In an extremely rare sequence of events, the boyfriend and I had the same three consecutive days off in a row. Unheard of. So we ventured off about 2.5 hours north of Buffalo into Toronto and did about 1000 things! Thankfully we scored a room right smack dab in the middle of everything downtown so everything was about a 10-15 minute car/Uber ride; with the exception of one dicey ride sharing commute we had – but we won’t discuss that! All our other rides were perfect! We even managed to get in a car at one point with another couple, who after overhearing our conversation about Buffalo hotspots interrupted and said “I’m sorry, did you mean Nietzsche’s in Buffalo? We’re from Buffalo!” Small world.
Admittedly, I didn’t super keep up on pictures at certain points of this trip because it felt good to not have any electronics in my hands for a couple days. I’ll share with ya’ll the ones I did manage though! If you are going to visit the city and plan on hitting up at least three or four tourist attractions, I would recommend looking into the Toronto CityPass. All the touristy things we did were included in these passes and it will save you money on cost of admission if you are going to visit a few. We were super glad we purchased these.
The first day we headed to Casa Loma in midtown. Casa Loma is a Gothic Revival style house with amazing gardens that is now open for walking tours as a museum. I’m a sucker for anything of this style, whether it be castles or houses, I’ve always been drawn to them in any city I’ve ever visited. The house was built from 1911-1914 as a residence for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. It was constructed by architect E. J. Lennox. In Spanish, Casa Loma translates to “Hill House”, being that it sits 460 feet above sea level. The house has been used in filming for movies and television and is also a popular wedding venue in Toronto. While we were visiting, there actually was a family touring it with their wedding planner as a potential venue for them. There’s a ton of really interesting history to this house and Sir Pellatt’s life, so I highly suggest you check out the website in the link above to read about it or even better yet, visit the site and see for yourself! In addition to having three floors full of beautiful rooms above ground, the house has five acres of gardens (probably a lot more impressive in months other than January but still impressive), and an underground tunnel that connects to the Hunting Lodge and stables. You can get to every one of these areas during your walking tour. One thing that I found fascinating about the house was reading that in 1941, the house was an undercover research center for anti-submarine detection technology. Using this idea from it’s history, they are currently running an Escape Room series at the house at night utilizing the towers and tunnels as areas you have to find your way out of. We found walking through the tunnels unnerving enough, but if escape rooms are your thing, I would check that out at as well! Also, if you can stand super narrow and tiny spiral staircases, the climb up is worth it to the tower views. One was an indoor view and the other was outdoor which was beautiful! A little cold in January but if I can manage so can you!
Next up! After a quick siesta (yes, ever since Spain I have brought the siesta idea with me literally everywhere I go), we headed out for dinner before heading to a concert we had tickets to at The Great Hall. We found La Cubana, a Cuban restaurant which was about a 7 minute walk from the venue. Really, really delicious Cuban food. The restaurant was a little loud as you’re in tight quarters with other diners but the food was worth it!
After dinner, our 7 minute walk to The Great Hall felt a little longer after we stopped being able to feel our limbs in the cold. But we did it! We bought tickets to this show on a whim. We both love discovering new-to-us music, especially live, so we did a little research of venues around Toronto and decided to check out the two acts on this bill – The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer and Cecile Doo-Kingue. HOLY COW. This was a night of good music. If you’re into soul, blues, rock, folk or anything of that sort. YEP. Check both of em out. Such a good live show. The venue too! It reminded me a lot of a venue we have in Buffalo called Asbury Hall inside of Babeville with a full stage, high ceilings and grand balcony.
On to day 2! We set out early-ish to head to the CN Tower right when it opened at 9AM. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the CN Tower is a concrete observation tower that is 1,815.3 ft high. It’s construction reached total completion in 1976 and was the world’s tallest free-standing structure from 1975-2007 and still the world’s tallest building until 2009. Today it is the third tallest tower in the world but the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. You see this tower everywhere you go in Toronto and it is a great landmark for tourists who are lost to find their bearings again. The tower sees more than two million international visitors every year. You take an elevator up to a couple of different vantage points with 360 views, one including a glass floor that at first, freaks ya out a little bit. However, once you get your footing and you realize how thick the glass is and that you’re not going to go through the glass and fall over 1,000 feet below, you’re good. If you can, I would try going in the morning like we did on a clear day. The views were truly stunning AND no crowds on a Sunday morning at this time! It can get very crowded during popular times throughout the day, and you’ll often have to wait in lines to get into the elevator rides up. No lines for us! Which also meant no fighting for space by the observation windows.
Next, we gave ourselves just enough time to grab a quick brunch before heading into Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada! I love aquariums (I attended a sleepover in one once & went through a phase where I thought I was going to be a Marine Biologist with my whole bedroom decorated with fishies, whales and dolphins HA) and am kind of a child about them and this is the best one I’ve ever been to! It is located right outside of the CN Tower so this made our morning/afternoon super convenient. 1.5 million gallons of marine and freshwater is pumped into this place which houses more than 20,000 exotic sea and freshwater creatures and more than 450 species. Lots of little cuties and lots of bigger, scary ones too!
After that, (see? We did all the things) we headed to the Royal Ontario Museum to get our nerd on. This museum is huge and includes tons of art, world culture and natural history. It’s the largest museum in Canada and one of the largest in North America. More than one million visitors head to this spot making it the most visited museum in Canada. I think my favorite part of this place was the wide array of collections you could visit.
Everything from dinosaurs, minerals & meteorites, Near East & African art, East Asian art, as well as European and Canadian history all under one gigantic roof! There was also a special Vikings exhibit happening while we were there which looked super cool but it cost a little extra and we felt we had already spent enough money at this point so we skipped on that one.
For dinner that night we wanted to check out the famed Distillery Historic District. This pedestrian street area east of downtown contains lots of cafes, restaurants and shops. The area got its name from many of the businesses being housed in buildings of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery. We grabbed some tacos and margs at El Catrin Destileria. The restaurant was really spacious and was sooo nice inside! They have a really cute looking patio that you would probably want to dine out on when its not 20 degrees. Also, the food – YUM. Fresh. Guac. Ground up. In front of you. That is all.
After din, we walked across the pedestrian street for a night cap at Mill St. Brewery. Another impressively nice place with really good beer on tap.
Monday morning we wanted to grab one more brunch before we headed home. I try super hard not to go all chainy when I travel but there was a brekky spot right across from our hotel and at this point not driving or Ubering on city streets appealed to us. We justified the chain part by the fact that this was a Canadian chain and one we don’t have by us. We ate at Cora which is a nice, diner style breakfast restaurant. Really good brunch to cap off our Canadian weekend!