North America

Toronto is in the Top Ten!

Toronto skyline | Photo credit: Toronto Convention & Visitors Association

Toronto attracts millions of visitors each year.

Toronto has become an increasingly popular destination. It now places sixth among North American cities (behind New York City, Oahu Island, San Francisco, Miami and Boston).

Situated along the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is the provincial capital of Ontario. With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth-most populous municipality in North America.

In the 17th century Toronto was a small French colony; then came the American Revolution which encouraged scores of families whose loyalties lay with the British to flee north. Many settled beside the lake, establishing a town known as York, which slowly grew in importance as an administrative and manufacturing centre. In 1834 the name was changed to Toronto, an Indian word meaning ‘meeting place’.

The name proved worthy when about a century later the city’s English character began to be buried beneath the conglomeration of cultures brought in by a massive tide of immigrants from all corners of the world. Old English pubs and Victorian and Edwardian architecture survive among the skyscrapers, and today Toronto is a lively and cosmopolitan city and Canada’s commercial capital.

Toronto can boast of being a richly-diverse city, having a multi-cultural heritage of more than 80 ethnic groups, and as such, there are numerous neighbourhoods that reflect this world famous multicultural mix.

In fact, Toronto is often referred to as “The World within a City”. Neighbourhoods like Little Italy, Corso Italia, three Chinatowns, Korea Town, Little Poland, Little India, Portugal Village, Greektown, the Gay Village represent every ethnic culture that you can possibly imagine, and a few that you couldn’t …

The city attracts millions of visitors each year, and from all areas of the world.

Getting around Toronto is relatively easy. The TTC, the public transportation service, consists of an extensive subway system, buses and streetcars which should provide timely and efficient service to just about anywhere you may want to go – especially in the downtown core. Visitors are encouraged to leave cars parked except when you may be travelling to outlying attractions, or further afield in the GTA. Traffic is sometimes slow and parking is not always convenient. One thing you may want to do is take a ride on a TTC trolley …

And during inclement weather, you will be pleased to know that Toronto has a PATH to follow during not pleasant weather. The Guinness Book of World Records hails PATH as the largest underground shopping complex in the world. This underground walkway is 27 km that links Union Station, five subway stations, major department stores, hotels, City Hall and some 50 office complexes. PATH was built in the 1960s, partly to give office workers a break from during the winter and partly to make way to build new above ground skyscrapers. But, the history of PATH originated much earlier … The first underground path in Toronto originated in 1900 when the T Eaton Co. joined its main store at 178 Yonge Street and its bargain annex by tunnels. By 1917 there were five tunnels in the downtown core. With the opening of Union Station in 1927, an underground tunnel was built to connect it to the Royal York Hotel (now known as the Fairmont Royal York). The real growth of PATH began in the 1970s when a tunnel was built to connect the Richmond-Adelaide and the Sheraton Centre.

There is such a variety of “so much to see and do” that visitors are encouraged to plan ahead. There is a treasure trove of museums, art galleries, live theatre, performing arts, festivals, every kind of dining experience and, of course, shopping.

Here are just some of the highlights to see and do …

 The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum | Photo credit: Toronto Convention & Visitors Association

Getting the feel of Toronto’s diversity is one of the city’s great pleasures, but there are attention-grabbing sights here as well. Most are conveniently clustered in the city centre, and the most celebrated of them all is the CN Tower. One of the most exciting ways to see the world is from the exterior, glass-floored observation deck located 342 metres above the ground. Or you can go up to the Space Deck at 447 metres, the world’s tallest observation deck with a 160-kilometre view. The CN Tower is quite is to find … from anywhere, just look up!

Celebrated architect and Toronto-born Frank Gehry’s designed the new Art Gallery of Ontario, which recently re-opened following a $276 million transformation and now features 110 light-filled galleries displaying some 4,000 new and perennial favourite art works. The new AGO will offer an almost 50 per cent increase in art viewing space. A casual-chic restaurant and family-friendly café, a two-level gift shop and a free contemporary gallery will be easily accessible from the street. With a permanent collection of more than 68,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America.

Marriott Toronto Yorkville Hotel

Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel

If you are visiting Toronto, you will want to be located in Yorkville – the soul of the city’s fashionable areas. The Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville is located in the heart of downtown’s chic Yorkville District. Heighten your senses and prepare to be enlightened by our hotel’s exciting guest room renovations featuring 42-inch LCD TVs, large work spaces, ergonomic chairs, and much more. This upscale Toronto hotel welcomes guests with award-winning service, Marriott’s luxurious Revive Bedding Collection and convenient amenities. The hotel’s neighborhood is where you will find some of the city’s most sought-after attractions. Various (And creative) packages are available.

