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Toronto

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Toronto

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For other places with the same name, see Toronto (disambiguation).


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Toronto [1] is the largest city in Canada, and 5th largest in North America with a population of 2.6 million and a metropolitan population of nearly 8 million. It is the capital of the province of Ontario, Canada's most populous province.

The Rogers Centre (formally SkyDome) and CN Tower, as seen from the Toronto Islands

Districts

Toronto is known as a city of neighborhoods. Distinct areas, often centered around a main street (Queen, College, Bloor etc.), are packed tightly together but each has something different to offer. The relative compactness of these neighborhoods makes exploring on foot easy and pleasant, especially in the warmer months.

  • Central Toronto - Includes the busy downtown financial district as well as dining and shopping districts along Yonge and Bloor streets.
  • East Toronto – A varied part of the city, with ethnic districts such as Little India and Greektown, and with atmospheres ranging from historic Victorian homes to fun along the beach.
  • North Toronto – A mixed area with many pockets of university communities and small ethnic communities such as Little Moscow.
  • Northwest Toronto – Home to the city’s fashion and theater districts, a wide range of shopping opportunities, and an ethnic potpourri of Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese communities.
  • West Toronto – Largely middle-class residential zone, but with some great parks and a few interesting areas such as the Little Poland neighborhood.
  • Toronto Islands - A chain of islands in Toronto harbor 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. Torontonians love to come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is car-free.

Understand

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 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):

  • Eye Weekly [2] - Thursdays
  • Now Toronto [3] - Thursdays

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'll find Chinese newspapers. In "Little Italy" you'll find Italian newspapers. You'll also find newspapers in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Tagalog, Greek ...

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-cultural. Most immigrants either pass through Toronto on their way to other parts of the country, or they stay in Toronto permanently. 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 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.

Climate

Toronto's climate is characterised by fairly cold and icy winters where temperatures average 24°F (-4°C) in January. Contrary to Canadian stereotypes, the city experiences very hot and humid summers with an average high of 80°F (27°C) during the daytime in July. Late spring and early fall are generally considered to be the most pleasant times to visit, and summer is by far the busiest tourist season, but visitors will find that Toronto's vibrancy extends well through the winter. Toronto's public buildings are nearly all air-conditioned in summer, and are well heated in winter. Sometimes, during the winter, severe storms can shut down the city for a day or two. In the summer, many thunderstorms are common.

Sports teams & arenas

Toronto has several major league sports teams:

  • Toronto Argonauts [4] - Canadian Football League, play at Rogers Centre.
  • Toronto Blue Jays [5] - Major League Baseball, play at Rogers Centre.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs [6] - National Hockey League, play at the Air Canada Centre.
  • Toronto Raptors [7] - National Basketball Association, play at the Air Canada Centre.
  • Toronto Rock [8] - National Lacrosse League, play at the Air Canada Centre.
  • Toronto F.C. [9] - Major League Soccer, play at BMO field on Exhibition Place grounds.

The Air Canada Centre [10] (40 Bay Street) is sometimes referred to as "The Hangar".

The Rogers Centre [11] (1 Blue Jays Way) is often referred to by its original "SkyDome" name.

Get in

By plane

Pearson International Airport (YYZ) [12] (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. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 hosts all Air Canada flights and a few other international carriers, while Terminal 3 hosts all other airlines. (There is no longer a Terminal 2.)Do be aware though, Pearson International Airport's management is third-world and the norm for baggage claim is 45 minutes.

Several options exist for getting downtown from Pearson:

  • Pacific Western Airport Express[13] bus service is quick, convenient, and frequent (peak periods: every 20 minutes; off-peak periods: every 30 minutes). It picks up at both terminals, and stops at several major hotels in the downtown core. Adult fares are $18.95 one way, $29.25 for round trips. There is a 10% discount for online reservations.
  • TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) [14] provides public bus services that run to and from Pearson. The best TTC option is the 192 Airport Rocket that runs every 10-30 minutes between Kipling Station on the Bloor-Danforth Subway, and Pearson Airport. Kipling Station is the western most subway stop on the Bloor-Danforth line and it takes about 45 minutes to reach downtown. One way adult fare on the TTC is $2.75 (or less if purchased in bulk) which includes free transfers to other TTC buses or the subway. Tickets can be purchased from the Bureau de Change in Arrivals. There is service from Kiping Station to the airport 24 hours per day.
  • GO Transit [15], the commuter transit agency, provides express buses that run from the airport to Yorkdale and York Mills subway stations in North York for $4.05. This takes about 35-45 minutes, followed by another 20 minutes on the subway to get downtown. A new GO Transit service, effective April 26, 2008, offers service to/from the airport to Square One GO Terminal in Mississauga and Richmond Hill Centre. This bus service runs every 30 minutes from about 5:00 am to 1:00 am daily.
  • A future airport high-speed rail link, Blue22 will provide transit from Downtown at Union Station to Pearson Airport.

