Toronto is one of those vibrant happening cities that takes you by surprise. It’s hip, happening and diverse. To see Toronto in all its glory, I recommend taking to the streets, the water, and the air.
Start on the streets, with a self-guided walking tour of Toronto that starts in Chinatown, goes through Kensington Market, and then along Queens St West.
Take the Harbourfront Streetcar from the Harbourfront to Chinatown. Exit the streetcar at the corner of Spadina and Dundas. It’s from here that you will start a self-guided walking tour that will take you through the heart of this city’s multi-cultural hub.
The buzzing of the crowds adds to the constant excitement of Toronto’s Chinatown. Located downtown, Chinese characters grace the stores and street signs, while markets with exotic fruits and vegetables spill out onto the sidewalk, and of course, there is a bountiful selection of Asian restaurants. Great food alone is reason enough to visit Chinatown!
Heading west on either Baldwin or Nassau will put you smack in the middle of Kensington Market, a maze of narrow streets and alleys. Brightly painted Victorian houses, and shops that are packed with goods from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America line the streets. With its eclectic restaurants and cafés, Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most diverse areas.
As you walk along, keep an eye out for some fantastic street art. Toronto is one the of the best street art cities on earth. Get a feel for ethnic culture through murals in Kensington Market and Chinatown.
From Kensington Market, head to Queen St West. Walk west on Nassau until you reach Bathurst and walk south until you reach Queen St West, walk east. The stretch located between Bathurst and Simcoe is where the action is at.
Set in an area of historic buildings and unique restaurants from around the world, Queen St West is Toronto’s trendiest shopping district. Toronto’s fashion district has a collection of clothing boutiques, shoe stores, and accessory shops. At night, revive yourself by listening to great music. If you get lonely there is the “HUG ME” tree also on Queen St. West.
If you prefer, rent bikes. Renting a bike in Toronto is easy. Throughout the city are automated bike stands. Pick up a bike at one stand and return it to another. It’s just another great way to see this vibrant city, and it’s a great alternative to taxis.
After a day of perusing the streets of Toronto, take a breather from the city and head out to the water and see Toronto’s skyline from one of the best vantage points, Toronto Island.
Right off of the coastline on Lake Ontario is Toronto Islands, a top recreation destination for locals and tourists alike. A 15-minute ferry ride affords fantastic views of Toronto’s magnificent skyline. Once there, spend the day hanging out, relaxing on the beach or explore the islands waterways by renting canoes or bikes.
Seeing Toronto from the air is easy. Go to the CN Tower. The CN Tower is Toronto’s most recognizable landmark. Rising 553.33 meters into the air, it held the record for World’s Tallest Tower, Building and Freestanding Structure from 1976 – 2010.
The high-speed glass-fronted elevators give you a breath-taking view as you race upwards at 22 kilometres (15 miles) per hour, arriving at the main observation level, with its lookout and glass floor, for those who want to test their nerves. If that still isn’t high enough for you, from the main observation level, transfer to the special SkyPod elevator and soar to another amazing 33 stories.
It’s here that you will see an awe-inspiring 360-degree unobstructed view of Toronto, Lake Ontario, and the surrounding region. On a clear day, it’s not unusual to see Niagara Falls or Rochester, New York.
For those who are more adventurous, walk the edge. EdgeWalk is CN Tower’s thrilling attraction. Visitors walk along the ledge that is outside of the main observation deck, while attached to a trolley and harness system. Trained EdgeWalk guides encourage participants push their personal limits by leaning back over Toronto with nothing but air and breath-taking views of Lake Ontario beneath them.
Whether by land, sea or air, you’re sure to love Toronto!
Terri Lundberg is an American expat currently residing with her husband in Saudi Arabia, but she calls Seattle, and San Diego home. She’s a travel writer, an avid photographer and is a resource and cross cultural trainer to expats relocating to Saudi Arabia. She’s been to 100 destinations, 26 countries, and counting.
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