What You Don’t Know About Toronto!

Before I begin, I would like to state that I’m from the U.S. and am very accustomed to the imperial system. So using the metric system is foreign to me, and has been fun learning, as it will prepare me for future adventures!

Toronto, Ontario

Standing in front of the new city hall during Panamania 2015

Toronto is Canada’s largest city with a population now of almost 5.6 million.
The Greater Toronto area boasts over 6,050,000 residents.

Did you know that the CN Tower is the tallest structure in the western hemisphere? I’ve seen the Willis Tower when visiting Chicago and knew I was visiting one of the tallest buildings in the world, but I didn’t realize that the CN Tower is actually taller (though it’s considered a free standing structure, not a building). I didn’t know this until after I had arrived back in Ohio to start this article, but when I saw it I said to myself “That has got to be the tallest thing I’ve ever seen”, so to my surprise I was right! If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that I have a thing for massive building structures (I dream of the day I arrive in Dubai). So it may not be much of a surprise that I fell in love with the CN Tower. It was the tallest free standing structure in the world until 2007.

Late Arrival

I drove to Toronto, which is roughly 5 hours from Cleveland, OH and arrived to the city right after a small rain storm had finished, so everything was pretty hazy and getting dark, I had arrived at around 7:30pm. I didn’t get the really good views until the following day. Though I did snap off a couple pictures of the city from a roof top, the picture quality isn’t the best though (I need to find a good night time camera).

Toronto at night

A shot of downtown at night from the roof of a hostel. No, that’s not a building burning, just fireworks.

The first thing I learned is that gasoline in Canada is referred to as petroleum, which is completely fine, however, the confusion comes (as someone from the United States) when it’s time to figure out how much to get. 120.19 per litre…. Can be confusing if you’re from the US and you’re very accustomed to gallons and U.S. dollars. Though, this is one of the things I love about traveling; learning! After I figured this out, I continued on into downtown Toronto. Every US citizen who visits Toronto apparently says this: “Toronto is MUCH bigger than I expected”, and this was completely true for me as well, this city truly is huge! And if you head north towards Younge & Sheppard, the city will seem like it goes on forever, though it does eventually end and then you turn around to see the city from the opposite view! Also, I expected to see a lot of Tim Hortons, but to my surprise there are more Starbucks here than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

“As per OECD 2003, Toronto is the city with the highest percentage
of university educations, than in any other country in the world.”

Aroma Espresso Bar
Food and Beverages

I came across a place called Aroma: Espresso Bar, I can’t turn down anything involving coffee, so I checked it out. The menu was very health based and while I enjoy healthy foods, the menu wasn’t overly appealing to me. There was one thing that caught my attention. Being a fan of good fish, I ordered up the Salmon Sandwich that came with smoked salmon, sliced tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, and cream cheese on whole wheat bread. It was pretty good, I’ve never had cream cheese on a sandwich before, but it wasn’t too bad. My favorite still belongs to “The Jim’ at Fresh Thymes in Wilmington, DE which you can read about HERE. As you can see, I actually didn’t get coffee, instead I got a rather tasty Iced Berry Tea Lemonade.

Outside Food Market

The curved turquoise building in the background was my target originally.

I wandered over towards Wanna Bananathe city market (which happens to be the top rated market in world if I’m not mistaken) completely by accident not realizing it. This happened because I an awesome looking building and wanted to get closer for a good shot. On my way I discovered an outside bizarre of local restaurants serving food. I wasn’t incredibly hungry, but thirsty from biking all over the city. So after weighing my options I landing on Wanna Banana! I love just about anything mixed with banana, so it wasn’t too difficult. I got the Blueberry Chia which was great, if you ever come across this place I recommend it, as it’s very natural tasting and pretty filling. Next time I think I’ll try the Honey & Cinnamon or Coffee Boost.

