(Good For Summer Too!)
We now live in Europe, but part of our family history will remain in Canada. So I wanted to pay a little tribute to the beautiful city that has been our home for a while. Toronto is a renowned city for businesses. Some call it “The New York of Canada.” Banks are all there. Too many people not living in Toronto, in my opinion, see it as a non-touristic place.
Tourism in Toronto
I think they couldn’t be more wrong. Toronto is a perfect place to know better about Canada. There are many reasons to go and discover this city during the winter, even if it can be unusually cold and snowy for foreigners!
1- Going there
For a start, Toronto has the largest and the busiest airport in Canada. That means it is easier to get to Toronto than anywhere else in Canada. I believe that’s a good start when wanting to visit. The airport is also quite close to the city centre. You can get an express bus from the airport direct to the nearest subway station. So going from the airport to Toronto can cost you only 2$!
2- No car needed
Toronto may be the city where you can do many things without owning a car. The TTC has made this place very convenient for all. What a better idea during vacation, than being able to visit and relax for one week or two without the need of driving? Most of the residential areas are less than 40 min away by public transports.
3- You will be welcome to 230 different communities
There are more than 130 different languages, aside with English, spoken in Toronto and around 50% of the population is foreign-born. I have experienced that the best place to be welcome in, is the place that is used to welcome newcomers so much that it’s become a natural thing to do. You will feel at home in a city that is open to the world.
4- Toronto for the Art
There are several museums to choose from. They are celebrating both Canadian and foreign culture in Toronto. I have 3 favourite ones:
- AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) because for a start it’s in a fascinating neighbourhood, culturally and architecturally speaking. The building in itself is a masterpiece both outside and inside. The collections are very diversified, so you can enjoy it whatever your tastes are. (As long as you enjoy Art!)
- Aga Khan Museum is a little far from the centre, but you have subways and buses that will bring you right at its doorstep. This place is even more beautiful in the summertime because there is a magnificent garden. In the winter, it lightens in a way that reminds me of the oriental love for games between sun lights and shadows. This, in itself, is already enjoyable. The collection is fascinating, and you will enjoy some workshops that will lead you deeper into Eastern Art.
- Casa Loma: Some say that the place is pricey. Some European even believe that their castles are much more magnificent. Yes for sure. But this is about Canada, Ontario and Toronto history and culture. I believe that this place is perfect to learn about all this. It is representative and beautiful, what else?
- I would have wanted to name the Museum of Inuit Art, but unfortunately, it recently closed its doors. The collection is waiting for a new home. In the meantime, you can still enjoy some very few pieces of Inuit art in the heart of one of the downtown shopping centre. That’s not much but even better than nothing. Visit the Inuit Art Gallery of TD Bank. It’s accessible for the underground walkways of Toronto, named “The Path.”
5- The Path
The latest museum is the perfect link to that massive maze of corridors, escalators that will let you wander under Toronto streets. 30km of small shops and shopping centres, services and other places for entertainment. If you want to play the game, you have your challenge for the day! And it’s all part of the northern cold winter life. Plus you will find many Canadian brands to shop from in there.
6- Many cafes
Yes, many! So you can warm up (believe me that’s where I became addicted because it was very much needed after walking several hours in the snow by -30℃…). I won’t name any but one that is quite special: Richtree Natural Market. It’s like a supermarket of various food. You can eat in or take away. Quality is excellent, and the choice is vast. You will be offered a card (one for each person) when you enter, each time you put something on your tray you give the card that will be credited. When you leave the place, you will give back all your cards and pay. It’s fun, enjoyable, and you can rest.
7- Various restaurants come with the many communities
You can walk on Dundas Street, between Beverley Street and Kensington Avenue. You have your choice of Asian restaurants. There are many other great ones in GTA (Greater Toronto Area) as the Asian community is active, but this place has a wide range of various Asian food in one place. It’s convenient if you don’t want to drive. Of course, you can find excellent restaurants from almost any culture too.
