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With the holiday only days away, airlines are making it easy to do last-minute tasks to alleviate pre-holiday stress. Virgin Atlantic is helping out holiday travelers by wrapping gifts. For $2, “Virgin Helpers” will wrap one carry on-sized gift while you’re waiting for your flight home for the holiday. Kiosks will be stationed in Terminal 4 of JFK Airport in New York, after you go through security (since the TSA discourages flyers from packing wrapped gifts). All of the proceeds will benefit the charity Virgin Unite.
At the Toronto-Pearson International Airport, you can arrange for a flyer to be greeted by carolers upon arrival. Through December 24, if you’re flying domestic into Toronto-Pearson, tweet @torontopearson with the person’s name, flight number, and flight date whom you’d like to surprise with some holiday cheer.
If your appetite for innovative cuisine in the multicultural city of Toronto was whet by last week’s A Taste of Toronto Part 1: Haute Hotels, here’s a look at some of the top places to savor the flavors of the region’s most passionate food producers, in settings both rustic and romantic. In case you didn’t read Part 1 and are wondering why I look like a NASCAR mechanic who’s about to rappel down a skyscraper (yes, that’s me and I thought it would get your attention), read on for info on Toronto’s newest attraction, Edgewalk at the CN Tower, and why you should definitely allow it to take you to new heights (fellas: there have been multiple proposals here in its first three months of operation), before you dine at the tower’s 360 Restaurant, located just beneath it (details on both are below). Read more
As I flew to Toronto for the first time last week, I felt a bit like I was cheating on Montreal, a city where I have several good friends and with which I have had an ongoing love affair for the past two decades. Toronto, the largest city in Canada (and fifth largest in North America) with its famously multicultural population of 2.5 million who speak 130 different languages and dialects, was never really on my radar as a place to escape to for a romantic weekend. (To be honest, it sounded a bit too much like New York, which is where I’d be escaping from.) But a recent spate of luxury hotel openings paired with an innovative dining scene finally lured me to see what Toronto has to offer couples seeking a sophisticated urban retreat with excellent food and wine (much of it from the nearby Niagara on the Lakes wine region). And wouldn’t you know it, I was pleasantly – and deliciously– surprised.
It’s November, so temperatures have begun to dip, but if you like brisk weather (which goes really well with some of the heartier local fare – Canadian bacon and horseradish-laced mustard on a Portuguese sourdough roll, for example) there is still time for a quick pre-holiday visit. If not, plan ahead for next spring or summer.
On my last two days in town, I decided to check out one of Toronto’s museums. The Gehry-desigend Art Gallery of Ontario is a stand-out, and there happened to be an exhibit of abstract expressionist paintings from New York’s MOMA. Unlike in New York City, I didn’t have to fight for space to view the special collection of artists such as Pollack, Rothko, and de Koenig.
Later, I met up with my friend for brunch at chic and trendy Sassafraz in Yorkville. The food is outstanding – as is the people- and car-watching. (Canadians love to drive their Porsches, Lamborghinis, and Lotuses around that particular corner!) Yorkville also has many high-end boutiques, and it’s nice to stroll around the neighborhood; larger stores are on nearby Bloor Street.
Speaking of on-site food, I should add that I ate dinner at restaurant E11even in Maple Leaf Square, and it was outstanding. It’s a quiet lounge-like setting in front of the modern bar, and the menu is an eclectic mix of Italian, some Asian, and American. I tried the Dim Sum appetizer and the pasta main course; both were super.
Earlier that day we began our tour by walking east along Front Street through the Old Town neighborhood, stopped in at the St. Lawrence Market (I wish New York had a meat and seafood market like this!), meandered into several furniture and design stores along King Street in what is the design district, and then walked south down Parliament Street to the Distillery.
We started with a tour to the top of the nearby CN Tower. The views, especially of the waterfront, are spectacular. The bistro on top, 360 The Restaurant, slowly rotates to let diners take in the scenery. If you purchase an entrée, admission to the top of the tower is free (about a $25 value).
We continued on to the Rogers Centre, a sports stadium, where the Toronto Blue Jays were playing the Phillies. Feeling spontaneous, my friend and I bought last-minute tickets from a scalper (we paid only a little more than face value) and watched our first Canadian baseball game.
If you visit the stadium, try the famous Canadian hot dogs, which are nothing like their American counterparts. These hot dogs are heartier and tastier, with a wide mix of toppings. The Phillies lost, by the way – though I have to admit I didn’t know Canadians even played baseball! I thought they only cared about hockey.
I’ve been to several parts of Canada, including Montreal, Whistler, and Banff. But for no particular reason, I’ve never found my way to Toronto. I’m glad to say I finally planned a long weekend over our July 4th holiday, and I’m very happy I did.
Toronto is a well-balanced, medium-sized, cosmopolitan city on the shores of Lake Ontario. It’s clean and well-organized, and a long weekend provides just enough time to explore its varied neighborhoods and attractions. Additionally, visitors can’t help but notice the surprising ethnic mix of the city; it is as diverse as many U.S. cities, and this no doubt adds to the city’s energy and entertainment offerings.
Speaking of entertainment, my visit coincided with both Canada Day (when residents celebrate the 1867 union of its three British colonies into one country) and Toronto’s Gay Pride weekend. At customs, the official asked if I was visiting for the festivities. I asked, “What festivities?” Well, I was in for an unexpected treat.
That’s right. Out with abs and in with frosty brews! Up in Canada (naturally), the Queer Beer Festival taps the kegs of Toronto on Thursday, August 4. A first-of-its-kind event in North America ? gay days at Oktoberfest come the closest in Europe ? the fest aims to embrace the queer and trans communities while celebrating Canada’s rich brewing history. Expect live entertainment, food tents, visits from experts of the craft from around the world, and tastes of more than 200 brands. Mezcal might be the drink of the summer, but on our tab, it’s time for some suds.
Low-cost bus service Megabus is expanding yet again with the creation of its 6th hub, in Pittsburgh. Fancy a weekend in Toronto? How about a quick trip to Detroit? Now you can take the bus there from the Steel City. Nine new daily routes from Pittsburgh also include Akron, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Toledo, Ohio. This comes on top of existing service to Camden, New Jersey; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; New York City; Philadelphia; State College, Pennsylvania; and Washington, D.C. The new routes start May 11.
THE VALUE: Compared to the cost and hassles of planes, trains, and automobiles, a $1 Megabus ticket can’t be beat.
THE CATCH: The $1 one-way fares tend to go fast, so be sure to book early. Fares do not include a $0.50 service charge.
THE DETAILS: Go to us.megabus.com to book your Megabus tickets.
WE’RE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find hot hotel deals for your trip.
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On Friday, July 23, hundreds of athletes will take to the 1,504 stairs of the Sydney Tower, the second-tallest building in Australia, to see how quickly they can reach the top.
No, they’re not taking part in a reverse fire drill. The event, called the Sydney Tower Run-Up, is part of an emerging trend called vertical running or tower running. The setting? The stairwells of some of the world’s tallest buildings, including the Taipei 101, the Empire State Building and the Sydney Tower.
The effort involved is grueling – the Taipei race, for example, means climbing 2,046 steps – but brief. In Sydney, the average finish time is 15 minutes, though whoever reaches the top the fastest will win an impressive $25,000 prize.
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