I stopped into a couple grocery stores as well to see how different the shopping options are. Bagged milk is certainly something I’ve never seen before, but most items were pretty much the same as in the U.S. There were a few offbeat things though like this humorously named breakfast cereal:

Holy Crap Cereal

If you feel like wandering through some street food markets, you’ll want to check out the famous Kensington Market area. Vendors are out selling their food weekend mornings (not sure about weekdays) and this area is also littered with bars and cafe’s. One of the corner cafe’s caught my eye; Dolce, which they seem to be famous for their Italian coffee. Of course while I was there the heat was a bit much and since I was trying to keep cool, I went for an Italian soda instead which is served with these unique ice cubes which are in a sphere/bowl shape.

Dolce Italian Soda

I wandered the streets of Kensington Market pretty late into the night and the place does get a little shady. You’ll notice a lot more graffiti and the alley ways are a bit more foreboding. Not that I have a problem with graffiti, a lot of times I find it pretty entertaining and well done. A lot of the bars light up though, and you’ll find that one part of ta street will be lit up and alive compared to the part where the street vendors setup shop during the day. You may also come across some forms of art you’ve never seen before, like a car that has been taken over by plants…

Car Plant
Car Plant (2)
Toronto Panamania 2015 “Toronto is the world’s fourth most livable city.”

The Sights

There is a lot to see in Toronto, especially if you come at the right time. I arrived during the Panamania 2015 event, which featured a lot of live music and great performances. It took place right in front of Toronto City Hall, there were 2 stages setup, another smaller dance/performance stage, some cool symphonic swings, food vendors, and “TORONTO” spelled out with giant letters. The amount of vendors was very minimal, I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it was actually very nice not being constantly bombarded with people yelling to get your attention. The musical performances were almost continuous too, once a performance finished on one stage, another one was starting on the other stage. I didn’t stay the entire time, since I wanted to see as much of the city as I could I would spend a couple hours exploring, and then come back to the festivities. Every time I arrived back the crowd had doubled, until it was eventually packed. Below is a partial video of one of the many performances I got to see.

CN Tower
“Over 30% of Toronto residents speak a language other than English and French. Just ride the subways and that fact will hit home. Dual language street signs can be found in Little Italy, Little Portugal and Chinatown.”

Hockey Hall Of Fame

Hot Spots

There are some pretty cool places to visit including the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of hockey, this is a pretty cool place to check out. I’m a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets myself, so finding their puck on the “Wall of Pucks” (at least that’s what I called it) was pretty cool! One thing I wanted to do, but didn’t get to was visit Center Island. The only way out there is either by ferry or private boat. If you can afford the private boat then you should go for it, or just get in line for the ferry first thing after you wake up, everyone I talked to gave it a very high rating. The reason I didn’t is that the line for the ferry was about a 3-4 hour wait, so next time I visit Toronto I’ll know to arrive super early. Then again, this could’ve also been due to Panamania going on, which attracted more people downtown.
PATH is the largest underground pedestrian system in North America. It connects 1200 stores and restaurants, 50 office towers, 20 parking garages, five subway stations and a railway terminal over its’ twenty eight kilometer length. Each letter in PATH is a different colour representing a different direction: P is red and points south. A is orange and points west. T is blue and directs north. H is yellow and points east.”
PATH is a modern marvel of mankind, however if you’re expecting something crazy like the Mall Of America (which I did a story about HERE) you’ll be slightly disappointed. It really is just a tunneling system with stores. It’s nice and very clean, but unless you come during the winter, there isn’t much to see. It’s sort of like walking through your average 1 story mall with a lot of long hallways. There’s plenty more to see above ground, trust me!
In addition to all that I mentioned above, there are so many neighborhoods to checkout like Little Italy, Little Portugal, Korea Town, Chinatown, Discovery District, Garden District, and many more! If you want to explore a city that is incredibly diverse, large, and breathtaking, you need to give Toronto a visit. Make sure you give yourself enough time though, there is A LOT to do!

3 thoughts on “What You Don’t Know About Toronto!”

  1. Hey, nice post. If you’re interested in an easy way to find things to do and upcoming events around really fast you should check out etrigg.

    Try this for example in Toronto: http://etrigg.com/upcoming/toronto/

    It’s a free web-app optimized for quick event discovery including free events, meetups, concerts, seminars etc. worldwide! Find all events nearby while on the go with your mobile device 🙂

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