The great part about a weak Canadian dollar is the incentive to visit your own backyard.
It’s embarrassing actually: I’d probably set foot in Toronto 30 or 40 times in my life prior to this mid-week excursion, but never before had we stepped outside the airport.
Our first steps outside Union Station were eerily familiar, as though we had already walked the downtown streets. Perhaps that eery feeling was meant to be — Toronto’s quest to be the New York of the North is immediately evident. The streets: the same beat up sidewalks and pavement. The smells: the same effervescent sewage aromas. The sights: glass buildings that will strain your neck.
The dead giveaway that we were still north of the border: the sounds. The endless rock concert of honking horns and the buzz of human traffic are far more withdrawn in Toronto. There are less people on the streets, but those people aren’t shouting, screaming, or roaring through the streets causing a raucous.
Which is probably more a sign of we Canadians than Torontonians. It’s almost as though Toronto is the very embodiment of what progressives envision our country becoming in the decades ahead.
Toronto boasts the world’s most diverse and cosmopolitan population in the world. London’s and New York’s populations surely give Toronto a run for their money, and it's not like Toronto's lead in diversity is noticeable with the naked eye. But it’s not immediately false either — every type of human being can be found within the city’s limits. Canada’s multicultural policies find a living, breathing soul within Toronto’s busy streets.
The story isn’t much different when experiencing Toronto’s technological infrastructure for the first time. Fiber internet: everywhere, obvious. High-speed LTE data networks: reliable, immediate. This was our first brand-new city in which we could use our smartphones — Canadian roaming plans are ridiculously expensive, ensuring we run the airplane mode well past the plane’s gates in international cities.
The difference in travel experience is immense — restaurant searches (and reservations!) in your pocket; call an Uber for a private vehicle outside your door in three minutes; purchase tickets moments before an event and scan into the event with your phone. Our first Uber ride was of particular fascination to Jaclyn and I — whatever one thinks about the company, the technology behind the service is a thing of the future.
- Arrival flight - Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Train - UP Express to Union Station
- Dundas Square
- Eaton Centre and the Urban Eatery
- City Sightseeing Tour Bus
- Check-in: DoubleTree by Hilton - Downtown Toronto
- Fahrenheit Coffee
- St. Lawrence Market
- Rogers Centre Tour/Ripley’s Aquarium
- Pizzeria Libretto
- CN Tower at Dusk
- Toronto Islands
- Bike rentals, boardwalk, sightseeing
- Asian Legend
- Kensington Market
- University of Toronto
- Toronto Blue Jays vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
- Departure Flight - Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Car - Friendly car ride
“The future.” Those two words feel as synonymous with Toronto as any Canadian could hope for. The country as a whole is overlooked these days for the roll out of the latest and greatest innovations. When the innovations come around, they land in Toronto first.
Between this ubiquitous drive to stay in the future and the progressive nature of the citizens within, Toronto’s city limits seem to be an ever-growing wall. Getting in is easy. Getting out is the difficulty.
Toronto has everything. It’s all the best things of New York City and London wrapped in the best of Vancouver and the American West Coast. There’s little need to leave when every necessity is a few steps out your front door or a few taps on the computer in your pocket.
But the whole “Toronto is Canada” syndrome is very much alive and well. Within Toronto’s walls, the Canadian utopia (less sky-high condo prices) is an evolving mechanism, growing upon itself.
The challenge, of course, is to pull those walls down, unleash Toronto’s evolution across the fallow Canadian countryside, and allow some of that countryside’s culture and tradition to be traded back in return. There is no center of Canada, no matter how many big banks you pack on Bay Street.
In fact, Toronto should find a way to unleash itself upon the rest of the world's largest cities. As with any city, it has its distinct flavours. But when the New York of the North sets the bar, others should take note.