This month’s guest post is from Tracy Zhang, a young photographer from Toronto. She knows in the ins and outs of T-dot and brings us this great guide to spending 48 hours in the city – JM.
From Little Italy to Chinatown, the Fashion District to the Financial District, culture, entertainment, and business all converge in Canada’s metropolitan center. Home to more than 2 million people, Toronto’s multicultural districts are always buzzing and have something to offer for everyone. But don’t be intimidated by the city’s large size – everything is accessible and it’s a great city to walk around in.
Things to See and Do
Toronto boasts plenty of attractions but here is my list of must-see places.
The CN Tower
At over 500 meters tall, the CN Tower is one of the most iconic Toronto attractions. An elevator ride to the top of the tower is well worth it for first-time visitors. The look out offers a great view of downtown Toronto.
Part of the floor at the top of the tower is made of clear class and standing over the Glass Floor has become a popular activity for daring visitors. For the true thrill-seekers, there is also the CN Tower Edgewalk, which allows visitors to walk around the circumference of the tower roof, from the outside. Now how’s that for adventure?
Two hours outside of Toronto is Niagara Falls, which sits on the Canada-US border. The US waterfall is sometimes referred to as the American Falls while the Canadian side is called the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The two-hour driving distance may sound far but situated at 57 meters tall and pumping 6 million cubic feet of water per day, Niagara Falls is a truly stunning sight.
Not only does the size of the fall make it a beautiful attraction, but Canada’s view of Niagara Falls is also unique because of its crescent shape. Getting to Niagara Falls is also possible via the Greyhound bus or the VIA Rail train.
The intersection of Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue is home to Toronto’s Chinatown. The streets in this area are lined with colorful shops offering all sorts of items, from fresh produce to fashion apparels.
While you are enjoying the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, don’t forget to stop by any of the restaurants for some authentic and affordable Chinese food.
Formerly listed as the longest street in the world in the Guinness Book of Records, Yonge Street runs through downtown Toronto, crossing many of the city’s major districts. Where Yonge Street intersects with Dundas Street is Dundas Square, Toronto’s equivalent of New York’s Time Square.
For a nice stroll through the heart of the city, walk south on Yonge street from Dundas Square, through the imposing buildings of the Financial District and ending at the beautiful waterfront.
Food and Drink
Famous for its multicultural cuisine, you can travel the entire world without ever having to leave Toronto.
If you are looking for a quick bite to eat while wandering around town, then don’t miss the chance to try Burrito Boyz. As their name suggests, they offer one thing and they do it well – burritos.
Located in the Entertainment District, this Mexican fast food restaurant has become a local favorite with their fresh ingredients and wholesome cooking.
What first began as a mobile juice bar is now one of the most popular vegan restaurants. Founded on the principle of “Juice for Life”, Fresh provides healthy, organic, and natural ingredients for everyone, whether vegan or not.
Fresh has three locations in Toronto and has a myriad of exotic dishes – all vegan and all delicious – inspired by ethnic cuisine around the world.
Taste of China
If you are in the mood for Chinese food, look no further than Taste of China in the heart of Chinatown. The restaurant is famous for its live seafood, which includes fresh spot prawns, razor clams, and crab from Canada’s coastal regions. The best part is that Taste of China allows customers to enjoy classy seafood without breaking the bank; the average cost of a meal for two is only $25 CAD.
For those looking for something truly unique, try O’Noir, Canada’s only “dine in the dark” restaurant. Dining in complete darkness heightens your other senses, allowing restaurant patrons to savor the taste and smell of each dish. The culinary experience is also a social conscious initiative. Patrons not only enjoys delicious cuisine and great service, they also gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be blind, like the restaurant’s entire wait staff.
How to get there
Most flights into Toronto arrive at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, located 45 minutes northwest of downtown. For short distance flights from New York or Montreal, another option is to fly into Toronto City Airport, located right at the waterfront. The VIA Rail train also runs to Toronto from nearby Canadian cities. For the cheapest option, consider bus companies such as Megabus or the Grey Hound.
A bit of orientation
Here’s a handy map laying out all the sights mentioned above to give you an idea of where things are in Toronto. Click on the markers to see the sight listed and zoom and pan around to see more of the map.
View 48 Hours in Toronto in a larger map
Get around in Toronto
There are several options for getting around town, including public transportation such as the street car, public bus, and subway. Locals refer to the public transportation in Toronto as the TTC – the Toronto Transit Commission. A single ticket cost $3.00 CAD for adults, $2.00 CAD for students, and $0.75 CAD for children. If you plan on taking public transit a lot, consider buying tickets in volume of 4 or 8, or a day pass for $10.50.
Toronto also recently welcomed BIXI bikes. Long popular in Europe, the bike-sharing program allows users to take short trips in Toronto without having to purchase a car or even their own bicycle. It’s great for getting around the heart of downtown.
Where to stay
There is no shortage of fancy hotels in downtown Toronto, but for the backpackers, try the HI Toronto at 76 Church Street or Planet Traveler at 357 College Street – two affordable and conveniently located hostels.
While eating at the more up-scale restaurants can start at $50 CAD per person, you can also pay $25 CAD per meal at the smaller mom-and-pop restaurants on the side streets. Both options can provide you with delicious food.
As for attractions, a lot of Toronto’s attractions are free of charge, such as walking around Chinatown or window-shopping on Yonge Street. Overall, Toronto is a very affordable city to visit.
In the last two years of living in this concrete city, I have grown to adore Toronto for its myriad of sights, activities, and cuisine. With so much happening around town, planning a weekend can be overwhelming.
But the best way to enjoy this urban city is to take it slow, to sip on a coffee at a local café and to walk down every side street. I hope you enjoy your stay!