Toronto, Canada - Travel information, Places of attraction
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About Toronto, Canada
[Toronto] is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto, with a population of 2.6 million, is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which contains 6.2 million people. The city is the anchor of the Golden Horseshoe region, which wraps around Lake Ontario from Toronto to Niagara Falls and totals over 8.5 million residents, approximately a quarter of Canada's entire population. Toronto is the fourth largest city and fifth largest urban agglomeration in North America.
Spawned out of post-glacial alluvial deposits and bluffs, the area was populated at different times by Iroquois and later Wyandot (Huron) peoples. The settlement by Europeans started with the French building a seldom occupied fort near today's Exhibition grounds in the mid-1700s, then grew out of a backwoods English trading post established as York in 1793 (reverting to the current name Toronto in 1834). Later in the 19th century, it grew to become the cultural and economic focus of Canada. Owing largely to the country's liberal immigration policies starting in the 1960s, and the region's strong economy, Toronto has, in recent decades, been transformed into one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world. More than 80 ethnic communities are represented, and over half of the city's residents were born outside Canada.
When Metropolitan Toronto amalgamated its six internal cities into one in 1998, it created a new mega-city known simply as Toronto, now made up of varied and unique neighbourhoods. Covering more than 600 square kilometres, Toronto stretches some 32 kilometres along the shores of Lake Ontario. The city is laid out on a very straightforward grid pattern and streets rarely deviate from the grid, except in cases where topography interferes such as the indented, curved Don River Valley and to a lesser degree the Humber and Rouge valleys at opposite ends of the city. Some main thoroughfares do intersect the grid at angles. For travel purposes, we have divided Toronto into twelve districts:
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 landline phone numbers in the Toronto area are still 416) and has a population of over 2.6 million people. More than half of these were born in some country other than Canada: a fact obvious to any visitor immediately, as the city has many vibrant bustling neighbourhoods with street signs in several languages.
Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are collectively known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Outlying suburbs are also known as the 905 after their area code, although technically this code is also used in both Hamilton and the Niagara Region, stretching from Cobourg and Colborne in the east to the border in Niagara Falls to the southwest. The entire area including Toronto is known as the Golden Horseshoe and has a population of over 8 million people. Distances between cities in the area can be great as it sprawls along, outward and even wraps around the western end of Lake Ontario; public transit is not always effective enough to make it a quick or seamless trip. Many suburban residents rely on motor vehicles to get around.
A popular urban myth has it that the United Nations rated Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world. While the UN and its agencies are not in the habit of rating cities, it remains a fact that Canada is a nation of immigrants, and Toronto demonstrates this abundantly. A UN agency lists Toronto as second only to Miami as the city with the most foreign-born residents, but Toronto's residents represent far more cultural and language groups, which is arguably a better measure of multi-culturalism. Most immigrants either pass through Toronto on their way to other parts of the country or stay in Toronto permanently. Many people born abroad consider themselves Canadian as much as born Canadians and will be offended if treated otherwise. This contributes to the overall cultural mosaic that is Toronto today. Within Toronto, most ethnic groups will work their way into the fabric of Canadian society but some still retain their distinct ways such as language, dress (if only 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.
Toronto's climate is on the whole on the cool side and variable conditions can be expected, temperatures average -3.8°C (25°F) in January downtown, however the type of extreme cold experienced in parts of Canada further north do not hold a tight grip for usually more than a couple of days at a time, despite this come prepared, winters are still cold, mostly cloudy and at times, snowy and uncomfortably windy. The city experiences warm and humid summers with an average high of 27°C (80°F) and a low of 18°C (65°F) in July/August with many muggy evenings but rarely extreme heat, with an average of only 12 days where the temperature exceeds 30°C (86°F) but hotter airmasses often arrive with moderately high humidity levels. Late spring/early summer and early fall are generally considered to be the best times to visit for weather and less crowds, mid-summer is the peak tourist season, but visitors will find that Toronto's vibrancy extends through the winter with outdoor skating rinks and bundled up clubgoers, etc. Toronto's public buildings are nearly all air-conditioned and fully heated.
Sometimes during the winter, severe storms can slow down transportation and activities in the city for a day or two. In the summer, thunderstorms occur from time to time, most lasting less than an hour.
- Ontario Travel Information Centre
20 Dundas St W, at Yonge inside the Atrium on Bay; Subway: Dundas, http://www.ontariotravel.net, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +1 416 314-5899
Sports teams arenas
Toronto has several major league sports teams:
- [Toronto Argonauts] - Canadian Football League, play at Rogers Centre.
- [Toronto Blue Jays] - Major League Baseball, play at Rogers Centre.
- [Toronto Maple Leafs] - National Hockey League, play at the Air Canada Centre.
- [Toronto Raptors] - National Basketball Association, play at the Air Canada Centre.
- [Toronto Rock] - National Lacrosse League, play at the Air Canada Centre.
- [Toronto FC] - Major League Soccer, play at BMO Field on Exhibition Place grounds.
- [Toronto Marlies] - American Hockey League (Toronto Maple Leafs farm team). Play at the Ricoh Coliseum.
The Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St, [http://www.theaircanadacentre.com]. Sometimes referred to as The Hangar.
The Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way, [http://www.rogerscentre.com]). Often referred to by its original SkyDome name.
The Buffalo Bills, [http://www.buffalobills.com]. The National Football League are under contract to play one exhibition and one regular season (home) game at the Rogers Centre through to the 2012 season.
The Maple Leaf Gardens, 60 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5B 1L1 Maple Leaf Gardens is a historic arena in Toronto, on the northwest corner of Carlton Street and Church Street in Toronto's Garden District that has been since been converted into a Loblaws supermarket and an athletic centre for Ryerson University known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (IATA:YYZ) [http://www.torontopearson.com] is about 30-50 driving minutes by car from the downtown core (depending on traffic) and is serviced by most major international carriers. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 hosts all Air Canada flights and a few other international (mostly Star Alliance) carriers while Terminal 3 hosts all other airlines. When traveling from Toronto Pearson (and other major Canadian airports) to the United States, travelers will go through United States immigration and customs preclearance in Toronto, and should leave some extra time to account for this. Toronto Pearson has free WiFi internet access.
There is no direct passenger rail link from the airport ( under construction estimated completion date: early 2015), but other options do exist for getting downtown from Pearson:
- TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), [http://www3.ttc.ca/Riding_the_TTC/Airport_service.jsp], provides public bus services that run to and from Pearson. The best TTC option is the 192 Airport Rocket that runs every 9–20 minutes between Kipling Station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line (marked green on maps) and Pearson Airport. This will take around 20–25 minutes. Kipling Station is the westernmost subway stop on the Bloor-Danforth line and it takes about 20 minutes to reach the boundary of downtown. One way adult fare on the TTC is $3.00 (or $2.60 if tokens are purchased in multiples of 4 or 7 from an agent or a machine) which includes free transfers to other TTC buses, streetcars, LRT, SRT or the subway. This is valid for 1 trip with no stopovers. Tickets can be purchased from the Bureau de Change in Arrivals. When the subways stop running at around 1:30 AM, the 300A Bloor-Danforth night bus provides service along the subway line and goes directly to the airport.
