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Katie55 Jun 9th, 2009 04:17 PM

Long Weekend in Toronto - Questions
I'm planning a four-day weekend to Toronto with my husband in mid-July. It's my first time to the city and would love any pointers that natives or frequent visitors may have.

So far, I'm thinking we'll stay at either the Westin, the Sheraton Centre, or the Fairmont. Any input you may have on these would be welcome. I've chosen these hotels because they appear to be close to the Rogers Center, where we're planning to see a few Jays games. Also, my in-laws will be joining us, and they prefer chain hotels.

My main question is, how accessible is the city by foot? Are my hotel choices (so far) within walking distance to the Rogers Center? I've heard such great things about the city; I'm hoping it's safe to travel around by foot.

Do you recommend any other "must sees" in Toronto? We're an energetic couple who love to see all kinds of new things. We especially appreciate public gardens/parks, architecture, music, and cultural landmarks. Food is also a passion of ours- but we are by no means "gourmet" diners. We just appreciate good food, cooked well, and served in an engaging location.

Any input you may have about our first visit to Toronto would be welcome.

Aramis Jun 9th, 2009 05:55 PM

There is a Marriott hotel right in the Rogers Centre. Your choices are all good, the Sheraton is the farthest from the stadium at 1.2 km or about a 20 min walk. The Fairmont is 0.9 km (15 minutes) and the Westin is about the same maybe less..

There are no safety issues walking in that part of town.

Downtown is very walkable and there are two subway lines that run north south for the longer "walks" up to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) or The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

SallyCanuck Jun 10th, 2009 05:00 AM

But you could walk to the AGO or the ROM from the Sheraton - neither are very far.

For what's going on in the city those days, find a free copy of NOW Magazine or look online at

For restaurants Toronto Life magazine has listings:

LJ Jun 10th, 2009 05:30 AM

The Fairmont has more charm than the other is an older hotel,totally refurbished, but less like the modern chains, with a history and a GRAND lobby...more fun, IMHO.

The downtown area is safe, accessible and you will find much to do, eat and see within easy walking distance.

Have a great time in TO!

BAK Jun 10th, 2009 05:31 AM

Hotels keep changing their names.

But if what you mean by Westin is the Westin Harbour Castle, it is a lot farther from the Rogers Centre than the Fairmont Royal York is.

There's an Intrcontinental (I think sub-titled City Centre) a long block from the Rogers Centre, and whatever the former HolidayInn on King is now, is just a ciouple of blocks from the Rogers Centre.

And unless the name's been changed, there's a Ramada on Queens Quay, immediately south of the Rogers Centre, and right on Lake Ontario.

Toronto is very foot-friendly.

I used to live four blocks from the Rogers Centre, with no car.

Of your listed hotels, the Fairmont Royal York is a classic old railway hotel; it's where the queen stays while in Toronto, and it is probably the best located for walking, but all of them atre good. The Westin has the advantage of being on the lake, but the disadvantage of having highways and railways separating it from the downtown (interesting) part of the city.

In really broad strokes, Toronto is intresting to tourists from just above Bloor street as a northern boundary down to the Lake, and then into the lake to Toronto Islands, as a southern boundary.

On the ewast side, Parliament Street, inorder to get to the Distillery District, and on the west, the boundary would be Bathurst Street.

You can keep yourself well and truly amused, spend lots of money shopping, and eat really well, at various prices, selecing almost any kond of cuisine.

And you can walk, although trying to hit all four corners inthe same day is a bit much.

I think the Hilton is dull, the Sheraton is good, the Royal York is classic, and the Westin too far away.


laverendrye Jun 10th, 2009 06:41 AM

I have stayed at the Sheraton Centre, the Harbour Castle and the Royal York (nobody calls it the Fairmont)and if price is not a factor, I would pick the Royal York. As others have said, it's a grand old hotel. The others are all cookie-cutter chain hotels. It's also very convenient to the Rogers Centre and the rest of downtown Toronto.

