Toronto is a world class city; in fact, it’s the largest city in Canada. With arts and culture, a diversity of cuisine and competitive sports teams including the beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays, the city attracts over 43 million tourists a year who spend over $8.8 billion. If you’re visiting Toronto for the first time, it’s easy to get disoriented. That’s why it’s a good idea to brush up on these 10 things you need to know before visiting Toronto.
Getting Around Downtown
King Street Pilot Project
There is a section of King Street between Jarvis Street and Bathurst Street that you are not permitted to drive on for more than a block. If you drive more than one block without making a right turn, you may be subject to a $110 traffic ticket and two demerit points. The pilot was implemented to ease congestion on King Street and allow streetcars to move more quickly. It may be simpler to avoid King Street all together if you plan to drive downtown. Taxis are exempt and may drive along King Street from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.
One Way Streets in Downtown Toronto
There are many one way streets in downtown Toronto. Two of the larger ones are Richmond Street and Adelaide Street with the former running west and the latter running east.
If you hear people talk about “The PATH,” they are referring to an underground pedestrian walkway system that connects many of the larger office buildings near King and Bay Streets, and underground shopping concourses with subway stops, the Toronto Eaton Centre, the Scotiabank Arena (Air Canada Centre), the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Union Station. Here is a map to The PATH. Subway stops that connect with The PATH include Dundas, Queen, King, Union, St. Andrew and Osgoode and It’s much easier to walk underground if the weather is cold, snowy or rainy.
Forget about taking an expensive cab or limo to Toronto Pearson Airport; UP Express will take you from Union Station to Toronto Pearson for less than half the price. UP Express runs every 15 minutes from Union Station to Toronto Pearson and the journey is about 25 minutes. Adult (one way) $12.25; Senior and Student (one way) $$6.20; Family (one way) $25.70. UP Express is located beside the Skywalk at Union Station.
Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
The Toronto Transit System (TTC) includes a network of subways, streetcars and buses that run throughout the city. On weekdays and Saturdays, subway trains run every few minutes from 6 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. On Sundays, subways run from 8 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. You can either pay a cash fare, buy tokens, buy a Presto card or purchase a daily or weekly pass:
Adult Cash Fare: $3.25; Tokens $3 (must by a minimum of 3 tokens for $9; Presto $3; Day Pass $12.50; Weekly Pass $43.75.
Senior Cash Fare:$2.10; Tickets $2.05 sold in packages of 5 for $10.25; Presto $2.05; Weekly Pass $34.75.
Children (12 and under): Free
Beer, Wine and Alcohol
In Ontario, you must be at least 19 years old in order to purchase alcohol or be served alcohol in a licensed establishment. Beer is sold at The Beer Store locations, but you can also find beer at the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) retail outlets, at craft beer outlets and at some large grocery stores such as Loblaws, No Frills, Metro and Sobeys. You can purchase wine at the LCBO or at individual wine outlets such as The Wine Shop or The Wine Rack. Liquor such as rum, whiskey and rye is sold only at the LCBO.
Banks in Toronto
There are five major banks in Canada: The Bank of Montreal (BMO), the Royal Bank (RBC), the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), TD CanadaTrust (TD), and Scotiabank. Generally banks are open Monday to Saturday and not open on Sunday although some branches have limited hours on Sunday.
Not To Be Missed Attractions in Toronto
The CN Tower is probably Toronto’s most known attraction and taking a ride up the tower will give you an unparalleled view of Toronto, although it will cost you a pretty penny. General Admission to the two observation levels is Adults (13-64) $38; Seniors (65+) $34; and Child (4-12) $28. Although there is much to see in Toronto, below are what I would classify as not-to-be-missed attractions:
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada – The Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto is the only Ripley’s aquarium in Canada. Go and see it. You’ll be able to walk underneath sharks swimming in the Dangerous Lagoon and see a wide variety of fish.
Art Gallery of Ontario – A stunning building renovated by world renowned architect Frank Gehry in 2008 with a wide range of works including Canadian, Indigenous, Modern, European, Western and Central African art.
St. Lawrence Market – A bustling food market where you can buy fresh produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, bulk foods and ready made meals (the peameal bacon sandwiches at Carousel Bakery are a favourite).
The Distillery District – This historic section of Toronto, located at Front Street and Parliament Street, features cobblestone roads and distilleries that have been converted to art galleries, artist studios, shops and restaurants. It’s also home to the super popular Toronto Christmas Market in December. For an exceptional cup of java, stop in at Balzac’s Coffee.
Ontario Science Centre – A must-see attraction for inquisitive minds, the Ontario Science Centre features new exhibits every few months, The Living Earth rain forest and a cineplex which screens documentaries in IMAX. The Ontario Science Centre is located at 770 Don Mills Road.
Dining in Toronto
King Street West – You’ll find a lot of high-end restaurants on King Street West between Bay Street and Bathurst Street. This is where the celebrities dine and party during TIFF. Not surprisingly, the restaurants and bars can be quite pricey.
Queen Street West (west of Spadina Avenue) / Dundas Street West (west of Bathurst Street) to Dufferin Street – This is a great neighbourhood for fine dining, cocktails and nightlife. It’s where trendy locals go to relax. The restaurants are less expensive than those along King Street West.
Chinatown – Located along Spadina Avenue between Dundas Street West and College Street West, as well as on Dundas Street West between Beverley Street and just west of Spadina Avenue, Chinatown is a bustling neighbourhood featuring a mix of Chinese restaurants, stores and food markets. This is the area to head to if you are hankering for authentic Chinese food at great prices.
Free Events in Toronto
There are many free events in Toronto including the free admission to the Art Gallery of Ontario on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and free concerts at the Canadian Opera Company. Have a read of these free events in Toronto.
I hope you’ve learned the things you need to know before visiting Toronto. Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions about Toronto.