Traveling in Toronto

“Why Toronto?”

I got that question a lot when talking about the bachelorette party I planned for my best friend of over 20 years. When thinking about a trip that would properly celebrate Kim, I wanted a destination that was as unique as her – someone who lived a year in Argentina (read about our adventures in Buenos Aires and Mendoza) and spent six weeks in India, among many other worldly travels.

Toronto was a short flight from Chicago, where the bride-to-be lives, and the more I researched it, the more sure I was that it would make for a great trip. The city definitely delivered!

The digs
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment that was in a great location just a few blocks from the waterfront and a short walk to the CN Tower (balcony view below). Like my previous Airbnb stays, it was nice to have a home base with more space to relax. I have a tendency to fall in love with everywhere I visit and it’s that much easier to imagine living somewhere when you’re staying in an apartment versus a hotel.

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The eats
Many of my favorite memories with Kim surround meals we’ve shared. This trip would prove to be no different as everything we ate was pretty much delicious, starting with a Nutella pastry from the Tim Horton’s across from our Airbnb. Other highlights included:

  • WVRST – Multiple friends recommended this restaurant, self-described as “sausage hall and other wonders.” I tried the kangaroo, which felt weird to order but tasted great. Realistically, though, we could have just had the duck fat fries with our various dipping sauces and been perfectly satisfied.
  • The Elm Tree – This was a super cute spot with a great wait staff and modern Mediterranean menu. My steak frites were delicious (are you picking up on my fry addiction yet?!) as was the burrata appetizer we split.
  • Afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton – I don’t drink tea but after enjoying my high tea experience in London, I was interested to see how this would compare. The treats were perfectly dainty and delicious and I ended up picking a tea I didn’t hate (read: I actually drank an entire cup).
  • Toula – Located 38 floors up in the Westin right on the waterfront, Toula offers a 360-degree view of Toronto. I made our reservation so that we would be there during sunset. While the tall buildings blocked our view of the sun, it was beautiful watching the sky morph from bright blue to shades of red, pink and purple. We also had a great view of the CN Tower lit up for Pride, which was that day. The food was also great but the service was a little slow.

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The things to do
The CN Tower dominates the skyline and is seemingly always in sight. We decided against going up though, partly to avoid wasting time in line and partly because we knew our dinner Sunday night would have a (somewhat) comparable view.

Instead, we ventured to the St. Lawrence Market and wandered our way through more than 100 booths. We settled on some meats and cheeses to take with us on our beach trip as well as some ice wine from Peller Estates for the apartment. The wine was pretty unique and had a syrupy texture that made me want to pour it over ice cream or a piece of cheesecake.

Sunday morning, we took the ferry to Hanlan’s Pointe on Toronto Island. And because it was a bachelorette party, it’s only appropriate that we ended up at a clothing optional beach (naked men – check!). It was much less crowded than what I imagine Centre Island would have been, at least based on the size of the ferry going that direction versus ours. The couple hours we spent out there were super relaxing and we got an awesome view of the cityscape on the ferry ride.

I also snuck in a three-mile run Saturday morning on the Waterfront Trail — my second time logging international miles!

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The nightlife
We arrived on Canada Day and posted up on the patio of Macho, just a block down from our place, to watch the fireworks. After that, we walked to King Street West where there are a ton of bars. The first spot we tried was only offering a $1,000 bottle service minimum. No thanks! Luckily our waiter earlier in the night recommended Early Mercy, which had a reasonable $10 cover and a decent enough DJ. A quick stop in Locals Only across the street rounded out our first night in the city.

The second night was devoted to Kim’s love of Latin dancing. My extensive research turned up El Rancho, a salsa club on College Street that ended up being the perfect spot. We danced for a solid four hours, spinning and sweating our way through salsa, bachata, merengue and reggaeton. It was seriously the best time ever and I loved watching my BFF in her happy place.

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After such a fun weekend, my response to the question is now “Why not Toronto?”