Spring Break Vacation - Toronto

by Coleman


My Dad is not big on flying. He would rather sit in a sweltering hot car for five hours and arrive at Penticton, then board an air-conditioned plane with movies and arrive someplace cool like Toronto. This is why none of us have ever been to Toronto. But that all changed when my brother Nathan moved there to go to York University. Mom must have put down her foot, (she’s got pretty big feet: size 12) and told Dad where things were at.

As soon as I heard we were going to Toronto I phoned up Nate and told him to get on some tickets for a Raptor’s game. He managed to get some mid-section tickets at the Air Canada Centre, only $150 more than Dad wanted to pay. I reminded Dad of the romantic evening he and Mom would be having while we were at the game, and he folded like a cheap suitcase.

The other big deal for me and Jen was the Drake store. That was a big fat disappointment, and plus we had to walk really far to get there. Jen and I spent about 40 minutes trying to figure out what to buy: not because there was tons of choice, more like no choice. In the end I bought a hat and Jen got some black sweat pants with gold writing all over them, just so we could say we got something from the Drake store.

Queen Street West was cool, lots of one-of-a-kind shops we don’t have in Vancouver. Mom heard through the grapevine, there were fabric stores on Queens, so she purposefully travelled light to leave room for the yards of fabric she saw herself buying. Unfortunately she got skunked. The stumbling block for Mom was she doesn’t like looking at stacks of fabric. She likes to see fabric displayed on rolls, preferably hanging on a wall; and the shops on Queens are tight, so tight you can hardly walk five feet without knocking over a bolt of material.

Toronto also has a bunch of malls. Nate bought some job interview clothes at the Hudson’s Bay in the huge downtown Eaton Centre. Grey pants and a white shirt; how bad is that. We also walked along Bloor Street - Yorkville, but it has mostly designer boutiques, which Mom doesn’t like to set foot in because she doesn’t want to waste her time looking at stuff she’s never going to buy anyway.

One day we went to the St. Lawrence Market. I remember one of the meat shops had some bones so big they looked like they came from a dinosaur. Mom could not stop raving about the fruit salad she got there. It had figs in it. Wow! I got a fried eggplant sandwich at an Italian deli, which was big enough to feed all of us. Luckily Mom didn’t make me save it. My good luck was no microwave in our hotel. Too bad.

Not far from the St. Lawrence Market is the Distillery District. Dad said it’s a National Historic Site, which usually means time to pull out my phone and play games, but this place surprised me. It looks historical, because all the buildings are Victorian era brick, even the walkways are made of brick, but the vibe is artsy, breezy, and modern. It has artist studios, galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Mom bought Nate a vintage Blue Jays t-shirt, and we had lunch at a French Boulangerie. There was no place for us to eat inside, so we sat on a bench outside and played host to a handful of tiny birds that picked up every last crumb we dropped.

Mom’s favorite place hands-down was the Kensington Market. It was right up her alley: vintage shops and more vintage shops. She ended up buying a vintage lamp with a windmill base, which Dad says you have to be of Dutch heritage to truly appreciate.

One day we rented a car and drove to Niagara Falls. On the way we stopped at a town called St. Catherines, because Mom absolutely had to check out a store she saw on the internet which sold vintage eyewear. One and a half hours later it was lunchtime. We ended up in the restaurant next-door to the eyeglass shop. It was called the Lemon Tree, named after the plastic lemon tree that stood in the middle of it. I couldn’t figure out which was more out of place, that or the 3-D replica of the Eiffel Tower covered in a string of blinking white lights. As for the food, Mom says I should never complain about a meal I didn’t pay for, so let’s leave it at that.

Niagara Falls is something you have to see to believe. It’s hard to describe the sheer velocity of water cascading over its edge. Apparently it is the most powerful waterfall in North America. Dad said it is eroding at a rate of one foot every year, which means in 50,000 years it will no longer be there.

Apparently you can take boat rides under the falls. That would have to be a pretty big boat before I’d set foot in it. You can even do crazier stuff like bungee jump, zip line, or take a ride on a jet boat. Dad said a guy once tried going over the falls in a jet boat. He was so sure he was going to make it that he didn’t bother to put on a crash helmet. He didn’t make it.

