With limited vacation time, an abundance of natural beauty, as well as some of the world’s most unique cities, right on our doorstep, it’s no surprise that,according to Expedia, 77% of Canadian vacationers decided to holiday in the homeland. With no borders to cross, and only travel insurance to worry about, travelling to a new province could be the relaxed, breezy vacation you’ve been looking for.
If you’re hoping for a short stay jam-packed with things to do then look no further. We’ve put together a ten-part series guiding you on how to make the most of your weekend break in some of Canada’s coolest metropolises.
This week we look at Canada’s centre of arts and entertainment, business, sports and innovation: Toronto.
A trip with friends, a family trip or a couple’s retreat: The 6ix offers something for everyone. Attracting over 25 million visitors a year, the capital province of Ontario is one of Canada’s major cities, and it was voted one of the top five safest cities in the world.
Sat on the edge of Lake Ontario, Toronto’s multicultural urban landscape means that nestled amongst the soaring skyscrapers, beneath the shadow of the great CN tower, is an assortment of colourful neighbourhoods- all with their own unique cultural influence.
Browse the sights and sounds of the colourful Kensington market, perfect for finding a unique outfit from one of its vintage stores, or tasting some local produce in one of its many bars, cafes and restaurants.
Many of the vendors and store owners in the market have been there for generations, and are always happy to offer recommendations for places to check out. Snap a picture in front of one of the beautiful murals, or search for the secret laneway hidden within- can you find it?
Just one block away and you find yourself slap bang in the centre of Chinatown, engulfed by the scents of some of the neighbourhood’s most authentic dim sum and dumplings. Shop for some Toronto souvenirs, check out the Chinatown mall or just take in the culture of this majestic strip, dotted with its own Chinese monuments.
If fashion is your thing, head to Queen Street West, known as the city’s Fashion District, where you can bag yourself some hip street-wear from Hogtown’s coolest designers. While you’re in the area, stop off and see some cool street art tucked away down Graffiti Alley.
Alternatively, check out the Eaton Centre, which houses some of the biggest name brands in the world.
If you find yourself in the downtown core, head to the Rogers centre where you can witness baseball legends The Blue Jays play on their home turf. The Stadium, which has been open since 1989, also hosts Toronto Argonauts football games during the season and welcomes an array of musical acts every year.
However, if you’re more a Hockey kind of person then check out The Hockey Hall of fame - home to exhibits about all of your favourite players, teams, NHL records, memorabilia and NHL trophies, including the famous Stanley Cup.
Towering high above the stadium is the CN Tower, an iconic feature of the Toronto landscape that is hard to miss. The 350-metre high structure was built in 1976 and held the title of the world’s tallest tower for 32 years. Climb to the top and take in the city from the glass-floored viewing platform, or the courageous amongst you might dare to tiptoe along the edge walk. If that isn’t for you, then how about enjoying a tasty meal with bright lights of the city sparkling below you, at the Tower’s famous 360 restaurant.
If you’re on a family vacation, take the kids to see some of the creatures of the deep at Ripley’s Aquarium or for a history lesson at The Royal Ontario Museum.
Or for the creative souls amongst you, why not admire some of the most beautiful artwork from Canadian artists, and periodical special guests, at The Art Gallery of Ontario.
And it will be hard to miss the bright lights of Yonge-Dundas Square- a centre of pedestrian scramble permanently illuminated by billboards. It’s no surprise that it has been likened to The Big Apple’s Times Square.
During the humid summers, make the most of the outdoors and head to one of the city’s many gorgeous green spaces, including hipster haven Trinity Bellwoods, or the historic Queens Park.
If you want to venture a little further afield, hop on a ferry or water-taxi, and zip across the lake to the Toronto Island; boasting its own fairground, a selection of delicious eateries, gorgeous walking trails and a handful of beaches perfect for a sandy picnic.
Speaking of beaches, Toronto is home to a tonne of beaches perfect for those hazy summer days. Head East to Scarborough Bluffs, the 20-story white cliffs that span 20-kilometres along the shoreline. With ideal scenery and access to Bluffers Beach, the bluffs are a great way to prelude your lazy beach day with a hike.
Closer to the downtown core you can find arguably Toronto’s most popular beaches at Woodbine, or for a little more of a rugged option, try Cherry Beach.
Don’t forget to check out Sugar Beach, an urban park that gives all the illusions of a sandy beach, complete with pink umbrellas.
Spending the winter season here? Then be sure to check out the famous Christmas Market in the historic Distillery District. Having just celebrated its eight birthday, the market has become a hub of local vendors offering everything from unique Christmas gifts to tasty treats, all topped of with some of the most delicious, locally brewed and distilled beverages.
If you miss the festive season fear not, in February the district welcomes a second, exciting festival: The Toronto Light Festival. Organizers describe it as a "visual journey and imaginative cerebral adventure" designed to "entertain and inspire”, plus it’s a great photo opportunity.
Alternatively, avoid your typical tourist spots and explore some of the city’s lesser-travelled neighbourhoods: The Danforth (lovingly known by locals as “Greek Town”), Leslieville, Roncesvalles, Little Italy and The Beaches.
No matter who you’re visiting with, this super inclusive city really does offer entertainment to suit all personalities.