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Toronto

36 Hours In Toronto, Canada.

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Autumn is a great time to plan a weekend road trip to take in the fall colors; it is the perfect time to enjoy the season in a more relaxed and casual way than the overbooked chase of summertime. That’s why we decided to make Toronto this year’s fall getaway. And let me tell you, Toronto turned out to be amazing! We were surprised by the hundreds of options for drinking, dining, exhibitions and concerts. Simply put, wow!

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, also North America’s fourth-largest city, and nearly 50% of its inhabitants are immigrants, which explains the diverse and exciting art, entertainment and food & drink scenes. The skyline of the city, sitting on Lake Ontario reminds of a smaller scale NYC and is definitely on my Top 5 City Skylines I’ve seen so far. Here is my list of things to eat, drink, try, enjoy and visit:

Saturday

7 am: Get an early start on the long drive through New York State.  The road is quite monotonous, yet naturally beautiful: going around the Finger Lakes and through Syracuse takes about 8 hours with no stops. When you start approaching the Canadian border, make sure you check the status of the various border crossings to avoid delays. (Border Check)

6 pm: Black Hoof Cocktail Bar check it out!

Cocktail Bar Toronto

Start the weekend with a craft cocktail, in a 1920’s setting, under the vibes of jazz. Classic! Be bold and try a couple of different cocktails, as the night is still young! The list is creative and well thought out. You won’t regret it! If you are looking for a quick snack, look no further than the crunchy duck wings, which are incredible!

*They only take cash or Canadian debit cards

9 pm: Momofuku Shōtō check it out! 

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All the info you need is in the link above. Just open your imagination, expect the unexpected, come hungry and enjoy! This is not a dinner but rather an experience kind of place. Everything from the setting, the flow, the interaction with the chefs, the plating, the art around you and on your plate, the music PLAYLIST*, … is perfection! Tucked behind Daishō, on the third floor, it is the fanciest of the three restaurants. It seats 22 people and serves a 10-course tasting menu that takes about two hours (or 4hrs and 4 bottles of wine in our case).

* In a song-skewed interview in Gourmet Traveller magazine, David Chang, the founder of the Momofuku Empire, said: “I make the playlists myself for all the Momofuku restaurants. Every restaurant has two iPods (one for backup) and each currently has 16 playlists. They’re particular to each restaurant — you’ll never hear exactly the same progression of songs at the Noodle Bar on First Avenue that you’d hear at Má Pêche, or in Toronto.”

Feel free to check out Momofuku on Spotify: Play! or even better in my opinion: Play!

12 am: Lobby Lounge @ Shangri-La Hotel

Don’t let the night slip away without a dance move or two! Finish on a high note, listening to a groovy, hip and extremely talented Torontonian Band! Lobby Lounge resembles an urban living room in which art and architecture are masterfully intertwined. Very classy looking place with a fun, chic vibe! Check the music listings here: Schedule

~Designated hours to rest and/or sleep

Sunday

In travel, one should always find time to do things that are truly close and dear to one’s heart. Such an experience will make each trip very special and memorable and will also transform you from a tourist to a traveler. I consider myself to be an art aficionado and always check concert listings and art exhibitions prior to visiting any city, trying to make time for a quick exhilaration of my art senses. Again, Toronto doesn’t disappoint, offering a variety of museums, ranging from the classical to the quirky.

~See more at: To See Suggestions!

10 am: quick visit of the Royal Ontario Museum: Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history. Even if not interested in the exhibitions, it is worth checking out the new main entrance of the museum, Daniel Libeskind’s The Crystal, which first opened in 2007. The Deconstructivist crystalline form is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminum, sitting on top of a steel frame. Stunning!

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11 am: After some inspirational architectural “bites” for breakfast, head to Toronto’s Chinatown in Scarborough. The agenda is simple: eat the best dim sum in Toronto, and possibly in North America at Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine.  The atmosphere, the people, the food, the flavors and attitude!… If unique experiences is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. The 2hr wait to get seated on a busy weekend day is totally worth it!

Casa Imperial Toronto

*further support from Yelp! that this is the right spot!

2 pm: Time for some art: The Power Plant (free) & Art Gallery of Toronto 

The afternoon is the perfect time for a much needed walk around the city (after all that dim sum). Around Lake Ontario is the place to start. The Power Plant is one of Canada’s leading public galleries devoted to contemporary art, located at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. As a non-collecting art gallery, The Power Plant has presented new and recent work by numerous Canadian artists along with their international peers. Located in a more touristy area, the art inevitably gets better exposure, which in my book is ‘smart planning’. Make sure you check the list of the exhibitions in advance as they change quite often.

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AGO, or the Art Gallery of Toronto. The architecture of the building is simply stunning. The monumental glass and titanium facade designed by Toronto native Frank Gehry hovers over the main building and is an architectural beauty. In 2008, one of the most iconic, spiral staircases in the world was added to the building. The Douglas fir-clad sculptural staircase rises from the second floor of the central Walker Court, through the glass ceiling and extends to the fifth floor of the Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art. Although it looks very captivating from aside, make sure you find time to climb it up or down.

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7 pm: dinner @ The Black Hoof The circle is complete. We started our Toronto exploration at the Cocktail Bar right across from this joint, owned by the same group! The menu is very simple, highly suitable for carnivores and with outstanding price tags. Don’t miss the marinated, pickled vegetables! Basically every dish on the menu was superb (we ordered about half of them). Cannot wait to go back and order the second half! Maybe next time they’ll have bison ice cream 🙂 P.S. The wine list is a true treasure trove, with many unlisted gems, so make sure to chat up one of the owners, who is the wine buyer as well.

10 pm: ferry to Centre Island Schedule

This is a great way to end your first trip to Toronto. Get on the last ferry for the night, as there are almost no people on it and take in the beautifully lit skyline. Seeing the city from afar with its colorful lights reflecting in the water is a real treat and also provides the perfect opportunity for a mini photo shoot 🙂

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Monday

9 am: Make sure you find an hour to stop by Niagara Falls on your way home while still in Canada. The Canadian vantage point is simply breathtaking and far superior to the one on the American side!

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2 pm: stop by the Finger Lakes and try some of the amazing wines being made there. If you have to pick just one, go to Lake Seneca. Finger Lakes will be a separate blog post in the future. Watch out for updates soon!

10 pm: At last, feel lucky to be back to the one and only, New York City!

Extra inspiration to take that trip to Toronto in this video!