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> Experience Toronto
sqm
post Aug 5 2009, 03:48 PM
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TORONTO STARTER KIT

Toronto is a vibrant city rich with culture, entertainment, nature, and heritage. There are plenty of things to do and places to see. Here is a starter kit to introduce you to Toronto and to get you excited about visiting the city and its surrounding areas.

A little about Toronto
Toronto is located in southern Ontario, on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. It is the provincial capital of Ontario and is also the most populated city in Canada, with more than 2.7 million people. On a daily basis, people enter and exit the city going about their daily routines. You never know whom youll meet.

Toronto is often referred to as the city of neighbourhoods because it is divided into several areas, each different in the cultural makeup, local cuisine, shops, attractions, etc. Each neighbourhood has its own character, unique to that area. Some of these neighbourhoods include the Distillery District, Harbourfront, Kensington Market, Little Italy, Chinatown, the Gay Village, Cabbagetown, and the Beaches.

English is the main language spoken, but being one of the most multicultural cities in the world, there are many languages spoken by the people. Depending on what part of the city you are in, the prominent language will vary.

In case of emergency, dial 911.

Climate
Toronto is quite cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but you can visit yearound because the temperatures are bearable in all seasons. I think September- early November (10C / 50F to 15C / 59F), mid March late June (6C / 43F and 12C / 54F) and July early September (20C / 68F to 27C / 81F) are the best times to visit. Mid November to early March averages -6C / 21F, but with wind chill, it could feel much colder.

How to get here
By air: The largest airport is Lester B. Pearson International Airport (Pearson). Almost all international and domestic flights land here. The airport is west of the city, but there are shuttles from here to the city.

By road: If you are coming from within North America, you can drive or take the bus (Greyhound or Coach Canada) to Toronto. Major highways exit into the downtown core and bus stations are also located in the city and connect to the local transit system.

By train: If you are coming from within North America, you can also take the VIA Rail. It provides all rail service throughout Canada and connects to the Amtrak system through Niagara Falls, New York. The train station is located at Union Station downtown, which is also the main station for the local transit system.

What to pack
Other than the necessities (passport, identification cards, clothes, toiletries, money), you can buy whatever you need here.

Currency
We use the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is almost on par with the USD. It has been fluctuating around 1 USD = 1.07 CAD. You can exchange currency at the airport and bus/train stations or at any bank.

How to get around
The main transit system is the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). It consists of subway, streetcars, and busses that run frequently and stop at all major intersections and locations. You can purchase day passes or group passes which allow for unlimited TTC usage in one day. For more information: www.ttc.ca.

Taxis are widely available in Toronto. There are many different taxi companies, but the largest one is Beck Taxi, which is recognizable by the orange and green taxicabs.

Accommodation
Both affordable and luxury accommodations are available. Most are very conveniently located along the subway lines. For hostels, http://www.hostels.com/ca.on.to.html. For luxury hotels, http://www.hotelrooms.com/Luxury_Hotels_Canada_Toronto.htm.

What to see & do
The CN Tower is a must visit if it is your first time to Toronto. It is one of the tallest buildings in the world. High above the city, you can walk across the glass floor for one of the most breath taking experiences ever. You can also ride the elevator higher up to the Sky Pod for a panoramic view of the city. The 360 Restaurant (360) is located here; it is one of the finest restaurants in Toronto. Admission to the CN Tower can be quite pricey, so heres a quick tip. If you dine at 360, you receive free admission to the tower. After enjoying a fine meal, you can then venture around the tower. Be sure to make reservations though because it is often fully booked.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) are two other remarkable structures in Toronto. You can admire the architectural masterpieces from afar, but thats not where it ends. While the AGO displays artwork and the ROM displays historical pieces, both feature interesting exhibitions. Definitely a fun learning experience.

Toronto is also known for its shopping. For cool vintage boutiques and independent designers, check out Kensington Market. For trendy, unique, stylish and independent designers, check out Queen Street West. Upscale, high fashion can be found on Bay & Bloor St. in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood. Notable malls include Eaton Centre, Yorkdale Mall, Shops at Don Mills (new!), Vaughan Mills, Fairview Mall, and, Scarborough Town Centre.

Other places of interest are:
The Distillery Historic District- good to take a stroll around, visit some galleries, and enjoying a cup of coffee
Casa Loma- a really big house that looks like a castle
Ontario Science Centre- good for families; sometimes there are interesting exhibits like Body Works
Metro Toronto Zoo- also good for families, lots of animals
Centre Island & other islands- take a ferry boat ride towards the Toronto Islands. Enjoy the nature paths, the beaches, and the Centreville amusement park. The best view of Toronto is from these islands.

Food, Drinks, Nightlife
You can pretty much find food wherever you go. From street meat (hot dog stands) to ethnic cuisine and fine dining; you can have a taste of everything. You can find authentic ethnic cuisine in the respective cultural neighbourhoods (i.e. Little Italy, Greektown, Chinatown, etc.). Renowned restaurants can be found all over the city.

Bars, clubs, and lounges spring to life throughout the night. The largest clubbing district is the Entertainment District (around King and Spadina). This area typically attracts a younger crowd, from 19-25 years olds. Beyond this area, there are trendy/laid back bars and lounges to be found all over the city, almost in every neighbourhood. Yorkville features some of the most stylish ones.

Surrounding areas
The Greater Toronto Area is a large metropolitan area just outside of Toronto. These suburban neighbourhoods have their own restaurants, attractions, shopping centres, parks and nature trails.

About an hour and a half to two hours away from Toronto is Niagara Falls, one of the largest falls in the world. Make a short but great escape here to enjoy a breathtaking view of the waterfalls, casino nights, wine tasting, winery tours, shopping, fine dining, and exciting nightlife.

Kingston is about three hours east of Toronto and is home to some historical sites, museums and art galleries. You can stop by here for a nice break, while on your way towards Ottawa, Montreal, or Quebec City.


Come visit NOW!


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SQM

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starlagurl
post Aug 5 2009, 03:56 PM
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Heyyy, awesome Jessica! We have to hang out next time I'm down there.


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sqm
post Aug 6 2009, 08:37 AM
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For sure : )
I hope everyone finds this useful!


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SQM

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Evaluate It blogs. Share your experiences; travel for less.
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starlagurl
post Aug 6 2009, 02:31 PM
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Rolling Stone
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Sweet, I don't know when I'll be down there next, Canadian Music Week in March at the LATEST.


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wakingdream
post Aug 6 2009, 02:43 PM
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From: Guelph, Ontario
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Great info! yes.gif


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