48 Hours in Toronto: Things to do

Last weekend, we decided on the spur of the moment to travel to Toronto for the Easter Long Weekend. Even though it was a long weekend, we flew standby therefore we unfortunately actually missed all of Friday, however I am happy to share our 48 hours in Toronto and key things to do there and the cost involved.

Toronto is always colder than the West Coast, therefore I suggest you wrap up and hat and gloves are a must.

Travel

We traveled to Toronto with WestJet Airlines. As we traveled via standby I cannot confirm the regular pricing of the flights, however an average cost of flights between Vancouver & Toronto is approximately $400 return per person if you book in advance. The average flight time is 4 hours and 30 minutes, although it does really depend on the weather. Going to Toronto we flew in 4 hours and 5 minutes and coming back to Vancouver it took us 5 hours and 15 minutes.

If you don’t want to avail of an Uber or a Yellow Cab to bring you downtown to your destination, there is a quite affordable UP Train from the Airport and it takes approximately 25 minutes.

When you leave the terminal follow the signs for “Train to the City”. This will bring you to a small station which has ZERO signs as to how you should pay for the travel etc. This is because this initial “train” is free, as it only travels between the airport terminals and the Pearson Station. (If you happen to be on this train, and you go forward and all of a sudden the train goes in a backward direction – fear not, that’s the way it travels).

Once you get to the Pearson station, that’s where you purchase your tickets for the UP Train. Once way ticket is $12.50. You are looking to get to the Union Station. The last train leaves the airport at 11pm EST. From Union station you can transfer to any other subway or bus you need to, to get to your destination. Subway is $3.25 for one way ticket.

Union Station is absolutely stunning, it is like a smaller version of Grand Central Station in New York.

Accommodation

We stayed in the Sheraton Center Toronto Hotel which is located on Queen street, right across the road from Nathan Phillips Sq. in Toronto Old Town. The pricing of their rooms vary based on dates and days of the week, however an average price per night is approximately $399 per night + tax.

This hotel has incredible views of the city, if you decide to stay here, make sure to ask for a high floor. I believe the hotel has approximately 45 floors, and ask the staff to allocate you a room facing the square. Not only you will have beautiful sunsets, but also can see the giant Toronto Sign, the Old City Hall and we were lucky enough to see fireworks, due to an event taking place at the square during our stay.

The hotel offers room service, valet parking and they have a gym and a pool. (Pool is currently undergoing renovations, therefore unavailable until approximately July of 2022).

View of Nathan Phillips Sq. from Sheraton Centre Hotel Toronto
Things to see

I am going to divide this trip between things to see and things to do. In my opinion things to see, are things you should see (obviously!) but they are not necessarily activities that will take you time, therefore walking by will completely suffice.

Nathan Phillips Square

As mentioned above its a Square located in Old Town Toronto, on which you will find the giant Toronto Sign and is illuminated at night. One downside to this, is the area around this sign is currently blocked off by barriers, therefore if you want to be in the photo, the barriers will be too. Besides this, the Old City Town Hall right across from it, is a beautiful architectural piece.

St. Lawrence Market

This is a market consisting of various stalls selling food, drinks and all sorts of local items and handmade goods. If you are from Vancouver, this reminds me of Granville Island Market or Grand Central Market in LA, in fact its bigger but doesn’t have the same atmosphere as Granville Market does.

Saturday mornings are the busiest and of course that’s when we visited. Unless you are looking to do some shopping or are on the hunt for a coffee or breakfast this is a good place to walk by on your way to the Distillery District.

Flatrion of Toronto

Distillery District

Another beautiful place, which actually reminds me of downtown Manchester. Covered in fairy lights, red bricks and cobble stone streets this is definitely a perfect spot for photos and a beer. It has quite a few small artisan stores which you can browse through, however again unless you are shopping or looking to drink at the brewery there’s not much to do here.

Distillery District Toronto

Graffiti Alley

This is a back street spreading over couple of blocks with elaborate graffiti all over. At first the street looks a little dodgy, as it is a back lane to a lot of small stores and restaurants, and lets face it – you will most likely encounter a character or two, while I wouldn’t go there alone, there appear to be people walking along it looking at the graffiti, so you are always seem to be around people.

Things to Do

Kensington Market

We weren’t sure whether we were going to make it there given time constrains, however we stumbled upon it randomly. The market and the stores are actually in individual homes which makes it look quirky. The market spreads over two perpendicular streets and it has a great vibe. A lot of hipster stores, foreign, exotic restaurants and beats popping around. We even bumped into Crash Adams there and their red couch!

CN Tower

I thought I’d include this in the post, given its like the main attraction in Toronto – the “iconic” tower, however having been in Dubai and lots of other places, this is like any other tower. It gives you a view of the city, however being close to the financial district, you are mostly seeing other sky scrapers and the Ontario Lake. It has been said that on a good day you might be able to see Niagara Falls, but given its a 1.5h drive from Toronto, it is very unlikely. I wasn’t totally impressed, but anyway we did it. The cost of admission to the tower is $43 per person + tax. There is an option to go 10 floors up for a Glass Floor experience, and that will cost you additional $15 per person + tax.

Tip: If you dine at the 360 Restaurant in the Tower, you will get access to the viewing deck for free.

Additionally, there is an option to do the Edge Walk – this is for the thrill seekers. It is a 360 walk around the tower, outside along the edge of the building. This is obviously supervised and you are in a harness.

