An April 2005 trip
to Toronto by FSO_Michael
Quote: Mid-April in Toronto was nicer than I had expected, even though there wasn't much greenery to be seen just yet. There's a lot to see, regardless of the weather.
Going back to the topic of diversity: Toronto is basically a collection of neighborhoods and communities that represents more than 80 ethnic groups. This represents huge opportunities in terms of dining and sightseeing and we didn’t even come close to scratching the service.
The Chinese and Indian cultures seem very well represented in Toronto, both in very defined areas, as well as in many of the suburbs. We found an area approximating a "hawker center", a Singaporean phenomenon, in one suburb of Toronto. Just as in Singapore, you order food from a number of different proprietors, who then bring the food to your (cheap plastic) table when it is ready. We ordered Malaysian food (mee goreng, laksa, chicken satay, wonton mee) for about . What a deal!
I do want to make a note about traffic. While the traffic encountered was not a highlight per se, I did find the less aggressive Canadian approach to driving to be a refreshing change from the New Jersey turnpike. While there was one time when it took about 60 minutes to get from Markham to downtown, I didn’t feel the same levels of stress that I do here at home.
Finally, don’t overlook areas outside of downtown, particularly for shopping. For example, we drove to Mississauga, west of Toronto, and found great outlet stores at Dixie Mall. With the favorable exchange rate and GST refunds, we found some really great deals!
For traveling in April, bring clothes that you can wear in layers. The weather can be unpredictable, as in either the last breath of winter or a surprisingly mild introduction to spring, as was the case while we were there.
CHOICE OF ATTRACTIONS
With the exception of downtown, Toronto is also not a very compact area, so choose attractions that are close together to minimize travel time. When downtown, it is preferable to park centrally and use the PATH system, a series of underground walkways linking key shopping and entertainment areas in the downtown core.
The ubiquitous WHERE guide is always a good bet for what’s on from an event perspective, as well as the various dining choices available in the city. Additionally, before we left, I found the Tourism Toronto website to be chock-full of useful information on what to do, see, and eat.
Hotel | "Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham"
One note: I've stayed at this hotel for business when it was an Embassy Suites. It's still the same property, more or less, except with the re-branding, you no longer get free breakfast with the rate. We didn’t really spend much time in the hotel, but it was good value for the money.
Official hotel website
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 21, 2005
Hilton Suites Toronto Markham Conference Center
8500 Warden Avenue
Markham, Ontario L6G1A5
Restaurant | "Bright Pearl"
Getting to Bright Pearl was quite easy. It’s located in one of the three Chinatowns in Toronto, within minutes of downtown. We enjoyed the food so much that we ate lunch here all three days we were in Toronto!
On our first visit (on Friday), they had a dim sum happy hour, which meant that every dish was C$1.68, regardless of size. This is a truly great deal, as prices normally range from $3 to $5 per dish. The happy hour is available on weekdays from 9:00-11:30am and again from 1:30-4:00pm. On weekends, the restaurant offers 20% off the menu prices from 9:00-11:00am.
The food was extremely fresh. We ate shrimp dumplings (ha gao), barbeque pork buns (char siu bao), Chinese broccoli (gai lan), shrimp wontons, carrot cake (lo bak go), and more. Quick note on the carrot cake: it’s not what it sounds like. It’s actually made from daikon radishes and tastes wonderful. To accompany the food, we drank jasmine tea, which is supposed to aid in digestion.
My son is a huge fan of ha gao and can eat four sets by himself (16 dumplings)! So, when the dumpling cart comes by, we keep our fingers crossed that enough will be available! Given his appetite and the reasonable prices, this is the best deal in Chinatown for our family.
Bright Pearl Seafood Restaurant home page
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 21, 2005
Bright Pearl Seafood
346-348 Spadina Ave
Toronto, Ontario M5T 2G2
+1 416 979 3988
1) When we first entered the lobby and told our son that it was called the CN Tower, he heard "cien" tower and asked if it was made out of 100 blocks. It looks like he actually is learning something in his kindergarten Spanish lessons!
2) The glass floor and observation deck, at 1,122 feet, were interesting, although I think I had hoped for more of a freefall sensation when viewing through the glass floor. For reasons that were obvious when I saw the glass floor, but didn't really think about in advance, the area that is actually glass is necessarily quite small.
3) The Skypod, at 1,465 feet, was amazing - I enjoyed the view from this area the best and got some interesting photos.
All in all, it's a great attraction to visit. Admittedly, though, it can get a little pricey for families. We paid for the Observation Experience (Look Out, Glass Floor, Skypod), and it cost roughly C$80 (or US$65). For a visit of less than an hour, it's not the best value in the city. But it was still worth it.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 21, 2005
301 Front St West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 2T6
This historic property was once the home of a Canadian financier and soldier named Sir Henry Pellatt. He was a self-made millionaire whose fortune was worth $11 million when he started planning for Casa Loma in the early 1900s. The house itself cost over $3 million to build. Unfortunately, soon after the end of WWI, Sir Henry was forced to auction off Casa Loma and most of its possessions to pay off a large tax bill.
The castle itself is immense, complete with hidden passages and a tunnel leading from the castle to the stables. Unlike many attractions, the audio tour does not cost extra, so my wife, my son and I listed to an English version, while my mother-in-law followed along on her own in Mandarin.
Entry for all four of us was roughly $40CAD (or $32U.S.). We easily spent 2-3 hours touring the property. The one negative was that the gardens were closed (no surprise, remember it's April). Our son really enjoyed the adventure-like atmosphere, particularly the tunnel and secret passages.
1 Austin Terrace (at Spadina)
Toronto, Ontario M5R 1X8
Parking onsite cost $8CAD. While I would say the outside of the building was not all that impressive, the interior was full of interesting exhibits, gadgets, and family fun!
The highlight for our son was the area called KidSpark. Imagine a large area filled with kids running from exhibit to exhibit, making noise, and squealing with delight. Okay, it was hectic, but, hey, that's what parents do for their kids. Some of the kid-friendly exhibits included: a mock grocery store, complete with cash register and check-out lane; a large metal tub where kids direct the flow of water and play with floating items; a "musical" area made out of pots, pans, spatulas and whatnot; plus, a whole lot more.
Other exhibits included optical illusions, the science of hot and cold (and what it feels like when you touch something that is both hot and cold), the human body, the earth, dinosaurs, and more. We spent about half a day touring the museum, including a temporary exhibit about roller coasters.
The total cost for entry was C$50 (US$40) and included an IMAX film. We saw "Forces of Nature," which was pretty interesting. It was a little disturbing for our son to see how destructive tornadoes and earthquakes can be, but to be fair, this was nothing compared to the images he later saw of Hurricane Katrina’s destructiveness.
Ontario Science Centre
770 Don Mills Rd
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1T3
+1 416 696 1000
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