Taxis run a flat rate of $40 while airport limousines [16] go slightly higher at $50-70. Limousines are generally slightly larger (though not stretched) and more comfortable vehicles than taxis. Government approved rates can be found online [17].

Toronto City Centre Airport (YTZ) [18] (or TCCA, or "The Island Airport") handles much less traffic. One of its main tenants is Porter Airlines which services New York (Newark), Ottawa, Montreal, Mont Tremblant, and Halifax. Toronto City Centre Airport offers mainly short-haul regional flights to neighboring Canadian cities, with a few Northeast US flights.

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.

A free shuttle bus is offered for Porter Airlines' passengers between the airport and Toronto's central Union Station.

Frugal travellers coming from the US or Central America should consider flying into Buffalo (New York), due to cheaper prices. Megabus [19] (prices vary, book early) runs from the Buffalo Niagara airport to Toronto; the trip takes 3 hours and includes the border crossing.

By bus

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.

  • Greyhound [20] provides transportation from most major Northeast cities.
  • Ontario Northland [21] provides service from the northern parts of Ontario.
  • Coach Canada [22] links Montreal and Toronto.
  • GO Transit [23] provides buses from outlying Toronto areas. GO transit buses do not serve the Toronto Coach Terminal, instead, they terminate at either the Union Station bus terminal (on Bay street, just south of Front street), or the suburban Yorkdale bus terminal, at Yorkdale subway station.
  • Megabus [24] provides service from New York City and Buffalo; fares start at US $1 when ordered far enough in advance. Buses arrive and depart from the east side of York Street, just north of Front Street next to the Royal York Hotel and near Union Station.

By train

Toronto is situated along a primary VIA Rail [25] corridor. Frequent trains travel east towards Montreal and Ottawa, west towards towards Western Ontario (Windsor, Sarnia, and Niagara Falls) and north to Northern Ontario and Western Canada.

Express service exists between Toronto and Montreal, with Dorval/Montreal Airport as the only intermediate stop. Hourly service in this so-called corridor is frequent, comfortable, and generally adheres well to schedule, making it extremely popular with local travellers. Remember to ask for student fares if you have an ISIC; see Rail Travel in North America.

The Canadian service operated by VIA (three times weekly) goes through "Northern" Ontario, across the prairies, then through the mountains all the way to Vancouver.

Daily through rail service from New York via Buffalo and Niagara Falls, The Maple Leaf, is operated jointly by VIA Rail and Amtrak [26]. Other schedules use a bus from Toronto to Buffalo.

Trains arrive in downtown at Union Station (65 Front St West), which is connected to both the subway and GO Train networks.

By car

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 it is often illegal to make a right or left onto Yonge Street. The exception is Front Street.

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.

Transit bylaws

Toronto follows some bylaws related to the transit system that often confuse or surprise visiting drivers:

  • If a bus is signalling intent to merge into traffic from a stop, you must yield to the bus.
  • If a streetcar in front of you and travelling in your direction has its doors open, you cannot pass the open doors.
    • However, if a traffic island (it'll look like a raised median with a transit shelter on top) separates the streetcar from your lane, you may pass with caution.
  • Occasionally the rightmost travel lane on certain streets (most notably on Bay Street between Front and Bloor Sts.) are reserved from 7am-7pm for transit vehicles, taxis and bicycles only; you can only enter these lanes to make a right turn at the next cross street. If you do decide to travel as through-traffic in these lanes you may be liable to an (often hefty) fine.

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.

Get around

Toronto is huge, and most roads run for very long distances. Use 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.

Subway, Trams, LRT and Buses

A TTC Bus
A TTC Streetcar
Toronto has a safe, well maintained public transportation system, run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) [27], and you can get pretty well anywhere you want in the main part of the city with the subway / Tram Light Rail/ buses. Current plans to greatly expand the Light Rail system within the next five years should greatly improve the current system.

