There is no question about it. Toronto (www.seetorontonow.com), Canada’s largest city, is a great place to spend time at any point during the year. My family and I go there at least once a year, generally staying in the downtown area. Between the multiple attractions, live musical theatre, great shopping and fine dining opportunities there is never a dull moment.
HOCKEY HALL OF FAME: For more than two decades I have been visiting Toronto (www.seetorontonow.com) at least once a year. There were times that for work purposes I’d be there as often as once a month, yet for some reason I never made it a priority to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame (www.hhof.com). During my most recent stop, I made it a priority to place this on my agenda. It is located downtown in Brookfield Place at the corner of Yonge and Front Streets.
Visitors are told to pretty much allocate several hours to explore Toronto’s premier hockey attraction and I did just that. Montreal fans will enjoy experiencing a replica of the Canadiens dressing room at the old Forum, complete with sweaters of such greats as Ken Dryden and Guy Lafleur. There are small and large TV monitors in various sections and the Habs room you can hear the golden voice of our very own Dick Irvin narrating a film about Stanley Cup dynasties.
Guests can take shots at real-time goalies (I scored on one of five shots), stop the shots of legends Gretzky and Messier, call the play-by-play of some of hockey’s greatest goals (I chose a Guy Lafleur goal to describe), view hockey flicks like Stanley’s Game Seven, (hockey’s first 3D film and 30 minutes of great entertainment) in one of two theatres, get up close and personal with the Stanley Cup and explore the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world. There are separate sections for international hockey, the old World Hockey Association and vintage jerseys from teams which no longer exist. If you are a student of the game, you will spend a lot more time here. There is so much history to read and analyze, such as the space allocated for Hall of Fame inductees. This is a museum and entertainment destination like no other, one suited for the whole family and kids of all ages!
The Hockey Hall of Fame was established in 1943 to honour and memorialize individuals who have brought special distinction to the game of hockey and those who made outstanding contributions to the development and advancement of hockey anywhere in the world, and to collect, research, preserve, exhibit and promote objects, images and other historical materials connected with the game at all levels.
On June 18, 1993, the Hall opened the doors of its current home in Brookfield Place (formerly BCE Place). The new $35 million facility comprised 57,000 square feet, including 10,000 square feet in the magnificently restored Bank of Montreal building, with the balance in the Shopping/Food Court Concourse level at BCE Place. This quickly established a reputation as a world-class sports and entertainment facility and one of Toronto’s prime tourist attractions, with over 500,000 visitors in its first year.
General admission is $17.50. It is $11 for youth (four to 13), $13 for seniors (65 and over) and free for children under three. The entrance is conveniently located right next to a large food court.
CANADA’s WONDERLAND: During the summer make it a point to visit Canada’s Wonderland (www.canadas-wonderland.com), this country’s premier theme park with over 200 attractions, 68 thrilling rides, North America’s greatest variety of roller coasters, and Splash Works, a 20-acre water park featuring over two million gallons of heated water fun.
ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE: Also check out the Ontario Science Centre (www.ontariosciencecentre.ca), home to interactive experiences with science and technology. This place not only develops and sources the world’s best exhibitions – supplemented with relevant programming to provide engaging experiences – but it aims to make a fundamental difference in the lives of visitors by providing them the skills and attributes to create a better future for the planet.
The Science Centre aims to enrich people’s lives and their understanding by engaging them in science that is important on local, national and global scales. They do this by offering top science experiences, memorable exhibitions, engaging programs and breathtaking films so that visitors can do far more than observe. They can interact and participate.
Built into the slope of the Don Valley, the Science Centre contains an array of inspiring spaces. The Weston Family Innovation Centre puts discovery, literally, in the hands of visitors – and in spring 2012 evolved with all-new, fascinating exhibits. KidSpark is the extremely popular hall designed for children under eight to learn, explore and create.
In Space, find the wonders of the galaxy, the quests of astronauts and a state-of-the-art planetarium. A Question of Truth challenges beliefs and Mindworks delves into the mysteries of the human brain. Living Earth delivers natural wonder, including a simulated tornado and a full rainforest environment. The Science Arcade is a fan favorite with a complete hands-on science experience that includes the famous electricity demo. A rich variety of programming is presented throughout the year. And of course, they have what is still Ontario’s only IMAX® Dome theatre – reason in itself to visit.
