The Toronto PanAm games are over but during the last two weeks, with my sister in town, I had the chance to play tour guide. My sister left Toronto for the United States over twenty years ago and I thought it would be good to catch her up on how much our beloved city has grown. Toronto is one of the most multiculturally diverse cities on the planet with over 140 languages are spoken. There are unique neighbourhoods, ethnic foods, world class cuisines, art and culture to explore.
With the buzz of the games in the city and summer festivals everywhere you turn, it was time to explore. My first course of action was to show sis how much our city had been transformed for the games. Our planned stops included Nathan Phillips Square, Harbourfront and the Distillery district.
Nathan Phillips Square
Nathan Phillips Square, an urban plaza, is the forecourt to Toronto’s City Hall at Queen and Bay Streets. This meeting place has always been the site of concerts, weekly farmer’s market and winter festival of lights.
During our visit Nathan Phillips Square was decked out for PanAm celebrations, the centre of music and fun for the duration of the Games. There were 130 different performances scheduled and fireworks every evening at 10:50 p.m.
We spotted Patchi, Toronto’s PanAm mascot while driving West on Queen Street. Patchi, the porcupine, has quills in 5 colours representing youth, passion, collaboration, determination and creativity.
Toronto’s Union Station, the epicenter of Toronto, is a National Historic Site. It’s Canada’s busiest building and train station. It’s also home to the bustling outdoor market opened on Front Street. Serving bagels, fish & chips, pizza, tacos, churros and a host of other dishes. The market will remain open until August 30th, 2015.
Toronto has a vibrant waterfront attracting locals and tourists alike. The skyline and CN Tower are often photographed from the lake, it’s a stunning sight.
A great way to see the waterfront (and Toronto Islands) is by bike. There are bicycle rentals available on (Queens Quay), just east of Bathurst at $7.00 for 24 hours, $15. for 3 days. If you wish to tour the Islands by bike you can take the Ferry ($10 adult, $5 child return) Terminal is at the foot of Bay Street or Five Star Water Taxi at the foot of Spadina, $10 each way.
Queen Street West – Hipsterville
The Drake Hotel
Located on Queen West just a few blocks east of Dufferin is The Drake Hotel, a cultural, entertainment and hipster landmark in Toronto. There’s always something going on at the Drake. It has a good bar, excellent restaurant and cafe, where we enjoyed afternoon Cobb Salad and glass of Sangria.
One of Toronto’s best west-end spots for coffee and a treat is Nadege, a French Patisserie at 780 Queen West. It’s the perfect stop for pastries, croissants, chocolate & macarons including 6 (limited edition) macarons which are PanAm inspired.
Nadege has several locations around town – the cafe is a little pricey but you’ll realize they’re worth every cent when you take your first bite – some of best pastries in the city.
In the East – Distillery District
The Distillery District is rich in history. Once the site of Gooderham & Worts Distillery – it’s the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America.
There are over 12 restaurants and eateries some with beautiful patios. It’s also one of the best shopping areas in the city with 80 shops and boutiques. A truly wonderful area for people watching, dining or an evening stroll.
We particularly enjoyed El Catrin with its beautifully funky interior full of authentic Mexican art including a large mural. The Mexican cuisine is also authentic, traditional and modern. We had margaritas with our tapas. A good stop for great food and really enjoyable staff.
The Mill Street Brew Pub
The Mill Street Brew Pub is East Toronto’s first commercial micro brewery, with a portfolio of over 60 unique beers. Set in the middle of the historic Distillery District we found they serve creative, locally-inspired food and have a terrific patio.
An affordable way to travel around the city is by the Toronto Transit System (TTC). . Simple-to-navigate subways, buses and streetcars, make it easy to get around the city. Buy a family day or single day pass to save on costs.
For more information visit Tourism Toronto’s site www.seetorontonow.com