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Old 07-02-2013, 08:36 PM
 
Location: Buffalo, NY
231 posts, read 599,679 times
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My wife and I moved to Buffalo about 2 years ago and got the enhanced license but haven't put them to use yet. So I figured what the heck, lets visit Canada tomorrow. More specifically, Toronto.

Anything I should know? (We're an interracial couple, any area's we should avoid?). I'm assuming most places take plastic so I should be able to use my visa, mastercard ect. right? I'm also assuming I'll need cash on hand for like tolls. Best place to exchange American $$ into CAD?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 07-02-2013, 10:35 PM
 
Location: Toronto
2,811 posts, read 3,620,985 times
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I guess you should know that Toronto is a huge city, and you'll never be able to see And experience even a fraction of it in a one-day visit. Which means you should plan a very specific itinerary based on your interests that will allow you to spend the day in one part of the city. When you return (and I'm sure you will once you realize what a great city you have just an hour away), you can do something else, and so on, until you have a better idea of what Toronto has to offer.

You have to realize that Toronto is the size and scope of Chicago. There is the Old City - the downtown, if you will, which was the original Toronto, the most urban part of the city, which contains the city's business district, it's entertainment district, many of its galleries, museums, theatres, opera house, symphony orchestra, ballet company, and its famous theatres for musicals and plays, as well as its oldest and most famous neighbourhoods, which are numerous and extremely diverse in ethnic makeup, character, style, and income level (although Old Toronto is becoming more and more like Manhattan, and its middle-income and low-income neighbourhoods have largely disappeared or are diluted by much wealthier residents.

Beyond the Old City are its "boroughs", which were their own municipalities up until 1998, when our then-premier, in conjunction with the mayor, merged them all together, creating what we now know as Toronto. Toronto's boroughs - Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, York, and East York are generally less densely populated, and though they have many clusters of high-rise apartment towers, have a more suburban layout, with lots of tightly-spaced bungalows, semis, townhouses, and some detached two-storey homes laid out in cul-de-sacs and winding residential streets separated from the main grid of commercial thoroughfares. Like Old Toronto, the "boroughs" are extremely diverse in character, even more culturally and ethnically diverse, although they lack some of the amenities and "attractions" of Old Toronto, have most of the city's low-income pockets, and are dominated by cars and buses.

Before I give you all kinds of details, I thought I should let you know....Toronto is laid out on a grid system, and is quite easy to navigate. Always keep in mind that the Lake is south of the city, so north is always away from the Lake, and South is towards the lake. Since city streets, and the transit system generally runs north/south, east/west, it's important to know this so you can always orient yourself by figuring out where the Lake is in relation to you. Once you know that, you can easily establish north/south, east/west. Another helpful feature of our east / west thoroughfares is the fact that East and West are added to their name depending on which side of Yonge Street they are on. So Dundas St. West is west of Yonge,
And Dundas St. East is east of Yonge. At major intersections, street signs above traffic lights will indicate West or East, so this can help you orient yourself in relation to Yonge. Once you know we're you are in relation to Yonge St. and the Lake, you will always know which way is east, west, north, and south.

For most visitors, Old Toronto is the place they want to be, as it has most of the city's attractions, and is built as a typical old-school compact urban area, it's streets crowded with pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars and buses, as well as cars. It has a decent subway network, and it is easy to get around by public transit. Since I'm sure you are driving here, I would find a lot (my personal favourite is at Dalhousie and Queen, between Church St. and Jarvis. It's right in the heart of the downtown, steps from Yonge St. and the subway, yet it's not too crowded or too expensive to park for the day. Should be $20 or less. Of course, for all I know, the parking lot has been sold to a developer and is now under construction. The city is currently going through one of the largest building booms in the Western World and things change very fast), ditch the car, and spend your day walking, or taking transit if need be.

I'd really like to know what your interests are so I can steer you in right direction. But if you don't have anything specific in mind, checking out the central part of the downtown might be a good first step. If you park at the lot I mentioned, or any lot in the central part of the city (I'm going to add a note at the bottom of my post with some further info about parking). Areas of interest in the central-most part of the downtown are Yonge St. (A major commercial thoroughfare that is very similar to Times Square in the sense that it was once the seedy home of bawdy houses, peep shows, massage parlours, strip clubs, and porn theatres, but has since become a tourist Mecca with a large square (Yonge and Dundas Square) that is typically packed with tourists, features all kinds of free entertainment, and is now a stretch of various shops, clothing and shoe stores. Dundas Square, Eaton Centre, and Queen St. West (from University Ave., west all the way to Gladstone Ave., Queen Street is doubtless Toronto's hippest street, with all kinds of unique shops, eateries, bistros, bars, cafes, galleries, as well as two bastions of Toronto's hip entertainment scene - the Gladstone and Drake Hotels, which were two transient hotels in an area that was home to many of the city's down and out).

