I know what you’re thinking. And the answer is YES Toronto can be a weekend getaway for Angelenos. If I can do it, you can do it, and thus you definitely should. I just spent 3 gorgeous days in “The Six” (which turns out only 7% of people who live there actually refer to it as), and holy maple leaf was there so much to explore, experience, and most importantly – eat.
Thanks to the stunning Fairmont Royal York hotel, a 90-year-old Toronto treasure, this was not only my first visit to Canada’s largest city, but it was also my first real visit to Canada! (I don’t really count docking in Vancouver from a cruise and taking a bus to the airport “visiting” Canada.) I imagined Toronto as a big city, but not nearly as big as it actually was. It was easily on par with the likes of New York City or even Mexico City. But besides it’s sprawling “big city” landscape, what really stands out about Toronto is its incredible multicultural diversity. This is one city you will never be bored in, and if you, like me, are game for that “big city” life, Toronto will undoubtedly surprise and delight you. So, with all of that said, here are a few of my personal suggestions for your next trip:
First things first: fun and interesting information. Why? Because I feel like to most of us, maybe Toronto is just another big city, but factually it’s a lot more unique than you might give it credit for! Let’s learn some things:
- Toronto is home to over 8,000 restaurants and bars, making up for 6.5% of the city’s businesses
- Toronto welcomes over 40 million visitors annually
- There are 301 measurable days of sunshine (yet the record low temp is -24 degrees F)
- Toronto is home to 7 major league sports (the most in the country)
- Yonge St (you’ll know it) is the longest street in the WORLD
- Around 25% of Hollywood movies are filmed in Toronto
- There are around 160 completed skyscrapers in Toronto, with 112 under construction
Once you’ve been totally sold on those fun facts and you’ve gone ahead and booked your flights, the next obvious step is accommodations. And the only place I am going to recommend you stay at, for many reasons, is the Fairmont Royal York. Here’s why:
- I am always looking for hotels that are unique and genuinely seem to embody the city’s “essence” (I kind of hate that I just used that word but it’s so accurate for what I mean) and the Fairmont Royal York is incredibly special and important to the city’s history, and trust me you feel it the moment you pull up and walk inside.
- She may have just turned 90, but she’s a timeless dame. The hotel has been going through major (and majorly costly) renovations but the outcome seems to have made it all well worth the while. The brand and designers truly paid respect to the hotel’s history but made the necessary updates to keep guests comfortable. It has been a beautiful transformation.
- The hotel’s flagship restaurant REIGN – a modern Canadain brassiere with a traditional French touch – is absolutely fantastic. The space is gorgeous, moody, and the food is beyond. So beyond, in fact, we ate there 3 times in 3 days.
- The cocktails at Clockwork (the main lobby bar) are hands down, no joke, some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. When you visit make sure you order a “Meet Me At the Clock” (Hendrick’s Gin, Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Lemon, Absinthe, Bitters, Frosé Ice) or a “Clearheaded Harvey” (Absolut Elyx Vodka, Galliano, Clarified Orange Juice, Citric Acid) and thank me later. And not to mention that bar is one of the best hotel bars I can say I’ve ever been to. (Ok moving on, before I apparently try to move in.)
- It is centrally located and within walking distance of so much, like the CN Tower, Rogers Centre (where the Toronto Blue Jays play), Scotiabank Arena (where the Raptors play), or fun parts of town like Queen St.
- While Fairmont hotels are already the epitome of luxury to me, the Fairmont Royal York takes it to the next level with their recently redesigned Fairmont Gold offerings which include gorgeous new suites, a whole separate check-in, and a stunningly beautiful private lounge where guests can enjoy meals, canapes, and a fully stocked honor bar. The attention to detail in the Gold rooms was simply unforgettable, something you deserve to see to believe hunny.
- The Queen stays here when she’s in town, need I say more.
Note: I was invited to stay at the Fairmont Royal York in honor of the hotel’s recent renovations and to be a part of the hotel’s big 90th birthday celebration! I am hugely grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this gorgeous property and partake in the beautiful festivities. I have been staying at Fairmont Hotels with my family for years, and much like my other Fairmont visits, this trip was one I will never forget. Even though I was hosted at the hotel my suggestions and opinions are genuine and belong only to me.
This may come as a surprise but there’s a lot to experience in Toronto. Whether you’re the foodie, luxury, artsy, sporty, or adventurous type, there really is something for everyone here. Here’s what to consider:
My absolute FAVORITE activity from this past trip was visiting an area nearby called Niagra-on-the-Lake, which is basically Canadian wine country. You can get there by small plane (which is something the Fairmont Royal York will help set up if you’re staying in a Fairmont Gold Room) or you can get there by car, either way, I cannot recommend this place enough. Between the gorgeous wineries, the adorable and quaint downtown, and all of the delicious wine your heart can handle, I already can’t wait to come back here.
The first thing we did after checking in to our stunning hotel was walk down to the beloved area on Queen St. This area I’d describe as “Silverlake East” because it reminded me of the area around Sunset Junction. Tons of younger people were walking around, there are really great local restaurants and bars, and it’s home to arguably the best shopping in town. You could spend a whole afternoon exploring this area and I highly recommend that you do.
Another popular, eclectic, and beloved part of town is Kensington Market. Known for it’s more bohemian and colorful vibe, you’ll find plenty of cool coffee shops, vintage shops, wine bars, and a wide variety of restaurants to enjoy.
The CN Tower basically the crown jewel of the city. Up until 2007, it was the tallest tower in the world! Despite it being quite the typical tourist destination, going to the top to experience those incredible views is totally worth it. I didn’t realize how expansive Toronto was until I got all the way up there. If you’re brave you can even partake in what is called the “Edge Walk”, where you more or less lean off the side of the top of the tower in a harness. Me? No thanks. But hey, it’s a thing and people love it!
As previously mentioned Toronto is home to 7 different professional sports teams, so at any given point during the year there should be a game of some kind happening. I would recommend going to a Toronto Blue Jays game, but that’s mostly because I love baseball and I’ve always wanted to see that retractable roof at the stadium IRL.
Sadly I didn’t get to check out the St. Lawrence Market myself but I am told this place is comparable to our own Grand Central Market here in LA, so think farmers market vibes with food stalls galore and everything in between. This market was created in 1803 so it’s worth taking a look back in time alone!
Who doesn’t love a good park, especially one in Canada? Trinity Bellwoods Park is centrally located, offers all the ideal park offerings (views, trees, open spaces to partake in recreational activities) and is a traveler and local favorite alike.
Everyone told me I would love the Distillery District and by the sounds of it, they hit the nail on the head. The Distillery District was aptly named such due to the fact that the area was once home to the largest distillery in the world, but today is home to several of the city’s best pubs, some great shopping, and some absolutely beautiful and unique scenery with its old Victorian aesthetic.
EAT & DRINK.
I’ll be honest, I am planning an entire trip back to Toronto JUST to wine and dine. Because of their insanely diverse community, the food scene in Toronto is incredibly rich (remember there are over 8,000 restaurants and bars?!). I ate quite a bit at the Fairmont Royal York, which I once again HIGHLY recommend, but outside of that I am not going to pretend like I know what I am talking about in terms of the Toronto foodie scene, SO, alas for this part I defer to the professionals:
The 20 Best Restaurants in Toronto – via TimeOut
Toronto’s Best New Restaurants: 2019 – via Toronto Life
The 30 Best Bars in Toronto – via Toronto Life
16 Best Bars in Toronto – via Conde Nast Traveler