Ultra-modern. Diverse. These are just a few words travelers have used to describe the city of Toronto. Located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, the area of Toronto was actually the byproduct of post-glacial deposits. Europeans first arrived here in the 1700s and soon set up a major trading post. The city boomed during the days of the Industrial Revolution, and in the 1960s Toronto opened itself to the world with extremely liberal immigration policies. Indeed, over half of the residents in this huge megalopolis are foreign-born. Travelers are impressed with the wide variety of cultures on display in this major North American city. Below, you'll find five reasons why you should put Toronto on your vacation list for 2017.
1. Tons Of Museums
As with any great city, Toronto is full of world-class museums. History buffs can take a trip back to 19th century Ontario at the Black Creek Pioneer Village. Numerous actors go through a typical farming day in this re-created village from the 1860s. If farming isn't your thing, you can check out the finest in opulent living at Casa Loma. Casa Loma was the former estate of financier Sir Henry Pellat, and it's complete with European grandeur and intrigue. In addition to fine decorations and towers, this estate has secret passageways and a wondrous 5-acre garden. Art lovers must check out the Art Gallery of Ontario (which features Ruben's stunning Massacre of the Innocents) and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Finally, for those looking for an odd museum experience, check out Napoleon Bonaparte's sock collection (yes, you read that right!) at the Bata Shoe Museum.
2. Iconic Landmarks
Toronto has one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Canada: the CN Tower. After this 553-meter tower was completed in 1976, it was officially the tallest tower in the world. Although CN Tower lost that distinction when Dubai completed its Burj Khalifa in 2007, visitors to Toronto just love taking a trip to the top of this stunning free-standing structure. Visitors to CN Tower get to take a wonderful glass elevator ride to the glass observation area. There's also a restaurant called 360 on the main deck of this tower.
In addition to CN Tower, sports fans like to take in a game at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. And, for those into historical Canadian structures, a visit to Toronto City Hall is well worth your time.
3. Toronto For Kids
Traveling with children? No worries. Toronto has plenty of amazing attractions to keep kids amused for hours on end. First off, visit Legoland, which is just 30-minutes north of Toronto's city center. In addition to housing "Miniland," a miniature lego replica of Toronto made up of half a million lego bricks, Legoland Toronto hosts Lego 4D Cinema, the Kingdom Quest ride, and the Merlin's Apprentice ride. Close to Legoland is the 330-acre Canada's Wonderland theme park, which is complete with thrilling roller coasters and a water park. For those only staying within Toronto's city center, a few popular attractions for children include the Toronto Zoo and the Ontario Science Center.
4. A Film Lover's Paradise
Toronto hosts two of cinema's most famous film festivals each and every year. First off, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starts up on the Thursday following Labor Day and usually lasts for about ten days. This festival, which has been held annually since 1976, shows around 300 films to well over 480,000 film lovers. Some people just visit this festival to try and get a glimpse of some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Many of the films premiered in Toronto actually go on to earn Oscar nominations, so definitely check this film festival out if you're into award-winning movies.
The second most popular film festival held in Toronto is the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF). Held every February, the TBFF hosts some of the major films made for and by black people. Most of the films showcased here are concerned with cultural and social issues surrounding the black community.
5. Authentic And Eclectic Dining Options
If you're a foodie, you'll find no shortage of dining options in Toronto. Conde Nast Traveler officially named Toronto as one of the best food cities in the world, and it's clear to see why once you get here. Since Toronto is such a melting pot, there are literally thousands of restaurants from all around the world to take in. Skip the tourist traps and dine with the Toronto locals. A few of the more popular luxury restaurants include ALO Restaurant, Scaramouche Restaurant, and George Restaurant, all of which are French/Canadian. People looking for Asian cuisine can head on over to Chinatown, and people who just want to relax at a local cafe can check out either the Distillery District or the University District. No matter what cuisine you're into, you'll definitely find something to satisfy your palate in this cosmopolitan city.
For hiking enthusiasts, finding that “one place” can be a daunting task with so many beautiful destinations. Here’s a list of 10 hikes located across the globe where any one of them could be your “one place”.