Personally, to get a general idea of the flavour of the city, I would park at a lot downtown, visit Dundas Square, then walk the short distance south to Queen St. Walk west to Spadina, taking note of all the many sights and shops along the way. If you want (and I highly recommend it), you can walk north on Spadina to check out the main commercial thoroughfare of Toronto's Chinatown. Many people (even Torontonians) think that Spadina = Chinatown, but Dundas St. is also packed with Chinese businesses both east and west of Spadina, while the adjacent Baldwin Village (a great neighbourhood you can check out when you have more time) and Kensington Market have a large Chinese presence, with many residents of Chinese descent, community centres, churches, and other important non-commercial fixtures in the Chinese community. But Spadina Ave. just north of Queen St. is the busiest, densest commercial area in Chinatown, and worth a look. Make sure to explore the little shops and also the many alley and lane ways, which are very safe and will often lead you to some unique surprises.

Although Toronto has some of the best Chinese food outside of China, ironically you will be hard-pressed to find any of it in Chinatown. Most of the restaurants serve mediocre food, and aren't worth visiting. However, there are a couple aces that specialize in Chinese BBQ, and noodle dishes with fresh noodles made at the front of the restaurant, in view of its patrons. My favourite is a little spot called Gold Stone. It's on the West side of Spadina, just below Dundas, and has large glass panels as its facade, so you can see clearly into the restaurant. It also has a large BBQ counter at the front of the restaurant. Stick with the noodle dishes. My favourite are the noodle soup with Their excellent BBQ items. Noodle Soup with BBQ Pork and Duck is my favourite, and along with an order of fried dough and a Coke, you have a delicious $6.00 meal.

Anyways, enjoy your walk around Chinatown, but you should definitely check out Kensington Market while you're in the area. It is immediately adjacent to Chinatown, and is a funky, youthful neighbourhood that is well-known both as a food market, but also as a great place to people watch, to enjoy a beer on a patio, to shop for vintage clothes, to check its many quirky shops, or buy baked goods at Wanda's Pie in the Sky, or sit in Kensington Market Park and smell the ganja smoke emanating from all the groups of young people picnicking I the grass while families enjoy the playset just a few short meters away. There are even a few marijuana cafes in Kensington. You can't buy marijuana there, but you can smoke it in the tranquil back patio of Roach-o-Rama while you enjoy a chai latte or coffee, taking in the ambiance. I don't know if you occasionally indulge, but even if you don't, Kensington Market is popular for both old and young folks, and is especially lively on the weekends. Its narrow streets, dense shops, residential Victorian towns and rowhouses integrated into the neighbourhood, making it a unique mixed-use market, with homes, shops, a proper food market, but much more. Use the opportunity to rest a bit, sit I the park or on a patio. Because you have more walking to do.

Make the ten-minute walk back down to Queen St, (you can take the streetcar, but the walk is quite short), then walk west on Queen, away from Yonge. You can choose how far you wish to walk, but could feasibly continue all the way to the end of Queen St. at Parkdale's west end, because there is never a lack of things to see and do for its entire length. There are some great diners, eateries, restaurants and bistros west of Bathurst, including some great burger places on the south side of the street. So of you haven't had a proper meal yet, you'll certainly find something you like along Queen St. If you make it to Ossington Ave, take a walk north to Dundas St. West. This area used to be, at different times, filled with flophouses and rooming houses (it was to here that James Earl Ray fled after shooting Dr. King in Memphis, hiding out in one of the many rooming houses until he could forge an ID and obtain a Canadian passport under an assumed name to travels to Europe, where he was ultimately caught), then dominated by the mental patients of the nearby Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, then filled with secretive karaoke bars frequented by Asian gangbangers and other shady characters. Now this stretch of Ossington Ave. has been turned into the densest strip of hip, happening bars, coffee shops, restaurants and bistros, and shops. It's definitely worth a look.

If you make it this far, you will surely be exhausted, and can walk back down to Queen (or stay on Dundas), and catch the streetcar back east to the lot where your car is. You can get off at Church and wal the half-block to the lot. However, here is where I will make my more about parking and how you choose to get into the city. Because parking in the downtown can be expensive, you may want to exit the QEW/Gardiner at Kipling Ave. on your way to the city, and drive north a few minutes to Kipling Station's South Parking Lot. Here you can park the car for free and take the subway into the city, right to Dundas Square where my hypothetical itinerary begins. To get to the South Parking Lot, you simply follow Kipling Ave. north, staying in the right lane. In a few minutes you will approach an arching traffic bridge that can be seen from a distance. You are going to be exiting right onto a short two-way laneway that diverges from Kipling just before this traffic bridge. It is marked it a sign with an arrow that says Kipling Subway Station. Follow this laneway until it ends a few sort meters ahead at Munster Ave. Take a left on Munster Ave., and this will bring you under the traffic bridge and right to the parking lot, where you can park for free on weekends. Simply park your car, head down into the station, where you can consider buying a day pass which will cover two adults and up to five children for $10.75. If you don't like walking so much, and would prefer to take the streetcar to the destinations I mentioned, the day pass is a great deal. And every location I mentioned can be reached by streetcar / subway. It's something to consider.

