Best of Toronto: Top 3 Must-Do Experiences
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Toronto is an experiential city that reveals its secrets slowly. Apart from icons like the cloud-brushing CN Tower, the best experiences you'll have in Toronto come from wandering through its ethnically flavored neighborhoods and checking out the Victorian architecture and quirky museums.
The best way to get a feel for Toronto's attractions and city-center layout is by jumping aboard a hop-on hop-off city tour. Following North/South and East/West loops, this flexible tour visits Toronto's best sights, shopping areas and unique cultural districts, with a professional commentary included. If you're going to be visiting several of the city's attractions, pick up a CityPass, giving you a leisurely nine days to use tickets to sights including Casa Loma, CN Tower, Ontario Science Center, Royal Ontario Museum and Toronto Zoo. Or grab your Toronto Attractions Passport, with up to 50% off at over 40 of the city's top attractions, museums, tours, restaurants and day trips.
Take to the air on a Toronto Helicopter Tour for bird's-eye views of the downtown skyscrapers and Lake Ontario waterfront, and the choice of a nine-minute or 14-minute flight. The private heli tour is the perfect romantic getaway for two - the private 14-minute flight sets the scene for the ultimate proposal with wine, chocolates and a cuddly teddy bear! Or combine a heli tour with a meal at the top of the CN Tower - whether you choose lunch or dinner you'll be dazzled by the views over Toronto. Seeing Toronto from the water offers a spectacularly different view of the city. Take a relaxing hour-long inner harbor cruise by day or see the city lights on an evening cruise.
Day trips from Toronto mean one thing: Niagara Fall! The mighty Falls are an easy day trip destination, with a buffet lunch and wet and wild ride aboard the legendary Maid of the Mist boat or "Journey Behind the Falls" close-up experience included. Or take the Freedom Day Trip to Niagara, with transport included and the freedom to make your own way around the Falls. While Niagara Falls are stunning by day, the Falls by night are a truly spectacular sight! The tour includes the Maid of the Mist boat ride, dinner at the Fallsview dining room and the amazing multicolor illumination show, with fireworks adding to the drama if you visit on a Friday or Sunday evening.
Best of Toronto: Top Hotels
Directly opposite Union Station, the Royal York's mock-chateau style adds unexpected panache to Toronto's uniform skyline. Here, in 1929, the Canadian Pacific Railway realized their dream of constructing the grandest hotel in the Commonwealth. At the end of the 1920s, the height - 28 stories - was a structural feat. Today, with old-fashioned charm intact, rooms are decked out in antique reproductions and bathed in a palette of rose, burgundy and gold.
Housed in a thin black tower, this European-style hotel is two blocks west of the lively Yonge St strip. Perhaps due to its personalized service and close proximity to the famous Bistro 990, this hotel remains popular with visiting dignitaries and movie stars. The sumptuous guest rooms are soothing, with soft fabrics and subtle colors, and elegant antiques and tapestries, gilded mirrors and chandeliers are displayed throughout the hotel.
This magical hotel offers pure, unadulterated indulgence. The second best thing about this countryside retreat is that a quick subway ride will have you downtown in a mere 15 minutes. The magnificent Tudor facade is just the beginning of luxurious amenities including gas fireplaces, roomy whirlpool tubs and on-site spa.
Best of Toronto: Top Restaurants
America calls itself a "melting pot," but Canadians prefer the term "mixed salad" to describe themselves. The metaphor is never more apt than when describing Toronto's international restaurant scene. In the 1970s, waves of immigration brought the world to local forks and fingertips with delicious results!
The humble-sounding name belies just how swanky this place actually is, with its banquettes, formal table service by attentive waiters, and a Parisian-style patio. Steaks and rotisserie fare are as distinguished as the wine list, while the buffet brunch is an exercise in indulgence. Hit the cafe section out the front for speedy muffins, bagels and take-out sandwiches.
Walk by the stone lions up to the 2nd floor of Hsin Kuang shopping center and discover this Cantonese-style banquet hall. Dim sum rules the roost - dozens upon dozens of dishes (dumplings, wantons, satays, pork buns, spring rolls etc, including vegetarian) are wheeled out. Other specialties include Peking duck, jumbo shrimp, crispy lemon chicken.
Trendsetters come and go, but Bar Italia remains a place to be seen and to relax in Toronto. Grab an excellent sandwich or lightly done pasta, with a lemon gelato and a rich coffee afterward, and while the entire afternoon or evening away. If you're lucky, you might nab yourself a seat on the deep-set street-front patio.