- GO Transit, [http://gotransit.ca/PUBLIC/gettogo/airport.htm], provides express buses to locations outside of Toronto's downtown. It operates from the airport to Yorkdale and York Mills subway stations in North York every 30–60 minutes for $4.05. This takes about 35–45 minutes, followed by another 20 minutes on the subway to get downtown (one must pay a separate fare to board the subway; $3.00). GO Transit offers service to/from the airport to Richmond Hill Centre (Yonge Highway 7). This bus service runs every 60 minutes from about 5AM-1AM daily. The GO Bus Transit service between Square One and the airport no longer operates. Alternatively, Mississauga Transit [http://www.mississauga.ca/portal/miway] route 107 provides express service between Square One and the airport's LINK train station on Viscount Road.
- Pacific Western Airport Express, [http://www.torontoairportexpress.com], operates a quick, convenient, and frequent bus service (every 20 minutes during peak periods and every 30 minutes on the off-peak). It picks up passengers at both terminals, and stops at several major hotels in the downtown core, as well as Union Station and the inter-city bus terminal at Bay and Dundas. As of March 2011, fares are $23.95 one way, $39.95 for round trips. There is a 5% discount for online reservations.
- Taxis to downtown run a flat rate of $53 (other areas of the city vary but are also flat rate,) while airport limousines go slightly higher. Limousines are generally slightly larger (though not stretched) and more comfortable than taxis. Government approved rates can be found online [http://torontopearson.com/en/toandfrom/taxilimo].
- Fake taxis (also called Gypsy Cabs by the locals) are frequently found congregating around Pearson Airport. If a driver approaches you inside the arrivals hall and asks if you need a ride, and you didn't arrange a car in advance, they are definitely unlicensed (legitimate cab drivers are prohibited by law from entering the terminal building to look for passengers.) While the risk of being a victim of crime as an unlicensed taxi passenger is very low, it should be noted that drivers and their vehicles are not held to the same safety and maintenance standards as their licensed counterparts. If you decide to patronize a Gypsy Cab, proceed at your own risk and be sure to agree on a fare in advance! Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport, (IATA:YTZ), [http://www.torontoport.com/Airport.asp], ( commonly known as The Island Airport by locals), handles short-haul regional flights only. Its main tenant is Porter Airlines [http://www.flyporter.com], a short-haul carrier that operates flights using turboprop planes to many cities in eastern Canada (Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John's) and the northeast United States (Boston, Chicago, New York/Newark and Myrtle Beach). Air Canada [http://www.aircanada.com] provides service to Montreal. One of the main benefits of flying into this airport is its proximity to the downtown core. Upon landing, you can be downtown within ten minutes.
A free ferry service makes the short crossing. It is just 121 m and the world's shortest regularly-scheduled ferry route. It operates between TCCA and the mainland every 15 minutes, 6:45AM–10:07PM. Once on the mainland, a free shuttle bus connects the terminal with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station.
TTC Streetcars are available a short walk north from the mainland ferry terminal. Route 511 Bathurst provides service north along Bathurst, to Bathurst subway station. Route 509 Harbourfront travels east along the waterfront (Queen's Quay) to Union Station. Both routes end a short distance to the west at Exhibition Place. However, the most convenient connection to TTC Subway and GO Transit services are via the free shuttle to Union Station.
Hamilton International Airport, (IATA:YHM), [http://www.flyhi.ca/], located about 80nbsp;km from downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls, is served by WestJet and CanJet. This airport is served by the ((Hamilton Street Railway)) from the Hamilton GO Station (36 Hunter Street East) where you can catch a GO commuter bus to Union Station in downtown Toronto ($9.50 one-way). Buses run every 30 minutes. A taxi from downtown Hamilton to the airport is about $25.
For frugal travellers coming from the United States, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, (IATA:BUF), [http://www.buffaloairport.com], is another option. Flights to Buffalo tend to be significantly cheaper than to Pearson. Megabus, [http://www.megabus.com], has varying prices and requires early booking. They run from the Buffalo Airport to Toronto. The trip takes 3 hours, including the border crossing. Rental cars are available at the airport if you prefer to do the drive yourself. Buffalo Airport Limo [http://buffaloairportlimo.com] offers a flat rate of $175 to downtown Toronto from BUF.
The main bus terminal in Toronto, the Toronto Coach Terminal (also known as Bay Street Terminal or the Metro Toronto Coach Terminal), is used for intercity coach travel and is served by Greyhound, Coach Canada, New York Trailways, and Ontario Northland.
The bus terminal's main entrance is on Bay Street immediately north of Dundas and the terminal's departures building takes up the northern half of the block bounded by Bay Street, Dundas Street, Edward Street, and Elizabeth Street; the arrivals building is located immediately across Elizabeth Street from the departures building. The departures building is connected by the underground PATH walkway system to Dundas subway station on the Yonge line via the Atrium on Bay shopping centre. The terminal is also several blocks east of St Patrick subway station on the University-Spadina line. Unlike Union Station, the bus terminal has lockers in which people may store luggage. The cost is $5 for 24 hours and you must get a token from one of the token machines located next to the lockers. The lockers are located in the hallway connecting the departures building with the arrivals building. Storing items in lockers overnight is not advisable as break-ins are common at night. Certain items too large to fit in a locker may be stored in the information booth at an extra cost.
The bus terminal in Toronto is very poorly designed, forcing passengers to queue in a space that is little more than a shed with walls on two sides, as a result passengers queueing are forced to inhale the diesel exhaust fumes from the coaches as well as endure the cold winters and hot summers. In addition, there are often queues so long for the commuter coaches that they block other coaches from reaching their platforms. Platforms are also poorly marked, and it is not difficult to queue up for the wrong bus. Do not hesitate to ask anyone for help. Most people in the terminal have plenty of experience with it and understand how difficult it is to navigate. Arrive at the terminal at least 30 minutes before your coach is scheduled to depart. You can avoid the hassle of having to purchase tickets at the terminal; it is generally faster to buy tickets online if possible. If you must purchase tickets at the terminal, be wary of peak travel periods, as the line can take up to 20 minutes. But be aware that Greyhound tickets purchased at the terminal can be used at any time (although they may have blackout periods) while tickets purchased online force you to reserve on a certain bus.
- Greyhound, [http://www.greyhound.ca], provides a large number of intercity services, their primary routes from Toronto include: New York City via Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse; Ottawa; and Chicago via London, Windsor and Detroit.
- Greyhound Quicklink, [http://www.greyhoundquicklink.ca/], is a subsidiary of Greyhound that provides commuter services between Toronto and cities immediately outside the range of GO transit. Services run to Kitchener, Guelph, Barrie, Peterborough, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls.
- Ontario Northland, [http://www.webusit.com], provides service from the northern parts of Ontario.
- Shuttle, [http://www.shuttle.ca], transports groups of people throughout all Ontario as well as Buffalo and Montreal.
- Coach Canada, [http://www.coachcanada.com], runs buses from Toronto to Montreal (7hrs, $10–$55) via Kingston (3hrs); and New York City (10.5hrs) via Niagara Falls (1.5hrs, $25.15) and Buffalo (2.5hrs, $27.20).
