See This, Skip That: Toronto

PHOTO: The Toronto skyline.

With a little more than 2.5 million residents, the pulsating city of Toronto is Canada’s largest metropolis. It’s also the country’s financial hub, an epicenter for culinary trends and a haven for culture and diversity – not to mention ground zero for a flurry of luxury hotel openings in just the last few years. As summer approaches, and as many travelers begin to fold Toronto into their travel plans, this is our must-do list.

Skip YYZ, Fly YTZ Toronto Pearson is one of the great international airports in North America. But many U.S. travelers from the East Coast have an even more convenient option: Billy Bishop. Also known as Toronto Island Airport, it’s serviced by a low-cost regional airlines like Porter, which flies into Toronto from Boston Logan, Chicago Midway, Dulles, Newark and, seasonally, Myrtle Beach. The airport “is literally downtown, making it extremely accessible and convenient,” says my Toronto-based colleague Michel Duchesne, who publishes Travelzoo Canada’s weekly Top 20 newsletter. “A cab ride to the financial or entertainment district is only about $12-$15, or you can catch a free shuttle to the Fairmont Royal York, just across from Union Station.”

Skip the Walking Tour, Fly High Toronto by foot is an awesome way to appreciate this beautiful city. But Cameron Air Service, operating out of Billy Bishop Airport, provides a totally different perspective. They’ll fly you in a Cessna 206 over city highlights like the CN Tower, Rogers Center and Humber Bay. Up to four people can buckle up, and you can do a 20-minute sky tour over downtown Toronto or an hour-long flight to Niagara Falls.

Skip the Zoo, Visit Little Ray’s The Toronto Zoo is one of the city’s top draws; more than 5,000 animals reside here. But Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo is a unique opportunity to get up-close and personal with more than 150 amphibians and reptiles. Snakes? Yes. Turtles. Check. And the alligators and lizards are a big draw. The Hamilton location is located about 45 miles southwest of downtown and treats guests to interactive hands-on presentations and feeding demonstrations.

Skip the Museum, Visit the Barns Museums are a significant element in Toronto’s culture scene, and they’re popular attractions for good reason. The Artscape Wytchwood Barns in Bracondale Hills, though, present art in a very organic way. The community center is housed in former streetcar maintenance facility – more than 60,000 square feet of space across more than four acres. There are four main components, or barns, here. Barn 1, for example, houses more than 40 artist studios, most of which double as artist housing. This is a chance to view the artwork of some wonderful up-and-coming talent; fine art paintings, handmade jewelry, photography and more are represented here. In Barn 4, nature and sustainability reign supreme, with a year-round greenhouse and a compost demonstration site. The barns also host art-inspired festivals and exhibits throughout the year, and the onsite volleyball court is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the Farmers Market on Saturday morning.

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