A day lay over doesn’t mean you have to order room service and stare at industrial landscapes around the airport. Get in early and hit the city! Order your Uber and buckle up, these next 24 hours in Toronto is for the rested and caffeinated as we see sights, local art, breweries and vegan eateries.
8:00 am-land in Toronto, pick up an extra coffee or tea and some water at the airport to keep you caffeinated and hydrated during the next 24 hours, this is not a layover for the weary.
8:30 am- Arrive at your hotel, most likely it will be too early to check into your room and if you are like me, a sight of a bed after waking up at 4 am would send me right for a snooze, so drop your bags in the hotel check and get a taxi straight for the city.
9:30 am-Head to St. Lawrence Market to see the bustle of shopping begin. The first floor is very meat and cheese heavy, however there are some beautiful vegetable stands and an amazing, small business, local mustard stall that offers tastings from sweet to savory and spicy, habaneros anyone?An of course olives, always olives.
Go downtown stairs to explore some more eats, smoothies, coffee or anything you can imagine. After an early wake up and flight, I was ready for some food. Cruda Cafe offered some clean eats, perfect jump start after traveling.
10:30 am-A less than a mile walk to The Distillery District is perfect to watch the city come to life. You will be greeted by a large, red heart, photo op! Take a leisurely stroll through the district, popping into cafes, galleries and shops at your will. The public art will provide many more photo opportunities, what a beautiful part of town. Take your pick of cafes, restaurants and a local hot spot, Mill Street Brew Pub.
1:00 pm-Hop in a cab to head towards the harbor, the CN tower and Rogers Centre are nearby and it is a nice people watching spot. If you’re adventurous enough, head up the famous tower for, what I can imagine to be beautiful views, but not for me this visit. I don’t love heights, but normally force myself in every new city to go to the highest point, but fortunate for me, this short time didn’t allow.
Walk over to the water front to watch the planes come in, boats go by and wildlife floating along. Right near the harbor is another local spot, The Steam Whistle Brewery, located in, you guessed it, an old stream train station. Read about the history of Canadian rail as you approach and get ready for a free beer tasting. If you like it, you are welcome to buy one of your own and I would definitely pair it with a pickle on a stick, because, pickles on sticks are awesome. (Note for my vegan friends, the pretzels have an egg wash on top which is not advertised).
2:45 pm-Now it had been enough cabs or Ubers and time to live like the locals. Get your exact change ready, 3.25 Canadian dollars and hop the 510 bus a few miles up to Chinatown. Get off and catch the 505 street car, you’ll get a transfer to use and enjoy some more people watching as you head for the next spot, Dundas Street West in Little Portugal.
3:00 pm- The Grow Op is a great lunch spot offering salads, acai bowls, smoothies, sandwiches and cold brew. Caffeine and carbs is exactly what you need to power through at this point in the day.
3:30 pm-Walk along the strip to soak in some local culture and more people watching. Most restaurants and bars in this neighborhood don’t open to 5, but if you’ve been up early, it might start already feeling like midnight. A few blocks up a popular local spot called Woodhouse Brewing sits with outdoor seating and large glass windows if you are lucky to have nice weather. The day before I was there, I heard there was snow and freezing temperatures, but we lucked out. From coffees, to teas, beers, wine and cocktails, this spot is the perfect afternoon place. There is also a cereal bar, which seemed cool, albeit out of place. Vegan peeps will know that Bloody Marys are pretty much off limit due to the anchovy factor and double whammy in Canada their mix is called Caesars that has clam juice, but the good news is, they offer plain tomato juice if that’s your thing.
5:30 pm-A short cab ride or moderate mile walk away is a popular vegan restaurant that has been on my list from my first ‘vegan Toronto’ Google search. Hogtown Vegan serves up amazing dishes to locals and tourists alike. It went like this:
Buffalo Wings and Fried Shiitake Mushroom ‘Clams’
Caesar Salad with un-chicken
Southern Combo, you might need an extra mac and cheese side dish, just saying.
7:00 pm- That’s a wrap, time to head back to the hotel, check in and get ready for your next adventure. Mine was another 4 am wake up call the next day, so it was a shower and early to bed.
Have you every made the most of a quick trip, lay over or turn around while traveling? I would love to hear about it, comment below and happy travels!