Coach Canada buses to Montreal and Greyhound buses to Peterborough and Ottawa also stop at the Scarborough Centre bus station to the east of central Toronto, this station lies on the Scarborough RT mass transit line. Greyhound buses to Kitchener, Guelph, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and New York and Coach Canada buses to Buffalo and New York also stop near Union Station, either in front of the York Street entrance to the Royal York Hotel or on University Avenue north of Wellington Street.
Two new, heavily-discounted services between Toronto and New York City now operate from the sidewalk in front of the Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station. Both advertise electrical connections at each seat, wi-fi, movies, and more legroom than traditional buses. If purchased far enough in advance, tickets can be found for $1 although in reality, most seats range from $15 to $50.
- Megabus, [http://www.megabus.com], provides service from New York City, Buffalo, Buffalo-Niagara Airport, Philadelphia, Syracuse and Rochester to the sidewalk in front of the Royal York Hotel. Megabus runs two buses a day from the Royal York, as well as two buses a day from the bus terminal, buses from the bus terminal run to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, while buses from the Royal York run to Penn Station in New York. Megabus also provides service twice daily from Washington, D.C.
- Ne-On, [http://www.neonbus.com/index.html], is a service operated jointly by Greyhound USA and New York Trailways that runs two buses a day from the Royal York Hotel to the New Yorker Hotel in New York.
GO Transit, [http://www.gotransit.com/], runs the commuter transit network in the Greater Toronto Area. Their bus services are designed to supplement their commuter trains, most of which run only during rush hour. When the trains are not running, GO runs buses on the same route. Most GO buses run to the Union Station Bus Terminal, adjacent to Union Railway Station. GO Transit also operates services to bus stations at several subway stations, including: Yorkdale Mall, Finch, York Mills and Scarborough Centre.
All scheduled passenger trains in Toronto run into and out of [Union Station], which is located at 65 Front Street, between Bay and York Streets. Opened in 1927, Toronto's Union Station is generally considered to be one of the grandest, most impressive train stations in North America; with an enormous great hall, the ceiling rising to a height equivalent to seven stories. Despite this impressive hall, most of the activity in the station takes place in the underground concourses which link the commuter rail platforms with the subway station. The great hall is still used for purchasing intercity rail tickets with a row of ticket booths and several ticket machines. The train station is served by a subway station with the same name, accessible from the GO concourse. The main intercity concourse is accessed from the great hall, but all commuter rail platforms are accessed from the underground GO Transit concourse, as is the Union Station Bus Terminal across the street. The GO Transit concourse is accessed by taking any one of the three large staircases in the great hall or directly from the subway.
Most intercity rail travel in Canada is provided by Via Rail, [http://www.viarail.ca/en_index.html]. Union Station is one of Via Rail's main hubs and connects several of their lines. Railway lines operated by Via Rail out of Union Station include:
- Corridormdash;This is VIA's busiest line running from Windsor and Sarnia in the southwest to Quebec City in the northeast. Regular trains run from Toronto directly to Montreal, Ottawa, London, Kingston, Windsor, and Sarnia as well as stations in between. The lines between Montreal and Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto are VIA's busiest and most frequent, they also have the largest discounts if booked well in advance. There are two classes of service, business and economy. Business class includes meals and alcoholic beverages.
- Maple Leafmdash;This service is run jointly by VIA and U.S. passenger rail company, Amtrak, [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage]. Trains on this line run between Toronto and New York City once a day in each direction stopping at Albany and Buffalo as well as many smaller stations. Trains between Toronto and New York are extremely slow and very expensive, the coach services listed above generally take several hours less and cost several times less than the train. There are also more frequent trains that run on this line from Toronto to Niagara Falls.
- The Canadianmdash;Trains on this line run the transcontinental route from Toronto to Vancouver three times a week each way, stopping at a large number of smaller stations on the way. Cities that this train passes through include: Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper and Kamloops. The full journey takes about three days. This is one of the most expensive rail journeys in North America and is many times more expensive than flying. However, Via rail runs 'express deals' 2–3 weeks before travel that can reduce the price on this route by 75 percent. The trains contain both sleeper berths and cabins, as well as reclining economy seating. Three meals per day are cooked in the train's dining car. These are included in sleeper fares and are available for purchase for economy passengers.
- Ontario Northlandmdash; [http://www.ontarionorthland.ca/en/railpassenger/northlander/northlander.html]. A Government subsidized passenger rail service into the scarcely populated north of Ontario ran trains on a single line from Toronto to Cochrane, Ontario six times a week. Most of this line was single track and owned by freight companies, as a result, whenever a freight train passed, the passenger train had to move onto a siding and wait. Ontario Northland's train service was replaced by buses on the Northlander route in 2012.
- Commuter trainmdash;Services in the Greater Toronto Area are operated exclusively by [GO Transit], who run all of their trains from Union Station. Their trains serve mainly the sprawling suburbs around the city and most of the train lines run only during rush hour; at other times of the day, they are replaced by bus services. Most of these buses originate from Union Station Bus Terminal across Bay Street from the railway station; there is an overhead walkway from the GO Train concourse to the bus terminal.
Travel times by intercity rail: Montreal 4hrs 37min Ottawa 3hrs 57min Winnipeg 34hrs Saskatoon 46hrs Edmonton 56hrs Vancouver 83hrs
Major highways leading into Toronto are the QEW, the 404, the 401, the 400, and the 427. Toronto is in the enviable position of being the largest city in Canada, so it's relatively easy to find a sign pointing you in the right direction. Be advised that traffic on incoming highways can be extremely heavy. In the downtown core there are many turn restrictions, particularly from main thoroughfares to other main thoroughfares (e.g. Yonge to Dundas Streets).
The main streets in Toronto are laid out in a grid pattern that makes it one of the easiest cities to get around in by car. Getting from point to point anywhere in the city can be achieved with only a few turns. Parking in the downtown core can be expensive and hard to find, but is plentiful and inexpensive or free throughout the rest of the city.
- Canada drives on the right.
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.
- Streetcars (Trams) - several rules and customs are observed; these rules are more familiar to European drivers, where trams are common, but generally unknown to drivers from elsewhere in North America:
- If a streetcar in front of you and travelling in your direction has its doors open, by law you may not pass the open doors, because of the risk to passengers exiting and boarding. Often (especially during rush hour when large crowds are to be expected), passengers will step out into the road before the streetcar has come to a complete stop, in anticipation of the doors opening. In this situation, it is customary to stop, as crowds of passengers can overwhelm the road within seconds, and some can be quite brazen about stepping off the curb. If a streetcar pulls alongside your vehicle while you are stopped, and opens its doors, you must remain stationary until the doors have closed. Cyclists on the road frequently disregard the stopping rule, as they generally can fit around the crowd, but it is best practice to stop, out of consideration for passengers.
- 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. Beware of jaywalkers who do not wait until the light has changed to cross the lane.
- When in mixed traffic, streetcar tracks are located in the centre lane of the road. Streetcars perform right turns from this lane; other vehicles are generally not permitted to do so (except oversized trucks), and it is important to give clearance so that turns can be made, whether travelling in the same direction as the streetcar or facing an oncoming one. These turns are marked by dotted white lines following the contour of the curve, indicating how far out a streetcar will swing.
