My first impression of Toronto was blue glass studded with bright fall foliage. As you drive in from the airport, the first buildings to greet you once you actually get in to the city are tall, modern, glass skyscrapers, and behind that, the blue of the Great Lakes. We went at the perfect time of year: the air was crisp and the small deciduous trees planted in the well-landscaped green spaces between buildings were fiery shades of orange and yellow and red. It was stunningly beautiful.
We stayed in the financial district, which feels like you’re in the middle of everything when you arrive on a Friday afternoon—the sidewalks and underground tunnels are bustling, restaurants and bars are full of business people—but it’s deceptive. Come Saturday morning we discovered this is not the best area of town to spend a weekend—75% of businesses in the area shut down when the working crowd goes home.
I love that the city’s districts are very distinct. You know exactly when you’ve crossed the street from Chinatown to the Fashion District. Toronto is very walkable, with wide sidewalks and ample opportunities to cross busy streets—and everyone obeys walk signals. (Although Andrew attributes that to innate Canadian niceness). I loved the public art and design throughout the city and definitely could have spent another afternoon walking aimlessly, admiring it all!
We spent our evenings in the King West neighborhood, which seems to be pretty hip, but not over run with 20-something hipsters. (Man, I sound like a crotchety old lady.) Great restaurants abound and there’s a great nightlife scene—with plenty of taxis to get you home. We did have to wait in line to get in to the bar—the locals we were with said that if we had arrived before 10:00 we would have been good to go.
Where to go: I spent some significant time in the fashion district. Every other store front seems to be a massive fabric store. I loved King Textiles—with roll upon roll upon roll of fabric (and real fashion designers placing orders!), it reminded me of Mood from Project Runway.
What to do: Lots of people told us about a giant mall near our hotel. I’m not usually a big mall shopper, but after a couple months in Bermuda, chain stores (and Auntie Anne’s!) are starting to become a welcome, American-feeling sight. We didn’t go to the CN Tower, but I’m kind of wishing we had—however, I’ve heard the food is not very good in the restaurant at the top, so best to just imbibe a cocktail and the view!
Where to eat: We had some absolutely fantastic meals in Toronto—and yes, don’t worry we had poutine. I absolutely loved Sansotei Ramen. They have a handful of dishes that are really just very slight variations on pork belly ramen—I love when a restaurant is so sure of what they’re doing, they only offer you what they make best. Another standout was Buca—an Italian place in King West. The atmosphere is amazing, and so is the suckling pig! (Oh, and the cheese tray… mmmm… cheese….)
Editor’s Note: This first guide is pretty short since we were only in town for the weekend. Do you have Toronto tips? Please feel free to share in the comments or send me an email! Interested in writing a travel guide? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.