Current fares are $2.75 (discounted to $2.25 if you buy 5 or 10 tickets or tokens at a time).

A TTC Day Pass is available for $9.00. 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 can travel with the TTC Day Pass, from the start of daytime service until 5:30AM the next morning:

  • 2 adults alone, or with up to 4 Children/Youths (Youth = *19 years of age or under).
  • 1 adult alone, or with up to 5 Children/Youths (Youth = *19 years of age or under).

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 $109 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. It now is sold for $32.25 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:

  • The Bloor-Danforth line runs east-west along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. It meets the Yonge-University line at Bloor-Yonge, St. George, and Spadina stations, and meets the Scarborough Rapid Transit (RT) line at Kennedy station.
  • The Yonge-University-Spadina line runs in a U formation, travelling north-south along Yonge Street, bending at Union Station, then travelling north-south along University Avenue, Spadina Avenue, and Allen Road. It meets the Sheppard line at Sheppard-Yonge station and the Bloor-Danforth line at Bloor-Yonge, St. George, and Spadina stations.
  • The Sheppard line runs in an east-west direction along Sheppard Avenue. It meets the Yonge line at Sheppard-Yonge station and terminates at Don Mills Station in the east.

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.

Tokens vs. Tickets

If you have decided not to purchase a daily pass (and they are an excellent option for those who intend to use transit a lot, especially for families), you may want to purchase tokens instead of tickets. They're equally valid at collector's booths and when boarding busses/streetcars, but the TTC also offers separate and automated token and metropass-only turnstiles at all stations which are often much quicker than waiting for the queue in front of the collector's booth to clear. Unlike tickets, they do not expire or become devalued when the cost of fares increase (as they often do).

Tickets may be purchased from many convenience stores (look for a TTC sign in the front window) and a few hotel desks as well as collector's booths at any subway station. Tokens may be purchased from vending machines in stations and from collectors. Bus and streetcar drivers do not offer change and do not sell tickets or tokens.

Transfers

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 only take you 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. (Although in practice, station collectors who see twenty people with transfers from the same route and one person without one will often wave the extra person by, don't count on it.)

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 operate 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 it's 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 the price of $47.00 (recently raised from $43). 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 traveling through the fare-zone boundary in York Region with a GTA pass, you will have to pay an additional $1.00. A new region-wide integration system is in place, known as 'Metrolinx', and will provide seamless connections between transit operators. A new high-speed rail link between Hamilton, Toronto and Peterborough, ON is being built.

GO Transit

A system of regional trains and buses, GO Transit [28], 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 safe and mostly reliable usually running every 20 to 60 minutes. There is currently construction at the downtown hub of Union Station which is causing delays of 10 to 20 minutes.

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 passenger-to-be indicates they are waiting to be picked up, even if 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. This is because GO stops often share stops with other municipal transit systems.

Taxis

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.

By bicycle

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. The city takes a reasonably pro-bike position and a bike-map is available on the city website [29]. Doughnut shaped bike lock racks have been installed on many sidewalks, usually in front of shops, restaurants or major points of interest.

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 as 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 centre 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.

Although you will certainly see large numbers of locals riding the streets year-round, be warned that biking in the winter months is only enjoyable with proper equipment and reasonable skills; winter weather does get cold, it can be quite windy, and snow removal may take some time, especially in bicycle lanes.

See

Urban core. Looking north from the CN Tower

see Downtown district article for more possibilities & further information:

  • Royal Ontario Museum [30]One of the better museums in North America. Make sure you check out the dinosaurs and the Egyptian exhibits
  • Art Gallery of Ontario [31] -This is the largest art gallery in Canada. It has a great Canadian paintings exhibit and the world's largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures. The European paintings exhibit has a few excellent pieces and will have one of the world's most expensive paintings on view (Reuben's massacre of the innocents)when it re-opens in 2009.
  • Ontario Science Centre [32] -Lots of hands on science exhibits, including a rainforest, a tornado machine, sound proof tunnel, balace testing machines, and more. It also contains Ontario's only Omnimax (full wrap around) movie theatre.
  • Bata Shoe Museum [33] 327 Bloor St. West, in downtown Toronto. Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12 noon-5 pm. Adults $12, Seniors $10, Every Thursday evening between 5 and 8 pm, admission is Pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $5 (March 2008).
  • Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) [34]
  • CN Tower [35] - The tallest free standing structure in North America. You can ride a glass elevator to the top. The view is incredible and there is a glass floor, which for some is very scary to walk on. There is also a revolving restaurant which offers spectacular views as the sun sets over the city.
  • Casa Loma [36] Visit Canada's Majestic Castle, Casa Loma and step back in time to a period of European elegance and splendour. The former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt, Canada's foremost castle is complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and beautiful 5-acre estate gardens (open May through October). A self-guided digital audio tour in 8 languages (English, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and Korean) is available. Casa Loma is located at One Austin Terrace near the corner of Davenport Rd. and Spadina Ave. www.casaloma.org.
  • Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art [37]Dedicated to ceramics in an exquisite contemporary building right across from the Royal Ontario Museum - from Ancient to Contemporary with an extraordinary European collection
  • Hockey Hall of Fame [38]
  • Black Creek Pioneer Village [39] - historic site in northern part of Toronto, just west of York University and southeast of the Jane and Steeles intersection. It overlooks Black Creek, a tributary of the Humber River. The village is a recreation of life in 19th-century Ontario and consists of over forty historic 19th century buildings, decorated in the style of the 1860s with period furnishings and actors portraying villagers. The village is populated with ducks, horses, sheep, and other livestock and is self-explored, although many of the individual sites will have a guide inside to explain details of the structure. Visiting in the fall, after the summer, is a great way to see the village, as weekdays will see the facility almost empty of other visitors.
  • Ontario Place [40] A great place to take the kids in summer with an Imax theater inside.
  • Toronto City Hall Two buildings forming a semi-circle overlooking Nathan Phillips square, which has a very popular skating rink in the winter. Arcitecturally stunning, and next door to Old City Hall (currently the court house)which has a more classical architecture.
  • Toronto Zoo [41] A world-class facility, the Toronto Zoo is best accessed by car or GO Transit + TTC bus as a day-trip as it is located at the eastern reaches of the city. The zoo is divided into zones (such as Africa, South America, and North America) and features both indoor and outdoor displays. Open daily except for Christmas Day, and worth a visit in both the winter and summer months.

Tours

Toronto has great tours available; most are very affordable ($25-$38) and offer hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Do

see district articles for more detailed information


  • Just walk- Toronto has so many varied neighborhoods that a random walk is fascinating in its own right. You might start in the Downtown area and then try other neighborhoods around the city. You will also find that Toronto is "the city within a park", with miles and miles of parkland following the streams and rivers that flow through the city. Edwards Gardens and the Toronto Botanical Gardens in the neighborhood of North York might just be the place to start exploring this natural environment.[47]
  • Beaches - Toronto has some excellent beaches in the east end that offer typical beach activities such as volleyball, bike/rollerblading paths and a boardwalk along the water. Lake Ontario tends to be quite cool, even in mid-summer, and is cleaner than its local reputation might suggest - testing is conducted regularly and beaches have notices posted if the water is considered unsafe for swimming. The Toronto Islands tend to have the cleanest beaches (including a clothing-optional beach at Hanlan's point).
  • The Distillery District [48] the former Gooderham & Worts distillery lands have been rejuvenated into a pedestrian-only village dedicated to the arts and entertainment. It has fantastic restaurants, festivals, and art galleries.
  • The Lakefront and Toronto Island, in the downtown core offers biking and walking trails, with an excellent view of the Toronto skyline.
  • Theater - Toronto has a great theater scene for every taste and budget. Check out the big theaters on King Street and Yonge Street for the big splashy (and pricey) shows, such as the former runs of Chicago, The Lion King, Les Miz, Cats, etc. Small theaters in the Annex and elsewhere offer smaller productions that range from original Canadian works, avant-garde, experimental theater, small budget musicals to British murder mysteries. Also try to check out the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the brand new (2006) home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. The Toronto Symphony plays in the recently acoustically renovated Roy Thomson Hall.
  • Canada's Wonderland [49] is a big theme park located in Vaughan, 30 kilometers north of downtown Toronto. It is considered one of North America's premier amusement parks, with more than 200 attractions. The park is open seasonally from May to October.
  • Little Italy/Portugal Village- Centred at College and Grace, this is the spot to get a sense of the Western Mediterranean. Sit at one of the many coffee shops and watch the world go by on the weekends. A great time to visit is durring the World Cup of Soccer (regardless of where in the World it is actually being held) as both communities face off and rivalries reach a fever pitch. Recently the rivalries have begun to infect adjacent communities and it is now getting to the point that the entire city is being draped in a mind numbing variety of flags once every four years.

