If I were to live in Canada I’d pick Toronto in the Summer.
Toronto really did it for me. I think in part it was because it was June, and it felt like the city was alive. Whereas I found Vancouver pretty but over-rated and Montreal charming but seedy, Toronto felt like the big jock older brother: endless energy, a big heart, and overwhelmingly positive. You can hang out with mates or your Mum in Toronto and have an equally great time – or on your own, like I was.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
TORONTO ISLANDS | even if you only have half a day in Toronto in the summer, I’d recommend the $7.50 ferry over to Toronto Islands for the fabulous view of the city skyline alone. On top of this, the Islands are well-kept and peaceful and make for a good spot to take a picnic and a book.
NIAGARA FALLS | I suppose this goes without saying that you’re going to visit Niagara Falls. I was really impressed by the Falls, but do prepare yourself for the dragged out tour set-up if you don’t have a car! Quaint little ultra-touristy Niagara-on-the-Lake was our 5th and only worthy lunchtime stop, after 4 other ridiculous breaks to see a clock made of flowers and other such nonsense. Bloody tours. When (finally) at Niagara Falls, the Maid of the Mist boat tour is crowded but fun. The walk along the top is much better.
KENSINGTON MARKET | I loved this spot in Toronto in the summer: Kensington is a suburb that’s got a diverse, hippie, ethnic, vibrant feel to it. Stop for coffee at Fika to take it all in.
Also check out: I don’t think I’ve ever had something positive to say about a city’s China Town. Toronto’s however was a good size and had an authentic feel (read: locals shopping, not yapping dog toys that can somersault).
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
LAWRENCE MARKET | this market in the heart of Toronto is full of fresh produce and food stalls. As an added bonus there’s an Antique Market next door.
Also check out: from here, you are very near the harbour front and manmade Sugar Beach. Yes, it’s a little surreal, but great if you can time a nap in a deck chair with the regular live music acts that are on.
FREE EVENTS | one thing that struck me about Toronto was the amount of free and unique activities that the city organises. From live music to Steampunk festivals. I was lucky enough to make the Toronto Jazz Fest one evening, where the charismatic Smokey Robinson and amazing Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were playing – yep, for free. It was an incredible night.
PUBS | this relates in part to my big jock brother comparison – Toronto in the summer feels like a beer with your mates watching the sport kind of place. It’s not pretension and cocktails and big bar tabs (unless I just missed this). I was travelling solo but was matched on a gal pal date via a friend from my old work. I had a great night out with two Canadian lovelies who took me for lots of wine at Bier Markt and The Bar Wellington, and then a few cheeky shots at Joe Mamas. Thanks for the hangover ladies.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
TIMES SQUARE | this point of interest is so uninteresting you’ll probably walk right through it and not even realise. Safe to say, this is no Times Square, New York or even Piccadilly Circus, London.
FINANCIAL DISTRICT | is rather on the bland side: your usual corporate hubbub Monday to Friday, but then cold and dominating skyscrapers when the workers empty out and head home. This isn’t unusual; I would just recommend that you avoid staying here as there’s limited choice of places to eat and drink of an evening.
WINTER | I can only guess at this, but I understand it’s frickin’ freezing! I think I met Toronto in an incredibly good mood, as everyone had finally thawed out from the never-ending cold winter.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
BLUE JAYS GAME | Canadian’s love their sport, and Toronto in the summer is no exception. I saw the outside of their main baseball stadium but didn’t make a game this time around.
AND KNOW THIS: At 28km long, PATH is the largest underground pedestrian system in North America. It connects 1,200 stores and restaurants, 50 office towers, 20 parking garages, five subway stations and a railway terminal . Each letter in PATH is a different colour representing a different direction: P is red and points south. A is orange and points west. T is blue and directs north. H is yellow and points east.