In honour of the Canada’s Walk of Fame festival and awards ceremony taking place in Toronto, we were invited by Tourism Toronto to take part in the festivities. It was a celebration of all things Canadian, from watching chart-topper Serena Ryder perform for the first time at Massey Hall, to hitting up a Blue Jays game, and getting a private lesson in maple sugar at Richard Brault’s Ninutik studio. We’re sharing with you a few things to see and do when travelling to Toronto. Whether you live in the city, have been there numerous times before, or will be exploring it for the first time, check out our ultimate guide to visiting the T-dot!
Where to stay
When it comes to staying in Toronto, picking a central location is key. Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is an exquisite boutique hotel, conveniently located right beside the Air Canada Centre, and a short walk away from Union Station and the Hockey Hall of Fame, among other points of interest. 167 rooms fill this three-year-old hotel, which has become one of the city’s most popular in such a short period of time. We can see why: complimentary wi-fi and continental breakfast is included with each stay (a definite bonus), and as jazz music filters through the air of your room, and you lay on your cozy bed and with a photo above of well-built athletes, the whole makes for a very inviting stay.
(From l- to r-: al fresco dining at Big Crow; cozy digs at Le Germain Maple Leaf Square; getting schooled on all things maple sugar by Ninutik’s Richard Brault; a hearty pulled pork poutine at Smoke’s Poutinerie.)
Where to eat
Amazing poutine outside of Quebec? Yes, we were skeptical at first, too. But a visit to the Smoke’s Poutinerie location on Adelaide St. W. certainly made believers out of us. It’s a narrow space and the queue may be a bit long during lunch hours, but the line moves quickly and the end result is worth the wait. If it’s your first poutine rodeo, we say stick with the traditional fries-cheese-gravy confection. (They even use the perfect squeaky cheese curds straight from Quebec—is there anything else?) But if you’re looking to go bold, the pulled pork poutine is a flavourful, tender option that will definitely fill you up before you continue your walking tour of the city.Come dinner time, if you’re looking for a welcoming sit-down joint, located right behind the popular Rose & Sons brunch joint is Big Crow, a unique backyard barbecue spot from the same owners. Located in the hip Annex district (near the University of Toronto), and open year-round, rain or shine, we started out with a lovely glass (or two…) of root beer and bourbon, and then ordered tapas-style, sharing amongst our group delicious smoked mozzarella and roast garlic bread, versht salami with a sweet apricot glaze, a simple-yet-flavourful pork and beans, and jerk chicken wings. The ambiance is very hip and relaxing, with communal seating perfect for a gathering amongst friends… or to make a few new ones!
As for something a bit more upscale, Canoe—inarguably one of the best restaurants in the country—does fine dining right, using ingredients from coast to coast in their dishes, from Quebec foie gras to Alberta lamb. Located within the TD Bank Tower on Wellington St. W. (this spot offers incomparable views of the city below), we simply adored the fresh ceviche, made with North American turbot and creamy buffalo yogurt, as well as the tender Ontario rib eye, aged 45 days. Chefs John Horne and Anthony Walsh take extra care in presenting a meal that is equally delicious as it is pretty to look at.
See + do
Taking an elevator ride to the top of the CN Tower comes standard with any visit to Toronto. But for the boldest among you, EdgeWalk is an extra, exciting element to the city landmark. It’s surely not an activity for everyone, but it’s as safe as can be (your walk leaders definitely make sure to check your harnesses multiple times before you step outside), ensuring a safe and fun hands-free walk 1,168 feet above the ground.If you prefer your feet to be firmly planted on solid ground instead, take a visit to the St. Lawrence Market, named the number one food market in the world by National Geographic. It is located in the historic Old Town district, and is a great way to cap off an afternoon spent in the area, perusing various merchants’ wares, from jams and oils, to fruit and deli meats. We were given a tour courtesy of the entertaining and super-informed Bruce Bell, who capped off our visit at the legendary Carousel Bakery for our first taste of a peameal bacon sandwich, Toronto’s signature dish. It’s a simple delight, with a thick cut of the meat inside a ciabatta bun, best enjoyed with a drizzle of honey-mustard sauce. (Is your mouth watering yet?)
For an afternoon spent away from bustling sidewalks and sprawling buildings, a dose of nature awaits you at the quaint Toronto Botanical Garden. It’s certainly smaller compared to other gardens across Canada, but this does not take away from all that it has to offer. Four acres of beautiful gardens welcome you, and it offers many programs for both children and adults, and an organic farmers’ market on Thursdays. The nearby Garden Café is also a treat, offering tasty snacks, sandwiches, and the occasional warm soup. Its new chef, however, is looking to expand the café’s culinary horizons, and we had a taste of few potential offerings using local, seasonal ingredients—we definitely hope these recipes make their way to the general public soon!
What used to be a working distillery back in the mid-1800s is now home to The Distillery Historic District, which has been redeveloped in recent years. Located east of downtown, it houses many shops, cafés and restaurants—we had the pleasure of dining at the Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill—as well as event spaces and theatres. It’s a great place to walk along the cobblestone streets and explore this National Historic Site, a blend of old and new.
(From l- to r-: old buildings abound at the Distillery District; peering down at Toronto from atop the CN Tower; blowing off some steam at the Four Seasons Toronto Spa; exploring the flora of the Toronto Botanical Garden.)
Shop + spa
Shopping is key to any visit to Toronto, and if you’re staying in the city, perusing the upscale shops on Bloor Street is a popular option. For excursions outside the downtown core, however, the Yorkdale Shopping Centre is a fashionista’s delight, with a myriad of boutiques including Ted Baker London, J. Crew, Holt Renfrew, Brandy Melville, and more. Another suggestion is the Shops at Don Mills, Toronto’s first open-air mall that features numerous shops, as well as restaurants and cafés, which are situated around the square, perfect for people-watching.
After a day of shopping, some R&R with sweetie, the girls, or simply solo is definitely in order! For the ultimate in pampering, the spa at the new location of the Four Seasons Toronto in the Yorkville district is an essential must-see if your itinerary permits. The luxurious-yet-serene 30,000 sq. ft. space has a pool, and services include manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, hair salon, and even a fitness centre. We had an exquisite visit to the spa one afternoon, and enjoyed a relaxing aromatherapy massage, expertly taken care of by our masseuse (and her magic fingers) for an hour’s time. Personalization is key to your massage experience, and it was the added touch of choosing your preferred essential oil and hypnotic massage tune that truly won us over.
For more ideas on what to see and do in Toronto, visit seetorontonow.com.