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Destinations with Sarah Elbert: Toronto

Delta Sky Magazine August 2011, Andreas Trauttmansdorff

Photo by Andreas Trauttmansdorff

The Thompson Hotel rooftop.

Maybe it’s because so many movies that “take place” in New York City are filmed in Toronto, but residents in Canada’s largest city seem compelled to compare its neighborhoods and streets to those in Manhattan. In reality, Toronto feels more like Chicago, with a bit of San Francisco thrown in—and a flavor that is uniquely Canadian (with a dose of European charm for good measure).

The arts are thriving in Toronto. All over the city, you’ll find cutting-edge galleries, interesting architecture, numerous performance spaces (both modern and historic) and, at least in the summer, a festival in nearly every public square. While I was there in June, the annual Luminato Festival was taking place, celebrating culture with specially commissioned plays, installations and concerts all over the city. Near St. Lawrence Market, Woofstock drew dogs and owners of all stripes. In Dundas Square, Bollywood fans gathered in anticipation of the International Indian Film Academy Awards. And down the street was the Tiff Bell Light Box, a five-story paean to film that opened in 2010 to host the Toronto International Film Festival each September. It’s hard to dispute that Toronto is a diverse, happening city.

Which goes for its hotel scene as well. The city’s newest luxury offering, The Ritz-Carlton, looks like a stack of opaque and translucent glass boxes set back from the street. The public spaces and guest rooms boast refined, modern opulence, and the service cannot be beat; book a Club-level room for even more amenities. After a day of shopping at Eaton Centre Mall on Yonge Street, for haute couture in Yorkville (Burberry, Prada, Chanel) or at the high-end, edgy design, clothing and jewelry boutiques of the Historic Distillery District, pamper yourself with a Cloud 9 massage in the Ritz’s Zen-infused, expansive 23,000-square-foot spa.

For artier digs, head to the West Queen West neighborhood, where The Drake and The Gladstone boutique hotels have helped revitalize the stretch of Queen Street West between Gladstone Avenue and Bathurst Street. You’ll find galleries (don’t miss Stephen Bulger and Edward Day), cool independent shops (check out Pho Pa for women, The Drake General Store for gifts, Green Shag for men and Kol Kid for tots) and restaurants—book a table at Union for simple farm-to-table fare in an intimate, stylish setting. End your day with cocktails at one of the resto-lounges lining Ossington Street. Or if you’re staying there or know someone who is, sip a cocktail on the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, which boasts a nearly unrivaled view of the city—unless, of course, you make it to the Sky Pod of the CN Tower, towering 1,465 feet above the city.

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