With an idyllic setting right beside the lake, Harbourfront Centre is the spiritual heart of the city where locals gather on weekends for some gallery hopping, shopping and concerts. Used as an industrial docklands for decades the abandoned warehouses and disintegrating factories have been transformed into a treasured recreational and cultural public space. You can join the hundreds and hundreds of people who stroll along the waterside promenade, indulge in theatrical performances and browse craft boutiques, or head to Queen’s Quay Centre for some superb shopping. Year round events at this urban playground include film, dance, theatre, music, children’s events and marine events. This non-profit cultural centre at York Quay occupies 10 acres of lakefront. It also houses the Power Plant, a contemporary art gallery, and the Pier, a museum that chronicles the nautical and industrial history of Toronto.

Called the ROM by locals, the Royal Ontario Museum is the largest museum in Canada, with a permanent collection of more than six million objects. The original Royal Ontario Museum was established by an Act of Ontario Legislature in 1912. Some of the museum’s highlights include the richly decorated Egyptian sarcophagus of the Djedmaatesankh mummy which dates back to around 850 BC, a model of the Acropolis in Athens and skeletons of Allosaur Dinosaurs and a tomb dating back to the Ming dynasty.

In a city like Toronto, with an abundance of museums, The Bata Shoe Museum is unique. For one thing, it’s all about shoes. For another, the specially designed building is in the form of a huge shoe box with the lid laid across the top. Finally, it’s a privately-owned family museum, the personal project of Mrs. Sonja Bata. Although the name is synonymous with the giant shoe empire, there’s less than a half dozen Bata shoes in the entire collection. Imelda Marcos – and anyone else obsessed with shoes – will love this museum, which houses the Bata family’s 10,000-item collection. You’ll come across such specialty shoes as spiked clogs used to crush chestnuts in 17th-century France, Elton John’s 12-inch-plus platforms, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s well-worn sandals. Just for fun, Sonja Bata started collecting shoes years ago as she traveled world-wide with her husband on business. The fun turned into a hobby and then grew into a huge collection that filled several warehouses. Rock stars, sports heroes, musicians, artists, movie and stage legends … they’re all here. As well, the museum is constantly working on new exhibitions ranging from celebrity shoes to historical footwear.

Toronto's famous castle, Casa Loma | Photo credit: Toronto Convention & Visitors Association

Toronto’s very own castle is a joy to tour and provides visitors a look at the opulence of early Toronto. Casa Loma, built by one Sir Henry Pellatt, was a visionary and successful businessman. Pellatt hired E.J. Lennox to build his dream house; a house on the hill, or “Casa Loma.” It took three years and $3.5 million to build, which was bigger than any home in North America. Pellatt gathered artwork from around the world to decorate Casa Loma. Large rooms accommodated the Pellatt’s busy social calendar and grand parties. Unfortunately, the Pellatt made some bad financial decisions, sunk deeply into debt and eventually had to declare bankruptcy. The rest, as they say, is history, which you can, to this day, still see … Sitting on five acres, the architecture of Casa Loma is indicative of the opulence of the Edwardian era and is reminiscent of the castles of old.

Hockey is Canada’s national pastime (One of two – the other being Lacrosse) and there is great pride in the history of the sport. So where else would you expect to find the world’s Hockey Hall of Fame? Here, you can experience the game that defines Canada and a sport that has been adopted by over 80 countries. Home of the Stanley Cup, the Hockey Hall of Fame features interactive exhibits, larger-than-life statues, replica dressing room and a rink zone, theatres.

For the kids…

Ontario Place is one of Toronto’s most popular summer family leisure and entertainment complexes. Located directly on the Lake Ontario waterfront, Ontario Place is a multitude of land and water attractions for all ages. Throughout the summer, Ontario Place features events and special entertainment.

The mission at the Ontario Science Centre is to delight, inform and challenge visitors through engaging and thought-provoking experiences in science and technology. And such is the case … With more than 800 exhibits and a dozen halls, it is no wonder Ontario Science Centre has managed to attract over 30 million visitors since it opened in 1969. The Ontario Science Centre is one of Toronto’s best-known attractions, and deservedly so.

The Toronto Zoo is the city’s natural wonder, an award winner and a favourite Toronto attraction. The zoo boasts over 5,000 animals representing some 460 species, and attracts approximately 1.2 million visitors per year to the 287 hectares of exploration space.