Buy

Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop and find deals:

  • Yonge Street is locally regarded as the longest street in the world. This is actually not true, but it's best not to argue with the locals about it. It runs from the edge of the lake to about 100 km north of the city. The in-town end is a touristy-shopping district with many restaurants, souvenir and gift shops, etc.
  • Yorkville is the high-end shopping district of Toronto. Once a haven for Toronto's hippie population, it is located just north of Bloor and Bay Streets and is now home to many designer boutiques. During the annual Toronto Film Festival the area is "ground-zero" for celebrity watching.
  • Located a short walk west of the Eaton Centre is the city's fashion district along Queen Street West, an area usually bustling with local hipsters looking for the latest looks in a variety of trendy stores. The stretch between University Ave. and Spadina tends to be much more mainstream with an ever increasing number of chain stores. More offbeat choices can be found west of Spadina Ave. stretching all the way into Parkdale.
  • Kensington Market, around College and Spadina, was once a center of Jewish life but has morphed into the center of Toronto's bohemian scene. Visitors will be assaulted by sounds and smells unlike anywhere else in the city, as narrow streets bustle with immigrants, punks, and yuppies alike. Stores include surplus shops, coffee houses, clothing vendors, and record stores. Fish and fruit markets are also present in great numbers, and the area is experiencing a boom of South American food stalls of late. Several weekends throughout the summer are designated "car-free" by the city, but even on the average weekend this is a place to avoid with a car, as pedestrians tend to wander as they please.
  • Pacific Mall at Steeles and Kennedy in Markham, [50]. The largest Chinese indoor mall in North America, and definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Asian-Canadian culture. Take the 53B bus from Finch subway station. About 45 minutes from downtown. Also located close to Milliken GO station.


  • Chinatown Centered at Dundas and Spadina, Toronto's Chinatown is a great way to see China without spending the airfare. Vast crowds crush the sidewalks as vendors sell authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food, and not-so-authentic knock-offs. It is one of North America's largest Chinatowns, and with many stores geared towards tourists, it is a good place to pick up souvenirs. The area is also home to a growing number of Korean and Vietnamese shops and eateries as the nature of the city's immigration continues to involve. For a complete tour, travel along Spadina (North/South) starting at College Street in the north or Queen Street in the south.
  • Toronto Hockey Repair and Goalie Heaven [51] is a world-renowned hockey equipment vendor, attracting people from around the world to shop.
  • Toronto Eaton Centre [52] A massive shopping mall located at Yonge & Dundas Streets, this is a haven for those looking for a more "commercial" experience. Shoppers from around the world will be comfortable here, as most major stores and labels are represented, along with a bustling food court serves fast meals to the rushing crowds. Because of it's downtown location and accessibility by subway, the mall tends to have a less-antiseptic feel than more remote suburban centres.
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre [53] A shopping centre located in the north of the city, accessible from Yorkdale subway station. This is a full-service mall with hundreds of stores, but which is also rife with packs of roving teenagers who use the facilities as a social scene. Make use of the subway if possible on weekends, as visitors pack the parking areas to capacity.
  • The 'PATH' System [54] stretches from the Eaton Centre south to Union Station, an undergound shopping mall has been created for all the commuters to get from Union Station to their offices and back without ever going outside. In a city of Toronto's summer heat and winter cold, this is essential.
  • Scarborough boasts Kennedy Avenue from Lawrence Avenue East to Ellesmere Avenue, a commercial district featuring dozens of independent furniture, electronic, houseware and computer businesses that all share some of the best deals the city has to offer, together with a couple of large electronic chains. It is often very congested on weekends by automobile, and many merchants lack adequate parking, but it is within walking distance of the Scarborough RT and there is bus service from the Kennedy subway station on the Danforth line.

Eat

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 a multicultural city, Toronto boasts 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.

see district articles for further information


Farmer's Markets

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.

