Bike Tours - Hello from Toronto (2) - Exploring Toronto's Waterfront by Bicycle
and Checking Out the CN Tower
by Susanne Pacher
Since my European visitors are quite sporty I figured that renting
a bicycle would be the perfect way of exploring the city. So to join
them on their first guided bicycle tour I grabbed my bike and the
5 of us headed off to the subway station to go to Bicycle Solutions
near Parliament and Carlton Streets. Getting outfitted with a bike
didn't take long and the cost was pretty reasonable at $70.00 for
a whole week. Now all 5 of us had a bicycle.
Our tour began in Cabbagetown, one of Toronto's historic districts.
We first explored Riverdale Farm which is composed of a historic farm
house, a number of stables and several corrals holding a variety of
farm animals. This miniature zoo allows city kids to get to know farm
animals up close. We then headed to the entrance of Toronto's Necropolis.
Established in 1850, the Toronto Necropolis is one of Toronto's oldest
and most historic cemeteries. Its picturesque location, collection
of sculpture and Victorian buildings also make it one of the most
beautiful cemeteries in the city.
Riding through the gritty Regent Park neighbourhood on Parliament
we made a left to head over to the Distillery District - Toronto's
newest entertainment district. Founded in 1832 by brothers-in-law
William Gooderham and James Worts, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery
eventually became the largest distillery in the British Empire. Set
on 13 acres in downtown Toronto, the forty plus buildings constitute
the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial
Architecture in North America.
The Distillery is now a pedestrian-only village entirely dedicated
to arts, culture and entertainment. Internationally acclaimed galleries,
artists' studios and workshops, restaurants, bars and cafes, as well
as live music, all form part of this new landmark cultural centre.
In addition to the history, arts and culture, The Distillery has been
the location for over 800 film and television productions in the past
decade, including Chicago, X-Men, Against The Ropes and The Hurricane,
making The Distillery District the most popular film location in Canada.
Of course we had to stop at the Mill Street Brewery, one of Toronto's
fine micro-breweries. My Austrian visitors are great beer lovers and
I have been working on giving them a wide variety of samples of Canadian
beers, and we added the Mill Street brand to our tasting tour.
From the Distillery District we headed south to Lakeshore Boulevard
where we cycled west past Harbourfront, an area that holds high-priced
condos right next to the waterfront, where highlights include speciality
shops at Queens Quay Terminal, art, theatre and cultural facilities
at Harbourfront Centre and a terrific lakeside walking trail. Cruises
of the harbour and ferry services run from here.
Our bike tour continued west by the water on the Martin Goodman Trail,
past Ontario Place and the CNE - Canadian National Exhibition, which
was in full swing with its rides and amusement activities. We enjoyed
the lake-front ride and were fascinated by the Toronto Hippo Bus that
was cruising on the water inside a harbour basin.
Our turnaround point for the tour came at Sunnyside Pavillion, a historic
bathing pavillion dating back to a time when the lakeshore was home
to a large amusement park. We sat down and had some refreshing drinks
right next to a sandy beach on Lake Ontario. Rejuvenated we started
our ride back and stopped off at a hot dog stand just outside the
Princess Gates of the Canadian National Exhition Grounds. My European
visitors were fascinated by the hot dog stands, particularly about
the fact that you could scoop all sorts of salads and condiments like
sauerkraut, hot peppers and even corn onto the sausages, and we simply
had to stop and sample some road-side cuisine.
After heading back through Harbourfront we took the ferry over to
Hanlan's Point with our bicycles and started exploring the Toronto
Islands on two wheels. We were all astounded by the serenity of the
surroundings, truly an oasis of green right in front of busy downtown
Toronto. We cycled all the way from the west to the east side where
we had another fabulous view of the cityscape from an old abandoned
Of course all this working out would necessitate a little refreshment
break and we cycled over to Centre Island where there is a restaurant
next to the ferry dock, unfortunately it was closed. So we cycled
back to the Centerville amusement park area where there was a beautiful
restaurant with a gorgeous outdoor patio right next to a tranquil
waterway and we had a well-deserved rest., admiring the huge white
geese that came up to us to request some food.
After taking the ferry back to the mainland we followed the Martin
Goodman Trail east along the Eastern Beaches and had a peak at Ashbridges
Bay and the little peninsula right next to it, one of the most scenic
and tranquil spots in Toronto. We then headed home on the trail past
the Kew Gardens Tennis Club, the hockey/ lacrosse arena and the lawnbowling
facilities and my European guests commented on how surprised they
were that so much of Toronto's waterfront is publicly accessible and
not fenced off as private property as is the case with so many European
A gourmet dinner capped off a beautiful day of exploration, allowing
us to rest up for the next day to explore the CN Tower, just in time
before the remnants of Hurricane Katrina were scheduled to come into
town. On Tuesday I joined my guests only for a half day since I had
to do some work in the afternoon and we took the subway in to explore
the CN Tower. There were absolutely no lineups on Tuesday, which was
great, since the Sunday before we had noticed hundreds of people lining
up to get up the famous tower.
We enjoyed the quick 58 second elevator ride that whisked us up to
the restaurant level and we started to take in the panorama. Toronto's
most famous, most visible landmark, the CN Tower is the world's tallest
building. Built in 1976, the tower measures 553 metres in height.
From its Look Out Level it offers a stunning view of the city, especially
at sunset. Daring visitors can test their courage by taking a walk
across the Glass Floor 113 stories above the ground, or travel higher
up the tower to the Sky Pod, another 33 storeys above ground.
We only went as far as the Look Out area and went one level down to
experience the Glass Floor. I stepped on the Glass Floor very very
briefly, the feeling of standing on a clear surface 113 floors above
ground level was just a little too much and made me a little squeamish.
All of us really enjoyed the view from the tower, even though it was
a little hazy, but it really gave us a great overview of the city.
What amazed my visitors was that Toronto looks so amazingly green
from above, and they had commented several times how unusual it is
to see such a huge metropolis that has so many green zones, parks
and ravines, something that definitely enhances the quality of life
After having taking in the city, we zipped back down in the glass-enclosed
elevators and took a walk over to the Steam Whistle Brewery, located
at the former John St. Roundhouse, a Canadian Pacific Rail steam locomotive
repair facility that was built in 1929. We had to wait about 15 minutes
for the facility to open and admired the beautifully renovated industrial
architecture. Once inside we got a free taste of Toronto's premium
pilsner. I am not a beer drinker myself, so I quenched my hunger with
a fresh pretzel, while my Austrian visitors savoured their samples.
After the visit to the brewery I had to head back to my office, but
my visitors continued with a visit to the St. Lawrence Market and
a brief stop at the Eaton Centre. When they arrived back at our place,
I could tell they had spent another great day exploring Toronto.
About the Author
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions
(http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Travel and Transitions deals
with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real
life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts,
insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many
other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions
that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.
Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm)
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The story with photos is published at Travel and Transitions
Insights and Reflections (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/hello_toronto_2.htm).