© Canadian Tourism Commission
Explore the Queen City inside and out for a weekend of family fun
Admit it: if you live anywhere other than Toronto, Hogtown is a city you love to diss. And while its citizens do seem to forget that anything of interest happens outside the Greater Toronto Area, that doesn't change the fact that on any given weekend, they have a city with more culture, great food and family fun than you could take in in a year.
If you're travelling with kids, there are a couple of must-dos. The Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park; rom.on.ca; adults $15, students $13.50, kids $12) delights little ones with a massive dinosaur collection and creepy bat cave plus hands-on biodiversity exhibit. Older kids will dig the Egyptian mummies and the recreated Chinese temple.
They may be 45 minutes by transit from the conference venues, but the 800-plus interactive displays at the Ontario Science Centre (770 Don Mills Road at Eglinton East; ontariosciencecentre.ca; adults $20, teens $16, kids $13) are a huge hit with tykes. They can watch frozen solid nitrogen shatter; study butterfly wings under a microscope or play tic-tac-toe on a fridge-sized 1970s computer.
Kids not keen on traditional museums? Then try the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge Street; hhof.com; adults and teens $17.50, kids 4 to 13 $11). They'll find the original Stanley Cup, a replica of the Montréal Canadiens' locker room, plus a tonne of memorabilia. Your kids can even test their skill shooting goals and blocking (foam) pucks.
If you're visiting in good weather, spend a day on the Islands. From the Toronto Islands Ferry Terminal (9 Queen's Quay West; tel: 416-392-8193; toronto.ca/parks/island; $7 for adults; $4.50 for teens, $3.50 for kids), a 10 minutes walk from the Financial District, head to Centre Island. It's home to the old-fashioned Centreville amusement park (Centre Island; centreisland.ca; $31 adults and kids over four feet; $22 under four feet; open daily June to August and weekends in September) aimed at the younger set, with antique rides, ponies and water bumper cars. You can rent a bike (torontoislandbicyclerental.com; $8 an hour) or even a two- or four-seater and tour this leafy residential community. Or sign up for a kayak excursion or a two-hour voyageur canoe tour with Paddle Toronto (283A Queen's Quay West; reservations: 416-203-2277; paddletoronto.com; $36 per person).
Thrill-seeking teens will want to dangle over the side of the CN Tower on EdgeWalk (301 Front Street West; reservations: 416-601-3833; edgewalkcntower.ca; must be 13 and older; open May to October). Not for the faint of heart, you strap into a harness and walk along a narrow, railing-less, metal-grate circling the top of the tower and then lean right over — 365 metres in the air. At $175 a pop, it's a splurge, but you go home with a video, photos and definite bragging rights.
You can also let your teen lead the way on a stroll along Queen Street West. Start at John Street for a look through the window at MuchMusic headquarters, where you might catch a visiting act. Then wander westwards, fitting in plenty of windowshopping at edgy and quirky shops along the way, and grabbing a bite with the artsy crowd.
Not breaking the bank around Bay Street
Both conference venues are in the Financial district which, restaurant-wise, means plenty of high-priced menus with a smattering of soulless chains. So try these four fresh options instead.
372 Bay Street; thegabardine.com
This cosy gastro-pub has the feel of a bright old general-store. Everything is fresh and hearty — from the pulled pork sandwich with spicy pickled cabbage, to cod cakes with smoked paprika, or a ploughman's lunch. Sandwiches $12 to 14, mains $16 to 24. Open weekdays only, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
57 Adelaide Street East; terroni.ca
With walls lined with wine bottles, olive oil, and pasta, this Bay Street outpost of the hot Queen Street Neapolitan resto delivers fine thin-crust pizzas, pasta worthy of nonna, along with traditional Italian bean salads and antipasti. The deserts are always a hit. Panini $12 to $14, pizza and pasta from $14 to $18.
5 Mercer Street; milagrorestaurant.com
You won't find nachos here. Two brothers from Mexico serve up rustic cantina-style fare with classics like pulled pork in achiote, roast lamb in banana leaf, unusual ceviches and a long list of tacos and enchiladas using homemade tortillas. Tacos $9 to $13, enchiladas $16 to $18, mains $17 to $22.
66 Wellington West; oliverbonacini.com/canoe.aspx
It's a splurge, but views from the 54th floor of the iconic TD Bank tower are hard to beat, especially at night. The resto is all about Canadiana, but the food is anything but rustic. Alberta lamb, Quebec suckling pig and sustainable fish are deftly handled with sides like molasses-glazed salsify or rapini with foie gras. Lunch mains $21 to $27, dinner mains $39 to $45, tasting menu $100. Reservations recommended (416-364-0054).
A museum for every taste
Toronto has museums about everything. Seriously. Take the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor West; batashoemuseum.ca; adults $14, students $8, kids $5; pay-what-you-can Thursday evening), a strange concept that works thanks to a beautifully designed space and an encyclopedic collection of artifacts dating back to the time of the pharaohs.
Or the Textile Museum of Canada (55 Centre Avenue; textilemuseum.ca; adults $10, students $6; pay-what-you-can Wednesday evening), which features everything from Afghan rugs, to Indian mirror cloth, Inuit embroidery, American quilts and African Kasai velvet.
There's also the Gardiner Museum (111 Queen's Park; gardinermuseum.on.ca; adults $12, students $6; half-price Friday evening), showcasing all things ceramic — from cutting-edge artworks to historic porcelain and ceramic ware.
Of course, modern art lovers will want to hit the Frank Gehry-revamped Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West; ago.net; adults $19.50; students and kids $11, free on Wednesday evening), home to a stellar collection by the Group of Seven, plus blockbuster international shows.
The more adventurous should check out the Power Plant art gallery (235 Queens Quay West; thepowerplant.org) which showcases cutting-edge artists from around the world.
Or head to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen West; mocca.ca; free), a gallery-sized space that highlights new trends, and hosts key pieces from Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada. Photo buffs will want to stop in at the Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen West; bulgergallery.com; free) down the street, for excellently curated exhibitions of photography.
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