Toronto is the result of the amalgamation of 6 separate cities in 1998. It now stretches 32 km (20 miles) along the northwest shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto's climate is hot and humid in the summer and can get very cold in the winter, with lots of snow. Popular summer activities in the Toronto area include canoeing, golf, bicycling, hiking, inline skating, and camping. During the winter, Toronto opens its many outdoor ice skating rinks to the public. Nearby ski resorts are also popular.
Due to careful planning by the city's architects, Toronto is mostly a grid street pattern and getting around is very intuitive. Landmarks such as the CN Tower—North America's tallest structure—make it easy to get a sense of direction. Downtown Toronto also has an underground system of pedestrian walkways named PATH. It connects together 50 buildings, 5 subway stations, hundreds of shops and services, and a number of tourist destinations. In May 2011, Toronto launched BIXI, a bicycle sharing program in its downtown core. One can borrow a BIXI bike at one of 80 stations for 30 minutes of free travel to another station. A rental fee applies after 30 minutes.
Public Transportation: provided by Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and GO Transit
Toronto's public transit is excellent and it is easy to get around Toronto without a car. Transit is operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and service in the suburbs is handled by GO Transit. The transit system comprises of 4 subway metro lines, 11 streetcar lines, and buses. The subway runs until approximately 1:30am daily, and some bus routes operate 24 hours a day.
Cash may be used to pay the fare when boarding a bus or entering a subway station. You can save about 15% on the fare by purchasing 10 tokens at once. If you plan to travel at least 24 round trips in a month, the Monthly Metropass is the best choice and avoids the hassles of obtaining paper transfer tickets. TTC does not allow unlimited transfers within a time period of purchasing the fare, and only permits transfers at specific points in the system where two services intersect. Expect to pay a separate fare for each segment of a trip. If your trip will consist of more than 3 fare segments in one day, a day pass is more cost effective. On Saturdays and Sundays, two people can travel using one day pass.
TTC and GO Transit offer a number of bus services from Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) to Toronto and its suburbs. The subway system does not extend to the airport, but TTC offers the #192 Airport Rocket express bus to Kipling Station (Bloor-Danforth line). This bus takes about 25 minutes and daytime service is about every 10 minutes. From Kipling Station, the subway takes 25-30 minutes to get to the major transfer stations Spadina and Bloor-Yonge. From there, other subway lines provide service to downtown Toronto and its suburbs. For late night service after 2am, the #300A Bloor-Danforth bus goes to downtown Toronto in about 45 minutes. Check the TTC and GO Transit schedules for the most direct route to your destination.
Toronto's English schools are mostly located near the University of Toronto and the downtown area. Many ESL schools are conveniently located within walking distance of 2 subway lines. Getting to and from school by subway is fast and convenient.
Toronto's nightclubs are located in the Toronto Entertainment District (south of the University of Toronto) and Clubland. Bars close at 2am and the drinking age is 19. The nearest subway stations are St Andrew Station and Osgoode Station. In recent years, trendy nightclubs have also opened in suburbs of Toronto.
Tourism and Shopping
Toronto offers many tourist attractions and opportunities to shop. It is the home of numerous art galleries and museums, such as the Art Gallery of Ontario—the largest art gallery in Canada. The landmark CN Tower is over 550m (1800ft) tall and features a glass elevator that takes people to an observation deck and revolving restaurant. The famous Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada, with more than 5000 animals representing about 500 species. Yonge Street is the longest street in the world, and includes a tourist area in the downtown section south of Bloor St and 2 km of shopping further north between Eglinton Ave and Lawrence Ave. Access this shopping area from Eglinton Station or Lawrence Station. The iconic Toronto Eaton Centre is located at Yonge and Dundas St.
For those on a smaller budget, the area west of the University of Toronto on College Street is a fantastic place to find an assortment of less expensive restaurants. A variety of vintage and used clothing stores can also be found in various spots west and south of the university. On the northeast side of the university, one can find upscale shopping in the Yorkville district on Bloor St, near the Yonge-Bloor and Bay subway stations. Toronto's fashion district is located on Queen St east of Spadina Ave and is walking distance from Osgoode Station.
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in Canada, with scores of ethnic neighbourhoods. Chinatown is located around the intersection of Dundas St and Spadina Ave, very close to St Patrick subway station. In recent years, many Korean and Vietnamese restaurants and shops have also opened in this area. Greektown is located on Danforth Ave east of Don River and can be accessed from Chester Station or Pape Station. Heading southeast, the India Bazaar can be found on Gerrard Street on the #506 College/Carlton TTC streetcar line. Featuring colourful fabric and exotic food, this is the largest South Asian bazaar in North America. Other large ethnic clusters further from downtown Toronto include Little Italy, Corso Italia, Koreatown, the Jewish Forest Hill, the Irish Cabbagetown, and the Polish Roncesvalles Village.
Places to Visit and Things to Do
The nearest major U.S. city is Buffalo, about 2 hours by car and 3 hours by inter-city shuttle bus. The closest place for cheap shopping over the Canada-USA border is in the American city of Niagara Falls at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. New York City is also a popular U.S. destination, and shuttle bus service takes about 11 hours from Toronto. Heading north, the Canadian capital of Ottawa is about a 4.5 hour drive from Toronto.
Toronto is surrounded by resort destinations, most within a 2-3 hour drive. They are popular in the summer as day trip destinations and for overnight stays. One can visit beaches, go camping, sample wine at various wineries, see wildlife, experience nature, and do many outdoor activities. Some examples of popular parks and resort towns are Prince Edward County, Niagara Falls, Sandbanks Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Sibbald Point Provincial Park, Wasaga Beach, Sauble Beach, Muskoka region, Grand Bend, and Long Point. In the winter, Collingwood is the place to go for skiing and snowboarding. Most destinations require a car to get to, but the GO Transit Lakeshore Rail Line from Union Station can be used to see a few of these places or get you part of the way there.
For transit-friendly day trips within Toronto, High Park and Rouge Park offer the chance to experience wilderness and nature without travelling very far. Cherry Beach is a popular beach destination and is served by the #72 and #172 bus routes. Casa Loma, Canada's most famous castle, is located in Toronto and features turrets, stables, gardens, and a secret tunnel. It is located next to St Clair West subway station. Centre Island (also known as Toronto Island) is a family-friendly area with an amusement park geared towards kids. Adults usually go bicycling, swimming, or kayaking while at the island.