CN Tower Toronto // (c) 2010 Rupert Taylor-Price
A great start to a great morning begins with a walk to the CN Tower, the iconic one of the world’s tallest buildings. Though it lost the title years back, the 15 mph ride up in one of the building’s glass elevators won’t disappoint. Views from the two observation floors include panoramic vistas of the city. Visitors can often see as far as Niagara on a clear day. On the lower viewing level, a section of glass floor provides a dramatic backdrop for photos but is not for the faint of heart as visitors literally stand suspended in the air. The tower also offers two full-service restaurants, rides and even a movie theatre on-site. The premiere restaurant, 360, is a DiRONA culinary award recipient, placing it among the top restaurants on the continent.
Following the CN Tower, head to Casa Loma. It is the dream home and mansion of Sir Henry Pellatt — one of Canada’s premier businessmen. The home has been graciously restored by the Kiwanis club, and it is open for castle aficionados the world over to visit. Both the exterior and interior of the home will give anyone interested in fantasy interiors a good shiver. There is even a secret door leading to a hallway that connects to a treasure room — the castle’s wine cellar. In the spring and the summer, the grounds and gardens are a treat to behold and, even in the fall, the foliage bears bright coppery tints worthy of the extra time it takes to visit. For clients interested in a visit to the gardens, make sure to plan trips from May through October.
Toronto’s cultural highlight is the Royal Ontario Museum or ROM. World-class permanent exhibits range from dinosaurs and gemstones to tombs, city gates, treasures, furnishings — and even an authentic Egyptian mummy. Created exclusively by the ROM in collaboration with Chinese partners, “The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army” exhibit features some never-before-seen treasures and relics of China’s first emperor as well as 10 life-size warriors (with horses) from the world-famous archeological wonder in Xian. Even for those clients who have been to China and seen many of its wonders, the exhibit is worth seeing. It runs through Jan. 2, 2011. Clients should allow at least five hours to fully enjoy the ROM — and even then they may feel rushed.
After the museum, it’s best to quickly grab a cab back and head back to your hotel to get prepared to paint the town red — or, in some cases, pink. Clients can start their evening in the nightlife hot-spot Church Wellesley Village. One of the best ways to get around at night is by taking Toronto’s fabulous public transportation system, the TTC, and, rather than exiting at the more direct Wellesley station, consider suggesting clients exit at the Bloor-Yonge station instead and walk south on Yonge Street where they will find eclectic dining options. The restaurant Oja (689 Yonge, www.theoja.ca) features excellent Korean and Japanese cuisine, with unique sushi roll creations and cosmopolitan re-inventions of traditional Korean fare.
Visiting Toronto’s gay village is incomplete without paying homage to the twin bars of Woody’s and Sailor, an institution in the city. This bar complex hosts loyal locals and visitors alike in a neighborhood yet popular atmosphere. Another option for a more hip and cosmopolitan bar hop is Byzantium, arguably one of the best martini bars in town. Other classic pub options include the wildly popular Oscar’s with its traditional décor, hip music and an even hipper clientele.
No matter the hour, Toronto is always bustling with activity in the Church Wellesley or Yonge districts and, with only 24 of them to spend, clients will have to return to the city to sample more of what Torontonians have to offer.
Marc Kassouf is owner and CEO of PRIDE Travel, specialists in catering to the needs of Gays and Lesbians. PRIDE Travel is also ‘hetero friendly’, providing individuals, couples, and families with trips worldwide, and recently winning multiple TravelAge West awards in 2010 and 2009. Marc holds numerous industry certifications, most notably by CLIA, the Travel Institute, and destination visitors' bureaus. He sits on two board committees of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, has traveled to almost four dozen countries, and sailed on over sixty cruises.