Toronto Trip Report Part 2
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When I last left off, we were dealing with Taylor’s double ear infection (swimmer’s ear to be precise) and she was feeling miserable. However, our time in Niagara Falls had come to an end and it was time to get up and drive to Toronto. Except, it was also Taylor’s birthday! She turned 4. So before we could really get going I had brought along a small present for her to open on her birthday. Even though she seemed to think the entire trip was for her birthday. Go right ahead and think that, it’s less presents mom and dad need to buy for you.
After Taylor opened her Disney Jr sticker book, we ate a quick breakfast, packed the car, and got on the road. It is only about an hour and a half drive to Toronto from Niagara Falls so we were there in no time. Once we got to the outskirts of the city and were driving in, I was in awe of the architecture. Everything looked so futuristic. The style and shape of the buildings was different and everything was totally glass. It looked like scene from a movie. We decided they were all apartment buildings. They were very cool looking. But then we got farther into the city and it looked more like what I’m used to, except that they have gardens and trees on the tops of all the buildings. Which is genius really, but not something I’m used to seeing.
We found out hotel – Holiday Inn Express Downtown Toronto – and found it to be under construction. Ultimately this was totally fine as it never impacted our stay. I do think it’s going to be very nice when it’s all done. They were also able to accommodate us early and had a room available for us despite that it wasn’t even lunch time yet – another bonus.
We decided to head over to the Distillery District for lunch and to check it out, even though this wasn’t how my original itinerary played out. We decided to walk; actually, we walked pretty much everywhere as we were so close. The Distillery District was a very cute place to hang out. Kind of hipster. There used to be a bunch of distilleries there but have since shut down and now it’s full of little shops, restaurants, a brewery, etc. We decided to eat at the brewery, Mill Street Brewery. Their beer was decent. We liked their food. I had the poutine (first time trying it!) and loved it. Actually we had a funny conversation with our server that went like this:
Me: I see you have a Chef’s Special poutine, what is that?
Server: It’s a Philly Cheesesteak Poutine. It’s so good!
Kenny: We’ll be the judge of the that. (laughing)
Server: Oh why is that?
Kenny: We’re from Philly.
Server: Oh don’t get it then. Go with the classic.
And we all had a great laugh about that. I did go with the classic and it was delicious.
Taylor on the other hand was still feeling miserable and while we felt bad for her, we just had to wait for the prescription to take effect and make her feel better.
After lunch, we stopped at a French patisserie for some dessert (macaroons and a nanaimo bar) before we continued exploring. We walked from the Distillery District to the CN Tower, where we exchanged our vouchers for our City Passes, a product from City Discovery. We were planning to go up the CN Tower at this point but the line was insane (about a 2 hour wait) and one of the staff suggested we come back at 7:00 where we would get an express line due to our City Passes. So we decided to wait and In the meantime, we would go next door to Ripley’s Aquarium, also included in the City Pass, but was something we had never planned on doing. We just needed to kill some time and we thought Taylor would enjoy that.
Turns out, it was one of the coolest things we did on our trip. The aquarium was a lot better than we expected and we’ve been to some of the larger ones on the East Coast – Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Ripley’s Aquarium even houses one of my favorite features I’ve ever seen at an aquarium. Most aquariums have a tunnel to walk “through” the tanks and the fish can swim over you. Ripley’s had that but it also had a moving walkway so you were able to just stand there and it moved you. Which I thought was brilliant because now people are jockeying around to see everything and getting in your way when you were taking photos or videos. Plus everyone was able to see with a great view, including the kids. And lastly, it was nice because you weren’t standing waiting for people to move out of the way or not walking fast enough. I loved it.
Next we grabbed tickets for Wednesday night’s Toronto Blue Jays game. The stadium is right beside the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium so we didn’t have to go anywhere to buy tickets. Tickets were cheap, we paid about $37 USD for 3 tickets – 2 adult and 1 child. Then we decided to brave the line for the CN Tower as it was after 7:00 PM.
To get into the tower, you have to go through security, much like you do at an airport. Then you can get to ticketing (if you need to buy a ticket or even to exchange your City Pass vouchers) before entering the building. And then you spend the next hour plus waiting to get to the elevator to take you up approximately 1100 feet in less than a minute. There are a couple different observations levels, including a revolving restaurant much like the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls. And the views are breathtaking. Especially if you are there at sunset like we were. There is also a much higher observation deck, not included in the regular pass so we didn’t go up to that one even though I think my husband kind of wanted to. We just didn’t think it was worth spending another $12 per person.
