metropolitan population of more than 5 million people. It is the capital of the province of Ontario, Canada's most populous province.
In the late 1990s the city of Toronto was amalgamated with several surrounding cities and boroughs - Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, York, and East York - to form a new city of Toronto. This is also known as Metropolitan Toronto or "the 416" after its area code (although now there are some new minor area codes, the overwhelming number of phone numbers in the new City are "1-416...") and has a population of over 3.2 million people. Fully 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 neighborhoods 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.
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):
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.
Pearson International Airport (YYZ) (or LBPIA - Lester B. Pearson International Airport) is about 45 minutes by car from the downtown core and is serviced by most major international carriers.
Several options exist for getting downtown from Pearson:
Toronto City Centre Airport (YTZ) (or TCCA, or "the Island Airport") handles much less traffic. It offers short-haul regional flights to neighboring Canadian and American cities.
A free ferry service makes the short crossing (just 121 metres - possibly the world's shortest regularly-scheduled ferry route) between TCCA and the mainland every 15 minutes, 6:45AM-10:07PM.
Greyhound provides transportation from most major Northeast cities, Ontario Northland provides service from the northern parts of Ontario and Coach Canada links Montreal and Toronto. GO Transit provides buses from outlying Toronto areas. Greyhound, Coach Canada and Ontario Northland buses stop at Toronto Coach Terminal, which is a short walk to the Dundas or St. Patrick subway stations of the Toronto Transit Commission.
Toronto is situated along a primary VIA Rail corridor. Trains travel both east towards Montreal and westwards towards Western Ontario.
Express service exists between Toronto and Montreal. The only stop in between is Montreal Airport. It is a very nice service with beautifully painted carriages. Remember to ask for student fares if you have an ISIC card.
The Canadian service operated by VIA (three times weekly) goes through "Northern" Ontario, across the praries, then through the mountains all the way to Vancouver.
Daily Maple Leaf service goes to New York and is operated by Amtrak. One schedule uses a train all the way through. Other schedules use a bus from Toronto to Buffalo.
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.
Public transit in Toronto
Toronto has a well maintained and effective public transportation system, run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and you can get pretty well anywhere you want in the main part of the city with the subway / streetcars / buses.
Current fares are $2.75 (discounted to $2.10 if you buy 5 or 10 tickets or tokens at a time).
A TTC Day Pass is available for $8.50. 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 start of daytime service (5:30AM) until 5:30AM the next morning. On Saturday and Sunday, and statutory holidays, up to 6 people can travel with the 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.
For many years, the TTC has offered a monthly pass, the Metropass. This usually costs $99.75 a month, though it is available at a lower price under certain conditions. The monthly pass is transferable, allowing owners to transfer the pass to another person at the end of their trip.
A weekly pass was introduced in September, 2005, for $30 a week. It lasts from the start of daily service, 5:30AM Monday morning, to 5:30AM the following Monday. The weekly pass is also transferable.
There are three subway lines:
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.
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 the price of $43.00 (recently raised from $41.25). It is valid on the TTC and the transit systems in Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, but not Durham Region. This pass is also tranferable, although only one rider may use it at a time. If you are travelling through the fare-zone boundary in York Region with a GTA pass, you will have to pay an additional $1.00.
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 travelling to and from downtown Toronto. Go Transit charges fares by distance.
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.
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.
In recent years the "core" central area has become relatively bike friendly. The city government has installed many new bike only lanes that span major east-west or north-south corridors. It takes a reasonably pro-bike position and a bike-map is available on the City website. Doughnut shaped bike lock racks have been installed on many sidewalks, usually in front of shops, restaurants or major points of interest.
Any resident or tourist can buy a season pass at a not-for-profit organization called BikeShare (http://www.bikeshare.org). The price depends on stay time and income. Once one has the pass, the person can take out bikes from any hub for upto three days at a time. Then the person can return the bike to any hub. An online database keeps track of all the bikes. The system is like a library.