Finally, in regards to my itinerary...many tourists come to Toronto and visit the best-known attractions, like the CN Tower, the Eaton Centre, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Dundas Square, Centre Island, Yonge St., and perhaps the AGO or the ROM. Other than the CN Tower, which I believe is too expensive and overrated, all of these attractions are worth seeing. However, since you live in Buffalo, you can visit as often as you want (and I promise you will want to visit again and again once you visit the first time), and visit these attractions one-by-one. IMO, as a first-time visitor, I tried to give you an itinerary that would allow you to see a couple of the major tourist attractions (Dundas Square, Yonge St., even Eaton Centre if you want, because it's right there and will take you down to Queen St. so you can enjoy the shopping centre while making your way south to Queen), but most importantly would give you an opportunity to visit a couple of Toronto's most vital, diverse, and unique areas, to give you a small sample of what the city is all about - a small taste of what the city really is. Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods, and its neighbourhoods are its best feature. I've steered you towards some of the city's unique and famous neighbourhoods that offer you a multitude of experiences, from shopping to dining, to people watching, to taking in the diversity and plethora of cultures that make Toronto the unique and amazing city it is. Hopefully, my suggested itinerary will interest you ('cause I've spent like an hour or more typing it ).

Finally, to address your concern about being a mixed-race couple. It's not a concern at all. Toronto is one of the most diverse, multicultural cities on the planet. Mixed-race relationships are not just common - they make up a pretty large % of all the couples I see in the city on a given day. I've been in several mixed-race relationships during my life (in fact, as a half-Puerto Rican white boy with dual American/Canadian citizenship, I've only dated one white girl. All my other girlfriends were neither white nor Latina - so I've only ever dated one person within my ethnic group). The whole racial hang-up thing that can be prevalent in some parts of the US is pretty much non-existent in Toronto, and most of Canada. We are proud of our multicultural make-up, and kids grow up with kids of every race in their social circle. Which is why inter-racial dating isn't even a thing, especially among those 50 and younger who came of age since multiculturalism became Canada's official policy. Toronto is generally one of the most laid-back, tolerant cities on Earth. I think you will see this for yourself when you visit.

Yeah, anyways, my fingers are tired. Please respond, give some feedback. I'm sure others will chime in with their suggestions. There are really so many things you can do. My itinerary is just a suggestion to give you a good introduction to Toronto, its diverse neighbourhoods and its culture. Tell me if you like the sound of my suggestions, or if you have particular interests. Me and the other members will help you out. I promise you, you are going to be blown away by the city, since you've never been here before. Once you realize such a great city is only an hour away from you (don't get me wrong - I love Buffalo, and used to visit all the time), you will want to visit as often as you can.

BTW, you should change your money at your bank before you come. If not, there are places to do it, but it's definitely easier to it there in Buffalo.
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Old 07-02-2013, 11:22 PM
 
1,726 posts, read 5,645,796 times
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1. Avoid Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, it has the longest delays
2. The only toll you'll encounter will be for the bridge itself, and that can be paid in U.S. dollars.
3. Don't bother changing US cash into Canadian cash, use an ATM card to withdraw some Canadian dollars. If you have Bank of America, look for a Scotiabank for surcharge-free withdrawals.
4. Avoid the highway 407 toll road in Toronto. The fees are extremely high and they mail a bill to your house (no actual toll collection). Just stay on the QEW all the way to Toronto.
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Old 07-02-2013, 11:29 PM
 
Location: Buffalo, NY
231 posts, read 599,679 times
Reputation: 41
TOKidd: OMG. I love you so hard right now. That was a mass of info and i'm so happy to hear about stuff besides the typical touristy places. I just stumbled on the fact that Toronto fringe is also going on right now. Thank you for all the info. I'll prolly pull you post up on my phone tomorrow and refer back.

Tarp: I never thought about just using the ATM there. Genius! Hmmm I have m&t wonder what the fee would be...

Thanks!
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Old 07-02-2013, 11:43 PM
 
Location: Buffalo, NY
231 posts, read 599,679 times
Reputation: 41
Ok, I just did a quick google out of curiosity. 13% sales tax?! What?
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Old 07-03-2013, 08:07 AM
 
Location: Toronto, ON
564 posts, read 994,443 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajacques View Post
Ok, I just did a quick google out of curiosity. 13% sales tax?! What?
Welcome to Canada! You didn't think our healthcare was really "free", did you?
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Old 07-03-2013, 09:07 AM
 
1,706 posts, read 2,292,036 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajacques View Post
Ok, I just did a quick google out of curiosity. 13% sales tax?! What?
Well, don't shop too much in Toronto. Prices of commodities are generally higher than in Buffalo.

