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Thread: Toronto for Tourists

  1. #1

    Default Toronto for Tourists

    Toronto Skyline Photo:

    The Tall and Quiet Type

    Toronto soars as tourist mecca, in its own gentle way.

    By Sy Oshinsky
    AAA New York Car and Travel Magazine, pp.40-42
    July/August 2007

    Did I drive 500 miles to visit a city whose downtown area reminded me—of Manhattan? That thought crossed my mind when I arrived in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and looked up at all those tall office buildings, first walked its grid-like streets and felt the cosmopolitan atmosphere befitting a city rich in world-class museums, theaters, fashionable shops, fine restaurants and multiple sports centers.

    My friend Owen Gottfried, an expat from New York City who moved to Toronto five years ago, didn’t dispel the notion when he suggested that I “think of the town as a kinder and gentler version of the Big Apple,” citing as examples the lack of honking horns and screeching brakes in traffic.

    That’s fine for you, but I’m here as a tourist, I explained. “Well, this city is less crowded or spread out than New York—you can see a lot of sights in a shorter period of time,” he replied. And once I started doing the tourist thing, I discovered that “T’ronno,” as many Torontonians pronounce their city, can be fascinating as well as civilized.

    There are, for instance, Toronto’s unique and colorful neighborhoods that have emerged from the city’s celebrated multicultural mix of some 80 ethnic groups, forming distinct communities, like its multiple Chinatowns and Little Italys, a Greektown and a Little India, and coalescing around colorful shopping areas like Kensington Market, whose narrow, crowded streets are brimming with everything for sale from fresh fruit to vintage clothing. Then there is Toronto’s art and cultural center, the historic Distillery District, with its Europeanstyled “piazzas,” brick-lined streets and Victorian industrial architecture said to be the largest and best-preserved collection in North America.

    In contrast to these bustling places is Queen’s Park, an oval green oasis of tranquility in the heart of the city and a remnant of the British Empire. The park, which opened in 1860 as a tribute to Queen Victoria, provides an English-landscape motif, highlighted by large trees offering generous shade to summer visitors and a series of footpaths radiating from its center. A dozen or so monuments—a sitting Victoria and an equestrian King Edward VII, to name just two—appear at almost every turn. Planted within the park is an imposing Romanesque-style building where the Ontario Legislature meets. Inside, at odds with the quietude of the park, I witnessed from the visitor’s gallery a blistering Parliament-style verbal attack leveled by the opposition at the provincial government over a nuclear safety issue.

    Like a magnet, the sleek CN Tower—rising 1,815 feet above the city to lay claim to being the tallest free-standing structure in the world—drew me to the Toronto Harbour area. I took the one-minute elevator ride up to the tower’s observation deck to enjoy panoramic views of the city and Lake Ontario and—briefly—to demonstrate my faith in the tower’s engineers by standing on a section of clear-glass flooring with a dizzying view straight down to ground level.

    Next door to the tower is the Rogers Centre (its former official name, SkyDome, still is preferred by locals), where the American League’s Toronto Blue Jays play under “the world’s first fully retractable stadium roof.” And just a few blocks away, at the edge of Lake Ontario, begins Yonge Street, long touted as “the longest street in the world,” a claim somewhat in dispute.

    Tallest. Longest. First. It seems “quiet” Toronto is not above a little bragging. (Even my lodgings in Toronto, the 1,590-room Delta Chelsea, is said to be the largest hotel in Canada.)

    Certainly worth crowing about are Toronto’s museums, which include the Royal Ontario Museum (the galleries devoted to ancient China and to Canada’s first Peoples are particularly outstanding) and the Ontario Science Centre (where kids can generate a tornado and adults are tested on “blind obedience”).

    The surprise hit of this trip, however, was the Bata Shoe Museum (yes, come cross a border to look at footwear), whose extensive and unusual collection reaches as far back as a 4,000-year-old pair of sandals. Items range from the huge weapon-like pointy black shoes worn by equestrian soldiers in the late 15th century to the raised-sole footwear designed by Hindus to reduce the risk of injury to insects; from Winston Churchill’s boots to Madonna’s fancy platform shoes; and from an exhibit on the art of shoemaking to one on changing tastes. (Buckles on shoes were once considered scandalous; women’s extravagantly designed and uncomfortable high-heeled shoes have always remained in fashion.)

    To rest our feet, we took the 90-minute land-and-lake Toronto Hippo Tour aboard an amphibious vehicle, which offers nuggets of information on places we might have overlooked: the modernistic City Hall—“shaped like two curved hands”—a vegetarian restaurant, Le Commensal, where you pay by weight—“the food, not yours”—and Horseshoe Tavern on trendy Queen Street West, where famous bands (U2, Rolling Stones) “like to play ‘secret’ unannounced concerts.” With the climactic splashdown into the waters of Lake Ontario, our bus became a slow-moving boat as its submerged wheels continued to turn, silently. Like the traffi c in downtown Toronto.

  2. #2

    Default Toronto links on WNY

    Photos/Posts of Toronto's Skyscrapers/Architecture:

    TORONTO VS CHICAGO - Who has the better skyline!


    Also: Discussion of New York vs Toronto
    Last edited by Punzie; June 27th, 2007 at 06:05 PM.

  3. #3


    I go to school in Buffalo, New York and I go to Toronto every couple of months or so. I can see some of the Manhattan similarities as well. My friends and I are usually only go to Ikea (my friend is an Ikea freak) and Chinatown so I haven't experienced much of Toronto, but I do love Chinatown . I especially like going to the Asian Pacific Mall... they have great rice balls there!

  4. #4


    Thanks, Allie. If the closing of my house is delayed or falls through, then as a 'consolation prize' I'll be going on a car trip to the Toronto area with two friends this summer.

    I have a question about the city's Chinatown. You see, I've become spoiled by the Chinatowns of NYC, San Francisco, L.A., and since the 1990s, Flushing's 'Little Asia'. How is Toronto's Chinatown unique? Do they have a particular cuisine that's outstanding?

    Also, we're not into malls unless they have a very distinctive aspect. What distinguishes the Asian Pacific Mall, aside from the cuisine?

    Finally... *whew*... is there any place in the Toronto area that's not in the tourist guides -- that we die-hard New Yorkers would enjoy visiting?

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    Also, we're not into malls unless they have a very distinctive aspect. What distinguishes the Asian Pacific Mall, aside from the cuisine?
    Asian Pacific Mall is in the suburbs. Go to the Chinatown downtown. Much more fun.

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