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Friday Night: Around Town
After checking in to our hotel, we decided to walk to the lakefront and take the ferry to Centre Island. On our way there we passed CN Tower (more below) and walked through the Simcoe Tunnel.
The Simcoe Tunnel links the downtown area to the lakefront. Currently, artists are busy painting these amazing murals! I would love to see it when it is completed.
Artists were working late into the night!
I had read that the view of the Toronto skyline at sunset was beautiful so we for sure wanted to see it. Unfortunately, we took our sweet time lollygagging our way to the terminal (see above) and ended up on the ferry after dark. (I’m easily distracted these days, and there was tons of people watching and sightseeing along the lakefront!) As you can see, the Toronto skyline at night is gorgeous! I am so glad we took the time to see it from across the lake.
The view from the ferry is amazing- and exactly the skyline view I was anxious to see, since I am missing Chicago lately. The tall red tower is CN Tower, which is a 1,815 foot tall communications and observation tower. Visitors can take the inner-elevator to the top to see 360 degree views of the city, airport, islands and Lake Ontario. The very daring can walk along the edge (OMGGGGG) of the tower -OUTSIDE- if they feel like tempting fate. We did NOT do this. <scream> If this interests you, you should probably book your Edgewalk experience in advance. Does this look terrific or terrifying to you? I’m on the side of “terrifying.” This is a nopety-nope-nope from me.
Centre Island is one of the three Toronto Islands: Centre, Hanlan’s and Ward’s. Ferry tickets can be purchased online or at the gate, and at $7.87 for adults, $5.16 for students and seniors, $3.80 under 14, free under 2, they are very reasonably priced. With gardens, parks, and the Centreville amusement park, Centre Island has the most to do. Many families go for the day, packing a picnic or eating at one of the few restaurants. We honestly thought it would be a little more bustling at night and it definitely was not.
We had dinner at the Upper Deck Bar, which was the only place open by the time we got there. They offered your standard bar food, which was fine with me because I really just wanted to try poutine for the first time! Upper Deck is located on the marina and had just what we wanted: poutine, craft beer and outdoor seating on the water with a view of the city. Getting to take the ferry to the island crossed off everything we set out to do our first night in Toronto. Have you ever had poutine? It seems to be the comfort food of Canada- I read it is even sold at McDonald’s! Poutine is french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. My husband didn’t care for it (I never should have said “cheese curds”) but I thought it was good! When in Rome, right?
We were very happy to discover Steam Whistle beer on our trip. We love pilsners and light beers, and their pilsner was perfect after a long day in the car. I am hopeful we will be able to find int in Michigan. My husband and I are total water people, so anytime we get a chance to have dinner water-side we take advantage. Looking out at the boats, across Lake Ontario and to Toronto was the perfect view to the end of a great travel day.
After a ferry ride back to the mainland, we walked along the lakefront again and back to our hotel for the night to prepare for a very full Saturday!
Saturday: Shopping, Drinking and Dining
The Walk to Kensington Market
Saturday we were up early and ready to walk to Kensington Market, which is described as a walkable, bohemian neighborhood of specialty shops, bakeries, grocers, and restaurants. I love little neighborhood areas like this because I feel like you get to know the people better, and see parts of the city that are “real” life for the locals.
Along the way we stopped for coffee at Strangelove Coffee on Spadina, where I was happy to order my usual vanilla latte. (Remember how I said our town of 900 has no amenities? Coffee is one of them. And I miss it.) The coffee shop decor was super cute, especially these plants on the wall! The copper-colored pots are sitting on the shelves used for floating books. These would look great in a modern – minimalist – boho space. Such a good idea!
I was so happy to see latte art I had to take a picture. 😀 The pastries looked reallyyyy good, too, but we did not partake. Toronto is loaded with really cool street art, too, like the Simcoe Murals above, and the Toronto wall art in the collage below. It’s all over the place and most of it is really detailed!
While my husband waited for his very complicated coffee order the barista forgot to make, coffee with room for cream and sugar, I went outside to say “hi” to this cute guy. Do we have fun cones like this for our dogs here in the US? I don’t think so! I can’t even find them on Amazon. We saw quite a few dogs with these humorous cones in Toronto. I don’t know about you, but our dogs are complete jagdorks and it seems like one or the other is always wearing the cone. I may need to upgrade!
We were able to walk through Toronto’s Chinatown with our seriously amazing coffees from Strangelove on our way to Kensington Market. I wish I had brought a cooler because the fresh foods and veggies looked amazing! I also wish I had taken some pictures. Doh.
And we were right. We ordered mimosas and waited for our food to arrive. While waiting we discovered that while mimosas on Sunday mornings on the boat are awesome, mimosas on a Saturday morning in Toronto are a close second. These were every bit as good as they look!
It wasn’t until after my food arrived that I realized I was at Bacon Nation and did not order bacon! I told you I am easily distracted lately… My strawberry hazelnut waffle was really good, though, and so was my husband’s breakfast of eggs, ham and bacon. And you can’t see them, but his breakfast also had the most amazing little fried potatoes that were soooo goood. Yummm.
