Exciting events await you in Toronto by air, sea and land. Porter Airlines takes one hour from New York, two minutes by ferry and five minutes by bus to get to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, located on Front Street. The Fairmont Royal York is within walking distance to the business and theatre districts, shopping and fine dining. Union Station, the subway, shops and other services are connected to the hotel by the city’s extensive underground system. Since 1929 the Fairmont Royal York has hosted over 40 million guests including three generations of Britain’s Royal Family, including Sir Winston Churchill in 1929. Of its six food outlets EPIC, the hotel’s signature dining restaurant is excellent at any time. Not to be missed is the Japanese Steakhouse and Pipers, a casual pub.
The best way to experience Toronto at our own pace was a two-day pass on Grey Line Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Bus with a free Boat Cruise included with the ticket. Relaxing aboard this classic double-decker bus we started our city sights in old town with a visit to the St. Lawrence Market, a 208 year old market selling everything food related from fresh produce to ready-made items. Nearby was The Distillery District, a cobblestone pedestrian-only village offering a mix of galleries, small shops and restaurants.
On top of a hill overlooking Toronto was Casa Loma, a massive castle. We entered this 98-room castle through the Great Hall and marveled at its oak-beamed ceiling before stepping outside to the terrace with its spectacular views of the Gardens of Casa Loma. Our self-guided audio tour took us to three floors and the lower level. Our first stop was the billiards/smoking room where a newsreel from 1939 entitled “The Man Who Built Casa Loma” traced the life of Sir Henry Pellatt. It told the story of Sir Henry’s roots and tragedy and how his fortune was made in transportation, real estate, electricity and insurance.
The most exquisite room was the stained glass dome in the Conservatory. Also cited was Sir Henry’s study, the library, dining room, suites and his military rooms. Knighted by King Edward VII, he achieved the rank of Major General in the Queen’s Own Rifles, one of Canada’s oldest regiments. The lower level took us to the unfinished swimming pool and an 800 foot tunnel connected to the castle with stables, a carriage room, garage and potting shed. Sir Henry and Lady Pellatt enjoyed Casa Loma for less than ten years before financial misfortune forced him to abandon his castle home. Today, Casa Loma remains as a monument to this extraordinary Canadian.
At the edge of the world’s largest lakes is The Harbourfront Center and York Quay Center famous for ceramics, glassblowing and jewelry. At Harbourfront’s International Marketplace you can shop, eat and listen to concerts and dance performances. Strolling down the waterfront we stopped and listened to live music at the Sirius stage before taking a two-hour guided tour through the Toronto harbor and its canals and lagoons. As we pulled away from the berth we had countless photo opportunities of the city and its skyline as it headed toward the islands. While our guide told us enchanting stories of the harbor and its islands, we were amazed by the beauty and tranquility of this area.
The following day we took the hop-on hop-off bus to the Royal Ontario Museum where an exhibit entitled “Water” was on review. Water is essential to life by connecting all living things and shaping our planet. In this exhibition we journeyed around the world learning about the power and scarcity of water and discovered what we can do to help conserve water. This marvelous exhibition with hands-on activities was enjoyed by everyone.
On the second floor of the museum was the Bollywood Cinema Showcards premiering original vintage Indian Film Art from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. It featured the greatest Bollywood celebrities and award-wining films from India’s recent film history. With almost 125 pieces on display this exhibition embodies the quirky and colorful style of India’s cinema culture.
Our next bus stop was the Bata Shoe Museum where more than 10,000 shoes are housed. On this fascinating journey we experienced the many facets of footwear from around the world. For centuries traditional shoemaking was hand-crafted by skilled masters of the trade. By the mid-19th century the footwear industry was born. We marveled at the skillfully crafted shoes, boots and moccasins made by North America’s native people. The Roaring 20’s exhibit “Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits” focused on the widening horizons of the “New Women” and how they influenced the shape of fashionable footwear.
Our final stops were the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame. The CN Tower, one of Toronto’s top attractions, celebrated its 35th Anniversary on June 26, 2011. The elevators take only 58 seconds to reach the top where spectacular views of Toronto and Lake Ontario can be seen from all three observation levels, including the Lookout and Sky Pod. The 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower features award-winning dining with an outstanding revolving view of Toronto below.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. It is a tribute to the world’s most renowned hockey leagues featuring legends Gretzky, Lemieus, Howe, Orr and many others. Themed exhibits and larger-than-life statues are dedicated to the greatest hockey players. A collection of hockey artifacts from around the world, the 2010 Olympic Gold Exhibit and a selection of hockey-related merchandise and memorabilia were on display. On a children’s hands-on concept they can view hockey flicks in the theaters, cheer on in the video game exhibit, grab the spotlight after stopping shots from Gretzky and Messier, celebrate after firing a puck past the virtual goalie and get up close and touch the Stanley Cup on display in the Verizon Great Hall. You can do it all at the Hockey Hall of Fame.