For architecture, the newly re-opened AGO with the Frank Gehry redesign is a must. You will also want to see the Royal Ontario Museum with the Liebeskind crystal, although I think it's a big mistake. If you are In Toronto while there is a performance, the Four Seasons Centre (opera house) is quite impressive as is the older Roy Thompson concert hall. The new Toronto City Hall (now almost 50 years old) was quite exciting architecture in its time and is still an interesting building. It's right across from the Sheraton if you stay there. The University of Toronto campus is an interesting mix of architectural styles from Norman Revival (University College) Gothic Revival (Trinity College, Knox College,Hart House) beaux-arts (Convocation Hall) to neo-fascist brutalism (Robarts Library). It's also a nice oasis of green in the middle of the city.

goddesstogo Jun 10th, 2009 04:25 PM

I apologize in advance for this long post:

Even though I live in the city, I stayed at the Ramada at harbourfront (the Admiral?) a couple of years ago and the room was bady in need of renovation. Maybe that's been done by now. However, they have a wonderful pool/patio bar on the fifth (I think) floor. It's a great place to go for a drink and sit out over the lake especially if there's a concert going on at Harbourfront. There are free concerts there and festivals every weekend of the summer. In fact, there are festivals all over the city every weekend of the summer and you'll have a hard time choosing.

I've heard of people getting great rates (eg $60-$70) at the Sheraton on Priceline. If you're here the weekend of (I think) July 11 there's a big artshow at City Hall right across the road.

You don't give any idea of your acceptable hotel prices but the Royal York is quite expensive so if you can afford that, it's a pretty open field. Here are other central downtown hotels to check out:

the King Edward
the Soho
the Pantages
the Eaton Centre Marriott

In the Yorkville area and if price is no object:
the Park Hyatt
the Four Seasons (hotel, not opera house)
the Windsor Arms
the Intercontinental on Bloor
the Hazelton

Here are some restaurants and neighbourhoods that might interest you. You can check review/prices/etc on and or on Pick up a copy of NOW (a free entertainment newspaper) just about anywhere when you get here -- it comes out on Thursdays -- and a copy of Toronto Life magazine. I've also listed neighbourhoods here I think you might like to walk around. Re addresses, most east/west main streets are divided by Yonge Street so don't confuse the designations on street addresses or you'll never find what you're looking for.

Harbourfront neighbourhood: Walk around the area at Harbourfront(see; galleries; theatre; music; often special events and free outdoor concerts; shops and restaurants in the Queen's Quay Terminal building. Two nice places for lunch are Pearl for dim sum (upstairs, ask for a table overlooking the lake) and Il Fornello (downstairs, if it's a nice day, sit outside).

Yorkville area: very posh stores, restaurants and hotels. Basically, Toronto's Fifth Avenue area. Galleries on Hazelton and Scollard are good. Cumberland has nice shops and very posh stores on Bloor between Avenue Road (where the Royal Ontario Museum is) and Yonge. Lunch places are Montreal Bread Co (on south side of Cumberland, hidden behind the tree park), the Studio Cafe in the Four Seasons Hotel at Yorkville and Avenue Road (very pretty, nice food, a little pricey), Sassafraz (very groovy, celebs eat here, mediocre food, IMO) at Cumberland and Belair, and across the street, Lettieri (good coffee, Italian sandwiches/pastries; sit outside in the sun and watch the crowd), Cafe Nervosa at Yorkville and Bellair (also nice for patios, upstairs and down). Don't miss the Ontario Craft Council shop on Cumberland -- beautiful things!