When we finally decided to head back to the hotel, it was almost 9:00 PM and we hadn’t had dinner. We were planning on just grabbing something on the way back to the hotel and eating there when we happened upon Chipotle. Now, I’m not a fan of eating at big chains like that when in a new place – I’d rather try some of the local food. But it was late, Taylor was cranky, we were all starving and we knew it would be quick and we could take it with us. So we had Chipotle for dinner. Luckily, Taylor loves Chipotle so she was happy with what ended up being her birthday dinner.
Wednesday was the day we had planned on spending time in the Toronto Islands but due to flooding, they were closed. Instead, my husband got up and went to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I have no photos of this as Taylor and myself did not go. We stayed back in the hotel having a lazy morning/I got some work done since I took my laptop. This was the first day Taylor felt back to normal and it showed! Also, I don’t like sports.
After he got back we walked through Dundas Square (which like a small version of Times Square) and right up to Kensington Market – which is where were going to have lunch. We had great visions of stall after stall of meats, fresh produce, local delicacies, etc in our heads and were looking forward to it. We had heard great things after all. Instead, Kensington Market is just a bunch of grungy stores selling things like jerk chicken and medical marijuana. Neither of which I’m a fan of. So we started making our way down toward Rogers Centre and Steam Whistle Brewing. We love visiting breweries and trying new beers so as this was across the street from where we were seeing the baseball game it was a perfect way to kill a little time. Also, it had trains and Taylor loves trains. We enjoyed a couple free samples of the Steam Whistle Pilsner (it’s the only beer they brew) and walked around looking at the trains. There is also a little train the kids can ride (you need to buy tickets) and Taylor got to go on the last ride of the day. She loved it.
We decided to head into the stadium at this point to grab some food for dinner and check out the stadium. My husband is such a sports fan (and I am not, see how much I love him?) so he was having a great time. We ended up leaving during the 7th inning stretch though because Taylor was so tired (so was I) and it was going to rain. We had walked everywhere that day so we didn’t really want to get caught in the rain on the 1.5 mile walk back to the hotel. When we left, the Blue Jays were losing. When we looked at the score the next morning, they had come back to win in the bottom of the 9th. My husband was bummed out. Oops.
Thursday, also held a lot of walking but was more structured and less spontaneous. This day was also mostly for me. We got up and took the subway up to Casa Loma (another place we could use our City Pass) and toured the house and grounds. It was beautiful and fascinating. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Toronto. The house itself is gorgeous (marble bathrooms anyone?) but the history of Henry Pellat (the original owner) is interesting. I’m a history kind of girl so I loved it.
After dodging the rain while touring the house, we got back on the subway and went to the Royal Ontario Museum (also part of our City Pass). We spend the entire afternoon here. I don’t think my husband or Taylor enjoyed it nearly as much as I did but it was great. They have an entire floor dedicated to dinosaur skeletons, fossils, biodiversity, and animals. It was amazing to see the skeletons in person. But my favorite part was the exhibits on Ancient Rome, Egypt, and Greece. Three of my absolute favorite cultures and histories. I could have spent the whole day on that floor.
We left just before the museum closed and went back to the hotel where the concierge gave us some suggestions for dinner. We ended up at Jack Astor’s, which is a chain restaurant (much like Chilis or Applebees) but located mostly in Canada so not a terrible choice. I got the poutine again, yum!
Friday was our last full day and we used it at the Toronto Zoo. We love going to zoos and taking Taylor. It’s a pretty large zoo with a lot of different animals. They even have panda bears, which only a handful of zoos in North America have. We watched a show on predator birds (think owls, falcons, hawks) and it was very neat as the birds flew right over our heads. They also have a polar bear who likes to show off his swimming abilities for the crowd. He was too cute. The Toronto Zoo was the last activity we used our City Pass for. Again, we stayed until the zoo closed before going back to the hotel.
We ate our last dinner in Toronto at a restaurant called Hot House. The location was great. We sat outside and had a great view of the flat iron building. It’s an Italian restaurant and the food was delicious. I got the Wild Boar Bolognese and practically inhaled it. I think I’m still drooling over it. But our trip was coming to a close. We packed everything up that night in preparation to leave in the morning.
Saturday morning it was time to head home but we had to make a quick stop at St. Lawrence Market. Remember earlier when I told you what we expected for Kensington Market. Yeah, St. Lawrence Market is what we really wanted. We just popped in to see if we could find some souvenirs (we did) and then popped out. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t go here earlier in the week because we wanted to look around more but it was getting late and we still had about an 8 hour drive ahead of us so off we went.
We made it home with minimal issue. The only thing was that we wanted to wait until we got back to the US to stop and eat lunch. Well, Waze was taking us the fastest way (and rightfully so) which meant that it wanted to take us back roads for a good bit of the journey – with no place to stop for lunch! And we didn’t have much cell service being the middle of nowhere so I wasn’t really able to look up anything on my phone. But otherwise, it was a smooth drive and we were happy to be home.