Quick Travel Guide to Toronto Ontario Canada from a Native
I have reviews on a lot of places (not just Toronto) on my Yelp page.
If you want to visit Toronto, this is an email I sent to someone who was visiting Toronto for the first time:
WHERE TO STAY
You don’t want to be too far from the downtown core, because the suburbs have absolutely nothing to do. The other option is to leave your car parked at the GO Train stations, and then take the GO Train from the suburbs into downtown, but that’s a bit of a hassle to say the least.
The best possible option is for you to find a hotel near a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) station (GO Trains are suburban train stations and not the same as “TTC”), and then you can just take the TTC everywhere you need to go.
Here’s the map, and you can go to the TTC site to look at it, or even Google Maps will show you where the stations are in relation to your hotel.
Here is a Holiday Inn example:
TORONTO THINGS TO DO AND SEE
1. Niagara Falls
Okay so this isn’t in Toronto, but it is a natural wonder in Canada and kind of a shame if you miss it.
Honestly you don’t need more than a half day for this if you don’t want to spend more than half a day.
Go early in the morning, drive down to the Falls (there’s really only one area to see them), spend the morning there, take pictures of the falls, and walk around a bit.
There’s a rather touristy downtown there and you can try out the casino as well if you want.
If you have a budget for it, the Maiden Falls voyage where they make you put on a huge plastic raincoat is actually kind of fun.. but it is most definitely going to be pricey. Buy a chunk of the fudge there, it’s like a tradition of mine when I go to Niagara Falls.
If you finish off the morning and come back by 1 p.m. to Toronto, you’ll have time to do other things like maybe go to the CN Tower and so on.
2. CN Tower
Before 2007 and Dubai it used to be the tallest freestanding tower in the world. It’s PRICEY but if you are going to be in Toronto once in your life, you should at least make the CN Tower trip.
You can see the view of Toronto all around, but it’s better if you do this on the last day of your trip so that you can kind of recognize where the downtown is, and so on.
Makes it more interesting.
Around the CN Tower area is also a Canadian microbrewery called Steamwhistle. Very popular here.
You should try one of their beers if you are into that, I think they even give tours.
TTC Location: Union Station is the closest located at 65 Front Street West, Toronto ON.
3. Yorkville Neighbourhood
The most expensive shopping area in Toronto.
Our exclusive department store is Holt Renfrew and it’s pretty nice I must say, but not on par with NYC shopping. It’s a rather small core, about 6 blocks, and if you are interested, you can check out the Whole Foods grocery store in the area located there.
Pricey bars and restaurants, and the streets are cute, but it doesn’t take more than half a day to wander around unless you plan on actually going into the shops and browsing / shopping.
TTC Location: Bay Station until Yonge Station, and about 3 blocks north of that. The red marker is Whole Foods.
4. Chinatown / Kensington Market
The Chinatown we have is pretty small compared to NYC, although I don’t know what it’s like in NZ. It’s about 6 blocks squared, and within it, is Kensington Market which is a very cool independent, hippie, artsy neighbourhood.
Kensington Market starts at Nassau Street and is 2 small streets with a lot of packed shops. There are popular independent restaurants there to buy tasty and cheap food, like tortillas and so on although I haven’t personally tried anything.
There are also secondhand stores and organic grocery stores, cheese stores and so on if you’re interested.
TTC Location: SPADINA TTC then you take the 501 Streetcar until COLLEGE STREET where Chinatown begins, then NASSAU street is where Kensington Market is located on the west side, and if you follow the map’s arrows, Chinatown goes all the way south until QUEEN STREET
Start of Chinatown: College /Yonge
5. Queen Street West
Queen Street is one long shopping avenue and my favourite road to walk down to shop. I usually start at Queen and University, which is West of where the Eaton’s Center is (main shopping center in Toronto), and I walk west all the way down Queen Street.
It’s a mix of branded stores that are Canadian (Aritzia), International (H&M), or independent, and it goes all the way until Ossington.
I think I walked it ONCE, and it took me the WHOLE DAY, while shopping and eating. But if you were to walk without stopping and looking at anything, it’s 41 Minutes, or so Google Says.
I should also mention that the streets ABOVE Queen Street like Dundas Street West are equally as interesting with shops at times.
TTC Station: OSSINGTON STATION (West-End Boundary) until QUEEN STATION (East-End Boundary) See map to see the length of the street.
6. Toronto Waterfront
October might be a bit chilly but the waterfront is nice to walk down on. It has a board walk and you can see the Great Lakes from there with (maybe?) some boats sailing around. If you were also up to visiting / walking around an island, Toronto Island is nice, although in October it is not going to be as green as in the summer, and you may not get to see the Queen’s Swans.. a pair of really pretty swans that are around the area.
TTC Station: Union Station, and then you walk south until you hit the water.
7. St. Lawrence Market — 92 Front Street East
Around the east of Toronto Waterfront, there is St. Lawrence Market. It’s a farmer’s market (of sorts, it is fake farmers market compared to Europe), but it is interesting and in a nice neighbourhood nonetheless where you can see the Iron Building (this kind of oddly shaped like a pie building that also exists in NYC).
TTC Station: King Station, then you walk East or you can take the streetcar on King Street until you get there.
8. Toronto Allan Gardens Conservatory – 19 Horticultural Avenue
This is a hidden gem (for free) in Toronto. I only just discovered it this summer but I don’t know if they’ll be open and kicking in October.
It has cacti, flowers, plants.. very pretty greenhouse in general.
TTC Station: College Station then you walk East
9. Bloor Street West
Another good street just to walk down on. It starts at Bloor / Yonge and goes all the way west until about Christie Station. Lots of independent shops, same vibe as Queen Street but less shopping-oriented. More food, restaurants and organic grocery stores. You might even find Poutine here, although eating it in Montreal is better.
You could even combine this walk with checking out Yorkville quickly which is on the way!!
TTC Station: Bloor/Yonge then you walk West
10. Toronto Island
It might be chilly but the view from the Island looking ONTO Toronto downtown harbourfront with the skyline is not to be missed if you are up to it. It’s basically one huge nature park. Lots of walking, lots of trees. No food as I can recall. There might be some pithy restaurants there, but really, the skyline of Toronto is all I went there for.
There’s a ferry you have to take to get there it’s pretty reasonable if I recall. $6 or something.
TTC Station: Either you come down north from BATHURST and take the streetcar south, or you go west from Union Station / Harbour front.
If you want to know where to shop and eat, you can read the list of my (constantly updated) Toronto grocery stores, shops, services and restaurants.