Two years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Ontario, to see the Major League Soccer Championship game. I wasn’t much of a soccer fan at the time, but my sports-loving (and brilliant) boyfriend won a World Cup pool through work, and the grand prize was a trip for two to see the game at Toronto’s BMO Field. This was my first trip to Canada, and I had no idea what to expect, but I was definitely down for an adventure.
We arrived on a Friday, checked into the hotel and set out to explore. Our first stop was The Distillery District at Parliament and Mill Streets, which came highly recommended from a friend. Established in 1832, the district offers artist studios, restaurants and bars, galleries and other small shops nestled into beautiful brick-walled buildings. In want of a bit of shelter from the cold and already a little worn out from walking, we stopped at Mill Street Brewpub, east Toronto’s first commercial brewery to open in more than 100 years. The place had great drinks and an awesome atmosphere—it was the perfect place to people-watch, take in our surroundings and get a first-timers feel for the city.
After a drink or two at the brewpub, we made our way west down King Street in search of dinner. It was our goal to find a restaurant that was uniquely Canadian and, after a thorough search through a local travel guide, decided on a place called Beast, which boasted a menu that changes weekly and some interesting animal-based dishes. Although the food was excellent, I think what I loved most about this restaurant was how out of the way it was. We got terribly lost trying to find it, but because of that ended up walking through Toronto’s theater district and seeing more of the city than we had originally planned. The restaurant itself was on a residential-type street, taking over the first floor of what used to be a single-family home. It was small and intimate and a definite hidden gem.
On Saturday, we woke up early, rented a car and drove down to Niagara Falls. It was a beautiful November day, and the drive was an easy one. If you have never seen the falls, I suggest you add it to your bucket list, as they are awe-inspiring. Massive, loud and incredibly humbling, Niagara Falls exudes beauty and power all at once. It was hypnotizing, thus why I took what felt like a million pictures (the one at the left is my favorite).
On the drive back, we made a very important stop at the Hockey Hall of Fame. If my “I Heart Hockey” post hadn’t tipped you off, I am quite a fan of the sport. The Hall of Fame features 60,000 square feet of hockey artifacts from around the world, plus hands-on games, theaters and, perhaps most importantly, the Stanley Cup. There was so much to see and do and learn; I wished I had begun following the sport at an earlier age so it wasn’t all so new to me. The museum celebrates the history of hockey, from its origins in Canada and the United States through team relocations and renamings, Olympic miracles and legendary players, to the sport we know and love today. I left not just a bigger hockey fan, but one with an increased knowledge of the sport and a greater respect for those who play the game.
For dinner that night, we were fortunate enough to have reservations at 360, the restaurant at the CN Tower. Sitting at more than 1,100 feet above the ground, the restaurant makes slow revolutions, providing diners a complete view of Toronto as they eat. It was as spectacular as you might imagine, a delicious multi-course meal surrounded by a sea of twinkling lights. The tower also features an outdoor observation deck and a glass floor that gives a slightly terrifying (but apparently very safe) view of the ground below.
Sunday was our final full day in Toronto, and we did our best to make the most of it. A bus tour showed us the main attractions we hadn’t yet had the chance to see, including the university and Chinatown, and a Christmas parade through the main city streets put us in the holiday spirit. Then it was time for the main event: the MLS Championships. Our hosts were incredibly generous, providing us with box seats, food and drinks, and despite the freezing temperature we spent much of our time in the outside seats, taking in the whole atmosphere of the game. Although I had no allegiance to either team, it was still fun to cheer along with the crowd and pretend I had any idea about players’ names, penalty kicks and whatever else was going on down on the field.
All in all, it was an incredible trip. Old-fashioned building, hard-to-find restaurants and ones way up in the sky, hockey, soccer, magnificent falls… the city is full of history and excitement. To this day, Toronto remains one of my favorite places to visit, and I can’t wait to make a return trip someday.