NEW SHOPPING EXPERIENCE: Premium Outlets held its grand opening in August 2013 and became the first Premium Outlet mall in Canada. With 79 centres internationally, this upscale outlet mall features over 85 stores including Kate Spade, Coach, and Michael Kors. Simon’s Premium Outlets are centres where shoppers can expect impressive collections of high quality outlet stores from the finest brands in unique outdoor settings and savings of 25 to 65 percent every day. torontopremiumoutlets.ca
King Tours operates a daily shuttle service from Toronto’s Union Station to the new Premium Outlet Shopping Centre. The $30 roundtrip ticket includes a VIP Coupon Book and schedule information. torontotours.ca/vip. Meanwhile, Vaughan Mills outlet mall and shopping centre has an $87- million redevelopment and expansion project. Once completed, Vaughan Mills will
feature 19 major tenants and 250 stores, creating an unprecedented retail mix in Canada within 118,000 square metres (1.27 million square feet) of retail space. The east side of the property will accommodate 50 new retailers and the centre’s interior and exterior architectural appeal will be enhanced. The opening of the expansion in 2014 will mark Vaughan Mills’ 10-year anniversary. Log on to www.vaughanmills.com.
THE ACQUARIUM: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada opened its doors to the public on October 16th, 2013. I did not see it on my most recent trip, but heard good reports. The 135,000 sq. foot (12,500 sq. metre) interactive attraction showcases more than 16,000 marine animals and over 450 species. Features include a musically accompanied jelly fish exhibit, Planet Jellies; the Dangerous Lagoon’s underwater tunnel showcasing sharks, sea turtles, and stingray; touch pools with horseshoe crabs, stingrays, and bamboo sharks; rare and unique lobsters and daily live dive shows. Log on to www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada.
MUSICALS: Thanks to the presence of Mirvish Entertainment (www.mirvish.com), Toronto is the envy of every city in Canada as it regularly has Broadway calibre productions on tap at its numerous venues in the downtown area.
WHERE TO STAY: I like to stay downtown when visiting Toronto and for my family nothing beats a two bedroom suite at The Grand Hotel and Suites (www.grandhoteltoronto.com), located at the corner of Jarvis and Dundas. This is a great area to select as a base for it is in such a dynamic location. First and foremost, the amazing Eaton Centre (www.torontoeatoncentre.com) is just a few blocks away. Besides its endless array of stores and kiosks, there is an Indigo bookstore, a number of restaurants and the busy urban eatery food court, which can serve your dinner needs at good prices on a daily basis. Dundas Square, across the street, is Toronto’s answer to Times Square and always full of action. The Theatre District is nearby. We took advantage of the hotel’s daytime shuttle service, which took us door to door wherever we wanted to go.
The Grand Hotel and Suites is only 14 years old and still looks spanking new. It features 177 extraordinary guest suites. For families, the junior two bedroom suites feature spacious living room/work areas separated from the two bedroom areas by sets of double French glass doors with vertical blinds. The bedrooms areas contain king and queen size beds, LCD TVs and dual-line telephones with data port. A separate living area contains a double sofabed, TV, DVD Player, CD Player and a work desk with a dual-line telephone. There is a fully equipped kitchenette with a microwave, fridge, coffeemaker and cutlery. We got one of the recently refurbished second floor rooms.
You can slip into a plush bathrobe, use the iron and ironing board and enjoy the convenience of the laptop size in-room safe.
There is complimentary wireless internet access in each room. Indeed this place has all of the comforts of home and more, which is why many guests capitalize on the options of extended stay packages for 21 consecutive days or more. The kitchenette is a definite bonus and something kosher guests in particular will find useful as they can prepare some of their own meals. A very large Metro supermarket is just a block and and a half away. The suite has ample cupboard space to pack away the groceries.
