An Afternoon in Toronto

In October 2014, I traveled across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver by train with my father.  The trip began on Sunday, October 12, 2014 when I took Megabus from Newark, Delaware to Union Station in Washington DC.  It was a bargain at $5.25 (fares start as low as $1 plus fees) and allowed me to travel open jaw back to Philadelphia International Airport at the conclusion of the trip.  Our train was scheduled to depart Toronto westbound on Tuesday, October 14 at 10:00pm.

1 Air Canada at DCA
Air Canada E175 at DCA. Lowell Silverman photography, 2014

On Tuesday morning my father and I took the Metro to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).  We had tickets on an Air Canada flight to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).  We banked the miles earned on the flight to Star Alliance partner United.  The fare earned only quarter mileage, a measly 90 miles (considerably less than I earned for a single dinner last weekend using the United MileagePlus X ap!).  The aircraft was an Embraer 175 and had comfortable seats with adequate legroom.  We were served beverages and a small cookie.  Although the scenery was mostly obscured by clouds, I did get a brief look at Buffalo, New York and surrounding areas.

2 Buffalo
Buffalo, New York is in the foreground with Lake Erie at left. The Peace Bridge is barely visible at right crossing the Niagara River into Fort Erie, Ontario

Distance: 360 miles (579 km) by great circle

Flight: Air Canada Flight 7353

Equipment: Embraer 175

Class: Economy

Cost per mile: $0.26/mile

Performance: Takeoff from DCA 11:50am EDT (scheduled 11:35am), landed at YYZ  12:50pm EDT (scheduled 1:00pm)

Duration: 1 hour

It was raining in Toronto when we arrived.  Customs was painless enough.  Pearson is a bit of a hike from downtown Toronto.  We caught the TTC 191 bus and transferred to the Toronto Subway (initially Line 1 with a transfer to Line 2 to reach Union Station).  C$3 (C$2 for seniors) seemed reasonable for a lengthy ride by bus and two subway rides.  A quicker journey by rail is now possible on the new Union Pearson Express for a steep C$27.50.

At Toronto Union Station I put some clothes and toiletries in a duffel bag (which they agreed to hold onto until evening) and checked my suitcase through to Jasper, Alberta (a surprisingly round 3,000 km—or a somewhat less round 1,864 miles—away as the crow flies).

4 Toronto
Toronto skyline with prominent CN Tower as seen from the ferry

The rain stopped, although it was still a pretty gloomy day.  We walked down to Lake Ontario and caught a ferry (adults C$7) to Ward’s Island (technically Centre Island), a popular recreation area in the Toronto Islands just offshore from the metropolis.  It was the first day of the winter schedule, which unfortunately meant that we’d have to retrace our steps instead of being able to take a separate ferry back from the west side of the island.

5 Wards Island Ferry
Ferry departing Ward’s Island
Toronto-Park-Map
Map of the Toronto Islands (south is up)

The island was a mixture of beaches, parkland, and single family homes…so different from bustling downtown Toronto nearby!  Turboprop aircraft at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport at the west end of the Toronto Islands were surprisingly loud and did kind of hamper the otherwise idyllic setting.  Dad’s knee was bothering him, so we didn’t cover too much ground.  Next visit I’d like to see the lighthouse and the location where Babe Ruth supposedly hit his first home run as a professional baseball player in 1914.  (As with so many events of historical note both great and small, it seems this is in dispute.)

6 Tommy Thompson Park
View from Ward’s Island across the Main Harbour Channel to nearby Tommy Thompson Park

We caught a ferry back to downtown Toronto.  My father likes trains even more than I do, so we stopped by Roundhouse Park near the CN Tower.  The old John Street Roundhouse is home to Steam Whistle Brewing and a furniture store.  The Toronto Railway Museum has some vintage equipment on display, including the impressive old steam engine, CN 6213.

720-CN-6213
CN 6213, a 4-8-4 (that would be 4 leading wheels, eight drive wheels, and four trailing wheels for anyone who wondered what that meant) steam locomotive.

We ate dinner nearby at the Loose Moose.  I’m afraid that the name was better than the food.

8 Toronto
Downtown Toronto with the Fairmont Royal York at left

We had a few hours before our train departed and I convinced my father that we should visit the CN Tower.  At 533 m (1,815′) it was the tallest freestanding structure in the world from 1975 to 2007 and it is still the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.  Built on what was originally railroad-owned land, it was close to our next destination, Union Station.

CN Tower
CN Tower

General admission was a steep C$36 after taxes (supposedly it’s cheaper booked online) and gave us access to the main pod, which, disappointingly, is only a little over halfway up the structure.  The elevator ride to the main pod took just a minute.  I was surprised that such a tall tower had an outdoor deck.  The wind was absolutely howling on one side of the deck but blocked by the structure on the other.

720CNClearFloor
Transparent floor

There was a small area with a transparent floor, though it was not as frightening to walk on as The Ledge at Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).

CN Tower View
Downtown Toronto as seen from the CN Tower

Photography was a bit of a challenge.  There’s a chain link fence with narrow gaps encircling the deck.  I found I could zoom in and focus beyond the fence; the links weren’t really evident as long as the shutter wasn’t open when a rotating light illuminated them.

The CN Tower’s outdoor deck has the distinction of being the highest outdoor observation platform I’ve ever visited.  At a height of 342 m  or 1,122′, it blew away other outdoor platforms like the Eiffel Tower, New York’s 30 Rockefeller Center, Seattle’s Space Needle and Las Vegas’s Stratosphere, though not the indoor Skydeck (412 m or 1,353′) on the Willis Tower.  Visitors with deep pockets may wish to splurge for to privilege of visiting the CN Tower’s SkyPod, which reaches an incredible 447m (1,465′).

Toronto Union Station
View down from the CN Tower with Fairmont Royal York at left and Union Station at right
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