View from the CN Tower, Toronto

Royal Ontario Museum

This was optional on my list however we got a City Pass (read more about City Pass at the end of this article) for the time we were there as it worked out better financially, therefore we went on the morning of our departure. It was a great call to go, as it is truly impressive. The Museum is huge, with 4 different levels and at each level there is a different collection. Things you can expect from your visit: Collection of interiors throughout various times and styles such as modern, rococo, baroque etc. Continental developments throughout the centuries such as: beauty items, clothing, crockery and silverware, weapons etc. from Europe, Asia, Middle East and so on as well as extinct animals. This is only a tip of the iceberg. We were there for just over 2 hours and we still had 2 levels we didn’t even visit. This is a great activity to do with children – they have a lot of interactive displays which keep children engaged and occupied.

Admission to the museum is $23.00 + tax per adult and $14.00 + tax per child aged 4-14.

Tip: If you are on a budget but would still like to visit the museum, they currently have a Free Exhibition Called My Pandemic Story, which covers the last two years and stories from people from various backgrounds and their circumstances which is very interesting.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Now, this was my favorite thing to do in Toronto hands down. The aquarium is full of beautiful, colorful species of fish, turtles and sharks. The way its made, is very interactive for children as well as adults. They have huge tanks where you can see all the fish clearly, as well as moving path, that will carry you underneath the tank and you can view all the turtles and sharks swimming above your head for an added wow factor.

One downside is that there was no crowd control there, there were people everywhere, on top of each other and since its an attraction aimed at families there were a lot of crying children at all times which can dampen the overall experience.

Admission price per adult is $44 + tax and for children: $12.50 + tax aged 3-5 and $29 + tax for children aged 6-13.

Seahorse in Ripley's Aquarium

Niagara Falls

The falls are definitely a must see while you are on that side of the world as they are located only 1.5h from downtown Toronto. The “admission” to the Falls is free. They are literally just below a pathway in Niagara Falls Town. What will actually cost you if is you want to do the Journey Behind the Falls Tour, which is basically a tour that will bring you one level below the public access where you can take pictures. This costs $25 + tax per person.

Additionally, there are variety of other tours you can do, such as boat tours to the bottom of the falls or helicopter tours – this will all depend on your choice and your budget.

How to dress for Niagara Falls?

You do not need to wear waterproof gear whatsoever if you are going to view the falls only from the public access at the top (see photo below for reference).

It is only when you wish to do the boat tour or Journey Behind the Falls that i would suggest you bring a change of clothes or wear rain gear. Journey Behind Falls will provide you with a plastic poncho, however i am not sure how dry that will keep you.

How to get to Niagara Falls from downtown Toronto?

Well, there are variety of ways – you can book an organized tour from Toronto. This is usually organized by your concierge at the hotel or a tourist office. This may be a package for a bus + boat tour to the bottom of the falls. (I am just spitballing the ideas right now). However if you are happy to simply get there and see the falls and walk around on your own terms, the best thing to do is book a bus with Safeway Tours. This is a tour bus that is “technically” aimed at people who wish to go to the Falls View Hotel Casino to play slot games for the day, however there are no restrictions around it. The bus is $35 per person return and it drops you at the Falls View Hotel, which is right across from the Falls. Therefore no walking or wandering around is required. They have a set schedule and 4 pick up locations around downtown Vancouver. All you need to do is phone them and book the bus time and your desired pick up location.

HorseShoe Falls, Niagara Falls
HorseShoe Falls, Niagara Falls

Neighborhoods to See

We didn’t get a chance to see everything we wanted, because 2 days is not enough if you are using one of them on visit to the falls, however some other neighborhoods worth viewing would be Little Italy for food & drinks, Little Portugal for amazing pastries and Little India for aromatic dinner and general walkabout.

Food

There are two places which we have found completely randomly, that I feel deserve a shout out given the food quality and flavors!

Hey Lucy Restaurant

Located on King Street in Old Town Toronto, this Wood Fired Pizza joint, is amazing. They don’t only serve pizza’s – their pastas are to die for an while this was a completely random choice, we couldn’t be happier. It has vibes of a narrow lounge or a dive bar, but its far from.

Ikkousha Ramen Toronto

This little Ramen Place on Queen Street offers delicious Ramen Soups and it was exactly what we needed after a full day of being out in the cold. They have two locations couple doors from each other one with chicken based broths and one with pork based broths therefore perfect catering for those who do not eat pork.

How to save money on tourist attractions in Toronto?

One way to do this is to buy the City Pass. You can Purchase the City Pass at any of the participating tourist attractions. We purchased the City Pass at the entrance to the CN Tower. What does it do and how much is it? The City Pass was actually on sale during our visit, therefore we paid $98.00 + tax per person, which came to a total of $220 after taxes for both of us.

The City Pass gives you access to the following attractions:

  • CN Tower – Only the “basic” access level. For the glass floor level, it will be additional $15 per person + tax (Time Slot Booking Required)
  • Ripley’s Aquarium (Time Slot Booking Not Required)
  • Royal Ontario Museum (Time Slot Booking Not Required)
  • Casa Loma
  • Toronto Zoo or Ontario Science Centre

It is worth getting the pass even if you are only visiting two attractions, as you will be saving some dollars. The pass comes as a card with a QR Code, once you scan the code the website will walk you through each attraction and advise whether or not reservations are required. The pass is valid for nine days from the day of the purchase, therefore you have plenty of time to use it without having to rush.

We have used only 3 out of the 5 allowed attractions, therefore we actually left the passes behind in the hotel with reception, for someone else to make use out of – since there were still 7 days left on them.

If you have any questions or have an upcoming Toronto trip planned, let me know and I will be happy to help in anyway I can!

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Toronto for the Weekend. Things to do.

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