After breakfast we wandered the streets of Kensington Market. We were there early enough that it wasn’t super crowded, so we were able to pop into lots of stores. Shopping in little stores is probably my husband’s second favorite thing after my caraoke performances. He is a very patient man… He is almost always able to find either a rack of funny greeting cards to keep himself amused, or a Man Bench where he can hang with other husbands who are looking at their phones.
Of all of the stores, Global Cheese was the most amazing. So. Much. Cheese. Again, no cooler. I am totally buying one to leave in the car. We sampled some awesome cheeses and I was so wishing we had a cooler!
Check out this Garden Car! #gardencar I know if this street art was in Chicago it would be booted by CPD parking enforcement, lol!
From Kensington Market we walked down Queen Street to see Grafitti Alley. Grafitti Alley is 3-4 blocks long and runs along businesses and residences. The grafitti is very detailed and intricate and something to see if you have time! Since everything is Hockey Hockey Hockey in Canada, I thought these Hockey Chicks were pretty cute.
Look at the detail in this face! It’s amazing to think so much of this is done with a spray can!
Next Stop: The Distillery District
After Grafitti Alley, we continued down Queen Street and started heading to the Distillery District. Since it is a couple miles away, we decided to buy passes for the cable cars and take public transportation there. But first, I was distracted by this amazing tart display in the window of Butter Avenue Patisserie!
Once inside, I knew we would be going home with some macarons. I love all of the different flavors macarons are available in, like lavender apricot and white chocolate strawberry. So delish!
Before getting on the cable car, we made one more stop at a liquor store. Have you ever heard of ice wine? Neither had I! You can read all about it here, but basically sweet grapes are picked while frozen, before fermentation begins, and then pressed. The result is a minuscule amount of liquid from each grape that is turned into very sweet dessert wine. Dessert wine is not my thing, but I picked up a bottle as a gift, because it’s kind of a must, right?
After waiting a few minutes for a cable car en route to the Distillery District, we were on our way to our next stop.
The Distillery District
Toronto’s Distillery Districted is located on the east side, just east of the St. Lawrence Market. It is a pedestrian-only business district with shops, restaurants and arts & entertainment located in 19th-century whiskey distillery buildings. The area was designed to be a mashup of Europe’s walking districts and NYC’s SoHo. The original brick streets and buildings make it an aesthetically pleasing area to spend an afternoon.
Everyone has heard of the love locks on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, but did you know Toronto has their own version? Yes, they do, and it’s in the Distillery District! I wish we had known, because I would have picked up this sweet heart-shaped lock to add our names to the installation.
Aren’t these awesome? <3
The Distillery District is loaded with amazing little shops and I think we went into all of them! My favorite, though, was Blackbird Vintage Finds. It was full of awesome finds that would fit perfectly with our farmhouse meets lakehouse vibe. Doesn’t everything look awesome? It took a lot of willpower for me to leave with just a couple dresser drawer knobs.
Mill St. Brewery
After all of this shopping, my hubby was ready for a burger and beer, so we headed over to Mill Street Brew Pub. One of our favorite things to do is try new breweries whenever we travel, so when I saw there was a brewery in the Distillery District I made a reservation right away.
The Mill St Brewery facility is everything a brewery should be: lots of wood, industrial looking, brick, a peek into the mechanical area…we love every part of it!
We were seated quickly with our reservation, and first things first ordered a beer flight to share. We love being able to order a flight so we get to try more great beer. This flight worked out perfectly- my husband preferred beers 1 and 3, and I liked 2 and 4! It tasted as good as it looks.
We ended up sharing a burger and fries – I even got my sweetie to eat grilled onions- and it was fan.tas.tic!
After lunch, we walked around a little bit more before hopping back on the cable car to be dropped off near the Intercontinental Hotel.
After this long-ish day of touring, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up a bit. After that we decided to walk around for a little before heading down to the lakefront for a drink and more people watching before our dinner reservation. Isn’t this phone booth at Elephant and Castle the best?!
Dinner: Taverna Mercatto
For dinner, we walked back towards our hotel to Taverna Mercatto. My only requirements for dinner we wine and al fresco dining, and Taverna exceeded my expectations! Just to sit and talk with my favorite guy, while sipping amazing wine and hearing the sounds of the city was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Our food was fabulous, and our server was the best! She was so helpful and attentive- it really made our experience excellent.
Mine, His, Ours. In Toronto you can order wine by the “quarter.” I guess that’s a quarter bottle? All I know is I had 3 quarters, and they were very much needed.
My husband went with the ribeye, as usual, and I can never resist carbonara. <yum>
Oh my…our dinners were SO GOOD! I feel like we haven’t been out to a nice dinner in ages. And last, but definitely not to be forgotten, my husband chose tiramisu for dessert and it was super yum.
From there we went back to the hotel bar, because clearly I needed more wine, and were able to watch the last couple innings of the White Sox v. Blue Jays game. I absolutely LOVE baseball and never turn down an opportunity to watch a game! If you’re visiting Toronto during baseball season, it would be awesome to see a game at Rogers Centre (which is the purple lit building in the skyline photo wayyyyy at the top!) If your home team is in the American league it would be fun to plan your trip to see the Jays play your team! The Rogers Centre is in walking distance from the downtown area.