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Vacation Toronto

Tourist Guide

Nice and Edgy
Canada's Largest City Offers Style and Smiles

The Mississauga port in Toronto is one of the busiest ports in the city
View of the Mississauga port in Toronto


The very trendy Mildred's Temple Kitchen offers a delicious brunch menu
Mildred's Temple Kitchen
You're a savvy traveler with just a few days to see the many sides of Toronto, so head now to the edgy and artsy. If you're staying at the Gladstone Hotel or Drake Hotel you're ready to go. If not, grab a cab — Toronto's taxis are relatively cheap, though often scruffy — to the Queen West Art & Design District. If it's Sunday, have brunch at Mildred's Temple Kitchen at the nearby Liberty Village and stroll around this trendy neighborhood of condos/lofts, shops and restaurants. Artscape, a non-profit urban development organization that revitalizes buildings, neighborhoods, and cities through the arts, has a strong presence in Liberty Village, providing mixed live/work spaces for local artists. Its influence can be seen throughout the neighborhood and maintains the valued tradition of an area that was once dominated by artists searching for affordable living and studio spaces.

Alternately, start your day with baked goodies at the Corner Café of the century-old Drake Hotel, which has been refurbished in a nouveau-Bohemian style. Quirky, with cheekily mismatched furniture, it boasts a hip ethos that is part of the pulse of the new, cool Toronto. Then head east along this gritty part of Queen Street to enjoy the city's greatest concentration of contemporary art galleries, mod boutiques and chic furniture shops. See photos of cultural detritus captured at the Stephen Bulger Gallery, contemporary Canadian art at Angell Gallery or spiritual and social commentary depicted by the artists at Loop Gallery. Quasi Modo Modern Furniture features three levels of furniture by international heavy-hitters such as Vitra, Herman Miller and Santa & Cole.

The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto recently underwent a $254 million renovation
Art Gallery of Ontario

If you're a good walker, keep trekking until you hit Spadina Road and then head north through Chinatown. Stop for a quick lunch at one of the many Asian restaurants. They are chock-a-block in this area. If you dig dim sum and want to experience what's likely the best in North America, take a two-minute taxi ride to the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut Street in "Old Chinatown." Here, on the second floor, you'll find the elegant and exquisite Lai Wah Heen. If you've stayed near Spadina Road, meander a block west to the lively Kensington Market to view vintage clothing shops and storefronts of all ethnic persuasions. Either way, you're near the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas Street. In 2008 it had a major $254 million redesign and expansion under the guidance of renowned architect Frank Gehry. The Henry Moore Sculptural Centre boasts the world's largest collection of Moore's sculptures, and there are many great works by Canadian and international artists in the gallery's extensive collection.

For more culture, head a little north to Yorkville. On the west side of Avenue at Bloor, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) had an ambitious redevelopment in recent years — one of the world's largest museum restoration and expansion projects. The original heritage architecture was restored, a new landmark building was designed by Daniel Libeskind and inside elegant new exhibit designs were created by Haley Sharpe. Libeskind's crystal design for six galleries hangs dramatically over Bloor Street captivating passersby. Look up from the sidewalk and you'll see stalking dinosaurs through the glass. The Galleries of the Age of Mammals were the first permanent exhibits to open inside the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Other Lee-Chin Crystal galleries opened in 2008 are the Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery, the Wirth Gallery of the Middle East, the Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, Americas and Asia-Pacific and the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume. Six million artifacts from around the world and regular exhibits can be found here.

Make sure to visit the galleries of the Age of the Mammals at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto
Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto's a great shopping city, and the Bloor-Yorkville area is home to high-end retail with seasonal bargain-hunters' sales. In 2011 the area enhanced its reputation as Canada's premiere shopping district with the completion of the Bloor Street Transformation Project, a $20 million streetscape beautification project. Pedestrian-friendly granite sidewalks and curbs, the planting of 134 London Plane trees and flowerbeds and special lighting are just some of the enhancements. Hazelton Lanes Shopping Centre at the corner of Avenue Road and Yorkville underwent its own transformation in 2011. A destination for exclusive brands and services for 35 years, it was revived via the addition of a modern day piazza, the expansion of Canada's first flagship Whole Foods Market and a multilevel flagship TNT mega clothing emporium.

Intrepid shoppers will also enjoy a visit to Holt Renfrew, the department store for Toronto's upper crust, featuring three floors of luxury labels. At Holt's Café, you can get an open-face sandwich and a jolt of revitalizing java. For a more relaxed lunch, if you haven't already opted for Chinese, stop in at the Studio Café in the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. The fare is always excellent, as is the potential for celebrity and fashionista spotting.

Yorkville is full of good restaurants, cafés and bars with outdoor patios. At dinnertime, especially in warm weather, you might want to grab a seat outdoors and people-watch, especially at One where the large comfortable patio wraps around the fancy Hazelton Hotel. For indoor dining, Pangaea offers refined fresh market cuisine; Joso's is famous for its fresh, grilled whole fish; and Sotto Sotto is a celeb hangout. Mistura offers top notch Italian food in a glam setting.

Continue to Day 3


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The CN Tower

* Images courtesy of Toronto Convention & Visitors Association and Mildred's Temple Kitchen

(Updated: 05/06/13 CT)

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