Toronto is truly a city that has something for everyone. Cosmopolitan and multicultural, this beautiful city hugs the shores of Lake Ontario and offers up a side of pristine nature to complement its worldly landscape. Toronto welcomes millions of visitors each year, from convention attendees to students to big bus tours, but I think it makes for a perfect girls’ getaway destination. If you have a weekend to spare with your best girlfriends, head to Toronto and make your own mark on the city!
Where to Stay
Funky and artsy, with a heaping helping of hospitality and endless personal touches —Hotel Le Germaine at Maple Leaf Square is the perfect base for a girlfriends’ getaway. Rainfall showers, Molten Brown toiletries, cool art, and a complimentary deluxe continental breakfast are gorgeous finishing touches that elevate this boutique-style hotel from good to truly great.
For some authentic “do it like a local” points, visit the Longo’s supermarket in the building’s lower level — the bakery is amazing but there are healthier choices as well, including a salad and yogurt bar.
Another great option is the Fairmont Royal York. This landmark hotel in the heart of downtown couldn’t be more convenient — it’s directly across the street from the central train station. This huge hotel still has plenty of homey touches, including a roof-top garden growing heirloom tomatoes. The elegant lobby is a great place to people watch, and the sophisticated bar is the perfect place for some post dinner drinks and desserts — I can highly vouch for the chocolate martinis and the crème brulee!
What to Eat
Toronto is often cited as the most ethnically and linguistically diverse city in the world. There’s not a cuisine in the world that isn’t done in Toronto — and done well! If you have ever wanted to try Nepalese, Tibetan, Romanian, Panamanian, or Ugandan cuisine, you’ve come to the right place! Legislation has just passed to allow for food trucks, so get ready for an explosion of cheap street eats that reflect the city’s culinary passions.
Brunch is a big deal in Toronto and even the most casual of diners and dives will have a serious line at the door. If you’re celebrating a special occasion with your girlfriends, ask your hotel concierge to recommend a great bunch spot and help to arrange reservations.
If you’re looking to whip up a little culinary DIY, head to the St. Lawrence Market. Named by National Geographic as one of the best food markets in the world, this is the place to go for phenomenal Portuguese custard tarts, homemade peameal bacon sandwiches, coffee, olives, cheese, seafood, jams, jellies, fruits and vegetables. They also offer cooking classes in their community room. I did a knife skills class that was an amazing learning experience — our chef led us through the process of making minestrone from scratch, complete with deboning a chicken to make fresh stock!
What to Do
One of the coolest neighborhoods to explore is the Distillery District— and if you’re feeling really brave you should explore it by Segway. I admit it took me a while to relax and get into the groove, but if I can pick it up, anyone can!
Beer is just the tip of the iceberg in the Distillery District. There’s sake and wine, homemade chocolate and artisan cheese, and my absolute favorite: Crescendo Oil and Vinegar. This little shop will keep you memorized for hours. They sell small batch artisan olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the most amazing array of flavors. They can even prepare great flavored spritzer water with their balsamic vinegar. Trust me, you have to try this!
If your desires are more culturally inclined, Toronto has endless museums and galleries to enjoy. One place that should be at the top of everyone’s list is the Bata Shoe Museum. It might sound like a girly collection of high heels, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s really telling the story and history of popular culture through the centuries and includes pieces such as John Lennon’s Beatle Boots, Terry Fox’s Adidas sneakers, Napoleon Bonaparte’s silk stockings, and exquisite 18th century Huron moccasins.
There are plenty of traditional girly activities in Toronto to fill a year’s worth of weekends, and the city boasts fabulous spas and shopping. But for an un-traditional twist, consider bypassing the facial studios and vintage sweater shops in favor of a sports theme. Torontonians are crazy about their local sports teams and the large stadiums and arenas mean that there are usually inexpensive last minute tickets available if you don’t mind the third tier seating. And if you like your sports with a side of deluxe nachos check out the Loose Moose on Front Street. They have a long list of microbrews and serve up generous portions of classic pub food. It’s the perfect place to let loose and have a ton of fun!
Toronto is such a perfect location for a quick escape. It’s easy to get to, offers something for every budget, and has a fantastic blend of arts and culture, food and wine, sports and nature, and good old-fashioned fun to make it the ideal host for any traveler. I always allow far too much time to slip by between trips with my girlfriends and I know I’m not alone — it’s so easy to get caught up in everyday life and, before you know it, years have passed by. I’m not going to make that mistake again and I’m ready to start planning my next Toronto escape before it gets too late!
Photo Credits: Lead photo by Groupe Germain Hospitalité, others by author.