I suggest you read this article, it sums up everything: David Landsel: 7 Very Good Reasons to Visit Toronto This Summer
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:48 AM
 
Location: Toronto
2,811 posts, read 3,620,985 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajacques View Post
TOKidd: OMG. I love you so hard right now. That was a mass of info and i'm so happy to hear about stuff besides the typical touristy places. I just stumbled on the fact that Toronto fringe is also going on right now. Thank you for all the info. I'll prolly pull you post up on my phone tomorrow and refer back.

Tarp: I never thought about just using the ATM there. Genius! Hmmm I have m&t wonder what the fee would be...

Thanks!
Hey friend. Glad to hear my post was helpful to you. I didn't realize the Fringe Festival is going on this weekend (summer is festival season in TO, with one pretty much every week. You should consider visiting again for Caribana in August - the largest and arguably the best Caribbean Carnival outside Trinidad. At least a third of the people who come for the festival are Americans). What you can do is check out the Fringe Festival website (Toronto Fringe Festival) and see which events are occurring on the day you'll be here, and which ones are occurring in the areas I pointed out in my itinerary. I'm sure there will be something happening at Dundas Square, and probably Kensington Market as well. There's also a good chance of something Fringe-related going down along Queen St. West. So you should be able to follow the itinerary I gave you if you like it, and still catch Fringe events. Just use their website as a guide to what's going on and where, and try to time your travels accordingly.

One thing I thought I should point out is that you should familiarize yourself with downtown's geography, so you know the general area that you will be visiting, and have a good understanding of where you will be in relation to major streets, transit routes, and landmarks while walking around. Although lots of people like to use Google Maps, I prefer Bing Maps (specifically the Bird's Eye feature), which allows you to zoom in very close to street level so you can see both the wider layout of the city, and also zoom in close enough to actually see detailed shots of the buildings, houses - everything - with street names and major neighbourhoods/landmarks highlighted. Google maps are good for their Street View, but IMO, Bing Maps are much better for getting acquainted with the geography of a city, especially one you are going to visit for the first time. You can trace your route beforehand so that you know exactly where you're going, and how to get to the subway, or wherever. It's a very helpful tool that I use whenever I'm visiting somewhere new. It will also be especially helpful to you should you decide to park your car at Kipling Station so you can see for yourself where the South Parking Lot is, and where the laneway that diverges from Kipling is, so that you don't miss it if you decide to head into the city this way (which I definitely recommend, since it's a weekend and traffic is brutal in the city on the weekends, especially in the summer when there's a festival on. Taking the subway downtown will save you a lot of money and hassle, and you can get that day pass I was telling you about). Also familiarize yourself with our transit system (TTC Schedules and Maps) so you know exactly where the major routes are, and the many options you have for getting from place-to-place. They also do a lot of track work on weekends, so the website will tell you if there's any parts of the subway shut down, and where to catch a shuttle bus to take you to the next open station.

Hope this is helpful to you. I also agree with the poster who recommended withdrawing money from an ATM instead of changing your money at a bank here or in Buffalo. I would still try to get your hands on like $50 CAD before you leave Buffalo for any incidental costs you might incur before you hit a bank machine. If you have any further questions, post 'em up and we'll do our best to answer them .

Last edited by TOkidd; 07-03-2013 at 10:59 AM..
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:23 PM
 
Location: Toronto
13,747 posts, read 14,060,054 times
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It depends on what you wanna buy though... if you want to buy typically Walmart, Best Buy or Sears type fare than for sure stick to Walden Galleria and the Buffalo like - but can you shop Queen St West in Buffalo? You would certainly be able to shop for unique things in T.O that you wouldn't be able to get in the Buffalo or even most if not all parts of the U.S. Even some chain type stuff is good in T.O... I like Urban Planet and have yet to find an equivalent place in the U.S that combines the style, quality and price that this store offers! Good luck finding Le Chateau, Priape, Zara or good H&M stores in Buffalo as well

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
Well, don't shop too much in Toronto. Prices of commodities are generally higher than in Buffalo.

I suggest you read this article, it sums up everything: David Landsel: 7 Very Good Reasons to Visit Toronto This Summer

Last edited by fusion2; 07-04-2013 at 06:34 PM..
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:25 PM
 
Location: Toronto
13,747 posts, read 14,060,054 times
Reputation: 4578
@TOKidd

We should just get you to make a big post and sticky at the at the top of the TO section as necessary reading for all visitors
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