I hadn't traveled to Toronto since my 5th grade class trip where we enjoyed the views from the top of the CN Tower and had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory. That is about all I remember, which isn't much, so that's why my daughter and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to explore this foreign but not too far away city.
It only took us about 5 hours to drive there and cross the border had a bit of delay but was it didn't slow us down for too long. We had to show proof of vaccination against COVID and show a negative test result. They were also doing random COVID tests at the boarding crossing and we happened to be the lucky ones to have an extra swab and wait a few more minutes. It really wasn't a big deal and we were quickly on our way to meet our Airbnb host in the downtown district. We chose a place with a free parking spot and left it there for the duration of our stay since we planned to walk and take public transportation everywhere.
Diversity of Cultures
Toronto is a melting pot and a city of immigrants, so the diversity of authentic food was fabulous. Amazing cappuccino and French pastries at Moretti Caffe just down the street from our condo, Swedish lunch at Fika Cafe in the Kensington Market area (Fika is the Swedish concept of resting and socializing with others over coffee and cake), drinks and amazing appetizers at Baro a trendy Latino restaurant, Chinese dumplings (at Juicy Dunplings) on our way home through Chinatown, and another day we had a late lunch of fantastic wood-fired pizza in Little Italy, homemade gelato from just down the street, and dinner of Slavic food at Drom Taberna. We literally ate our way through the city and there were even more places we would have loved to experience.
Since the city is so diverse, the neighborhoods and shopping is as well. It is a grittier city and since we didn't head to the suburbs, we instead found little unique independent stores along Queen Street and plenty of vintage stores near Chinatown and Kensington Market. Another day we made our way to the St. Lawerence Market where we explored the various food stalls and enjoyed a gyro for lunch. We walked on to the Distillery District. Instead of tearing down the buildings, the city created a fun and unique space for shopping, art, and dining. We loved it!
We really didn't have enough time to experience all that the city offers. Being along the shores of Lake Ontario, the water views are amazing and we could have enjoyed a sandy beach or kayaked from the shore to the variety of islands and parks. Instead we explored the Art Gallery of Ontario and enjoyed their Andy Warhol exhibit, and native Canadian and Indigenous artists. At the spur of the moment we decided to check out the Immersive Monet experience and it was really well done. Casa Loma, an 18th-century castle was unfortunately closed, as we would have loved to explore their grounds and gardens.
Toronto is known for it's local jazz scene and since my daughter has always loved old-school jazz (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald), we tried to enjoy live music in as many establishments as possible. We had a terrific spot by the stage at The Jazz Bistro and it was so nice to enjoy live music again! Another night we visited The Rex, Toronto’s longest running jazz club. Unfortunately we paid way too much for terrible drinks and a cover charge for a jazz quintet that played horribly. We may have struck out for the evening, but we had a good laugh and good conversation! Our last night we had late reservations for dinner and the show at the Reservoir Lounge. It’s a speakeasy in the basement of a building where Michael Bublé got his start. The atmosphere, the drinks, the music and caliber of singing were simply amazing and a night we won’t forget. We kept grinning and were wired as we jammed to all three sets and got home after 1 am.
This diverse, historic city really has it all - European-influenced architecture, a beautiful waterfront, unique shopping and amazing food. With its great art scene, diehard sports fans, and close proximity to the lake for outdoor enthusiasts, we ran out of time to enjoy it all!