- Occasionally the rightmost travel lane on certain streets (notably on Bay Street between Front and Bloor Sts. as well as on many of the core arteries outside the city core) is reserved from 7AM-7PM for transit vehicles, taxis and bicycles only; you can enter these lanes only 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 for a 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.
The trip to the Toronto Islands from the downtown core (Bay St and Queen's Quay) is a pleasant 15 minute ferry ride, with frequent summer service and the best views of the Toronto skyline.
There are also guided sailing vessels that take tours of the inner/outer harbour and circumvent Toronto Island
Toronto is huge, and most roads run for very long distances. Streetcar rail, subway rail, and intercity rail services are clean and efficient, and it's entirely possible to get around Toronto without a car, especially downtown. You may find it quicker and easier to drive, but be aware that the highways regularly backup during rush hour (7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM). Toronto has plentiful parking garages downtown, but they are very expensive.
Many in Toronto travel by bicycle (especially in the warmer months) and this mode is very convenient for getting around the downtown district. Visitors should be aware that not all motorists will consistently give way to cyclists and that not all cyclists are fully compliant with the rules of the road; caution is recommended for all who wish to share the road.
Toronto has a very large transit system, the third most heavily used in North America (after New York City and Mexico City). It consists of buses, streetcars, subway lines, and the quasi-subway Scarborough Rapid Transit line. Buses and streetcars are prone to get caught in Toronto's notorious traffic during rush-hours, though some streetcar lines have dedicated lanes.
Toronto's long streetcar lines have resulted in chronic bunching, where one might wait for thirty minutes at a stop, and then 4 streetcars will arrive bunched together. In contrast to this, the subway system is quite fast and efficient; the subway lines extend well into the suburbs and have spurred a great deal of high-density, high-rise development in far-flung neighbourhoods that would not otherwise have had any large-scale development. A prime example of this is the neighbourhood of North York, filled with high-rise development right on top of three subway stations. As a result, the subway is the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to get around the city.
Cash fare is $3.00 (discounted to $2.60 if you buy 5 or 10 tokens at a time). When using the subway, all manned booths sell tokens and there may be vending machines at unmanned entrances. Be aware that some token vending machines are out of service, but do not have signs on them to indicate that, otherwise making it safer to use manned ticket booths whenever possible.
A day pass is available for $10.75. This pass allows unlimited travel on all TTC services within the City of Toronto, except for Downtown Express buses. For one person, it allows unlimited one-day travel on any day of the week, from the mid-morning (9:30AM) until 5:30AM the next morning. On Saturday and Sunday, and statutory holidays, up to 6 people (maximum 2 adults over 19) can travel with one TTC Day Pass, from the start of daytime service until 5:30AM the next morning. The day pass does not have to be purchased on the day of use.
A weekly pass costs $38.50 a week. It allows unlimited travel from 5:30AM Monday morning, to 5:30AM the following Monday. The weekly pass is transferable, meaning it can be used by more than one person but only one person may be travelling under that pass at any given time.
A monthly pass, termed the Metropass, costs $128.50 per month. This pass is also transferable, with no pass-backs.
Tokens, daily, and weekly passes are available at subway stations, variety stores and newsstands throughout the city. Most businesses that sell passes and tokens have a TTC logo sticker on their front door.
There are three subway lines and one RT line:
- 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. This line runs through a large number of neighbourhoods, Kennedy Station is on Eglinton in working-class Scarborough and is surrounded by large apartment blocks, it is a major transit hub for TTC buses in Scarborough and also connects with GO Transit commuter trains. The line leaves Scarborough after Warden station and the next nine stations serve a number of densely packed, ethnic neighbourhoods along the Danforth. After Broadview Station, the line crosses the Don River and the following station, Castle Frank, serves the extremely exclusive neighbourhood of Rosedale. After this, the line crosses the Rosedale ravine and enters Downtown Toronto, the next four stations serve the expensive shopping district of Bloor-Yorkville. Following this, the line serves many small ethnic neighbourhoods centred around Bloor Street. Lansdowne and Dundas West stations serve working-class neighbourhoods and Dundas West connects with GO Transit commuter trains. The next two stations serve High Park, a large park on the west side of the city and Runnymede and Jane stations serve the pleasant and relatively affluent neighbourhood of Bloor West Village. The next three stations serve the mostly middle class suburb of Etobicoke.
- 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.
- The Scarborough RT runs from the eastern end of the Bloor-Danforth line at Kennedy Station, through central Scarborough to McCowan Station. As its name suggests, this line serves the mainly working-class suburb of Scarborough. This line's main draw for visitors is that it serves Scarborough Town Centre, one of the city's enormous regional shopping centres, at its Scarborough Centre station; this station is also a major regional transit hub and is served by a large number of TTC buses, several GO Transit commuter buses, and is a stop on Greyhound coach routes to Peterborough, Ottawa, and Coach Canada routes to Montreal and Kingston.
Other TTC services are provided by buses, streetcars, the Scarborough RT line, and Wheel-Trans vans (for people with disabilities). There are also a number of Downtown Express buses that run during rush hour, for which additional fare must be paid.
Toronto is one of the only cities in North America (the only city in Canada, in fact) to keep any of its streetcar routes and, while the original streetcar network was much larger, the Toronto Transit Commission is planning to replace several of its busiest bus lines with high capacity LRT lines.
- 501 Queen runs along Queen Street for most of its route, from the eastern end of the Beaches neighbourhood, through Leslieville, the Financial District, the Queen West shopping district, Parkdale, then along the Queensway and Lake Shore Blvd through Long Branch in Etobicoke to the Long Branch GO Train station. The 501 is an attraction in itself, receiving special recognition from National Geographic magazine, as it is the longest streetcar route in North America (one of the longest in the world), and passes through a huge range of important ethnic and cultural neighbourhoods.
- 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road run from Kingston Road in the Beaches to the Financial District. 502 runs along Queen Street through downtown and 503 runs along King Street. These services operate on weekdays only (502 has rush-hour and midday service; 503 during rush hours only) - other times the 22 Coxwell bus provides coverage along Kingston Road.
- 504 King and 508 Lake Shore run along King Street. 504 runs from Broadview subway station on the Bloor-Danforth line to Dundas West subway station on the Bloor-Danforth line. 508 (rush hour only) runs from King Street and Church Street to Long Branch GO Train station. Both routes pass through the Financial District and the Theatre District. The 504 also passes through Roncesvalles Village in the west.
- 505 Dundas runs along Dundas Street from Broadview subway station to Dundas West subway station. It runs through Yonge and Dundas Square, Chinatown, Kensington Market and Little Portugal.
- 506 Carlton runs along Gerrard, Carlton and College Streets, it runs from Main Street subway station on the Bloor-Danforth line to High Park in West Toronto. It passes through Little India, Cabbagetown (also skirting the Church and Wellesley district), Downtown, the University of Toronto, Kensington Market and Little Italy.
