By Ron Kapon.
I had not been to Toronto in 20 years. After spending four nights in late June there I have a new love affair with the city. Here are the reasons why.
Porter Airlines flies to Billy Bishop Airport from Newark in a little over one hour. Based on demand the prices vary. I paid around $275 round trip that included a $55 charge for one checked bag (carry-on is limited to 20 pounds and is free).
Newark Airport puts JFK & LaGuardia to shame. New Jersey Transit (from Penn Station) costs $9 for senior fare to Newark Airport. Follow the signs to the Air Tran (included in your ticket) and Terminal B for Porter Airlines. There are many uniformed personnel to direct you. Near the departure gates, Porter has its own lounge with coffee, juice, water, soda and crackers that are complimentary.
On the Toronto end Billy Bishop Airport has a brand new tunnel that leads under the water and brings you to downtown Toronto. You could also take the free ferry with a view of downtown Toronto’s waterfront. There is a free shuttle bus from there to Union Station (the largest transportation hub in Canada; train, bus, subway and streetcar). http://www.flyporter.com/
Le Germain Maple Leaf Garden Hotel is part of a privately owned chain that includes two hotels in Toronto plus Montreal, Calgary, Quebec, etc. It is located across the street from Union Station and the Air Canada Center (home to the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team and the Raptors NBA basketball team).
Tatiana Boulchyi is the concierge and was very helpful with planning my visit. I had a great king size room on the top floor. I was trying to find the ice machine on my floor and one of the desk people came up to help me. He saw me (on video cameras) wandering around the floor holding an empty ice bucket. I hope I didn’t look suspicious… http://www.legermainhotels.com/
After dropping my bags in my room I walked a few blocks to the CN Tower, the tallest tower in the western hemisphere at 1,136 feet. Visited by 1.5 million people annually I did walk around the observation deck but the glass floor looking straight down was too much for me. Adventure lovers can take a walk OUTSIDE – around the circumference of the roof. Visitors walk in groups of six, while attached to an overhead rail via a trolley and harness system. The outdoor walk lasts approximately 30 minutes and costs $150 US. http://www.cntower.ca/
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is next door to the tower. It is Canada’s largest indoor aquarium with 16,000 aquatic animals. There are nine curated galleries showcasing a cross section of saltwater and freshwater environments. One can see daily live dive shows, get up close and personal with three touch exhibits featuring horseshoe crabs, sharks, and rays and see North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel. The tunnel is amazing. https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/
Railway Museum- Across the street from the tower and aquarium is the 17-acre Roundhouse Park which is home to the Toronto Railway Museum as well as the Steam Whistle Brewing Company. The original roundhouse had stalls to repair up to 32 locomotives. In 1986 Canadian Pacific Railway donated the location to the city. The park is also home to a collection of trains, the former Canadian Pacific Railway Don Station, and the Roundhouse Park Miniature Railway.
Day two I went to Taste of Toronto that offered afternoon and evening sessions. There were a total of six to choose from running over the four day festival, with each session lasting between four and five hours. There were over 50 restaurant dishes, artisan stalls, chef demonstrations and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to sample. A streetcar from Union Station brought me to Garrison Commons at Fort York in about 10 minutes. www.tasteoftoronto.com
Hockey Hall of Fame- I admit I am not a hockey fan but could not resist this visit. Located in the Brookfield Shopping Center downtown it is the home of the Stanley Cup. For $20 you can take a photo with the cup. The museum has the world’s largest collection of hockey memorabilia as well as two theaters and a simulated rink with interactive games (stop a puck while in goalie etc). http://www.hhof.com/
Since 1803, the St. Lawrence Market has been the culinary focal point of the city of Toronto with its 120 vendors, merchants and artisans. We spent most of the time with Robert Biancolin at Carousel Bakery & Sandwich Bar (30 years at the market) and his world famous Beameal Bacon Sandwich.
After my Urban Adventure I went to the meeting point for the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. It is technically called City Sightseeing Toronto and uses double decked buses with open top seating. There were 21 stops and I stayed aboard for the full go round, getting off at the waterfront for the free 45 minute harbor cruise that was included in the package. I walked along the waterfront after my cruise and back to my hotel. https://www.citysightseeingtoronto.com/
You might have noticed I planned no nighttime activities. I was so tired after each of my first three days that I was in bed by 10 PM. I plotted out my last full day to once again use the Hop On Hop Off service (my pass was good for two days) and this time visit many of the attractions. My first visit was to Casa Loma, the home built by Sir Henry Pellatt was constructed between 1911- 1914 in the Gothic Revival style. It has 98 rooms, 30 bathrooms, 25 fireplaces, three bowling alleys, a shooting gallery, a library with 10,000 volumes, a 1,700-bottle wine cellar and five acres of gardens and an 800 foot tunnel leading to the carriage house. http://www.casaloma.org/
After Casa Loma I stopped at three museums on my pass list. The Bata Shoe Museum had 13,000 pairs of shoes from around the world. It was probably my least favorite visit of the trip. http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/
A block away was ROM (Royal Ontario Museum)- The Gardiner Museum. Six million artifacts in Canada’s largest museum with over one million visitors a year. It is a museum of art, world culture and natural history. http://www.rom.on.ca/
A short ride back on the bus and I was at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO was designed by Frank Gehry and contains works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. https://www.ago.net/
I rushed back to the harbor front and made the 1 1/2 hour Tall Ship Kajama cruise by about 10 seconds. It is a three-mastered 165 foot cargo schooner built in 1930 that holds 225 passengers. They sail on the harbor as well as Lake Ontario. http://www.greatlakesschooner.com/
The next morning I took a taxi for the 10 minute ride back to Billy Bishop Airport.. I am missing Toronto already.
For More Information- www.seetorontonow.com