Lowe's Toronto Christmas Market

Feel the electricity of downtown Toronto

Lowe's Toronto Christmas Market

An old-fashioned European Christmas market is what you will find at the historic Distillery District in Toronto this month. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Vacay.ca has teamed with Choice Hotels Canada to create a series of articles highlighting the best hotel travel deals and experiences in the country this fall and winter. In this installment of the series, Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles takes a look at his home town.

Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor

TORONTO, ONTARIO — When I moved to Toronto to start university I became aware of some of the fun things the city had to offer. Within days I was finding my groove.

From Yonge Street with all the funky places to hang out (including a — yes, I’m dating myself — an arcade parlour) to trendy stops for the university crowd on College Street and excellent skating on Queen Street, Toronto is a city that entertains during the day and thrills at night.

In my opinion you simply can’t have an electrifying experience in Canada’s largest and most diverse city – without enjoying major events in town like the Toronto International Film Festival or Pride Toronto.

While Yonge Street may be legendary, there are several neighbourhoods that shine with wonderful attractions, unique shops and outstanding restaurants, each boasting their own unique cultural flavour. It’s what makes our city great, and what makes the downtown core of Toronto one of the most exciting experiences you can have in your travels.

One of the benefits of Toronto (and some would argue one of the headaches) is that the city is large. To serve the need, there are many Choice Hotels to be enjoyed in Toronto, including four in the downtown core that can help make your visit to the city one you will always remember.

Discover Toronto’s Energetic Side

For anyone visiting the city of Toronto the adventure usually begins on Yonge, the worlds longest and arguably most exciting street.

With new renovations at Dundas Square, impressive improvements at Ryerson University at the Gould Street intersection, Yonge Street south of Gerrard is a completely different street to the one I grew up with.

The old favourites are still there. CF Toronto Eaton Centre is one of the most important malls in the country, lives on Yonge Street and is a tourist magnet — even more so during the holiday season. And you know it’s Christmas when the city breaks out the holiday lights.

Just south on Yonge at Queen Street is Hudson’s Bay Company, a historic mall shoppers will love. The Bay is a winter and Christmas favourite for tourists and locals alike because every year they make the city proud with a holiday window display you have to see to believe. When finished being awestruck by Hudson’s windows, take a five minute walk down the road to City Hall and enjoy the ice rink and some hot chocolate.

Dundas Square Eaton Centre Toronto

One of Canada’s premier shopping destinations is the Eaton Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto. (Julia Pelish file photo/Vacay.ca)

On the topic of skating, another area I love is Toronto Harbourfront. In winter the pond serves as a rink and in summer you can take a canoe out and paddle with family and friends. With theatres, eateries, boats and family activities Toronto Harbourfront is a favourite for those who love entertainment.

Trendy Queen Street (between University and Spadina) is a favourite for tourists, fashionistas, foodies and celebrities – and not just on Yonge Street. The main source for electricity on this street, and the most famous landmark without question, is City TV at 299 Queen Street West, a magnet for youth, musicians and music lovers. One of my favourite places to be standing following a Leaf, Rock, Raptors or Jays game is Front Street, with several outstanding restaurants and bars.

South of Queen is King Street. During major events like the Toronto International Film Festival King, with the Bell Lightbox Theatre, is alive with activity. Yorkville and Bay also bring the electricity during this time, and it’s not uncommon to see celebrities shopping and hanging out.


Dion Phaneuf of the Maple Leafs battles with the Canadiens’ PK Subban during a game between the two arch-rivals. Seeing the Leafs at Air Canada Centre is a must for any visitor to the city. (Owais Qureshi/Vacay.ca)

Head south on Yonge a bit farther and you will soon arrive at an area that is responsible for many electrifying moments in the city’s history. There is no better place than Bremner Boulevard during the playoffs, when thousands of fans are watching the game outside of the Air Canada Centre where the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors play. The Canadian National Tower and Rogers Centre are also accessed easily from Bremner Road. Most recently during the amazing playoff run of the Toronto Blue Jays, this was a popular spot. While not hot all year round, Strachan Avenue is certainly the place to be at certain times of the year, especially when the Canadian National Exhibition is in town.

I celebrated here when the Blue Jays won the world series in 1992 and drowned my tears in the same area when the Leafs came oh so close to getting to the finals in 1993.

The Distillery Historic District is another place that always seems to have something going on. A favourite for wedding pictures, film makers, theatre lovers and event producers, Distillery Historic District is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but for true electricity take the time to visit during the holidays when the Toronto Christmas Market is in full swing.

Hudson Bay Christmas window

Christmas scenes come to life in the Hudson’s Bay display windows on Queen Street, the trendiest street in Toronto. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

If you’re looking for the cultural mix that Toronto is famous for, you can’t go wrong on College Street (Dufferin to Spadina) featuring many outstanding restaurants from Little Italy and Little Portugal. Spadina Avenue is the heart of the Chinese community and on Gerrard Street East (between Coxwell Avenue and Greenwood Avenue) is home to Little India.

Toronto is a fun city with many awesome ways to have an electrifying experience. Depending on what’s going on, I promise you won’t have any problems finding your groove in Canada’s largest city.




The St. James Hotel features clean, comfortable rooms in the heart of downtown Toronto’s most popular shopping neighbourhood. (Photo courtesy of Choice Hotels Canada)

The Saint James Hotel
26 Gerrard Street East
Amenities: Pet-friendly Hotel, Free Wireless High Speed Internet Access, Microwave and Refrigerator

Comfort Inn City Centre
321 Jarvis Street
Amenities: Hot Breakfast, Pet Friendly, Fitness Center

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites Downtown
335 Jarvis Street
Amenities: Continental Breakfast, Pet Friendly, Business Center

Comfort Hotel Downtown
15 Charles St. East
Amenities: Parking Available, Restaurant

Click here to sign up for Choice Privileges Loyalty program for free nights!


Rod has previously worked for Canoe.ca and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.

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