  • St. Lawrence Market [55] has been bringing the freshest foods into the city for Torontonians and visitors alike since 1901. Located at Jarvis and Front, the St. Lawrence Market stretches over 2 buildings, the 'North Market' and the 'South Market' - and often over the section of Front street between them! The North Market is home to a Farmer's Market, open Saturdays year round. It features fresh vegetables in season, preserves, spices and herbs, and direct from the source foods, such as honey direct from the beekeeper or maple syrup from the people who tapped and boiled it. The South Market has over 50 specialty vendors, with a large seafood section, a dozen butchers, several bakeries, and three very extensive cheese shops. In the basement, there is also a specialty area for handcrafters, and an extensive foodcourt, with merchants often cooking food that they bought fresh that morning from upstairs. The South Market is open year round, Tue-Thu 8AM-6PM, Fri 8AM-7PM, Sat 5AM-5PM.
  • Riverdale Farm [56] at 201 Winchester Street (three blocks east of Parliament Street) is a year-round producing farm owned by the City of Toronto as part of its extensive park system, open daily for tours, education, and more 9AM-5PM. The Friends of Riverdale Farm operate an onsite store and restaurant, Shop at the Farm and Farm Kitchen, in Simpson House (daily 10AM-4PM), and a weekly Farmer's Market (Tuesdays, May 10 - Oct. 25, 2005, 3:30-7PM). Riverdale farm is a working farm, with barns and outdoor paddocks, and animals of all types. In an attempt to provide education about farming, the staff is approachable, and will discuss chores as they go through the daily tasks of keeping a farm running. Tours are available, or you can wander the 7.5 acres freely.

Other farmer's markets in Toronto:

  • City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West - Wednesdays, June 1 - October 5, 10AM-2:30PM (except June 29 due to Jazz Festival)
  • East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Avenue - Tuesdays, May 24 - October 25, 9AM-2PM
  • Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall - Saturdays, June 4 - October 29, 8AM-2PM
  • North York Civic Centre, Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge Street - Thursdays, June 16 - October 20, 8AM-2PM
  • Scarborough Civic Centre, Albert Campbell Square, 150 Borough Drive - Fridays, June 3 - October 14, noon-5PM
  • The Dufferin Grove Farmer's Market [57], 875 Dufferin Street (across from the Dufferin Mall) - Thursdays, year round (outdoors around the rinkhouse in summer and in the rinkhouse in winter) 3:30-7PM

Interesting food districts

  • A small section of Baldwin Street (east of Spadina, north of Dundas) has many small outdoor cafes ideal for summer lunches.
  • King Street between University Avenue and Spadina Avenue has many touristy restaurants appealing to theatre goers.
  • Queen Street East between Empire and Leslie has a number of casual, trendy restaurants that match the vibe of Leslieville.
  • College Street to the west of Bathurst has a cheaper set of eclectic restaurants popular with university students from nearby University of Toronto.
  • Bayview Avenue south of Eglinton, is the location of some of Toronto's best French pastry shops, including Rahier and La Cigogne.
  • Bloor Street to the west of Spadina in the Annex has a similar set of restaurants to College, with a particularly heavy concentration of budget-friendly Japanese restaurants. Most restaurants tend to be very laid back.
  • Yorkville - it's more about being seen than actually eating but there are a few hidden gems - Toni Bulloni (152 Cumberland Ave) is a GREAT, un-pretentious Italian spot. Sushi Inn (120 Cumberland) is one of the most popular (though decidedly low-end) sushi restaurants in the city.
  • The city's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, once chose the Downsview Park Flea Market food court as the best in the city. Although it is only open on weekends and is rather remote, it offers a variety of authentic food from Afghan to Trinidadian and lacks the chain restaurants that dominate the city's food courts. It is a bit remote, but is accessible from the Downsview subway station on the Spadina line and shares space with over 400 independent retailers.

Cafés

Toronto is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

  • Bulldog Coffee 89 Granby Street [58] serves the best espresso and espresso based drinks in Toronto. One of the owner/baristas regularly wins competitions for his latté art. Daily 7AM-7PM.
  • The Red Tea Box 696 Queen Street W - excellent teas, good food, cozy atmosphere, and decadent desserts that look too good too eat. Not cheap, but very good. Only open for lunch. 416 203 8882.
  • Dufflet's 787 Queen Street W ([59]) - cakes to die for--they supply desserts for a number of the city's best restaurants. Limited seating, but taking out a coffee to go and strolling along this interesting stretch of Queen St. is ideal in warmer weather. You can also buy customized birthday cakes here.