I have some favourite places:
- The Dukes: you’ll find them under different names, my very favourite being The Duke of Richmond. We always had a great time when going there. Food is freshly prepared; the staff is kind. Beware that when very busy, the service can be a bit long and you won’t enjoy the same care from them. Also, it can be very noisy. If you want to find a quiet place you just have to avoid Friday’s eve.
- The 360: on the CN Tower. It was for long the tallest edifice in the world. It remains the symbol of Toronto skyline visually. You pay to go to the top, but if you add a little to this price, you will enjoy an excellent meal while the restaurant is turning around the tower. Very much worthy, in my opinion. They also have an excellent wine bar. The view is fantastic at any time of the day, in any season, except maybe during a powerful snowstorm! You have to book, but you don’t have to book very much in advance if you have flexibilities regarding time and date.
8- Snow removal
What you have to know about snow removal, if you don’t come from a country that enjoys several metres of snow every winter, is that on a snow storm day the traffic can be very hazardous. Anyway in my opinion snow removal in Toronto is the most efficient I have experimented in Canada. That means that you will very rapidly be able to walk in a fairy tale white city even in case of massive snowfall. So it’s a perfect time to enjoy the streets and all the different neighbourhoods.
9- Winter activities in town
If you go to Canada, you have to try everything like a Canadian. Well for a start Canadian don’t stay inside all winter long. They can be tired of snow. That is quite understandable after 4 months of more difficult everything from getting dressed to drive going through merely getting outside your house. But they certainly never stop living. They have many outdoor activities.
- You will be able to go ice-skating on several ice-rink, the most beautiful, but certainly the coldest because of its location: the waterfront ice-rink.
- You can even enjoy a tiny taste of skiing. But remember that Toronto in on flat land, so you will go there for fun, not for sport!
- You can have a try at Curling! Much more fun to practice than to watch in my opinion. Even if this activity is more for regulars players, you can still find a class for first timers in some clubs.
- Stick, and puck (street hockey) games are always possible, but you must bring your own, so this is not a very tourist-friendly activity. But it is still a big part of Canadian education.
10- A strong community spirit
You can join some meetings according to your interest (from walking, photo, to sciences, cultural matters and so on). Even more during the winter, people tend to enjoy social meeting at that time because you can’t merely wander and chat outside as easily when it’s -15℃. This is a perfect way of getting to know better the locals. Meet Up is the ideal place to find whatever theme you want. Beware anyway that these meetings often happen at night or during the weekends (regular jobs concern).
11-Easy day or short weekend trips
From Toronto, you can join many places by bus, train or plane, for a day-trip or a weekend escape. If you have enough of it, Toronto allows you to escape very quickly. The most popular way to get away is the bus (OK maybe the car, but we said car-free,… Eh?!). You can take a night bus to New York, or Washington, Boston even. You can go West to Niagara, East to Ottawa, even further to Montreal. Night buses are very comfortable. You’ll have wi-fi. You have to know that if you cross the US border, you will join it from Toronto at approximately 2:00 am. Don’t expect to have a full night of sleep. But it’s very much doable to visit another charming city from Toronto, and long drives and road trips are so much North America!
One last thing! Leaving for Canada during the winter is a little bit like going to the Caribbean during the summer: you wouldn’t want to go without your sunscreen and your swimsuit! Well, it’s the same idea: you don’t leave for the North Pole expedition, but you wouldn’t want to land in cold temperatures without minimum equipment. You merely have to think skiing equipment. Meaning a real winter coat (not the thin woollen fashion one we see in Paris or London), mittens, beanie (winter hat) and probably a scarf because the wind factor is significant when below -5℃. Good shoes are necessary: thick non-slippery soles, waterproof is better.
Learn to check the weather: the app “The Weather Network” is very accurate. You have to read the “feels like” temperature, not the real one only (wind chill always the wind chill!). It can be from 5 to 15℃ lower; you wouldn’t want to miss that. You wouldn’t want to miss the “extreme weather warnings” meaning below -25℃, or the “snowstorm alerts.” Nothing to be scared of, just be aware of it and get organized: no 4 hours-walk with no shelter available when there is a weather alert!
Now you only have to pack and enjoy!