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What to Know Before Traveling to Toronto

travel to Toronto

What to Know Before Traveling to Toronto

It might seem the same as visiting a city in the US, but Toronto has some quirks that you should know about before going.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, as well as one of the largest in the whole of North America. And if you’re planning a visit to Toronto, you might think it’s no different from a US city given its close proximity to upstate New York. While in some aspects it shares similarities with its closest US neighbor, it still is a different city that’s a class of its own.

That’s why it’s useful to know what unique quirks await you in Toronto. From general information to details about money, alcohol, and public transport, here are the essential things to know before your visit to Toronto.

1. The City’s Huge

Many people don’t know exactly how large Toronto is, so it’s possible you’ll be surprised. There are only three bigger North American cities compared to it – Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.

Toronto has doubled in size in the past 50 years. It’s even surprising to know that it started with just almost three million residents back in the 70s. Today, it has all of the traits of a metropolis, from impressive skyscrapers, immigrants from around the world, and heavy street traffic.

Expect a crowded environment and longer travel times when getting to various points in the city and its over 140 neighborhoods.

2. Get Around the Right Way

Traffic in Toronto can be horrendous, and renting a car could prove a mistake unless you don’t mind getting stuck in slow-moving traffic. This is especially true on Fridays and the weekends. So if you want to drive around the city, plan your routes accordingly.

Public transit is a more reliable option, although you could encounter delays. The metro is a bit limited, so it’s best to rely on the streetcars and buses. The Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC, covers various transport options for every major street and it would be wise to get familiar with their schedule.

The system relies on electronic cards called Presto. The cards are a bit pricey, initially at $6 each, and you’ll need to load it with a minimum of $5 on a vending machine. This goes up to a minimum of $10 if you’re loading the card online. Once you’re in transit, tapping the card will activate it and it covers your fare for two hours.

The price of one fare for adults is $3.20. There are also other pricing options that could prove cheaper, depending on how much you intend to get around.

3. Financial Matters

If you need to exchange currency when you arrive in the city, you’ll want to find the most favorable rates. It’s best not to use the banks for this purpose because they charge higher fees for the service. Instead, find a specialized currency exchange agency. 

Naturally, this won’t be an issue if you use credit cards instead of cash. But you have to be aware of possible foreign transaction fees.

Toronto isn’t a cheap city by any means, and most prices will likely be higher than anywhere in the US. This is because almost all services and goods have a federal and a sales tax attached. But the upside to this is that the taxes are already calculated into the price, unlike sales tax in the United States.

When it comes to tipping, the usual 15% is expected. Do take note that it’s not unusual for tips to go as high as 20%, and there are venues that will automatically include them in the bill. Not including a tip would be considered rude, even when the service is less than perfect. Of course, if you’re not satisfied with the service, you can tip less.

4. Don’t Miss the Attractions

Anyone with a passing knowledge of Toronto has probably heard of the famous CN Tower. The view from the top is quite memorable, although the ride to the observation level is a bit pricey.

Some of the lesser-known main attractions in Toronto are also a must, and there’s just so much to see in the city that it can be hard to choose.

But if you have the time, make sure to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and take a walk through the transparent hallway where various species of fishes and sharks can be found swimming above.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is housed in a gorgeous building and is worth checking out. It’s filled with artwork from Canadian, European, and world-renowned artists.

A stroll through St. Lawrence Market in Toronto will take you on a journey surrounded by fresh, delicious food. The market is very lively and filled with all kinds of produce – from meats and cheeses to seafood. You can even buy ready meals and try the local specialties on the spot.

The Distillery District is historic and full of venues of different kinds, including those converted and repurposed from the distilleries that borrow the name to this part of Toronto. Today, they house galleries and art studios, as well as shops and eateries.

5. Prepare for the Climate

Toronto experiences four seasons that are quite distinct. Of course, it is Canada, so expect harsh temperatures in the winter, especially in January. These are contrasted by the heat and humidity of late summer.

Early summer and autumn are the most pleasant, so the best time to visit would be either May or September. You likely won’t be exposed to the biting cold or experience the summer sweat-fest during these months.

Enjoy Your Visit to Toronto

The Canadian metropolis is open, engaging, and welcoming. The city’s vast and interesting, with colorful, diverse communities to explore. 

If you come prepared, a visit to Toronto is bound to be memorable and filled with exciting sights and experiences.

Tips + Planning

Toronto for History Lovers – The Four Museums to Check Out

Toronto sights

Toronto for History Lovers – The Four Museums to Check Out

From castles to the history of hockey, the fascinating museums in Toronto will leave you in awe.