The Annex: This is an older Toronto neighbourhood (where I grew up) and is near the U of T. Walk along Bloor Street from Spadina to Bathurst or a little farther. Lots of university students, shops, cafes. The Future Cafe is good for lunch and Sushi on Bloor has a good reputation. There's a great, ages old Hungarian restaurant, the Country Style, on the north side, east of Bathurst. Too big food for lunch but a real old fashioned Hungarian and incredibly cheap dinner. At Bathurst Street, you can't miss Honest Ed's, which is a Toronto institution. It's an enormous bargain store and fun to browse around. Ed Mirvish, the owner, was a tremendous philanthropist and basically built the theatre scene in Toronto and his wife is a sculptor. Despite all his wealth, he still maintained his office at Honest Ed's until his death a couple of years ago. At the far side of Honest Ed's is Markham Street -- a block or so of shops, galleries, restaurants, artists' studios. The artists' studios are subsidized by Ed Mirvish.

Kensington Market is adjacent to Chinatown (we have a large Asian population and this Chinatown is one of several but it's pretty much the original. Kensington is the old market area and was originally mostly a Jewish market; nowadays it's just about everything -- Jewish, Caribbean, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese -- and very interesting to walk around. Don't even think of trying to drive through it! The last Sunday of every summer month, it becomes a pedestrian mall with lots of entertainment. Lots of interesting second hand and craft stores on Augusta. For very cheap lunches or dinners, we often frequent two noodle houses, King's Noodle (west side of Spadina, north of Dundas) and Goldstone (same but south of Dundas). You can get a great big bowl of wonderful noodle soup topped with roast pork, bbq duck, seafood, chicken, etc. for just a few bucks. Also, right near Kim Hoa there's a Vietnamese sandwich place. I haven't tried theirs but Vietnamese sandwiches are yummy.

India town (Gerrard Street near Coxwell): Fun area to look around; Indian shops and restaurants; pretty good buffet at Siddartha.

Italian town (College Street west of Bathurst -- actually, a little farther west; starts around Palmerston): very lively area to walk around on a summer evening; walk from Palmerston to about Grace Street; tons of Italian and Portuguese restaurants and bars; lively street life; good gelato; nice Italian restaurant called Grappa on College near Grace and Portuguese place called Sintra near Clinton Street. Tons of restaurants.

Market area: St. Lawrence Market is our food terminal. Go on the weekend. South market has fun places to grab a bite of lunch, north market is antiques and funky stuff on Sundays. Nice neighbourhood to walk around. Good pan-Asian place for dinner is SpringRolls (though not as 'authentic' as Chinatown) on Front Street; also try Le Papillion on Front and Church for lunch or dinner for Bretonne-style crepes. Lots of decorator/furniture design places on King Street between Jarvis and Sherbourne. The HotHouse Cafe at Front and Church is good general food and a big Sunday brunch buffet.

Greektown: Danforth Avenue (also known as 'The Danforth') is the eastern extension of Bloor Street once you cross the Bloor Viaduct and starting at Broadview. From about Chester west, it's largely a Greek neighbourhood but is quickly changing over into a more general but still interesting part of town. Have lunch or dinner at Pantheon on the south side of Danforth and then stroll a block or so farther east to the Athens Bakery and have their custard in phyllo or honey balls for dessert. Nice area to stroll on a summer evening.

Queen West: walk from University to Spadina for tons of shops/restaurants. Then continue on from Spadina to at least Bathurst -- the old garment district. It will seem grungier but it's really more interesting -- old notions shops mixed in with upscale stores, restaurants, tattoo parlors, clubs -- a fun area.

The Distillery District: This is a historic district in the south east part of downtown. There are shops, restaurants, galleries, and often festivals here. Be sure to see the Sandra Ainsley Glass Gallery, if it's still open -- I hear it's closing so you might be too late. Balzac is a nice little coffee shop. There are restaurants there but I'm not really familiar with them. There's also a great brewery and a chocolatier. Check out their website which I think is If that's not right, just do a search.

In the 'entertainment district' near the ballpark, there are theatres and tons of restaurants. Also theatres and a huge square (Times Square-ish) at Yonge and Dundas. There will probably be concerts there as well.

Toronto is a great city for walking around and very safe. Don't hesitate to ask people for directions and advice -- we love summer and we love our visitors.