- 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina run from Union subway station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line in a tunnel under Bay Street to Queen's Quay, they run aboveground on Queen's Quay, through the Harbourfront to Spadina Avenue. The 509 continues on Queen's Quay from Spadina to Exhibition Place. The 510 runs north along Spadina to Spadina subway station on the Bloor-Danforth line, the 510 passes through the Theatre District, the Queen West shopping district, Chinatown, Kensington Market and the Annex. Both 509 and 510 run within their own rights-of-way in the centre lanes of the streets and stop less frequently than regular routes.
- 511 Bathurst runs along Bathurst for nearly all of its route, from Exhibition Place to Bathurst subway station on the Bloor-Danforth line.
- 512 St Clair runs along St Clair Avenue from St Clair subway station on the Yonge line to a streetcar loop just past Keele Street. 512 runs within its own right of way in the centre of St. Clair Avenue from Yonge Street to Gunns Loop, just west of Keele Street, passing through St Clair West subway station on the University-Spadina line. This route serves the neighbourhoods of Deer Park and Corso Italia (Toronto's newer Little Italy, separate from the older one on College Street).
Caution: When getting on and off streetcars, make sure that the traffic is stopped in the lane next to the streetcar. While drivers are required by law to stop behind open streetcar doors, some drivers don't do so, especially if they are not from Toronto; pay special attention to vehicles with non-Ontario license plates, as this is often the first warning that they may be unfamiliar with local laws. This does not apply when there is a safety island between you and the traffic lane(s). Also, be aware of pickpockets in crowded rush hour situations. Do not keep your belongings (especially phones and music players) in outside pockets.
All but two (Route 99 and 171) of the TTC's bus and streetcar routes have a subway station somewhere on the loop, and while many routes will take you into the station and beyond the ticket barrier, some of them (especially downtown) will take you only to the outside of the station. In this case, you can enter the station by presenting a valid transfer. If you don't have one, you need to pay another cash fare.
Transfers are free, but should be obtained at the first vehicle or station you enter on your journey. If your journey starts on a bus or streetcar, ask for one as you pay your fare (simply saying Transfer, please to the operator will suffice). If you start at a subway station, look for a red machine just beyond the ticket booth with a digital time clock on its face. Press the gold button and collect your transfer.
A transfer may also be used to pass from a bus or streetcar to another bus or streetcar moving in a perpendicular direction - for example, from a northbound bus to an eastbound streetcar. But in doing so, make sure to transfer at the first intersection possible (i.e. do not get out at an intersection, walk east for a block, and transfer there).
Unlike other transit systems, a transfer is valid for one trip rather than a specific duration of time (i.e. you cannot use a transfer obtained going on a northbound bus to go on a bus of the same route southbound).
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 $54. It is valid on the TTC and the transit systems in Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, but not Durham Region. This pass is also transferable, although only one rider may use it at a time. If you are travelling through the fare-zone boundary in York Region with a GTA pass, you will have to pay an additional $1.
The regional transportation agency, 'Metrolinx', operates the PRESTO [https://www.prestocard.ca/] farecard system which allow users to pay transit fares throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (with the exception of the TTC, where only select subway stations currently accept the card). Although fares and transfer rules are set individually by each transit operator, using the card generally provides a discount from the cash fare and discounted or free transfers between certain systems. Cards cost $6 and are not refundable, but visitors making significant use of GO Transit, or several GTA transit systems might find some cost savings and convenience over using cash or tickets.
A system of regional trains and buses, GO Transit [http://www.gotransit.com], connects Toronto to its surrounding areas. The majority of these services, especially trains, are oriented to weekday commuters travelling to and from downtown Toronto. Trains are large and comfortable, but with the exception of the half-hourly Burlington–Toronto–Oshawa Lakeshore line, they run only at peak times. The GO bus network is much more extensive and fills in for trains in the off-peak hours. The vast majority of tourist destinations are reachable by TTC, although you might want to use the GO network to get to the Zoo, or to the homes of family members or friends in the Greater Toronto Area.
GO fares are the same on buses and trains, and are distance-based. The suburban bus services (but not the TTC) sometimes offer discounts on connections to or from a GO Transit rail station. The GTA Pass is not valid on GO Transit.
NOTE: in many cases, a GO bus will not stop unless the passengers-to-be indicate wanting to be picked up, even if they are standing at a designated stop. Users must flag the bus down, usually just by raising their hand or ticket in the air as the bus approaches. That is because GO stops often share stops with other municipal transit systems.
GO Trains operate on the Proof-of-Payment system; passengers must possess a valid ticket for the entire length of their journey before boarding a train. Tickets cannot be purchased on board, and there are no gates or staff before boarding to ensure you have a fare for a particular train. GO Transit enforcement officers conduct random inspections of tickets, issuing expensive fines to anyone without the correct fare. Enforcement officers have likely heard every possible excuse from passengers who regularly try to avoid paying a fare, and are often unforgiving of any (even legitimate) reason you might give.
Each GO train runs with a three-person crew. There are two engineers, who are responsible for operations, as well as the Customer Service Ambassador, who is responsible for passenger service (opening/closing doors, making station announcements, answering questions, dealing with emergencies, etc.) The CSA is stationed in the Accessibility car (the 5th car behind the locomotive), and introduces him/herself during his/her opening spiel. If you are unfamiliar with the system, it is recommended that you remain close to them.
Taxis are plentiful and safe, but not cheap. The base rate is $4.25, with an average 5nbsp;km trip costing $13. As with most big cities, driving a car downtown can be annoying; parking is often hard to find and expensive, and traffic along certain streets can make vehicle travel slower than mass transit. However, travelling longer distances, when not close to subway lines is often significantly faster by car or taxi.
Toronto is trying very hard to become a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes being added all the time. There are many casual cyclists out all the time. And it is fast: door to door, in all of downtown Toronto, a bike beats a car or transit nearly every time.
There is a lack of clear understanding about regulations regarding bicycles and as a result, there can be hostility between automobiles and cyclists. Generally speaking, if you are on the road, you are expected to obey the same laws as cars, and you are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. In reality, cyclists have all sorts of driving styles; expect the unexpected.
The city is predominantly flat, aside from a general climb away from Lake Ontario and the deeply indented, forested Don Valley and Humber River Valley, and post-and-ring locking posts are present throughout the city. There are many bike-only lanes on major roads and threading through various neighbourhoods and parks. The city publishes a cycling map, available on the city website [http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/map/index.htm].
BIXI [https://toronto.bixi.com/] provides a public bike system with 1,000 bikes available at 80 stations throughout downtown. Subscriptions start at $5 for 24 hours and allow you to use a bike for 30 minutes or less, as much as you like (usage fees apply for trips longer than 30 minutes). BIXI operates 24 hours a day, all year long (but see the warning below about winter biking). Several businesses also offer rentals [http://www.tbn.ca/retailer/rtdb/ar.htm].
It is a provincial law that cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet, and all riders must have a bike with reflectors and a bell. This tends to only be enforced when the police go on their annual cycling blitz.
- 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. Here, at least, cyclists are often expected and respected by drivers.
- Be cautious of street car tracks as bike wheels can be easily caught and cause a spill.
- Although you will certainly see large numbers of locals riding the streets year-round, be warned that biking in the winter months is enjoyable only with proper equipment and reasonable skills; winter weather does get cold, it can be quite windy, and snow removal is often imperfect.