10. Kalalau Trail: Kauai, Hawaii
This 11-mile (one way) trail is located along the amazing Na Pali Coast. The rugged trail is quite popular and you need a camping permit to stay. But the hike and final destination are well worth the steep trail and heat. Kalalau beach is a mile-long beauty with the Kalalau Valley offering amazing waterfalls and scenery.
9. Everest Base Camp: Nepal
The 70-mile round trip Everest Base Camp venture is becoming one of the world’s most popular treks. Hikers, though, should take their time acclimating themselves to the intense high-altitude climb while viewing three of the highest peaks in the world.
8. Inca Trail: Peru
By far one of the most popular hikes in the world. The 26-mile trip allows one to roll through jungles and beautiful mountain scenery while ending at the world-famous Machu Picchu.
7. Tour du Mont Blanc: France, Italy, Switzerland
Traversing three countries, this trail offers beautiful vistas, snow-covered mountains, ancient cobblestone, wild geraniums and even grazing cattle along its 105-mile journey.
6. The Narrows: Utah
This amazing “river” trail is located in Zion National Park and is its most popular. The trail itself pretty much is the Virgin River, meaning you will be wet for most of the 16 miles, with wading and swimming a must during this gorgeous hike.
5. Sentiero Azzurro: Cinque Terre, Italy
This picturesque and very popular cliffside trail located in Italy actually connects five villages, offering breathtaking views as well as a trail for every level of hiker. This is not a long hike, perhaps five hours total, but with so much to see, one can make this adventure as long as they wish.
4. Appalachian Trail: Georgia to Maine
This 2,180-mile trail ventures through 14 states and is the longest in the world. The views offered can be quite stunning and even with its distance, this trail is extremely popular, as it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in America.
3. Torres Del Paine: Patagonia, Chile
The trail offers gorgeous lakes, massive glaciers and volcanic peaks along its 37-miles. One of its highlights is Heilo Sur, which is the second largest non-polar icefield on earth.
2. Desert Trek to Petra – Jordan
This 50-mile round trip trek offers so much in spite of its desert surrounding. Jordan’s mountain peaks and gorges are a hikers dream but the true marvel is the ancient setting and amazing history the journey to Petra offers.
1. Santa Cruz Trek: Peru
The Santa Cruz trek is considered by many hikers as one of the best hiking routes in the world. It offers snow-covered mountain peaks and lush open valleys as you also journey along rivers and brightly colored lagoons.
I never thought summer would arrive. And quite frankly I’m not sure it has in my small world but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to travel. At night when the cool air approaches and the stars come out I think of all the beaches I’d like to be sunbathing on. However, I can’t say that’s what I think about during the day. One place that has drawn my attention is Phuket, Thailand. I have always been fascinated with the Asian lands and Thailand is no exception. Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and one of the most beautiful.
Just like most islands you can do all those fantastic activities like snorkeling in the blue lagoons, or if you want to get certified - scuba diving: getting up close and personal to a leopard shark, lion fish or an octopus. Don’t want to get wet? Charter a boat and go sailing on the waters. Check out the bays with rock formations jetting out of the water covered in greenery. Spend the day on a yacht with a hot tub drinking wine while watching the sunset over the water. The next day, rent out bikes and travel around the island. When you’re done, switch out your bicycle for an elephant and go on a safari.
Some of my personal favorites to do on this magnificent island is sky diving and if you’re daring, rent a motorbike and do some serious riding. Still not daring enough? Well. Put on some gear and get ready to climb some very high trees. After you get to the top, look over your shoulder. It’s time to climb across to the next tree using only ropes. Maybe that yacht with champagne is looking better? You’re on vacation. Get wild! While you’re climbing the sky using only cables you are harnessed in. The only thing to fear is….Well, you know the saying. After you try all the extreme adventures you and your stomach can handle, make your way to a spa and relax with a massage. At night visit a cabaret or a dinner theater. As the night unwinds, make your way back to your resort when you can sleep in and do it all over again in the morning.
As I look out my window and still see inches of snow melting off the trees, it has me reminiscing on the days I lived in California and the palm trees that are standing tall, soaking in the sun while I’m bundled up in my wool socks and pajamas. In a few weeks people will be dancing under those palm trees for two weekends in a row for one of the biggest concert festivals of the year.