Our excitement for the day was Clifton Hill, the closest thing I’ve ever come to Las Vegas. Definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re a kid between 5 and 15 years old. Take my advice on this one and be sure you go with your parents, because you won’t want to pay for the sights, rides, and games out of your own money. Believe me, it adds up. Jen and I each paid about 10 bucks to try a maze that took us less than five minutes to get out of. Mom said she has never wasted so much money in such a short period of time.

Mom and Dad took Jen and I out for dinner to our childhood favorite restaurant: The Rainforest Café. It was just like I remembered it: dusty plastic vines dangling from the ceiling; floor to ceiling fish tank to greet you with exotic fish staring at you; half-hourly thunderstorm with robotic jungle animals opening their mouths and growling. Even the food was the same, although Dad pointed out they no longer serve potato chips with their meals. I don’t remember what I had. What I do remember is that Jen and I each got a refillable novelty cup that cost $12. Hers had a 3-D frog on the top and mine had an elephant head, which Mom was hoping we’d leave behind in the hotel room, but didn’t.

We ended up spending more time at Clifton Hills than we should have, which set us back for our next destination, a small town called Niagara on the Lake. We got there just in time to see the shop owners turning around their Open signs. I could see Mom wincing; it was the type of place she could easily have gotten lost in for a couple of hours.

We didn’t get back to Toronto until 10:30, and then Mom and Dad still had to take the rental car back. And then, after all that, they did something really crazy--went out for dinner. I can’t imagine Mom eating at midnight; she usually is sound asleep by 9:00 PM. Apparently they couldn’t resist this small Italian restaurant called The KitKat, which played 60’s music all night long. Dad must’ve been in his glory.

We also spent an afternoon checking out Nate’s new pad. He lives in Davisville, about a 20 minute subway ride. Toronto has lots of neighborhoods, all connected by a subway system. To be honest, I’m not a fan of subways, but this one really had nothing any of us could complain about.

What I noticed about Toronto is that it’s made mostly of brick. Even people’s houses are mostly made of brick. The University of Toronto is almost all grey brick. Dad said it was founded in 1827, which is ten years short of 200 years. Mom and I went inside one of the buildings to see if it was as old inside as it was outside. It was. It literally must cost a fortune to heat and maintain all those buildings.

Another site Dad wanted us to see was the Bata Shoe Museum. At first Jen and I thought it might be okay, because we both like shoes. But it was set up like a museum with exhibits; way too much reading for me. Jen and I saw everything in 10 minutes, and left Mom and Dad to do all the reading.

The last day we were in Toronto it was 12 degrees and sunny. You could’ve gone outside with just a sweater on. Having just had an unreal number of rainfall days in Vancouver, we all thought we were in paradise. In fact, the weather in Toronto was sunny, but cold (1 to 7 degrees) every day we were there, except one.

I’d like to go back to Toronto, maybe in the summer, and catch a Blue Jays game. I’d also like to go up the CN Tower. We walked by it a couple of times, but never had the time to go up. I have a feeling Dad was making up excuses, because he’s afraid of heights. Nate said it is the tallest building in Canada. The view must be amazing from the top. Maybe next time I’ll tell Dad he can go have a romantic dinner with Mom, while Jen and I go up the CN Tower; see what he says.

Age group:

All ages, although I didn’t see too much fun stuff for kids; maybe in the summer. Toronto is more a city than anything else. Dad said you have to go outside if you want to go hiking and swimming.

Expense rating:

According to Mom (the expert shopper), the prices in Toronto are the same as Vancouver. It’s just Toronto has more going on--plays, live entertainment, baseball, basketball, shopping—so you’re bound to spend more money.


The trip to Niagara Falls did not disappoint.


Dad will tell you the one downer is having to get on an airplane.


3,000 km from Vancouver: in other words, a 4 ½ hour plane ride.


Southeastern Ontario, on Lake Ontario, across from the state of New York.


I think it would be more fun to go in the summer. Then you can see the Canadian National Exhibition and the Toronto Zoo when the weather is nice, plus Nate says a lot of restaurants open up outdoor patios in the summer.

Educational highlights:

Dad says Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America; only Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles are bigger.

Fun for the adult?:

Like I say, there’s probably more fun stuff for adults to do in Toronto than kids. Toronto has lots of playhouses, live entertainment venues, art galleries, museums and places to eat, which is what adults like to do.