Tourism Toronto (www.seetorontonow.com) has launched a unique online programme aimed at children, with the goal of helping families plan an upcoming visit to the city through an engaging, entertaining and interactive new website.
Yo-Toronto.com gives children a chance to learn about the city in a fun way and gives parents the tools to plan their getaway. Colourful map navigation and quick, up-beat videos allow children to explore more than 20 Toronto landmarks and attractions, giving them insight into the city before they arrive.
Toronto welcomed 14.3 million overnight visitors in 2015 and there was an increase in families in every season. Many of Toronto’s newest attractions are family-focused, including Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and the addition of Giant Pandas at Toronto Zoo. Special events throughout the year include TIFF Kids Film Festival, BuskerFest, the Canadian National Exhibition, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and the Toronto Christmas Market.
ITTN’s News & Features Editor Neil Steedman visited Toronto with Air Transat last month and found much of interest in the capital of Ontario (www.ontariotravel.net/uk):
CN Tower, 360 Restaurant and EdgeWalk
Toronto’s iconic CN Tower (www.cntower.ca) and its revolving 360 Restaurant is a good venue for a special occasion or romantic date with tables for two, four, six or eight and offering a 360 degree view of Toronto and its harbour (and the sunset) as it revolves each 72 minutes. (However, the seafood “chowder” is a bisque, not a chowder!)
The CN Tower’s extreme attraction of the EdgeWalk is the first of its kind in North America and the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a 1.5-metre wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod 116 storeys above ground. Visitors walk in groups of six, while attached to an overhead safety rail via a trolley and harness system, and lean back over Toronto with nothing but air beneath them. (ITTN didn’t try it!)
Art Gallery of Ontario
The ‘AGO’ (www.ago.net) is a ‘must see’ attraction and, while there is a somewhat high admission charge (CAN$19.50 adult, $16 senior, $11 full-time student or youth), it is well worth it for the two, three or more hours that your clients might spend there. From 1st July to 18th September 2016 the exhibits include ‘The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris’ curated by actor and writer Steve Martin, while on permanent show are Canada’s ‘Group of Seven’ and the world’s largest public collection of works by British sculptor Henry Moore.
At some stage, visitors can relax in Toronto architect Frank Gehry’s Galleria Italia with a coffee and watch the world pass by on Dundas Street West.
Irish Famine Memorial
The Irish Famine Memorial on the waterfront at Ireland Park, Eireann Quay, honours the Irish emigrants during the 1847 Famine, 38,000 of whom arrived in Toronto that summer – when the city’s population was just 20,000. An interesting historical perspective on today’s ‘concerns’ about immigration, but a sad memorial, both in terms of its subject matter and its present-day setting and condition.
Toronto Harbour Tours
Close to the Irish Famine Memorial at Pier 6, Queens Quay West, is Toronto Harbour Tours (www.harbourtourstoronto.ca), which offers entertaining trips to and from the Toronto Islands and the best way to view the scenic Toronto skyline.
If your clients like Mexican food, send them to El Catrin (www.elcatrin.ca) in the Distillery Historic District (www.thedistillerydistrict.com) to enjoy authentic traditional and modern Mexican cuisine from Oliver Le Calvez, one of Mexico City’s top chefs. There is an extensive menu, but if they like fish they won’t go wrong with a three-piece Baja taco (fried cod) or Gobernador taco (sauteed shrimp and lobster).
St Lawrence and Kensington Markets
There are two great markets in Toronto. The St Lawrence Market at Front Street East (www.stlawrencemarket.com) dates from 1803, is open Tuesday to Saturday, and offers over 120 specialty vendors in the South Market and a Saturday Farmers’ Market in the North Market, or more than 80 antique dealers on Sundays.
Kensington Market (www.kensington-market.ca) is not so much a ‘market’ as a multi-cultural neighbourhood with a great vibe, restaurants and bars, coffee shops, etc. If your clients like Thai and/or Hungarian food they will enjoy the meals and service at Hungary Thai on Augusta Avenue (www.hungarythai.com).
Where to Stay
The ‘top’ place to stay in Toronto (and mix with celebrities) is the Hazelton Hotel in downtown Yorkville Avenue, while for downtown Art Deco splendour and social history there is the 1,363-room Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Front Street West, a ‘castle hotel’ opened by Canadian Pacific Railway in 1929.
ITTN stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Chestnut Street (http://doubletree3.hilton.com/), which is conveniently located near to the entertainment, financial and university districts and within short walking distance of three attractions: the Textile Museum of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and City Hall. A slightly longer walk gets you to Chinatown and Kensington Market, while an even longer walk (or, better still, a short taxi ride), brings you to the CN Tower and the Waterfront.
How to Get There
Air Transat is currently operating four flights a week from Dublin to Toronto until October, with fares from €455 (based on travel in September 2016). Air Transat also operates flights to Toronto year-round from London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow.
The A310-300 has 12 seats (2x2x2) in Club Class and 238 in Economy Class in a 3x3x3 configuration (with eight rows of 2x3x2 at the back) and a smart, bright cabin interior. Economy Class has a 23kg allowance for checked-in luggage, meals and soft drinks onboard, plus inflight entertainment (accessed by downloading an app on the wi-fi).
Air Transat offers flexible Eco fares, allowing passengers to make changes for free up to the day of departure. Passengers can also book Option Plus for more Economy Class benefits, including priority baggage and boarding and a welcome 200ml bottle of Bottega Gold prosecco onboard, or upgrade to Club Class, a separate cabin Premium Economy service with a 40kg baggage allowance, 15gk carry-on wider leather seats, individual 12” touch screens, and choice of gourmet meals (www.airtransat.ie or call 00 800 872 672 83).
From Toronto Pearson International Airport the Union Pearson Express shuttle (www.upexpress.com) will take your cients downtown in 25 minutes (every 15 minutes) 5.30am to 1.00am daily for CAD$12.00 each way.