LJ Jun 11th, 2009 06:40 AM

WOW: make me want to go to this great place! (No, wait, I live here...lucky me!)

Katie55 Jun 11th, 2009 03:42 PM

Wow, thank you so very much for all of your thoughtful and informative responses. They will be printed and pocketed for the trip, for sure!
And, after all your recommendations, I'm going to try and splurge on the Royal York. It was a little pricey, but sounds worth it.

Katie55 Jun 11th, 2009 04:01 PM

Goddesstogo, that post was amazing. Thank you so much for all your ideas!

goddesstogo Jun 11th, 2009 05:59 PM

Katie, I meant to say that the St. Lawrence food market is open on Saturday but the north market is open on Sunday.

Have a wonderful time and write a trip report!

lilaki Jun 12th, 2009 11:17 AM

katie - you've gotten some AWESOME replies already on this thread...

FYI: both the north and south markets @ st. lawrence are open on saturdays ... the south market has permanent vendors (more like shops), the north market has farmers who set up tables/stalls. on sunday, the north market is an antique market.

for restaurant suggestions, check out the toronto board on

a few other recos:

1. cn tower (that is a no-brainer when i take visitors through toronto ... but not previously mentioned)

2. eaton centre -- even if shopping isn't your thing, the building is quite unique

3. while the city is very walk-able (very safe), hop on the subway to get around -- you can probably take advantage of some passes (family or singles). any of the booths in the subway will be able to help you out.

have fun!

lilaki Jun 12th, 2009 11:20 AM

btw - not sure of the exact dates for your trip, but you may be here for summerlicious:

ddreher Jun 12th, 2009 11:23 AM

don't pass up the street dogs!!! my wife and i have been attending the toronto film festival for about the last 10 years and the street dogs ($2.50???) are great. they come in beef, veggie or polish with about any condiment that you can think of.

goddesstogo Jun 12th, 2009 11:37 AM

There's also new and interesting street food now. I haven't tried any yet but it all sounds delish.

If you were here this weekend and had a doggie, you could go to Woofstock. I just love that name!

LJ Jun 12th, 2009 05:14 PM

Goddess: Betty and I are going to Woofstock tomorrow...its a great idea and will give me a chance to try some of the new street foods (Betty is less loved at Canoe or Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar than I am, for some reason)...I am so pleased City Hall agreed to extend beyond the hot dogs/sausage thing, even though they are great. Whenever we have guests visit, they love those 'street dogs'.

Aramis Jun 12th, 2009 06:05 PM

"street dogs" ??

The term is "street meat" however indelicate it might appear :-)

Katie55 Jul 3rd, 2009 05:45 AM

Well, we ended up booking at the Intercontinental hotel. This was not one of my original choices but seemed to be in a better location than the Westin and more affordable for me than the Royal York, where the rates were about $50.00 higher than usual on the weekend we need.

At this point I'm doing a little digging for restaurants, sights to see and attractions. I can't wait to go check out all the festivals you've all mentioned. We're even thinking of taking one of the ferries over to the the islands/parks. Any other insight on activities and restaurants would be great. I've been reading on chowhound, but so far it's a lot of super gourmet fare, which is not exactly our style. We're somewhere between pub food and ultra-swank gourmet. My in-laws are not big fans of more exotic cuisine (Thai, fusion, Asian), which does limit us somewhat.

SallyCanuck Jul 3rd, 2009 05:56 AM

When is it you're here?

Unfortunately, there's a strike by city workers and the ferries aren't running.

goddesstogo Jul 3rd, 2009 08:43 AM

Which Intercontinental are you at? I think there's one at Avenue Road and Bloor and one at Front and York.

It's true that the ferries won't be running if the strike is still on but you can take a water taxi to the island.

Plain fare which may suite your in-laws is a chain called Swiss Chalet. Roasted chicken plus other dishes, decent food at good prices, decent restaurants. They're pretty much all over.

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