I discover the yuletide magic on offer in Canada’s biggest city
This year Canada celebrates 150 years of confederation so it will be the ideal time to discover all the delights its city has to offer. And if you thought New York was your only choice for a transatlantic short break to soak up the festive spirit and shop ‘til you drop, think again – Toronto is a great choice.
It ticks the same boxes. You can fly here in just over eight hours, it’s a very diverse and vibrant city where skyscrapers jostle with hip, artsy districts and with a food fusion culture that has everything from sushi pizzas to Chinese Jamaican.
It’s friendly, multicultural (there’s even an established Tibetan community) with an easy going atmosphere and there’s a lot to fill your days, not least shopping. The upside is a more favourable exchange rate than between the American dollar and the pound.
My long weekend was a big pleasant adventure from start to finish. It started with my first sight of the city as I flew in to Toronto Pearson Airport, about 30 minutes’ drive outside the city.
Looking down I saw the impressive skyscraper skyline dominated by the iconic CN Tower beside Lake Ontario.
The city is growing fast and the many high-rise condo blocks create a distinctly New York feel.
So much so, in fact, that it is often used as a ‘stand-in’ for the Big Apple by film makers. One of the latest superhero blockbusters Suicide Squad was filmed here and, you might have heard that Toronto is also the place where Prince Harry met his current girlfriend, Meghan Markle.
This is where she lives while filming the popular TV series Suits. It is also the home of rapper Drake making hip-hop the most popular music in the city.
Staying Downtown in the newly-renovated Sheraton Centre was an ideal location with easy access (a two-minute walk) to the giant Eaton Centre mall and the famous Hudson’s Bay store with its gorgeous animated Christmas-themed windows, reminiscent of Selfridges. Next door the Saks 5th Avenue window mannequins were stunning.
Here is a list of things to do list for Toronto:
1. Enjoy a memorable dinner at 360 The Restaurant 1,151 fee up the CN Tower for a spectacular revolving view of the city. Glass-fronted lifts and a glass floor provide pre-meal thrills, www.cntower.ca
2. Find out how our festive traditions began in the olden days at the charming Black Creek Pioneer Village, www.blackcreek.ca
3. Book a walking Tour of Holiday Traditions in Toronto Old and New with Bruce Bell one of the city’s most respected historians. It’s a fun and fact-filled jaunt to St Lawrence Market where you can sample its famous Peameal Bacon sandwich; Toronto’s First Post Office - send a letter written with a quill pen; and finish at the historic Distillery District for the annual Christmas Market with music, food, drink, shops and stalls ideal for Christmas shopping, www.brucebelltours.ca
4. Discover the trendy districts and individual shops on a Holiday Shopping Tour with Omar Ho around the streets of Parkdale, Roncy and Yorkville, www.madeincanadatours.weebly.com
5. Visit Nathan Philips Square opposite the Sheraton Centre to for the Christmas tree light switch on, ice skating, fireworks and music at The Cavalcade of Lights.
6. Enjoy a seasonal performance at the Four Seasons Centre by the Canadian National Ballet, www.national.ballet.ca
7. Marvel at the reimagined Christmas trees at The Gardiner Museum before enjoying an amazing brunch and a balcony view of the annual Santa Claus Parade, www.gardinermuseum.on.ca
8. Get a great view of the city on a Toronto Double Decker City Tour, www.citysightseeingtoronto.com
9. Where to eat: Reds Midtown Tavern, a trendy space in the centre of town, www.redsmidtowntavern.com
Drake One Fifty, for a modern take on Canadian-style cooking and Sassafrazz, an upscale eatery with a fabulous vertical garden, www.sassafraz.ca
10. Make your way easily, although reluctantly back to the airport aboard the new Union Pearson Express, which departs every 15 minutes and takes just 25 minutes to get you to your flight, www.upexpress.com
Ruth Brindle flew to Toronto with WestJet (00800 5381 5696; westjet.com) from Gatwick from £300pp. The airline also flies from Glasgow. She stayed at the Sheraton Centre Toronto, www.sheratontoronto.com (from £120 per night for a standard room).
For more information on Toronto, visit SeeTorontoNow.com