Sightseeing in Toronto

  • Introduction
  • Slave Class to Toronto
  • Sightseeing in Toronto [here]
  • One of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Niagara Falls
  • WestJet Take One: Toronto to Yellowknife via Edmonton
  • Spirits Dancing on the Lonely Planet: Aurora Hunting
  • Subarctic hiking and fishing
  • WestJet Take Two: Yellowknife to Calgary
  • A First in Delta: First Class to Seattle
  • Alaska with Delta’s Comfort Plus
  • Spencer Glacier Sea Kayak and Hike via the Alaska Rail Road
  • Anchorage in the rain
  • Redeye in Domestic First: Anchorage to Vancouver via Seattle
  • Home with Air Canada: not dead yet!

We had two days in Toronto for general sightseeing before we were off to a road trip to see the Niagara Falls. We did not rent a car for our two days around the city but the city was easy enough to navigate. There were quite a few spots that one should go to when in town, and their tickets could be covered in a CityPass (CAD$72 + tax for an adult). We did not go to the Zoo nor the Science Center, but we did use the Pass for the CN Tower, Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum and the aquarium. A little trick to remember is not to purchase the pass online because it will attract processing fees (a mistake that we made!) and you can easily pick up one at one of the above-mentioned attractions (you will still need to pick up an online-purchased Pass, so the time you saved by purchasing it online is next to nil).

Our route was a simple one. We started from the north of the city and worked our way south over the course of two days. We started with Casa Loma and ended with the CN Tower. In addition, we went to the Toronto Islands on our second day.

 

Casa Loma (Spanish for Hill House) was the residence built for Sir Henry Pellatt in the years 1911-14. The architect was E. J. Lennox and it follows a Gothic Revival style – owing to its unique building style, Casa Loma is a popular filming location (like the Vow in 2012) and venue for weddings and receptions. Of course, it has been one of the most popular attractions in Toronto – so my advice for you is to get there as early as possible.

It opens at 9:30 am and at that time the queue should be minimal (as we encountered). Aim to get there by 11 am as the queue will mount then. Getting there should be easy enough via the TTC (the subway): go to Dunpont Station and walk two blocks north on Spadina and you can climb the Baldwin stairs – where you should get a very good view of the city.

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While most of the furniture had been sold in the auction when Sir Pellatt went bankrupt in 1923, the house’s design remained as it was in the 1910s and similar furniture had been put in place.

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Although most of the house was really grand and in their historic style, my favourite would be the conservatory – it was bright and was filled with exotic plants… It was no wonder that a couple decided that they would like their wedding photos to be taken here:

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The bedrooms were interesting too – Lady Pellatt had a much bigger room than Sir Pellatt for reasons passing understanding.

The Lady’s room:

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One of the guest rooms: (Cannot seem to find Sir’s room on picture)

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The servant’s room:

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You can also climb up the Towers for a view of Toronto (and exercise, perhaps?!)

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On a dry day (not the day we visited), the garden would make a good destination for a nice stroll:

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Queue as we were leaving (lesson: go early!)

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Views from the Baldwin steps (110 steps)

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It was about lunch time, so we took the TTC to Dundas, and there was a wealth of Asian restaurants for us to pick from – and we chose a Japanese all-you-can-eat restaurant and it was excellent.

Past lunch time, we had a stroll to the Civic Center to see the “Toronto” sign (what a tourist thing to do!)

Civic Center 1

Toronto Sign 1

Next up for us is the Royal Ontario Museum. It is conveniently located at “Museum” Station on the TTC. The CityPass voucher is good for the permanent exhibitions – so you would need to pay for the feature exhibitions if you would like to see them. (Some feature exhibitions do not cause any money – and the exhibition on “a third gender” was particularly thought-provoking)

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The ground floor of the museum features exhibits of an Asian character: mainly from ancient China and Japan; whereas the first floor features exhibits on science (mainly biology – and the nature around Ontario). The third floor features exhibits of a more ancient past – from ancient Egypt to the Byzantium Empire.

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I particularly enjoyed the exhibition “A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints”. It explores the “complex system of sexual desire and social expectation from 1603 to 1868 in Edo Japan.” What is particularly interesting is how the discussion of sexuality and gender ambiguity is manifested in paintings and arts. In addition, the fact that Japan was the background was further intriguing given the conservative attitudes most Japanese now have regarding sexuality.

The exhibition introduces “a third gender” – known as wakashu – male youths, were sexually desired by both men and women, meaning that wakashu is not characterised as either man or female. As such, wakashu had a different standing in the social hierarchy and played a different role in the society. The exhibition fundamentally challenges the dichotomy of men and female, and is a constant reminder of the fluidity of human identity and how gender, like race, is more a social construct than natural.

I am pleasantly surprised and very impressed by the depth of the exhibitions put on – the Royal Ontario Museum is a place where I would gladly spend the whole day.

We left the Museum to have a stroll in the University of Toronto:

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We called it a day then, as we were pretty tired from the jetlag. We were to go to the CN Tower but the weather was not too good.

We started our second day in Toronto with a morning outing to the Toronto Islands. We got off the TTC at Union Station and headed to the ferry pier. I would recommend getting the tickets online to avoid a queue at the ticketing desk.

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The Toronto Islands is a haven from the city’s hustle and bustle (though it has an airport of its own towards its western tip). It is a giant park in its own right, and has plenty to offer to fill your day. You can walk around and enjoy the fresh air and the concrete trails that it offers. For the more active ones, you can go on a bike (can be rented near the beach towards the south of the island) or even go swimming in the Lake! Or simply, a picnic will do!

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My sister and I completed at the maze!

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Such tranquillity:

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And my attempt at climbing this thing:

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Our lunch spot: at a smoke joint:

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We left after lunch to complete our last two attractions in Toronto:

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Located near the Union Station are the Aquarium and the CN Tower. Both were packed with people as summer was the peak season for the city. The Aquarium is slightly more bearable in terms of queues with the CityPass – only a short one as you get to skip ticketing, but expect a 1.5-hour wait for the CN Tower lifts even with the CityPass.

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The Aquarium was interesting enough, though the crowd made it somewhat unbearable as the air became really stuffy.

The CN Tower was up next:

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The Toronto City Airport as seen from the lift

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The glass floor

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And thus ended our two-day short sightseeing in Toronto before we left for the Niagara Falls. Toronto is an exciting and vibrant city, and is not short of queues everywhere. True, it was no New York but it was a city of a personality of its own. Casa Loma showcases the history (albeit recent), the Museum with it the openness and acceptance to diversity, and the Toronto Islands a piece of quiet haven in a busy city.

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