I’ve visited Toronto 3 or 4 times now yet I often feel there are more of the downtown Toronto attractions for me to discover. Until now I’ve always explored on foot since it is a fabulous city which is safe to explore. Yet a Toronto sightseeing bus tour really appealed on my most recent trip.
Toronto in Ontario, Canada is a modern, vibrant and exciting city. Recently named as the fourth largest city in North America (apparently after Mexico City, LA and New York) it has an inner city population of just over 2.6 million. This makes the place sound daunting but it is far from it. Often cited as one of the most liveable cities in the world I have to agree. For me it is contending with Melbourne for my heart; the only real negative thing for me is the winter weather of Toronto.
I wanted to explore more of this amazing city. I wanted a quick snap whistle stop tour of the downtown Toronto attractions. Then I knew where exactly things were located, what they looked like, some points of interest and if they were somewhere I wanted to return to.
On previous trips I’d eaten at the revolving restaurant of the Canadian National Tower (CN Tower), I’ve attended a concert at the Air Canada indoor arena. I’ve even made a trip to Niagara Falls twice (once from the US side).
As I looked at the information leaflets in my hotel’s lobby I noticed there were at least two bus tour companies to explore the downtown Toronto attractions. I was looking for things to do in Toronto for this visit so I took both leaflets away for closer inspection.
The red double decker bus company labelled as “City Sightseeing Toronto” caught my eye more out of the two companies. This was for two reasons:-
It was cheaper
It included a free boat ride around the harbour
Both companies offered free hotel pick up although I didn’t need this since I was in short walking distance of one of the many stops.
I was able to buy my ticket on the bus although there was an extra charge of $2 if you are paying by credit card. The ticket however was valid for 3 days so it is a great idea for cheap travel around the various attractions and getting some interesting information at the same time. (Note that you are only allowed one boat ride over the 3 days.)
I researched the company for reviews online before hand, yet pretty much like many reviews there were a high proportion of negative reviews. Well I wasn’t perturbed and must admit I found a lot of the negative reviews as being unfair compared to my experience in August 2014.
People said they couldn’t hear the speakers very well – I never had this problem.
Reviewers said the staff were impolite, ill informed, rude – I couldn’t disagree more.
The bus seats were said to be scruffy and torn – all the buses I sat on had new/refurnished padding and were very comfortable.
My downtown Toronto attractions sightseeing bus tour ran to 21 stops in all, estimated to take 2 hours if you stay on the bus for the duration.
The guides wear red tops and tend to be quite youthful. Virtually all of them admitted to being students, of history of course!
The guides were light hearted and pleasant. Some were maybe not as funny as they thought they were but at least they tried to keep people happy.
Here are some of the downtown Toronto attractions and interesting facts I came across on the tour:-
The AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) is the second largest art gallery in Canada.
Queen Street is a trendy place if you are looking to go clothes shopping in downtown Toronto.
The Entertainment District of Toronto has a licence to serve alcohol to 55,000 people, one of the highest licences in all of North America.
The British Royal Family have stayed at The Royal York Hotel (which when built in 1929 was the tallest building in the Commonwealth.)
The CN Tower used to be the tallest free standing building in the world, now it is only the tallest in the western hemisphere thanks to Dubai. However the CN Tower does still have the tallest wine cellar in the world 😉
When talking about the downtown Toronto attractions with a local be careful how you name the home of the baseball team the Toronto Blue Jays (a Blue Jay is the name a bird found locally). When built this stadium was known as the Sky Dome.
More recently the stadium was bought and renamed as the Rogers Centre. (Rogers are a telecommunications company and some locals object to the “sell out” of the name.)
Toronto has an urban beach but you can’t swim at it. There is also one of only 2 “official” unclothed beaches of Canada in Toronto. (I’ve no idea why they can’t call it a “nudist beach”.)
The Toronto Island Airport in the harbour is also known as the Billy Bishop Airport. Billy Bishop was the most successful Canadian fighter pilot from the First World War. The current airport does not host jet engine planes (except a medical plane) so as to avoid noise pollution for those living in the surrounding area.
When not on tour, ice hockey’s The Stanley Cup is housed in the downtown Toronto attraction of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There is a guy at the St Lawrence Market who sells 500 different types of cheese. He can also recognise them all when tasting with a blindfold. However don’t go looking for him on a Sunday or Monday since that is when the market is closed.
The city of Toronto suffered two great fires, one in 1849 and one in 1904. This is why many buildings are not that old. One of the oldest buildings is Trinity Church which has survived.
However the St James Anglican Cathedral (where Queen Elizabeth of England likes to pray when visiting) is currently in it’s 4th version.
The King Edward Hotel is claimed to be the most haunted building in Toronto.
Maple Leaf Gardens used to be home to the local hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. They now play at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto has its very own castle, Casa Loma.
Yonge Street (named after George Yonge) used to be able to claim itself as the longest street in the world; it runs all the way to Minnesota and is about 1,200 miles long. However the council then renamed part of the road as Highway 11 which then ruled it out of the record books.
The UN recognised Toronto as the most multi-cultural city in the world. Less than half the population can claim English as their first language.
Whilst Canada is a dual nationality country, French is actually only the 15th most spoken language in the country.
Belieb it or not, but it is claimed that Justin Bieber spat from his balcony at the Hazelton Hotel onto the people on the street below. (What a lovely character he is.)
Here are some of the other sights from my downtown Toronto attractions bus tour.
There were many more interesting facts I picked up about the downtown Toronto attractions but I don’t want to ruin it for you. With all these sightseeing locations there is little wonder that 3 days is needed to see it all. I really enjoyed the Toronto sightseeing tour and would highly recommend it.
Don’t forget you can buy your sightseeing bus tour tickets in advance or on the day when you board the bus. You can also save 43% on 5 main Toronto attractions including the CN Tower and Casa Loma with a Toronto City Pass.