The Ultimate Guide to Toronto

Mikaela Ian

On Christmas Eve in 2015, my family and I flew north to spend the holidays in the beautiful city of Toronto. I don’t know what possessed us to leave sunny, warm 75 degree Bermuda for the harsh winter of Canada, but we boarded Air Canada, bundled up tight and hoped for the best.
I’d been to Toronto a few times during my university years, having gone to school in Michigan – a mere six hour drive from Canada’s largest city. But it had been awhile since I’d visited and my boys (big and little) anted a new experience as they had never been. So we shed our lightweight clothing for winter chic and headed north, praying for snow.

Flying into Toronto, everything was grey. And thanks to El Nino, there was no snow in sight. I wasn’t terribly excited about the vacation but I figured we would have fun.

We checked into the Sheraton Toronto and went up to the 34th floor to drop our bags in our beautiful suite. The room was newly renovated and suited our needs perfectly – a private bedroom for my partner and I and a living room with a twin bed for my son. There were TVs in each room so no fighting over the remote for us! The view of the CN Tower and the surrounding buildings was the icing on the cake.

But the best part of this hotel is that it is attached to PATH – Toronto’s underground walkway that leads to the Eaton Centre. In the lower level of the hotel was a food court, restaurants and a pharmacy, which was a godsend after my son became quite sick on the flight.

It was fantastic not to have to leave the hotel to stock up on cold and flu essentials. We were also able to grab bottled water and various necessities for our eight-day stay. Also, the hotel was directly across from Nathan Phillips Square.

So what were the highlights of the trip? Christmas brunch was held at Colette Grand Cafe at the Thompson Hotel – a modern French restaurant with exquisite food and wonderful service. The amount of food was bountiful but not overwhelming – omelette and carving stations, hot food buffet, cold salads, variety of bread with dips, fruit, dessert and so much more. I highly recommend Colette when visiting Toronto.

Boxing Day was spent braving the crowds in Eaton Centre. We didn’t shop a whole lot but we enjoyed the scene and the warmth of the underground. It wasn’t until we emerged on the ground level that I remembered how cold it was in Toronto. The wind chill is something serious!
The biggest highlight was the snow. It wasn’t forecast to snow while we were in town but I crossed my fingers super hard and wished it into existence. My son had never seen snow and we were hoping for it. It finally arrived four days into the vacation. He had a blast diving into the couple inches of snow and making snowballs in the Distillery District. 

ther activities included the Ripley’s Aquarium, a visit to Niagara Falls, Toronto Raptors game at Air Canada Centre, walking aimlessly down King Street, watching ice skaters at Nathan Phillips Square, stuffing our faces with excellent food and much more.
Toronto is a great city for singles, couples and families. There are countless hotels and awesome AirBnb rentals. Even in the winter, there’s plenty to do, but I am looking forward to returning in the summer for a completely different experience.

Where to Stay:
Sheraton Toronto Centre
Fairmont Royal York
Hilton Toronto
Where to Eat:
Colette Grand Cafe
Jack Astor’s
Rich Tree Natural Market
Pai Northern Thai Kitchen
El Catrin
What to Do:
Ripley’s Aquarium
Air Canada Centre – Raptors and Maple Leafs games
Day trip to Niagara Falls
Distillery District – plenty of great food and shopping + Christmas Market in the winter
St. Lawrence Market – largest food market in North America and we sadly missed it
Walk around the various neighbourhoods
Rogers Centre – Blue Jays games
Mikaela’s Tips

  • Take the UP Express from the airport right to Union Station. It’s much cheaper and more convenient than a taxi.
  • Do see Niagara Falls but make it a day trip. Staying overnight is expensive and not worth it at all.
  • For amazing Thai food, check out Pai. It was a few blocks down from the hotel and was fantastic with a low price tag. Go early as there are no reservations.
  • Ripley’s Aquarium is fantastic but draws large crowds. Go after 7pm to avoid the mayhem. It will be much better.
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