It's as cosmopolitan as New York City, as historically rich as Boston, as art-savvy as Chicago and sports the cultural diversity of all three combined. Toronto is notorious for its low crime, little grime and friendly, welcoming people. You'll have no trouble finding lots to enjoy with kids in and around the city; the hardest part will be choosing what to do first.
Summer is first for letting Toronto show off its very best but the fall or spring are close seconds. Because they know it's a fast-fleeting season, Torontonians make the most of the summer with frequent festivals, patio lunches, and long walks. However, if you don't mind the cold (and the threat of heavy snow) you'll also find plenty of activities to keep you delighted in winter, from skating on an outdoor rink or meandering among the ice carvings in front of city hall to curlng up with a mug of hot chocolate and looking out over the city's twinkling night skyline.
Lately weather has been tough to predict in Toronto. In 2008 the temperatures hung around the low 70s until late July before finally picking up in August. Generally you can expect the coldest months to be between December and early March. Wet springs are typical with the first signs of summer showing up around the end of June. The first wintery winds will typically blow around late October. Layers are a good idea any time of the year.
Toronto offers two airports. Lester B. Pearson International Airport handles most international air traffic. The airport is about an hour outside of the city; depending on what time you land you could fall prey to rush hour traffic (7-10 a.m and 3-6 p.m.) on the 18-lane highway 401 that takes you into the city. Porter Airlines is a nice option for some itineraries. This small, local airline operates out of the Toronto Island Airport and a quick ferry ride and shuttle link takes travelers into downtown Toronto. Porter currently offers international flights to Boston, Chicago and New York. Additionally, bus service via Greyhound is available from many North American cities, and train service with Canada's Via Rail travels across Canada and offers connecting tickets to Amtrak trains.
Toronto's subway system, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), is world renowned for its cleanliness and safety record. A family daypass on the weekend will let two adults and up to four children get on and off the trains, buses and streetcars for C$9 per day. Single adult fares are C$2.75 and children under 12 are C.70 . Check the website for maps for the system and other helpful info. Toronto isn't a difficult city to drive in but parking can be expensive downtown and you may find it cheaper and easier to grab a cab if you're in a hurry or there isn't a bus stop close to where you're going. On the other hand if you're hoping to venture futher afield to stops outside the city or the suburbs, a car is essential. Toronto also boasts an underground city lined with shops and restaurants that can prove useful in inclement weather. The PATH is complex series of lanes and pathways that take you under most of the downtown core. It takes a little practice to navigate it; leave yourself plenty of time to figure it out.
You'll find the biggest and brightest festivals in the summer months but Torontonians can find a reason to celebrate just about any time. Here are some of the most popular city festivities:
Tourism Toronto offers planning suggestions, maps, and event listings. Weekly entertainment in the city can also be found in "Now Magazine" and "Eye Magazine" (both free and in newspaper boxes around the city) as well as any of the city's three daily newspapers ("The Toronto Star," "The Globe and Mail," "The National Post"). Also of note, Toronto's downtown core is wi-fi friendly (charge). For a map of the area covered visit the OneZone website.
The Toronto Citypass offers deeply discounted access to five of Toronto's most popular family venues (CN Tower, Casa Loma, Science Centre, Royal Ontario Museum and The Toronto Zoo). Passes are US$54.87 for adults and US$36.27 for kids. Passes can be purchased at any of the participating venues or online.
During Winterlicious (January/February) and Summerlicious (July) top Toronto restaurants offer prix fixe menus showcasing their best offerings at a fraction of the cost. Book early. Menus and participating restaurants are listed online. For additional discounts and specials, check seetoronto.com.
The retractable roof at Rogers Centre is the world's largest. It takes 20 minutes to open and the field could hold 516 African elephants, the Roman Colliseum or 8 Boeing 747 jets.
Lightning strikes the CN Tower approximately 75 times a year. At 1,815 feet, it's the world's tallest lightning rod.
It took 300 men, three years to build Casa Loma.
The first public transit system in Toronto was a horse-drawn streetcar.
Lester B. Pearson International Airport is the 4th largest airport in North America.