Vegetarian

Toronto is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

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  • Café 668 (Bathurst and Dundas)
  • Buddha's Vegetarian Food (Bathurst and Dundas)
  • King's Café (Kensington Market)
  • Vegetarian Haven (Baldwin Street): All of the food was good, very filling, big portions. Staff was very friendly and 'real', the restaurant is clean and beautiful (outdoor seating a big plus), and the cost is very acceptable ($13.60 CAD for entree and soup). This place stands out as the mark of an excellent restaurant.

Drink

Toronto is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

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The majority of Nightlife in Toronto is centred 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 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.

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.

  • The Green Room 296 Brunswick Avenue (416) 929 3253 is a cozy funky bar hidden in an alley just off Bloor. It has affordable prices and a beautiful courtyard garden when the weather is warm. Daily noon-2AM.
  • The Feathers Pub 962 Kingston Road (416) 694-0443 is possibly Toronto's most British pub, and has approximately 300 single malt scotches available at reasonable prices.

Sleep

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.

Hostels

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.

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 [60] 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 [61] because of its close proximity to the Spadina subway station and the University of Toronto.

Learn

International students often prefer to study in Toronto because of its safety, proximity to other tourist destinations, and favourable exchange rates and visa policies.

Toronto is home to four public universities

  • The University of Toronto [62] (Canada's largest) is spread out all over the city (including the main downtown campus, an East-end Scarborough campus, and University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) in the neighbouring city of Mississauga).
  • York University [63] (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.
  • Ryerson University [64] is located in the heart of the downtown core.
  • Ontario College of Art and Design which is located at Queen Street West and Spadina.

Seneca College [65] (Canada's largest college) is spread out over the city with over 16 campuses of varying sizes.

George Brown College [66] has two campuses: St. James (downtown) and Casa Loma (midtown).

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 [67].

Contact

For 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 dissapearing, 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 dialing. 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 [68]. 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 [69] 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.

Free Internet access is available on computers at Toronto Public Library [70] branches, and the Toronto Reference Library [71] also provides free wireless access on the first two floors. Access to the Internet requires entry of a library card number; visitors can request a one-time-use access number to use in place of the library card number.

Stay safe

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, occasionally escalating to where weapons become involved. Police have recently increased their presence in the club district to limit problems, but caution is still advised.

The downtown core and most of the surrounding suburbs are largely risk-free, but be careful when in neighbourhoods such as Jane-Finch, Regent Park, Parkdale and Morningside Avenue. These areas have a reputation for higher-than-average crime rates, but are still safe during the day.

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.

Although the overall violent crime rate in Canada is much lower than that found in the United States, but is still higher than the rate in some European countries such as Germany. Petty crime is generally not a problem in Toronto, although rates of vehicle and bicycle theft are a little bit high.

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 "not today," "sorry," or simply ignore them. Toronto's homeless tend to live up to expectations of Canadian courtesy and will smile and say, "Oh that's alright, don't worry about it!"

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 presents the greatest danger. Among the major world tourist cities, Toronto has the third-coldest winter temperatures, with the first & second-place cities of Moscow & Montreal being significantly colder. Mild periods occur melting accummulated snowfall, but nevertheless you must come prepared and dress warmly, preferably in layers as conditions are changeable. The average January high temperature in Toronto is -1°C and the average low is -8°C. In January, February, and early March temperatures can drop as low as -30°C or colder with a biting windchill. Exposed skin will freeze in minutes at these temperatures. In July the average maximum is 27°C and the average low is 18°C, with sometimes hot, humid conditions but the city has many parks or public spaces with gardens to cool off. In the summer months, days above 30 degrees C are not uncommon. There were more than thirty days when this occurred in 2007.

On occasion, during the winter months, Toronto will be hit with a severe winter storm accompanied by significant snowfall. 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 public transit or stay inside. In the most severe storms, however, surface transit has been known to be significantly delayed or even shut down.

Get out

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 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 northeast of Toronto, are cottage country areas, with country inns, hundreds of lakes and rivers, camping, fishing/hunting, provincial parks, and a wealth of year-round outdoor activities 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 destinations within 1.5 - 2.5 hours of Toronto include Wasaga Beach, Sauble Beach, Sandbanks, Grand Bend, Long Point, and Turkey Point.

External Links

  • Toronto Tourism -- Official website from the Toronto Convention and Visitors Association.
  • Rethink Toronto -- Travel and city guide to Toronto, Canada.




This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!