With the Canadian dollar worth about 75 cents U.S., you can afford to live it up in this big city with a little bit of everything.
By B.C. Rausch
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Duration: Varies by airline
Airlines: United, American, Delta
Pro tip: Ride the UP Express Airport Train from YYZ to get to the city’s heart in just 25 minutes. Toronto traffic can be intense, so this is by far the fastest way.
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ)
Duration: Varies by airline
Airline: United, Porter Airlines
Pro tip: YTZ is a small and very convenient terminal on an island in Lake Ontario, right across from the city. A ferry ride or walking tunnel connects you to a complimentary shuttle and cabs to get anywhere in Toronto. You can get creative with flights from SAV to Boston, Newark, or Washington and connect with Porter Airlines right into the city.
Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America and the economic heart of Canada, is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. So you’ll indeed find a little bit — or a lot — of everything. Given its size — in both geography and population — it’s challenging to pinpoint everything to see or do in a single trip. Like many cities, Toronto is comprised of neighborhoods, 140 that are officially recognized and another 100 “unofficial,” so it’s a matter of personal preference of what to see, do and, most importantly, where to eat in this capital of cosmopolitan cuisine.
Walking is the easiest way to get around the city once you pinpoint where you want to stay. The city is laid out much like Chicago and is very walkable from most hotels.
There are three modes of public transportation run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) – subway, streetcar and bus – to take you throughout the city and suburbs. The TTC offers a day pass for $13.50, allowing you to get anywhere all day with that ticket. Plus, there are ferries, taxis and bike rentals.
Described by one native as a “merry melting pot of folks from all over the planet,” Toronto offers up a smorgasbord of delights in its diversified ethnic neighborhoods. For example, suppose it’s different cuisines you’re after. She suggests starting your day with a “foamy cappuccino in Little Italy, then heading to one of Toronto’s six Chinatowns for dim sum, then enjoying an authentic Indian vindaloo for dinner.”
In a city of this magnitude and diversity, selecting the best restaurants would be nearly impossible. It’s fair to say that the city’s strong suit is variety, with the Canadian influence highlighted by foraged ingredients and provincially sourced meats and produce. Every local has their own favorites, and typically these are in a nearby neighborhood.
Little India is the largest South Asian marketplace in North America. From Coxwell Avenue west for six blocks, both sides of Gerrard Street are lined with restaurants and shops offering saris, spices, tea, Bollywood music and an authentic Indian vibe.
Richmond Station is a neighborhood restaurant that still manages to be elegant. “Top Chef Canada” winner Carl Heinrich offers a tasting menu called “Let us cook for you,” which is a great place to start.
Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen is hands-down the best Jamaican restaurant in Toronto. There are great burgers and coconut-crusted fish, but the main attraction is the jerk chicken, which takes four days to prepare.
Check out Gusto 101, located in a former auto body shop. Its Southern Italian classics are exceptional, and the $1-per-ounce house wine is a crowd-pleaser.
Toronto’s foodies savor a reservation at Dreyfus in a Victorian townhouse on Harbord Street. The intimate restaurant has a great vibe and delivers French cuisine without the fuss.
You’ll find a wide selection of craft breweries scattered around the city, including Mill Street (distillery district), Steam Whistle Roundhouse, Amsterdam Brew House by the Lake and Bellwoods Brewery.
Toronto has two fantastic markets: Kensington and St. Lawrence. Kensington, bordering on downtown Chinatown, is crammed with treasures: The Global Cheese store sells cheeses from all over the world and is very generous with samples; Jimmy’s Coffee serves up perfect javas; Dipped makes gourmet donuts with love and a lot of butter. From Chinese dim sum to Vietnamese pho to Mexican tacos to Jamaican patties — graze globally.
St. Lawrence Market, near Union Station, also offers many fish, meat, produce, cheese and baked goods. Foodies rave about the peameal bacon sandwiches at Carousel Bakery, while the line for Buster’s Sea Cove is worth the wait. Then head upstairs to the Market Gallery, where the city’s cultural, physical and social development is the subject of various entertaining displays.
But food and drink are just part of discovering Canada’s largest city, which includes a cosmopolitan side where chic boutiques, eclectic museums, luxurious hotels and spas dazzle.
The Fairmont Royal York (100 Front St. W.), which opened in 1929, is not the city’s most trendy hotel, but it is the grand dame. Enjoy cocktails at the Library Bar, renowned for the birdbath martini made with QUILL vodka or gin specially crafted for the bar, Cocchi extra dry vermouth, house orange bitters and fleur du sel.
If you want to stay at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel, check out the Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890 on the top floor, the second-best Italian restaurant in the world for 2023. It has terrific views of Lake Ontario and Toronto’s skyline.
The St. Regis Toronto Hotel has a spa on the top floor with various pampering packages. Inspired by the gilded age of New York High Society. “The 400” experience begins with a full body granita scrub, followed by a relaxing massage with a facial finale — two and a half hours of bliss. Relax with a glass of bubbly and chocolate truffles made by the hotel’s pastry chef.
Leaning toward trendy? Consider The Anndore House boutique hotel with its can’t-miss Constantine restaurant. The menu celebrates the Mediterranean and emphasizes coastal Italy.
Toronto offers a wide choice of more affordable hotels and experiences, but with the Canadian dollar exchanging at 75 cents U.S., you can afford to live it up a little.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W.) offers free admission every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. to its collection of more than 120,000 works, ranging from cutting-edge contemporary to Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces. Every Monday at 10 a.m., a limited number of free timed-entry general admission tickets are released for the following Wednesday night.
Be sure to step into The Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor St. W.) with its unique exhibit “OBSESSED: How Shoes Became Objects of Desire,” which explains our fetish with footwear. More than 15,000 shoes spanning 4,500 years trace their path from sandals to status symbols.
Fans of the X-Men movies may recognize Casa Loma, a 100-plus-year-old castle in midtown. Once a private home, it’s now a museum owned by the city and boasts 98 rooms, three indoor bowling alleys, a rifle range, a built-in vacuum system, a plethora of bronze doors, two secret, multi-floor passageways, a never-completed swimming pool (now filled with gravestones) and 30 bathrooms.
One of the world’s foremost collections devoted to the life and work of Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories is tucked away on the top floor of the Toronto Reference Library. The Arthur Conan Doyle Room is decorated to look like Holmes’s apartment at 221B Baker St., London, with Victorian-era chairs, a Persian carpet, floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves and a scattering of memorabilia and paraphernalia.
Toronto offers cultural and entertaining options galore, far too many to list, from theater to concerts to plays to sporting events.