The first time I visited Toronto, the Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was charting and Continental Airlines was still actively losing our luggage. Needless to say, I was a kid. I remember marveling at the red brick buildings (we don’t have many of those in Hawaii) and admiring the expanse of flat land on which the city resides.
Casa Loma, the historic castle-museum and garden, was a highlight of the trip, as was a visit to see mummies at the Royal Ontario Museum and a lunch buffet in the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower. The Ontario Festival was happening near the Medieval Times, with which I had a strange, pre-The Cable Guy fascination, as children often do.
Returning to Toronto as an adult over two decades later provided a different experience. The city seemed more vibrant than I remembered. The large shopping center downtown, Eaton Centre, appeared shinier and more replete with quality shops than I recalled. Of course, the only store I remembered as a kid from the then-vacant mall was the gamers’ shop. Priorities.
For my short walking tour of Downtown Toronto, I started along Bloor Street near the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). It’s an impressive art, culture and natural history museum with a new-ish, sleek façade. The University of Toronto—St. George Campus is nearby and served as a setting for a pleasant stroll, as did the central Queen’s Park, before which opens up the expanse of University Avenue. Heading down University, one finds both Toronto’s New and Old City Halls to the east, as well as plenty of shopping along Yonge Street and the aforementioned CF Toronto Eaton Centre.
To the west at Dundas and Spadina Avenue one comes across Toronto’s Chinatown. The large population of Chinese in Ontario promises some of the best Chinese cuisine you’ll have outside of Hong Kong and Vancouver, and this is coming from someone who lives in San Francisco.
Heading through Old Toronto past Union Station brings you closer to the Toronto waterfront. Here, the city’s most iconic landmark rises high above the city: the CN Tower. General admission for the CN Tower runs at $38 per adult. EdgeWalk, the “world’s highest hands-free external walk on a building,” can be experienced by the brave for $225, a not-for-the-fearful-of-heights adventure with which one probably shouldn’t cut costs. The plaza under CN Tower offers much for visitors, including Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and Roundhouse Park, where old locomotives remain against the Steam Whistle brewery. Nearby, baseball fans can find Rogers Centre, where the Toronto Blue Jays play.
The waterfront along Lake Ontario is undoubtedly the most peaceful place in the downtown area, particularly as the sun sets. Queens Quay is a major street here that can take you from park to park. I found the Toronto Music Park especially lovely; it offers some tranquility alongside a lovely view of the CN Tower.
My only regret was that I didn’t get to experience more of Toronto during this trip, but I’m grateful for the opportunity of refreshing my memory of this diverse and friendly city. You could spend a week here and not be bored. It’s more than enough to inspire me to return.