Some recommended cycling routes:
- By far one of the most popular 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. This path is also often used by pedestrians and rollerbladers.
- The Don River trail system begins at the lake (near Queen and Broadview) and travels very far North and East. During or after heavy rains, avoid lower sections of the trails.
- A special treat for bikers of all levels is a tour out to the Leslie Spit lighthouse and bird sanctuaries (no cars!). Start at Queen and Leslie and head south.
- A visit to Toronto Islands from the ferry docks at the southern end of Bay Street is a great way to spend a bike-friendly, relaxed afternoon by bike. There are no cars to speak of on the Toronto Islands.
- Spadina House - A historic mansion dating from the 1860s, the grounds contain a beautiful garden, which is free to walk around in. If you want to view the historic interior, you need to pay.
- Toronto City Hall. Two buildings forming a semi-circle overlooking Nathan Phillips square, which has a very popular skating rink in the winter. Architecturally stunning, and next door to Old City Hall (currently the court house)which has a more classical architecture.
The venue was noted for being the first stadium to have a fully-retractable motorized roof, as well as for the 348 room hotel attached to it, with 70 rooms overlooking the field. It is also the most recent North American major-league stadium built to accommodate both football, as well as baseball, although some of the newer baseball parks have been known to host the occasional college football game, such as ATT Park, Chase Field, and Safeco Field.
Soon after its opening, the stadium became a popular venue for large scale rock concerts and is the largest indoor concert venue in Toronto; it has hosted many international acts including Metallica, Madonna, U2, Depeche Mode, The Rolling Stones, The Three Tenors, Radiohead, Simon Garfunkel, Garth Brooks, Backstreet Boys, Roger Waters, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Limp Bizkit, Eminem, Janet Jackson, Avril Lavigne, Jonas Brothers and Cher.
The stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2015 Pan American Games as the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
Panoramic view of Blue Jays game with open roof.
- Art Gallery of Ontario
The largest art gallery in Canada, recently redesigned by architect Frank Gehry. 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 it has one of the world's most expensive paintings on view (Ruben's The Massacre of the Innocents).
- Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park, http://www.rom.on.ca, phone: +1 416 586-8000
One of the better and larger museums in North America. The original building was built in 1910, and is a handsome romanesque revival, with many carvings of people and events. The newer addition is a large deconstructivist crystal, made of steel and glass. Thousands of artifacts and specimens are featured in over 20 exhibits; including dinosaurs, Ancient China, native Canadians, Canadian furniture, medieval Europe, art deco, ancient Egypt, textiles, middle east, India and Pacific islanders. The world's largest totem pole, which is over 100 years old, is also housed in a place of honour. In October of 2011 the museum drastically reduced admission prices (formerly $24 for adults).
- Ontario Science Centre
770 Don Mills Rd, http://www.ontariosciencecentre.com
Lots of hands on science exhibits, including a rainforest, a tornado machine, a sound proof tunnel, balance testing machines and more. It also contains Ontario's only Omnimax (full wrap around) movie theatre.
- Bata Shoe Museum
327 Bloor St W, http://www.batashoemuseum.ca
This offbeat museum is devoted to shoes and footwear, and contains Napoleon Bonaparte's socks, and footwear from cultures all over the world.
- Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)
Annual agricultural exhibition that is Canada's largest fair and the fifth largest in North America, with an average annual attendance of 1.3 million.
- CN Tower
The second tallest free standing structure, at over 500 metres tall, in North America. There is 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
1 Austin Terrace, at the corner of Davenport Rd and Spadina Rd, http://www.casaloma.org, email: email@example.com, phone: +1 416 923-1171, fax: +1 416 923-5734
Visit Casa Loma and step back in time to a period of European elegance and splendour. The museum is the former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt complete with decorated suites, secret passages, a 250 metre long tunnel, towers, stables and beautiful 5-acre estate gardens. A self-guided digital audio tour in 8 languages (English, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and Korean) is available.
- Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art
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
Dedicated to the history of ice hockey, it is both a museum and a hall of fame. It is housed in the historic Bank of Montreal building and dates from the 1880s.
- Black Creek Pioneer Village
1000 Murray Ross Pkwy, One set of lights east of Jane Street, on the South side of Steeles Avenue (follow the Village signs). TTC: Bus Steeles 60 West route from Finch subway station or Jane 35 route from Jane subway station. YRT: From the York University Terminal, take the Route 10 (Woodbridge) bus or the Route 20 (Jane-Concord) bus to Jane Street Steeles Avenue. From the Vaughan Mills terminal, take the Route 20 (Jane-Concord) bus to Jane Street Steeles Avenue., http://www.blackcreek.ca, phone: +1 416 667-6295
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. A good time to visit is weekdays during the autumn as there are comparatively few visitors.
- Ontario Place
A great place to take children in the summer with an Imax theatre inside.
- Toronto Zoo
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.
- Toronto Aerospace Museum
Parc Downsview Park, 65 Carl Hall Road, http://www.casmuseum.org, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +1 416 638-6078, fax: +1 416 638-5509
The Toronto Aerospace Museum (TAM) is dedicated to developing an exciting educational, heritage and tourist attraction at Parc Downsview Park. Founded in 1997, the museum lost it's lease and is currently looking for another location to house it's artifacts.
- Rogers Centre
Rogers Centre, formerly known as SkyDome, is a multi-purpose stadium, situated next to the CN Tower near the shores of Lake Ontario. Originally opened in 1989, it is home to the American League's Toronto Blue Jays, the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts, the site of the annual International Bowl American college football bowl game, and as of 2008, the National Football League's Buffalo Bills' second playing venue in the Bills Toronto Series. While it is primarily a sports venue, it also hosts other large-scale events such as conventions, trade fairs, concerts, funfairs, and monster truck shows. The stadium was renamed Rogers Centre following the purchase of the stadium by Rogers Communications in 2005.
- Just walk. Toronto has so many eclectic neighbourhoods that a random walk is fascinating in its own right. You might start in the Downtown area and then try other neighbourhoods 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 neighbourhood of North York might just be the place to start exploring this natural environment. [http://www.toronto.ca/parks/maps.htm]. Also the City of Toronto has designated various [Discovery Walks] which highlight both the natural and human history of the region. These can be found with brown circular signs along the route and highlight other regions such as the Belt Line, Garrison Creek and the Humber River as well as the downtown core.
- Take a free walking tour with [Tour Guys] to explore the downtown core, or any of the other specialty tours they offer.
- Go on a [Toronto Urban Adventures] walking tour to experience Multicultural Kensington Market Chinatown, or learn about Toronto's history and Canadian beer on a Beer Makes History Better tour.
