North of the Border – Toronto

In September, we made another trip up to Canada, this time we decided to check out Toronto. Unfortunately, the public transportation into the city from the airport is a bit of an ordeal. We landed Friday night after a short flight from Atlanta and realized a taxi would cost us $75 to get into the city. We opted for the cheaper route, a $3 train ride; however, in order to get to the train you have to take a 15 minute bus ride (192 Airport Rocket Bus) and then the 45 minute train ride from Kipling station into the city. Despite the hassle, it is well worth the savings.

We booked the hotel using Priceline and weren’t too sure what to expect. If any of you are planning to visit a city with a high concentration of hotels, I would highly recommend booking your hotel using “Priceline Name Your Own Price”. You can pick the area of town you want and basically make minor tweaks to make sure you get a hotel in your desired star rating. The deals are usually considerably cheaper than what you can find on the hotel’s website.

As we walked into the lobby of our hotel, there was floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the Toronto Blue Jays baseball stadium. The Renaissance Toronto Downtown was connected to the stadium and had a bar that overlooked the outfield. We arrived right in time to see the 9th inning of the game before heading out to grab dinner in downtown.

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Based on the concierge’s recommendation, we grabbed dinner in “restaurant row” on King Street, an area in the Theatre district of Toronto. It is a strip of adorable hole in the wall restaurants most of which can’t seat more than 100 people. We decided to try Kit Kat, an Italian restaurant where you literally walk through the kitchen and can see the chefs preparing your Italian dish from scratch. The restaurant was lined with brick walls, most of which had been signed by previous guests, and was lit mainly by candlelight. As if the ambience of the restaurant wasn’t enough, the food was equally delicious. We stopped for a couple drinks in a few different bars before calling it a night.

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Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and were on a mission to find a good place for brunch. We stumbled upon Crepe Café, a restaurant that obviously specializes in crepes; they make your standard French inspired fruit crepes but also have a whole menu of crepes with a twist, such as prosciutto and egg. Cole and I were heaven with our nutella & fruit crepes and after pigging out, we were ready to burn off some of the calories.

We discovered that Toronto, like some other cities, also had the bike share program, which is one of our favorites ways to see a city. In Toronto, for $5, you could use the bike all day in increments of 30 minutes. Using the bikes we are able to cover a lot more ground than by walking and be able to see a bit more of the city than if we used the underground metro. The best part is when you discover a part of town you didn’t know existed as you are biking.

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We biked down to St. Lawrence, a large indoor market full of fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese, meats and fully prepared meals. It has been named one of the world’s best food markets by National Geographic and I could quickly see why. Despite just enjoying a delicious breakfast, I was ready to eat again after sampling some of the delicious food. We walked around St. Lawrence (the neighborhood that houses the market also bears the same name) and Old Town (another quaint neighborhood nearby) and checked out some of the local art and crafts. Afterwards, we decided to hop back on our bikes to see some other areas of town.

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We biked through downtown, passing by the CN Tower and then came across The Steam Whistle Brewing Company. The Steam Whistle is a Canadian pilsner and the company’s brewery is located in the historic John St. Roundhouse, once a steam locomotive repair facility. We stopped by during their brewery hours and enjoyed a beer on the house.

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We ended up making our way across the water to the Toronto Islands; these small chain of connected islands located on Lake Ontario are car-free and allow you to escape the urban city and take advantage of the beautiful beaches and parks. You can easily access the islands by taking the City of Toronto Ferry located in the Mainland Ferry Dock. We walked all along Centre Island enjoying the beautiful weather and views.

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DSC_0721_2After heading back across the water, we headed to Jack Astors, a Canadian restaurant chain with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We grabbed some dinner and watched a bit of college football. Finally, we made our way over the Distillery district. I wish we had saved more time to explore this neighborhood because it was by far my favorite. This historic district once housed one of the largest distilleries’ in the world, Gooderham and Worts Distillery. These warehouses have since been transformed into a gorgeous collection of unique, high-end boutiques, art galleries and a few restaurants (none of which are chains or franchise due to the owners who renovated the space). Check out the Mill Street Brewery, for a great local microbrew if you find yourself in the area.

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Toronto was vastly different than Montreal; it had much more of a city vibe and didn’t have the European charm of Montreal, but it had a variety of different neighborhoods each with their own personality.

PS This trip was the first time I downloaded and used the Trip Advisors’ City Guides App. If you are traveling to a city you’ve never visited, I would highly recommend downloading the app! It has a map, public transit information, recommended restaurants and must-see attractions. The app is particularly helpful when you are outside of the US and would be subject to roaming charges if you used your phone’s Internet when searching for what to do. Prior to leaving the US, download the guide for the city you’re visiting and you won’t have to worry about finding an Internet connection while you’re trying to make the most of your trip!

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