The history and culture of Canada and its largest city, Toronto, is exciting and colorful. So if you’re visiting Toronto and want to explore the city’s best attractions, you can’t go wrong with the museums.

There are museums in Toronto that cover every aspect of the local, regional, and Canadian culture, including fine art, science, architecture, and more. Here are the four museums you should check out on your next visit to the city.

1. Royal Ontario Museum

This museum has an impressive collection of everything from natural history to art from around the world. But the first sight that will leave you in awe is the building itself. It’s an architectural marvel and a blend of traditional and modern – extravagant styles that are best left unspoiled with too much description.

There are many fascinating galleries inside that are certain to satisfy any specific interests. Starting from the long lost world, the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs showcase the dinosaur, plant, and insect fossils dating back to tens of millions of years old. Here you’ll see real dinosaur skeletons ranging from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous period. But the star of the exhibit is Gordo, an 88ft long Barosaurus skeleton that’s one of only three of its kind in the world.

Moving on in the times of natural history, the Reed Gallery of the Age of Mammals houses specimens of animals that inherited the planet from the giant reptiles. Here you can see the early mammals of Earth, including a mastodon and a saber-toothed cat, as well as a five million-year-old North American rhino.

To round up the natural world tour, there’s the Gallery of Birds and the Bat Cave showcasing a large number of species.

When it comes to the history of humankind, the Royal Ontario Museum galleries will take you on a journey through the most impressive civilizations that existed throughout the ages. There are exhibits covering the history of China, Korea, Egypt, Nubia, the Roman empire, ancient Greece, and more.

The Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, The Americas, and Asia-Pacific has an exceptional collection of artifacts that document various aspects of the indigenous cultures of the world.

2. Art Gallery of Ontario

There’s plenty to see in this massive art museum. With almost 100,000 art pieces, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the largest museums of its kind in North America. It houses works of artists from Europe, Africa, and North America.

The collection spans centuries and various styles ranging from the traditional indigenous Canadian and Central African art, through classical European masters, to contemporary pieces. So you can go from Rubens to modern photography and see everything in between, although it will take quite some time to take in everything the museum has to offer.

The library also has a notable book collection that’s sometimes overshadowed by the impressive visual art. There are several collections worth going through, including Rare Books that showcase five centuries of illustrated books and obscure, lesser-known volumes. The library has more than 380,000 volumes that you can navigate through the handy online catalog.

3. Casa Loma

Casa Loma is a Gothic Revival castle built in 1914. While it’s not as old as the original European castles, it’s been an attraction of Canada for over a century. The Casa Loma of today is a fascinating and renowned site that was once a shocking feature among the Victorian architecture of old Toronto.

This castle was home to Sir Henry Pellatt, a Canadian financier famous for his investment in the Canadian railway and hydroelectric industry, and his wife. King Edward VII knighted Pellatt for his military service, so the Casa Loma castle was actually inhabited by a real knight and Lady.

The architectural wonder features 98 rooms, secret passageways, towers, and an expansive garden. There are also several exhibits with permanent installations and collections of historical photographs, antique cars, and period furniture.

The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum holds a collection centered around the regiment Pellatt served in, the longest-serving infantry regiment in Canada. Here you can see military equipment and uniforms from the early 20th century, among other items from the period.

Casa Loma also houses the Group of Seven Collection, with artwork by the group members. These landscape painters worked on developing a distinctly Canadian style of art. They influenced the Canadian art landscape so much that the group eventually transformed into the Canadian Group of Painters.

4. Ontario Science Center

There’s much to see and experience in the Ontario Science Center. Whether you’re interested in nature or the limits of the human body, you’ll find many exhibits that are sure to satisfy your curiosity.

To start with, the Dinosaurs in Motion exhibit offers a virtual tour through the ancient history of our planet while you’re surrounded by moving colossal animals.

The public Planetarium is the only one of its kind in Toronto. Here you’ll have the chance to explore the universe and learn about the great expanse in one of the various shows.

You can experience a real rainforest in The Living Earth exhibit, visit a cave, and see a coral reef. This exhibit offers a great insight into the development and different natural conditions of the world.

Finally, The HotZone is a presentation area that covers numerous subjects related to science, showcasing their history and development, as well as where they’re at today. You can learn also about robotics, AI, physics, psychology, and more.

Take a Deep Dive Into the Toronto Museums

There’s much to see and experience when it comes to museums in Toronto. The rich collections speak volumes about the history and cultural heritage of the city, Ontario, and Canada as a whole. 

Bear in mind that the exhibits are quite extensive and one visit to the most memorable museums in Toronto likely won’t be enough.

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