By far one of the nicest bike paths is the Martin Goodman Trail, the east-west route that hugs lake Ontario, spanning the city from Etobicoke to the eastern ends of the city. Take care- this path, while busy, is also enjoyed by pedestrians and rollerbladers who are not a speedy as the typical biker. Biking is fairly common on major routes without bike paths too, such as Yonge Street, King and Queen Streets and Dundas and College. Beware of parked cars - often accidents are not caused by moving cars, but rather by careless drivers or passengers who unexpectedly open their driver's side door. However, by and large Toronto is about as safe for bikers as most European cities, and certainly safer than most U.S. cities with their much reduced density of bikers. Here, at least you are expected. Also be cautious of street car tracks as bike wheels can be easily caught and cause a spill. The city is general pretty safe and in the center of the city mainly flat which makes it ideal to bike, while dodging busy public transit, traffic jams or taxi fares or the severe parking fees and scarce spaces, and most of all SEE the city. And it is fast: door to door, in all of downtown Toronto bike beats car every time.
A special treat for bikers of all levels is a tour out to the Leslie Spit lighthouse and bird sanctuaries (no cars!) east of the islands (bring a picnic); as well, the island ferries transport bikes at no extra charge (again, no cars on the islands) and this is just the best way to get around by far.
Biking in the winter months is only enjoyable with proper equipment for regular bikers though, it does get cold, it can be quite windy, and the Canadian attitude to clearing snow on the street can be, shall we say, relaxed.
see Downtown district article for more possibilities & further information:
see Toronto Islands district article for more possibilities & further information:
see The Annex district article for more possibilities & further information:
Toronto has great tours available; most are very affordable ($25-$35) and offer hotel pick-up and drop-off.
see district articles for more detailed information
see district articles for more information
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, many places are open much later, and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. The immigrants make them authentic, and the Canadian dollar makes them cheaper. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.
see district articles for further information
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
Bo De Duyen (Chinatown)
Café 668 (Kensington Market)
Buddha's Vegetarian Food (Kensington Market)
King's Café (Kensington Market)
Vegetarian Haven (Baldwin Street)
Live (The Annex)
Annapurna (The Annex)
see district articles for more information
The majority of Nightlife in Toronto is centered around 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 harbor 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).
Hipper more 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 Indie 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.
see district articles for detailed information
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 several youth hostels, including ones in the downtown area. Downtown Backpackers at Spadina and King is perhaps most famous (with its garish color scheme). Equally situated is a Hostelling International located at the foot of Church 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.
International students often prefer to study in Toronto because of its safety, proximity to other tourist destinations, and favorable exchange rates and visa policies.
Toronto is home to three universities - the University of Toronto (Canada's largest) is spread out all over the city (including the main downtown campus, an East-end campus, and University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) in the neighbouring city of Mississauga). York University (the third largest in Canada) is located on the northern border of the city, though the original Glendon College campus at Bayview and Lawrence is still in existence; and Ryerson University is located in the heart of the downtown core.
George Brown College is known for its business and culinary faculties which are located right behind its St. James Campus which is located downtown. Its other campus, Casa Loma Campus, is located midtown, near Casa Loma.
Toronto, like other Canadian cities, also has dozens of English as a Second Language (ESL) schools. The largest association of private English and French language schools is the Canadian Association of Private Language Schools.
For emergency, dial 911 (you can dial it at the pay phone without putting in any coin).
Local call at the pay phone costs 25 cents each. It is not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. However, due to the popularity of mobile phones, pay phone booths are disappearing at an alarming rate.
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 dialing. You must always dial the area code as part of the number you are trying to reach.
Toronto is a city with many Internet cafés, especially on Yonge Street around Bloor and 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.
Although the overall violent crime rate in Canada is much lower than that found in the United States, it is still higher than the rate in some European countries such as Germany. In 2004, Toronto's murder rate was lower than most other large Canadian cities although there has been an increase in violent gun-related crimes in the past two years.
Among the major world tourist cities, Toronto has the third coldest winter temperatures with the first & second place cities of Montreal & Moscow being significantly colder. The average January high temperature in Toronto is -1°C and the average low is -8°C.
Toronto is a great starting point for exploring southern Ontario. The Niagara Region, including Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, is less than an hour's drive from Toronto towards the United States border at the Falls. The Waterloo Region to the west has colleges and culture, and Muskoka, to the north and The Kawarthas to the east of Toronto, is cottage country, with country inns, hundreds of lakes and rivers, camping, fishing/hunting, provincial parks, and a wealth of year-round outdoor activities.