Architectural & Cultural Tours
Toronto is a city for walking, and there's no shortage of options for those willing to pound the pavement. The Royal Ontario Museum has a ROMwalks program (tel. 416/586-5513) throughout the summer that offers guided tours of architectural highlights and neighborhoods from the Entertainment District to the Danforth. During the summer, Heritage Toronto (tel. 416/338-0684; www.heritagetoronto.org) offers walking tours of several neighborhoods, including Cabbagetown and Rosedale. If you're in town on the first weekend of May, check out Jane Walks (www.janeswalk.net), in honor of the late Jane Jacobs, the city's beloved author, thinker, and believer in "cities planned for and by people."
Be an Archi-Tourist -- From blogs to talks to walks, there are many ways to stay on top of the city's ever-changing skyline:
- The Toronto Society of Architects offers walking tours on architectural themes from June through September. Tours have included "Toronto's Cultural Renaissance: Buildings of the 21st Century" and "Skyscrapers of the Financial District." For details and schedules, visit www.torontosocietyofarchitects.ca.
- Doors Open Toronto is a popular, free celebration of buildings in and around the city. Each year, during the last weekend in May, more than 150 architecturally significant buildings -- many of them otherwise not accessible to the public -- open their doors to the public. For details, visit www.toronto.ca/doorsopen.
- Jane's Walk is named for the late Toronto-based writer and urban activist Jane Jacobs and allows impassioned residents to lead tours of their neighborhoods each May. What began in 2007 as a local commemoration is now an international phenomenon, with Jane's Walks in 68 cities around the world. For more, see www.janeswalk.net.
- The Design Exchange has year-round programming on architecture themes with exhibits, talks, and film screenings, and its blog gives great insight into local trends. Visit www.dx.org.
- The Pug Awards were launched in 2004 as a way to raise awareness of architectural and design issues in Toronto. The public votes via the Web for the best and worst new buildings of the year. The exposure has shamed developers and lauded unsung works. The Pugs are raising the bar, and hopes, for a better-built tomorrow. There's also a lecture series, "Pug Talks," held throughout the year. For more, see www.pugawards.com.
Year-round, A Taste of the World Neighbourhood Bicycle Tours and Walks (tel. 416/923-6813; www.torontowalksbikes.com) leads visitors through the nooks and crannies of such places as Chinatown, Yorkville, and Rosedale. It's particularly well known for its "haunted" tours, including one about the ghosts of Yorkville (remember, that chic neighborhood stands atop a former cemetery).
Another option is the Toronto Bicycling Network (tel. 416/766-1985; www.tbn.ca). The association organizes tours and provides information about routes you can explore in and around the city.
Chefs & Gourmets
Bonnie Stern is a local legend, and the Bonnie Stern Cooking School is a wonderful place to pick up some of her culinary secrets (she teaches many of the classes herself). The school is located at 6 Erskine Ave. (3 blocks north of the Eglinton subway station); call tel. 416/484-4810 or visit www.bonniestern.com for information. The school offers classes in everything from challah baking to Moroccan cooking.
The Fairmont Royal York runs a popular Shop with a Chef package that includes a tour of St. Lawrence market and a delicious meal led by the eco-minded executive chef David Garcelon. Winery tours in the Niagara Region are popular and plenty. For more information, go to www.tourismniagara.com/wine_country.html.
Ecology & Wildlife
If you're interested in exploring the Toronto region's natural wonders, contact Toronto and Region Conservation at tel. 416/661-6600 or visit www.trcaparks.ca. The organization offers tours that include bird-watching and wildlife-viewing.
Mariposa Cruise Line (tel. 800/976-2442 or 416/203-0178; www.mariposacruises.com) operates 1-hour narrated tours of the waterfront and the Toronto Islands from mid-May to September. Tours leave from the Queen's Quay Terminal at 207 Queens Quay W.
The Kajama, a three-masted, 50m (164-ft.) schooner, offers 90-minute cruises. The schedule varies, but in July and August, three tours a day take place on weekdays and weekends. For more information, call the Great Lakes Schooner Company (249 Queens Quay W., Ste. 111; tel. 800/267-3866 or 416/260-6355; www.greatlakesschooner.com).
TAP into TO, the Toronto Ambassador Program
Following the lead of such cities as New York and Sydney, Toronto is training some of its citizens to act as tour guides in popular neighborhoods. Tours take an hour or more, and they're free of charge. Call tel. 416/338-2786 or head to www.toronto.ca/tapto for more information. Every effort is made to match visitors and greeters by interest, so if you are particularly curious about architecture, history, food, or culture, make sure to mention that when you book your tour.