- Beaches. Toronto has three main sections of beach along Lake Ontario. The most popular of these is in the aptly-named Beaches neighbourhood. A less popular alternative is the beaches in the western end of the city in the Parkdale neighbourhood; this was once Toronto's Coney Island, with an amusement park and numerous beach-style attractions; however in the 1950s the city built the Gardiner Expressway along the lakeshore, effectively separating the beaches from the city and causing the demolition of the amusement park; over the years attempts have been made to re-energize this area, but the Gardiner remains a major barrier, as well as a source of noise and pollution to keep away would-be beach-goers. On the plus side, the beaches are largely empty most of the time, providing solitude for those who seek it. The third major beach area in the city runs along the south shore of the Toronto Islands. This area is pleasantly secluded, with most of the islands covered with parkland and a small amusement park. Hanlan's Point Beach on the western shore of the islands is the City of Toronto's only officially recognized clothing optional beach, and a popular gay hangout. Despite these options, many Torontonians prefer to leave the city for beach trips; the most popular beaches are those in the Georgian Bay area north of Toronto, Wasaga Beach in particular is very popular during the summer.
- The Lakefront and Harbourfront, in the downtown core . Biking and walking trails, with an excellent view of the Toronto skyline. The Harbourfront Centre [http://www.movietrailerlive.com/ct_0001_HarbourfrontCentreWorldStage] is situated right by the lake, and is home to numerous cultural events of which most are free or relatively inexpensive. Take in some of the worlds most critically acclaimed performing arts productions, or enjoy one of the many world festivals that take place every weekend.
- The Toronto Islands. A short inexpensive ferry ride from the foot of Bay St. and you leave the bustle of the city behind. Visually, the views of the skyline from the islands is stunning, and for cycling, walking, picnics or just relaxing, the Toronto Islands are hard to beat. There is even a small amusement park for kids, Centreville. On hot summer days, temperatures here will often be about 2-3C less than the mainland providing relief. By mid-summer the water is warm enough to swim at Hanlan's Point or for the more adventurous, a nude beach is located nearby.
- Comedy, [http://www.movietrailerlive.com/ct_0001_SecondCityA]. World renowned Second City [http://www.movietrailerlive.com/ct_0001_SecondCityA] comedy/improv theatre has a location in Toronto. See great improv and situation comedy performed live with audience participation over dinner and drinks in the heart of the club district of downtown Toronto.
- Theatre. Toronto has a great theatre scene for every taste and budget. Check out the big theatres on Yonge Street for the big splashy shows, such as. Small theatres in the Annex and elsewhere offer smaller productions that range from original Canadian works, avant-garde, experimental theatre, small budget musicals to British murder mysteries. A variety of theatre festivals such as the New Ideas, Rhubarb and Fringe festivals are the seed for many commercial success such as The Drowsy Chaperone. Also try to check out the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the new home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. The Toronto Symphony plays in the recently acoustically renovated [Roy Thomson Hall. TO Tix], located in Yonge-Dundas Square, is the best place to get both full-price advance and day-of discounts on shows across Toronto. They also offer theatre and dining packages, partnering Toronto’s theatre, dance and opera companies with local downtown restaurants and cultural attractions.
- 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 during the men's FIFA World Cup competition (in football / 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.
- Chinatown, is an ethnic enclave in Downtown Toronto with a high concentration of ethnic Chinese residents and businesses extending along Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue. First developed in the late 19th century, it is now one of the largest Chinatowns in North America and one of several major Chinese-Canadian communities in the Greater Toronto Area.
- Little India, on Gerrard Street between Greenwood and Coxwell. If you want to get a sense of Toronto's vibrant South Asian community, this is where you want to be; not only is Indian culture represented - visible Pakistani and Afghan communities are also alive along the street.
- Koreatown, is composed of the retail businesses and restaurants along Bloor Street between Christie and Bathurst Streets in the Seaton Village section of The Annex.
Since the early 1990s, a Koreatown has also emerged in North York along Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and just north of Steeles Avenue. The area comprises parts of North York, Ontario (Willowdale, Toronto and Newtonbrook) and Thornhill, Ontario (Vaughan, Ontario and Markham, Ontario). The new Koreatown has many retail stores, Korean grocery stores (some quite large), karaoke bars and family restaurants catering to younger Koreans and those living in the north part of the City of Toronto and York Region. A larger proportion of this neighbourhood are recent immigrants or visa students from South Korea.
- Kensington Market, is a small community at Spadina and Dundas known for its immense multicultural makeup, and its variety of cuisine. Within Kensington there are many different eclectic clothing and food stores, and almost all are small family run businesses. Once a week, the community also closes most roads in the area, to allow pedestrians to take the street. Kensington has proved nearly untouchable by the gentrification sweeping through other downtown neighbourhoods, resolutely maintaining its quirks and character. For the true sense for what Toronto's cultural scene is, visit Kensington market to make the most of your stay.
Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop:
- Yonge Street, is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest street in the world. It runs from the edge of the lake to about 1896nbsp;km north of the city, and the Yonge subway line runs right under the Street from King Street North to Finch Avenue. You can drive along this street if you want (give up trying to find parking), but the smart way to explore Yonge is on foot, with a subway day pass to whisk you between the spots you want to see.
- South of Queen St. to the lake, is mostly the financial district, with very little for tourists. If you want to have a good look at the skyscrapers of the financial district, walk west from the King subway station to the corner of King and Bay. This is the financial heart of the country; Canada's equivalent to New York's Wall Street.
- From Queen St. to Bloor St. is the busiest stretch. While some locals will hang out and shop here (mostly younger folks), many of the stores are limited to souvenirs or lower budget shopping. This is a pretty exciting place to be, and most visitors find this part of the city an interesting experience, even if the most refined shopping is found elsewhere.
- Toronto Eaton Centre, [http://www.torontoeatoncentre.com/home/index.ch2] A massive shopping mall on the West side of Yonge between Queen and Dundas Streets, The Eaton Centre is a Toronto landmark. Because of its downtown location and accessibility by subway, the mall tends to have a less-antiseptic feel than more remote suburban centres. This place is generally packed with people, an exciting mix of locals and visitors. The bottom level houses an impressive fountain, which is a nice place to take a rest and make a wish.
- Bloor St. If you head West from the corner of Yonge and Bloor, you are in the most upscale of Toronto's shopping districts, Yorkville (see below). While not strictly on Yonge street, this area is easily accessible from the Yonge-Bloor subway station (you can also go to Bay station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line).
- Bloor St. to Eglinton. A bit sleepier than other parts of Yonge, and a long walk without too much shopping, but for those who want a proper urban hike (4 km), there's no reason to skip this stretch. The shopping is not as vibrant, but that's not to say there aren't sights to see. Of particular interest is the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, roughly halfway between St. Clair and Davisville subway stations. The subway route between Bloor and Eglinton is interesting as well, as much of it runs outside, and the view out the window of the train is enjoyable, so if it's shopping you want, take the train to Eglinton from Bloor.
- Eglinton to Lawrence. This stretch of Yonge is not as well known by tourists, and consequently more popular with locals. Surrounded by upper middle class and wealthier neighbourhoods, this is where you want to go to experience the energy of Yonge street, without the tourist traps. Take the subway to Eglinton station, and walk North. It is a 2 km walk (1.3 miles) from Eglinton to Lawrence, and there are hundreds of stores and restaurants on both sides of the street. If you can handle a 4 km walk, you can walk up to Lawrence on one side of the street, and then cross over and walk back. There's even a half kilometre North of Lawrence that you can cover, for a total of 5 km of continuous shops. Bring comfortable shoes!