Imagine what the world was like before cars, televisions, radios or computers were invented. Not likely you do, and for sure your kids don’t. So, a visit to Black Creek Pioneer Village may be in order. Black Creek Pioneer Village features an outstanding collection of heritage homes, workshops and community and farm buildings. Each of the village’s original buildings has been restored and furnished to recapture its original ambiance and demonstrate how settlers lived.

About Shopping

West Queen West is one of Toronto's trendier neighborhoods | Photo credit: Toronto Convention & Visitors Association/Emily Sheff

Toronto holds its own with any major city in North America when it comes to all things retail. Toronto is a big, cosmopolitan city and you can expect shopping to meet, and exceed, your expectations.

Toronto’s most exclusive retail district is located in the Bloor/Yorkville area. During the sixties Yorkville was the centre of Toronto’s hippie culture, however, after large scale developments in the eighties and nineties, Bloor Yorkville has become Toronto’s upscale shopping district of choice, where boutiques are dedicated to haute couture. On Bloor Street, from Yonge to Avenue Road, you will find the world-classes of names and on the narrow streets north of Bloor are the smaller but just as chic independents.

“New York has Macy’s, London has Harrods, Chicago has Marshall Fields, and Toronto has Honest Ed’s. Honest Ed’s is a store of oddities: It has the world’s largest electric sign (22,000 flashing lights) and since 1988 it’s an official Ontario tourist attraction. The walls are packed with funny slogans and, because of (Ed) Mirvish’s theatre background, the walls are also pinned with pictures of show business personalities and posters of famous theatre productions.

In the 1920s, Kensington Market, located adjacent to Toronto’s (Spadina) Chinatown, was known as the Jewish Market; today it has evolved into a multicultural mix of shops, restaurants, vintage clothing shops and eclectic cafes. If you want to take a trip around the world in a few blocks, feeling a sense of the city’s rich cultural diversity, Kensington Market is the place to be. The shopping is fun, where you’ll find unique stores in a maze of narrow streets. You can find imported goods from Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East. There are also a number of artist studios open to the public. Artists in the market work with a wide range of media including prints, sculptures and metal work.

The Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto

The Delta Chelsea Hotel

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto the Delta Chelsea Hotel is just minutes from the Theatre District, Toronto Eaton Centre and Yonge-Dundas Square. Featuring four restaurants and lounges, an adult-only fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, indoor pool, seasonal sundeck, Family Fun Zone including the Kid Centre, Teen Lounge and the 130-foot long Corkscrew – downtown Toronto’s only indoor waterslide.

The Delta Chelsea offers guests great rates and packages from Great Canadian Weekends to No tax and Your Stay, Your Way options.

Toronto’s hip neighbourhood, much like New York’s Soho, is known as Queen Street West. A great place to hang out, people watch or shop, QSW, which begins just west of University Avenue in the downtown core, is where you will find funky boutiques showcasing the latest in grunge to urban chic and various other trendy fashions. There are many galleries showing contemporary art as well as a wealth of trendy bars cafes and bistros.

Toronto after Dark …

But a problem is … where to go and what to do first. But plan ahead. Toronto’s cultural activities are acclaimed world-wide.

The National Ballet of Canada ranks as one of the world’s top international dance companies. Established as a classical company by founder Celia Franca in 1951, the National Ballet of Canada is the only Canadian ballet company to present a full range of traditional full-length classics. Canada’s premier dance company has performed for over 10 million people. In 2006, the company moved into a new era and performance venue at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which is Canada’s first purpose-built ballet opera house. The National Ballet performs annual fall, winter and summer seasons plus The Nutcracker and each season performs in other Canadian cities. The company has toured in the United States and throughout the world including performances in Germany, The Netherlands, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy and Mexico.

The Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The company enjoys an international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation. The COC, which also performs at the Four Seasons Centre, produces fully staged opera productions and a series of free concerts throughout the season.

And the choices continue … you may just be in the mood to hear Toronto’s acclaimed symphony orchestra. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is Canada’s foremost symphonic ensemble. More than 300,000 patrons and 70,000 students hear the Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall each year, and an additional five million Canadians tune in to concert broadcasts on CBC Radio.

Toronto is well known in theatre circles as having not only outstanding (and historic) theatres, but outstanding theatre as well. Toronto has not one, but several theatrical companies that stage live theatre in dozens of venues throughout the city. You could say that the city has a “stage presence’. From classic Broadway to nouveau popular to experimental, there will always be a live performance that you either want to see, or you may have come to Toronto especially to see …

Toronto’s Entertainment District didn’t get its name (or reputation) out of a hat. The city’s Entertainment District is teeming with dining spots, clubs, pubs, theatres and sports venues, belying the city’s former reputation as a place without much of a night life. In fact, the range of entertainment is quite astounding.

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