If you’re a city person, Toronto has a lot to offer with its 6 million plus population (larger than the whole of Scotland!) massive buildings, endless amounts of food, a rich variety of people and things to do, then this is a must visit! So let’s explore shall we?
Now my first taste of Canada was Toronto and to give an idea of its insane weather, my friend messaged me in April telling me it was snowing…SNOWING! I was in sunny California and had brought nothing remotely close to winter clothes so this was going to be a problem for sure. I know all Scots have an immunity to the cold but after 4 months in Cali it does soften you up a wee bit. After yelling at my friend to fix her city, I arrived in Toronto and it was freezing. So cold in fact that the next day I was bundled up in my friend’s hoody, scarf, hat and looking remarkably like Grumpy Cat because after all it was only May. So top tip for Toronto, take a least one warm jacket with you!
Getting around Toronto is similar to Vancouver in that they have their own transit cards but they aren’t rechargeable, meaning you have to keep buying new cards or tokens. Transit cards can be bought on a weekly or monthly basis, they are expensive with the weekly pass costing you $42.25 but you can use it on buses and the subway as much as you like so if you’re going everywhere, everyday it’s worth it. If you’re having a one off journey, tokens (and passes) can be bought at any subway station. One token will cost you $2.90 whereas standard fare for the bus is $3.25 so even if its a one off journey you can save a wee bit. If you only want tokens then you can bulk buy 10 for $29. If you use a token on a bus the driver will hand you a paper transfer slip, keep this and you can use one journey on the subway for free. The same goes for the subway, after you pop in the token there is a red machine that will dispense a transfer slip and you can use that for the bus – depending on how your journey starts/ends. Oh and it works for street cars too or trams as we Scots call it.
The subway will get you everywhere you need to go but the street car is great to catch when moving up and down the long streets in Toronto. It’s also a great way to travel through the city as you get to see everything on the surface but it will take longer than the subway. However I recommend at least a couple of leisurely trips into the heart of Toronto using the street car.
Ok now you know how to get around let’s highlight some cool spots to go and see! I’ll do a separate post on food so you can enjoy everything! Since Toronto is huge it can be separated out into different sections, so first up is Chinatown and Kensington Market.
Chinatown (222 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2C2, Canada) is where all of the Asian marts, restaurants and pop up souvenir shops are, the main street to look up is Spadina Avenue. Spadina Ave, is a long street that connects into the heart of Down Town so it’s cool to stop at Chinatown first and walk around, take in the smells of great food, steamed buns and the hustle of street style shopping. At the back of Chinatown, so if you take a side street, you’ll wander into Kensington Market where you can find small, niche shops selling everything from burritos, fresh seafood, farmer market fresh fruit and veg to a place called Blue Banana that sells all the weird and cool things you didn’t know you needed! For example funky socks, animal bags, Canadian things, model ships – including the Normandy from my favourite game series Mass Effect. Also what you’ll notice is a lot of street art/graffiti and it’s just as weird and wonderful as the shops that have sprung up around it!
Once you’re ready to move on you can catch a street car to travel further down Spadina, or you can walk but it is a trek! Next I would hit up Queen Street which is another long street off of Spadina and is considered to be the heart of Down Town. Here you’ll find all the shopping your heart will ever desire, along with more restaurants but the reason why you should come here is to see Nathan Phillips Square aka New City Hall (100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2, Canada). This is a large square where you’ll find food trucks and a massive sign that says Toronto so you can have the perfect touristy picture to mark your Canadian adventure! Further down from you’ll find Eatons Centre (220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5B 2H1, Canada) a huge shopping mall for those who can shop till they drop! My most memorable experience in here was to actually see Hot Topic because we don’t have that in Scotland!
