Toronto is the kind of place where it’s dark, freezing cold, and snows until April! So when the sun shines consistently and thaws away everything, that’s when Toronto really starts to shine.
Raina came to visit me to experience a bit of what the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) has to offer in a short period of time. Of course, I made sure that her trip here was worth the while–especially after the long (almost) 20 hour flight from Manila!
The City of Toronto is a bustling metropolis famous for its harmonious multiculturalism, the CN Tower, and of course, The Toronto Maple Leafs–GO LEAFS GO! Albeit, I decided to take Raina on a less touristy walk around the city and have her learn about Toronto’s rich ethnic mosaic and what better place to do it than a day trip to Kensington Market. The market is a bohemian neighbourhood that draws artists and tourists to its indie shops, vintage boutiques and arts spaces. Here, you can also find an array of specialty grocers, bakeries and cheese shops. Hipsters frequent trendy bars, cafes and international restaurants that range from casual to fine dining.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning a visit downtown Toronto from the suburbs, I highly recommend taking the GO Train there to save you time (and money) looking for over priced parking lots in between points of interest. Reach the closest GO Station in your vicinity and ride the train towards Union Station in Toronto. To make it easier, grab a Presto card from the station and load it with a minimum of $10 CAD so you can just tap and go hassle-free.
Just across the street from Kensington Market’s tree-lined Victorian style houses is China Town. At first glance, we noticed China Town’s energetic variety of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese restaurants that range from dim sum and pho to modern fusion. Lively Asian open-air markets and shops that line Spadina Avenue offer fresh fruits and vegetables, along with herbal medicine and souvenirs. Don’t forget to stop by for some iconic bubble tea to beat the heat!
A few minutes away from China Town is Graffiti Alley. If the city’s walls could speak, this is where it’s the loudest. Graffiti Alley captures the city’s vibe. Jam packed in one alley are some amazing murals, street art and graffiti spots that are totally Instagram worthy. Tag the artists to show them respect when you pose in front of their art.
Greater Toronto Area
Zoom out, and you’ll find that you’re in the vast land of the Greater Toronto Area: it’s the most populous metropolitan area in Canada. It consists of the central city of Toronto and the four regional municipalities which surround it: Durham, Peel, York, (and the region that I live in) Halton. Here, you’ll find farm land and fields as far as the eye can see with the Niagara Escarpment peeking through the horizon. If you’re looking for a more rural vibe like a picnic out on Kelso Lake, this is the place be!
For a day of country life, I took Raina to Ontario’s largest lavender farm Terre Bleu for a romantic stroll across the vast lavender and sunflower fields. Just located 45 minutes west of Toronto, we took our time and breathed the fresh air amongst Terre Bleu’s beautiful and inspiring landscape, and tried their homemade lavender-flavored ice cream. Terre Bleu’s entrance fee is $8 CAD on weekdays and $10 CAD on weekends.
About 20 kilo meters away from Terre Bleu is Chudleigh’s Farm. It’s a place where families could pick their own apples, pet some farm animals, enjoy live shows, and even go on hay rides! Chudleigh’s entrance fee is $13 CAD. Before you leave, pick up a fresh apple pie on the go. Trust me, their apple pie is so good that it’s worth every penny.
Later that evening, we drove 28 kilo meters to 5-Drive In Theatre for double feature movie night under the stars! We got there just in time of the $8 CAD Tuesday special (usually $13 CAD for general admission) and watched the jaw-dropping action thriller The Meg and the romantic and quirky blockbuster hit Crazy Rich Asians.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to catch a flick during your stay here, I highly recommend watching a movie on Tuesdays as the ticket prices are half off at most theatres!
Drive down south for an hour and 42 minutes (depending on traffic) or 128 kilo meters away from the city of Toronto to the Niagara region. Obviously famous its huge gap where roughly about 3,160 tons of water falls down into, there’s more to the place than its pricey restaurants, lavish hotels, and dangerously addictive casinos. Just north of the falls is Niagara-On-The-Lake, it’s a quaint town that sits on the shores of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Niagara River. It’s known for its flower-filled, tree-lined old town 19th-century buildings, and most importantly for us, its wineries! We jumped on a multi-passenger bus and toured four wineries: educational and tasty Lakeview Wine Company, cute and lively Caroline Cellars Estates, funny and informative Joseph’s Estate Winery, colourful and charming Small Talk Winery. At each stop we enjoyed complimentary wine samples, including sweet ice wine and shiny apple cider! A full day tour for two costs $190 CAD and stops for lunch at Farmhouse Cafe (cost of lunch is at each guest’s own expense).
By and large, Toronto isn’t just the city–it’s a mega place to explore, relax, and play especially during the Summer months. Check out seetorontonow.com for summer events like the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Toronto Craft Beer Festival, and Electric Island to name a few. There are lakes and natural reserves nearby as well where you can go kayaking, camping, trekking, and even rock climbing that we didn’t cover during the trip. Perhaps we’ll check out said rougher areas another time, when we’re feeling a bit more adventurous.