All guests get to enjoy a splendid breakfast buffet, free of charge, with an extensive array of items to choose from. There is also a fitness centre, the two-storey neo-classical pool indoor pool (surrounded by exquisite hand painted murals) and two whirlpools on the rooftop garden, which provides a panoramic view of Toronto. The latter is a real plus and an area guests take advantage of year-round, even with below zero temperatures. When darkness falls, movies and television shows are piped on to a large white screen.
There is 24 hour room service, twice-daily maid service, valet and underground parking , a friendly concierge, a restaurant, 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a fully equipped business centre. Shuttle services are available to anywhere in the financial core. Make sure to bring your Aeroplan card in order to earn 500 miles per night.
Having the two distinct bedrooms and the middle area was a bonus I would recommend for a family spending multiple days together in a hotel room, providing just the necessary privacy.
DINNER: The Shore Club (www.theshoreclub.ca) on Wellington Street turned out to be a real treat. It is owned by noted restaurateur David Aisenstat, who was born and bred into the industry. He first learned his chops from his father Hy Aisenstat, founder of the famous Hy’s Steakhouse chain. His ability to recognize and retain talented people, and his passion for art and design, combine for what have been consecutively successful ventures in the industry. He has since continued on to become a legendary restaurateur in his own right, as the owner of The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, Hy’s Steakhouse Cocktail Bar , Gotham Steakhouse and Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House (www.joefortes.ca) in downtown Vancouver
A vibrant restaurant and cocktail bar offering up lively ambiance, The Shore Club (which also has an Ottawa locale) is memorable for its atmosphere, professional service and outstanding cuisine. Located in the new RBC Dexia Centre, the restaurant is situated in Toronto’s bustling Entertainment District and is just steps away from prominent cultural venues such as Roy Thomson Hall, David Pecaut Square and TIFF Bell Lightbox, making it an ideal pre-performance dinner destination. It’s also within walking distance of the financial district, Rogers Centre and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.Valet parking is available next door at the Ritz Carlton.
My family and I had dined at Joe Fortes last summer, so we knew we were in for an outstanding culinary experience. We started off by sharing an amazing Single Tier Seafood Tower featuring a king crab dip, won ton, oysters, clams, mussels and jumbo shrimp while also opting for the grilled marinated wild mushrooms. The menu includes numerous other sumptuous choices such as fried calamari, steamed clams, dungeness crab cake, apple cider smoked salmon and vanilla-battered prawns. There are a number of soups and salads. As for the main courses, you have a choice between seafood specialties such as salmon wellington, maple-glazed king salmon, smoked Alaskan black cod, herb-dusted sea bass and stuffed rainbow trout and steakhouse favorites like the New York strip, filet mignon, braised short ribs and double-cut lamb chops. As for sides and add-ons, there are no less than 21 selections from mashed potatoes and steakhouse fries to tempura-battered onion rings, fresh asparagus and braised fennel. We all went the steak and lobster route, enjoying every morsel of each. Yes, we saved just enough room for some of the home made desserts : a spectacular Black Forest cake and some keylime pie.
With its luxurious, contemporary décor, The Shore Club elevates dining to a true feast for the senses. The interior, curated by renowned designer Elaine Thorsell, pays homage to art deco ocean liners, boasting soaring ceilings, a palette of cool blue and green hues and stunning original artwork.
An interesting collection of artwork adorns the wood panel and suede walls. Whether guests are in the cocktail bar, main restaurant or dining room, beautiful works of art complement the ambiance, impeccable service and classic surf and turf fare.
The lounge features a spectacular work by celebrated Canadian artist David Bierk, whose paintings incorporate both eclectic and well-known works by masters such as Vermeer, Ingres and Manet. In this case, he draws inspiration from ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer, altering the scale of the original and juxtaposing it with his own moody, turbulent landscape that evokes similar scenes by connoisseurs of the genre such as Turner.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for a really fun place to spend the evening, then head to Dave & Busters (www.daveandbusters.com) at 120 Interchange Way in Vaughn. This gigantic restaurant/arcade/bar had a $3 million renovation last summer and added several hundred new seats for dining, meaning it can accommodate close to 3,000 people at a time. Enjoy the fun menu and then head out to test out the endless array of games. At one time there was reportedly talk that a D&B would surface at the downtown Pepsi Forum in Montreal. We are still waiting.