Harbourfront (235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8, Canada) is a fun place to check out different kinds of music and cultural events and it’s on the waterfront of Toronto, so if you like the water and boats this is the place to be! Speaking of boats you can take the public ferry over to Toronto Centre Island, however when I went it was actually crazy hot out so the queues for the ferry were enormous. So there are smaller boat taxi companies lined along the water all offering to ship you over and that’s what I did! For $10 I was on a medium sized open boat, skimming over to the island and what’s nice is that you can catch any ferry back from the island absolutely free! On the island there is a theme park for kids, a petting zoo with some funky looking birds and the biggest pig I’ve ever seen! There is also a place to rent bikes, if you’d rather cycle than walk, lovely beaches but the iciest of lake waters and wide open grassy spots. There are places to eat on the island but I would recommend taking a picnic to avoid the higher priced foods. For those who are comfortable in their own skin there is even a clothes optional beach so you can really work on your tan!
Toronto is also known for its Koreatown or K-town which you can get to from either Christie or Bathurst subway station on Bloor Street. This street has an array of the cutest shops: traditional Korean paper, cards, stamps plush toys, Korean restaurants, Karaoke rooms (noraebang) bubble tea cafes, Japanese restaurants, Korean supermarkets and Snakes and Lattes (600 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G 1K4, Canada). Snakes and Lattes is a board game cafe bursting with every board game you can imagine and if you can’t choose what to play or find what you’re looking for the awesome staff will help you to find it and will be your game mentors! There is a cover fee of $5 to be able to play but there is also a full menu of drinks and food so everything is in order for you to get your game on! I came here for my birthday, after eating beautiful Korean food, and my friends and I stayed for around 4 hours playing everything from Cards Against Humanity, Tsuro – a path finding game, Dimension – a 3D puzzle game and Munchkin – described by my friend as “a dungeon-crawling fantasy card game that is ridiculous.” Essentially you fight monsters, get loot and level up to beat down all of your friends ahooohooohooo! We actually came here twice and the second time we spent 7 hours replaying the above games with the addition of Yahtzee, Haunted House – a monster, horror, mystery game with a play time of an hour! and the game we all became surprisingly competitive at: Taboo. So without a doubt Snakes and Lattes is a great spot to hang out with friends and because it’s situated in K-town it’s very easy to make this one full day out!
My final two attractions for this post at least are Ripley’s Aquarium (288 Bremner Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9, Canada) and Ontario’s Science Centre (770 Don Mills Rd, Toronto, ON M3C 1T3, Canada). Ripley’s Aquarium is literally under another attraction known as the CN Tower but I’m going to talk about that in a separate post but for the aquarium with the most sharks it’s a pretty interesting place to check out. I would recommend buying tickets online because you can choose a time and head straight in without waiting at the entrance, standard fee is $26.98 but if you go after 7 pm prices drop to $24.98- yay saving! The aquarium is full of different species of fish, sharks, squids, octopus, really big stingrays and jellyfish. The aquarium will also have a special exhibition on so definitely check on the website for more info about that. In all honesty it was cool to see but if I hadn’t had gone I don’t think I would’ve missed out.
As for the Science Centre, same kind of thing, my friend and I paid to see an IMAX documentary as well so our entrance fee was $28 but what I really liked was the centre’s space exhibitions, planetarium and it had some really fun interactive exhibitions so I really enjoyed coming here. As for the documentary it was really cool as the screen was a dome so the picture filled your entire view instead of watching it cinema style like the one we have here in Glasgow.
One thing I noticed during our time at the Science Centre was a leaflet for a CityPASS. Buying this pass will allow you to visit Toronto’s top 5 attractions at a discounted rate and looking back now, I hit up 3/5 and it probably would’ve been cheaper to buy this pass anyway but alas I didn’t know! So I hope you can have a look at it when you plan your Toronto trip.
The attractions included are: 1) CN Tower 2) Casa Loma (some kind of castle) 3) Royal Ontario Museum 4) Ripley’s Aquarium and 5) Toronto Zoo or the Science Centre. The current price tag is $58.56 plus tax, I would always recommend looking for deals whenever travelling so if Toronto is a destination, give this pass a looksey!
That’s it for the first part of my Toronto travels, let me know what you enjoyed, what places you’d like to visit/have visited down in the comments below and hopefully I’ll see you on the next post! Thanks for reading!