Toronto is as cosmopolitan as they come. To newcomers, Toronto may seem like just another big city. Downtown is dotted with skyscrapers, the city's streets are bustling with people on the go and the public transportation system is top-notch. But lift up the hood of Canada's biggest city and you'll find there's more to the eye than an amazing skyline. Toronto is considered one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with more than half the population born outside of the city. Toronto houses 200 ethnic groups that speak upward of 140 different languages, making this Ontario destination a world all its own. With Greektown, Little Italy, Koreatown and Chinatown all within city limits, travelers may feel as if they've seen more than a couple of countries after a visit to Toronto.
The city is also home to one of the tallest freestanding towers in the world, the CN Tower, and the world's largest underground shopping mall, PATH. But aside from visiting its biggest attractions, Toronto should be experienced like any other big city: sipping a cocktail in a corner restaurant, browsing multicultural shops on quirky neighborhood blocks and hopping on and off the subway for a night on the town.
The best times to visit Toronto are late April through May and September through October. Peak tourist season occurs during the summer months: the sidewalks come alive with pedestrian marketplaces, patio restaurants and numerous cultural events. However, as temperatures rise, so do prices. If you're looking to save money on hotels, pack a parka and book your trip during the wintertime. If you want lower prices and temperatures above freezing, spring and fall are your best bet.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Though English and French are Canada's two official languages, you'll also likely hear Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi and Tagalog, a language of the Philippines, among others. This is all thanks to Toronto's diverse residents and ever-increasing immigrant population.
Perhaps the biggest difference American travelers will encounter is the use of the Canadian dollar and the international metric system. One U.S. dollar is equal to about CA$1.30, but since the exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check it before your trip. You can avoid confusion by familiarizing yourself with Canadian currency. Coins are in denominations of $2, $1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10 and $0.05. Canadian dollar coins are called "loonies;" two dollar coins are called "toonies." Paper bills are in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5. You can dodge high exchange fees by withdrawing Canadian money directly from an ATM in Toronto. Along with differences in currency, you'll also encounter some disparities in how temperatures, distance and weights are measured (in metric units); distance is measured in kilometers – pay close attention to this if you've decided to rent a car.
It should go without saying that one of the world's most multicultural cities holds the same distinction for its dining scene. There are so many foodie enclaves worth exploring here that you may have to plan another trip or two to sample the city's robust palate. Not only does Toronto have a Little Italy but there's also Chinatown, a Koreatown, a Greektown, as well as a Little Iran in North York and Little Portugal about 2 miles west of downtown. What's more, the Bazaar neighborhood serves up some top-notch Indian and Middle Eastern fare. Roncesvalles Village (formerly referred to as Little Poland), is known for its Eastern European eateries and independent coffee shops, not to mention its popular annual Little Poland festival in September. Luckily, no matter which area of town you choose to visit, locals assure that good food isn't hard to come by in this city.
Those looking for a one-stop-shop should focus their appetites on two locales: the St. Lawrence Market in Old Town and the Kensington Market. The St. Lawrence Market is a big foodie hot spot, not to mention a Torontonian institution that sells a delectable mix of Canadian classics and international dishes. You can't leave without sampling a traditional peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery, or stopping by the locally beloved Churrascos, a Portuguese stall famous for its chicken. There's also St. Urbain Bagel Bakery, which serves bagels baked in a wood-burning oven, Buster's Sea Cove (get the fish and chips) and Uno Mustachio (try the veal and eggplant parmigiana sandwich).
Kensington Market is a microcosm of Toronto's vast dining scene, to say the least. Take a trip down some of the neighborhood's central thoroughfares and you're sure to find the most unlikely of neighbors. Rasta Pasta, a Jamaican-Italian fusion eatery sits next to Seven Lives, which sells California-style tacos, on Kensington Avenue. One block over, try vegan Urban Herbivore, Wanda's Pie in the Sky shop and Otto's Berlin Döner, which sells Berlin-style doner kebabs and currywurst. There's also a variety of Asian fare, including Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants all within a two-block radius of each other near the main Spadina Avenue.
Fine dining isn't a big force in Toronto's dining scene, but that doesn't it's absent from the city's culinary landscape. For fine dining with a side of vistas, head over to Canoe, often regarded as one of Canada's best restaurants. Located on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower, Canoe serves a multicourse seafood menu for lunch and dinner. There's also James Beard award-winning chef David Chang's famous Momofuku Noodle Bar restaurant, which serves fine dining-quality fare for a fraction of the price.
The best way to get around Toronto is by public transportation. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) runs three modes – subway, streetcar and bus – which operate extensive routes throughout the city and suburbs. You will need a token or a pass to travel on TTC; day and week passes allow for unlimited rides on all three forms of public transport. The subway also connects the city to the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), as do taxis. However, you can expect to pay around CA$50 to CA$70 (about $38 to $54) for a cab, while the subway will cost just CA$3.25 (around $2.50).See details for Getting Around
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A valid passport is required for citizens of the United States traveling outside the mainland, as well as for U.S. citizens trying to re-enter the country. If you are planning to drive, you can also use a NEXUS card, which allows for expedited border crossings for both private and commercial travelers through Canadian and U.S. border controls. For more information, visit the U.S. State Department website .
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