Coachella attracts every type of person. From the performers who will be there to the ones who will be in the crowds listening to the talented musicians that will be playing. This is not your typical concert you go to for a few hours and then go home to look at the selfies you took of yourself with your favorite artist in the background. This is a two weekend event that happens once a year in Coachella, California. Hotels in the area prepare for the thousands of people that will arrive. There are campgrounds where you can stay off and on the grounds, depending how close you want to be. You can carpool with others if you’re not on site and if you are, you may just win lifetime tickets to Coachella and VIP passes for the events.
Music from all genres will the there. Musicians like AC/DC to Drake will be playing to bands like Bad Religion and a personal favorite, Florence + the Machine. Whether you like country, rap or rock and roll, you will find it here. For those music enthusiasts, there will be a vinyl store where you can browse for your favorite music. A boutique with clothes, art and collectables will be on the premises. Not only will the music be outstanding, the food will be just as amazing. There will be your usual concert food. However, there will also be an assortment of deliciousness to choose from homemade ice cream, craft beer paired with selected dishes, tacos and for those with special diets vegan, gluten free menus to choose from. Some of the best up and coming chefs will be on hand to display their talents. If you’re lucky enough to have VIP passes to the Rose Garden, you will dine in the beautiful Coachella Rose Garden and taste some of the finest food you will ever have the pleasure of tasting.
While jamming to your some of your favorite music and chowing down on a specialty dish from the restaurant Eggslut (where everything is made with egg), walk around to discover the art that will be displayed. Last year a chain of hot air balloons were in the air, a large caterpillar was created for sitting under to enjoy some shade, and robots and a giant astronaut were on site to engage the audience.
This isn’t exactly a tropical paradise where you sit lazily by the ocean and drink Pina Coladas or travel to some far away mountain, hiking until you reach the top. This is for the diehard music lovers who want a once in a lifetime experience, where those who are performing are some of the best up and coming musicians or have already proven themselves. This is where those with talent come to shine whether it is with their guitar, their prose with musical lyrics or creating that fabulous dish you’ll have to Instagram. And when you find you just need to take a break from your senses, a Ferris wheel that reaches into the clouds will be on hand to take you away for a few moments to catch your breath and get ready for the next day full of laughter, songs and dancing.
At the moment, it feels like I live at the North Pole. Over the past few weeks, the state of Massachusetts has watched almost four feet of snow drift down from the clouds above. As I looked out my foggy window watching the snowflakes pile up I thought about where I’d rather be. Quite honestly, I came up with a long list but I only booked one vacation, to Costa Rica. Of course it’s only the beginning of February, anything can happen. My passport is up to date and I’m ready for anything but another snowstorm.
There are so many places to stay in Costa Rica. My desired choice this time around will be in the Guanacaste area. Besides finding a beach after I check into my all inclusive resort where room and food are included, I want to experience a few excursions. And there are many to choose from. First and foremost I will be zip lining through the rainforest. There are a number of ways to do this. The one I’ve chosen will be to go over the waterfalls. I will fly by at least eleven. To say I’m afraid of heights is an understatement but to experience life, one must put away the phobias. If only for a day (as long as I don’t see spiders).
After my personal flight I will take an excursion to one of the volcanos in the area. Again, there are a few options. I plan to visit one where afterwards I can sit in the hot springs and forget about life for a few hours. Afterwards there is usually a lunch or dinner served. I may even go on a horseback ride on my way to the volcano.
If I have time I want to visit the butterfly garden where I’ll see many different types of butterflies and possibly other wildlife. If I don’t have time for butterflies, I will be visiting the rainforest tour where all types of critters can be seen including three different species of monkeys and over two hundred kinds of birds. There is also the Tortuguero National park which you’ll travel by boat as you take in the scenery. Or instead hop on a raft with a tour guide and make your way to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Here you will see how jaguars live in their own habitat and how to save these beautiful creatures.
If you have a sweet tooth you can take an excursion and taste locally made chocolate or if you like a little bitter with your chocolate, visit one of the many places that produces coffee.
Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the marketplace and do a little shopping. After all the excursions, head back to your hotel, get out a beach towel, grab a fruity drink with an umbrella and relax by the ocean.
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