- Yorkville. 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 locals looking for the latest fashion 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, but it is still well worth the look. More offbeat choices can be found west of Spadina Ave stretching all the way into Parkdale (at least 2nbsp;km/ 1.4 miles). Take the University subway to Osgoode station and walk West.
- Chinatown. Centred at Dundas and Spadina, Toronto's Chinatown is a great way to sample a tiny bit of cities like Hong Kong, 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 shops aimed at tourists, it is a good place to pick up some unusual and inexpensive souvenirs. The area is also home to a growing number of Korean and Vietnamese shops and restaurants. Toronto's multicultural mosaic never stops evolving. For a complete tour, travel along Spadina (North/South) starting at College Street in the north or Queen Street in the south.
- Scarborough. Kennedy Avenue from Lawrence Avenue East to Ellesmere Avenue is 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. This is not really a destination for tourists, and it's quite a drive from the city centre, but if you're in the area, and want to do some discount shopping, there may be something here to suit your needs.
- Microbrews, (such as Cool beer) can be hard to find outside the GTA. These can be purchased at the brewery, Beer Store, or LCBO.
- Kensington Market
around College and Spadina. Take the Bloor-Danforth subway to Spadina station, and then take the Spadina streetcar South into Chinatown. Kensington Market is one block West of Spadina. You can get off anywhere between College and Dundas streets.,
Once a centre of Jewish life but has morphed into the centre 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, small restaurants (including vegetarian), 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. The largest Chinese indoor mall in North America, and definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Asian-Canadian culture. Take any 53 bus from Finch subway station (it's a long bus ride!). About 45 minutes from downtown by car, well over an hour by transit. Also located close to Milliken GO station.
- Yorkdale Shopping Centre
A shopping centre located in the north of the city, accessible from Yorkdale subway station. This is a full-service, upscale 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 locals pack the parking areas to capacity.
- The 'PATH' System
Stretches from the Eaton Centre south to Union Station, an underground 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.
- Vaughan Mills
Big, new, outlet shopping mall 6nbsp;km North of City of Toronto.
- Toronto Hockey Repair and Goalie Heaven
A world-renowned ice hockey equipment vendor, attracting people from around the world to shop.
Most Canadians don't carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying on their credit cards, ATMs and direct debit cards. Personal cheques are rarely accepted. Very few places in Toronto accept US Dollars for small transactions - with a rough 1:1 exchange rate - and it advised to obtain some Canadian dollars if you will use cash. That being said, US coins are sometimes mixed in with Canadian coins at stores since they are similar in appearance.
Interbank ATM exchange rates usually beat traveller's cheques or exchanging foreign currency. Canadian ATM fees are low ($1.50 to $2 per transaction), but your home bank may charge another fee on top of that.
- Credit Cards
Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards are widely accepted in Canada. Credit cards can get you cash advances at bank ATMs, generally for a 3% surcharge. Beware: many US-based credit cards now convert foreign charges using highly unfavorable exchange rates and fees.
- Changing Money
Always change your money at a recognized bank or financial institution. Some hotels, souvenir shops and tourist offices exchange money, but their rates won't put a smile on your dial.
American Express (905-474-0870, 800-869-3016; www.americanexpress.com/canada) branches in Toronto only function as travel agencies and don't handle financial transactions. Instead, tackle the banks, or try Money Mart (416-920-4146; www.moneymart.ca; Yonge Street Strip, 617 Yonge St; 24hr; Wellesley).
Affiliated with Marlin Travel (www.marlintravel.ca), Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.ca) branches include the following:
- Bloor-Yorkville (416-975-9940, 800-267-8891; 1168 Bay St; 9am-5:30pm Mon-Fri; Bloor-Yonge)
- Financial District (416-366-1961; 10 King St E; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri; King)
- Travelex (www.travelex.com/ca) has branches:
- Financial District (416-304-6130; First Canadian Place, Bank of Montréal, 100 King St W; 8am-5pm Mon-Fri)
- Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 Arrivals (905-673-7042; 8:30am-midnight)
- Pearson International Airport Terminal 3 Departures (905-673-7461; 3:30am-10pm)
Another organization, Calforex Currency Services (290 Queen St West) give good rates for cash, buying and selling GBP, USD, EUR; on substantial sums can be as little as 1% from interbank rates. Fremdh 15:28, 16 January 2010 (EST)
Toronto is generally considered to be one of North America's top food cities. It has the same variety as New York or San Francisco and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. As one of the most (if not the most) multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has authentic ethnic cuisine like no other city in North America. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.
Surrounded by the extensive fertile farmlands of Southern Ontario, Toronto has an abundance of farmer's markets - one is happening, in season, almost every day. Several markets are year round, while others are seasonal, generally running from May to October.
Other farmer's markets in Toronto:
- City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West. Wednesdays, 1 June-5 October, 10AM-2:30PM (except June 29 due to Jazz Festival).
- Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall. Saturdays, 4 June-29 October, 8AM-2PM.
- North York Civic Centre, Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge St. Thursdays, 16 June-20 October, 8AM-2PM.
- Scarborough Civic Centre, Albert Campbell Square, 150 Borough Drive. Fridays, 3 June-14 October noon-5PM.
- Green Barn Market, [http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market], 601 Christie St. Saturdays 8AM-12PM (located within the restored Artscape Wychwood Barns).
- St. Lawrence Market
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, as well as quality Ontario wines. 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
201 Winchester Street, three blocks east of Parliament Street, http://www.toronto.ca/parks/prd/facilities/complex/345/index.htm
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, 3:30PM-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.
- East York Civic Centre
850 Coxwell Avenue,
Tuesdays, 24 May-25 October, 9AM-2PM.
- The Dufferin Grove Farmer's Market
875 Dufferin St, across from the Dufferin Mall, http://www.dufferinpark.ca/market/market.html
Thursdays, year round (outdoors around the rinkhouse in summer and in the rinkhouse in winter) 3:30PM-7PM.
Interesting food districts
- Cabbagetown ,' is a designated Historic District in the eastern half of the downtown core.east of Spadina, north of Dundas ) has many small outdoor cafes ideal for summer lunches.See district articles for further information
- Le Commensal, Downtown. Cafeteria style restaurant that even has a small grocery area full of organic, vegan and vegetarian produce. Menu is standard, but the portions are generous and the atmosphere is amiable.
- Fresh by Juice for Life, The Annex Richmond Street West. Serving mouthwatering servings of salads and juices of inspired combinations. Somewhat overpriced but all this healthy stuff does make you feel good.
- Fressen, Queen West. Great reviews of this restaurant by locals, who pack the place for its innovative and tasty vegetarian dishes. The gluten roast (a kind of faux roast-beef) comes recommended and the wine list features organic wines.
- Buddha's Vegetarian Food, Bathurst and Dundas; 666 Dundas West. One portion serves at least 2 very hungry people and costs $8. Closed on some Tuesdays.
Many people visit these regions in fall to experience some of the best fall-colour leaves anywhere in the world.
There are also several golden sand beaches along the clean fresh waters of the Great Lakes that are ideal for hot summer days. Popular beach destinations within 1.5 - 2.5 hours of Toronto include Wasaga, Sauble Beach, Sandbanks, Grand Bend, Long Point, and Turkey Point.
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