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Friday, December 6, 2013

It's fun, fun, fun for a holiday getaway to Toronto

   One-Tank Trip for Dec. 7/13

   By Jim Fox

   There’s nothing quite like a big-city getaway around the holidays.
   “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style,” Bing Crosby sang in the song Silver Bells.
   Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is bustling with seasonal activities, making it a fun place to spend some time.

The holiday window displays at the Hudson’s Bay Co. in downtown Toronto attract crowds. (Jim Fox photo)
   Fun, wow
   “Activities include many outdoor skating rinks, a one-of-a-kind Christmas market, theatrical and musical performances, and special restaurant menus,” said Vanessa Somarriba of Tourism Toronto.
   Diversity adds to the holiday spirit, with many themed displays, a variety of annual events and numerous neighbourhood celebrations, she added.
   To check it out, we returned to my hometown as a tourist and were wowed.
   Immersing ourselves in TO history, we met up with legendary tour guide Bruce Bell at the historic St. Lawrence Market.
   “I just love the market at this time of year with the vendors going all out to stock their booths with holiday goodies,” he said.
   Don’t miss a taste treat, he said, as we sampled the Carousel Bakery’s loaded peameal bacon sandwich and “homemade” butter tarts.
The ever-popular Carousel Bakery (Jim Fox photo)
   Bell’s Old Town Toronto tour included stops at the King Edward Hotel adorned with its gigantic decorated Christmas tree in the lobby, St. Lawrence Hall and St. James Cathedral. brucebelltours.ca; (647) 393-8687
   Next stop was opening night of Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District.
   This “celebration of the romance and magic of traditional Christmas” captures the charm of a European market.
   Santa arrived to the delight of waiting children, along with his roaming elves and Rudolph’s Reindeer Zoo, and flipped a switch to light up the 13.7-metre-high white spruce tree.
   Continuing through Dec. 15, the market showcases handcrafted products with musicians, carollers, children's choirs and stage presentations.
The Distillery District's Toronto Christmas Market recreates the old European tradition. (Barbara Fox photo)
   The specialty beer and mulled wine gardens are heated by roaring wood fires in outside pits.
   We dined at a new hotspot, El Catrin Destileria, serving up authentic Mexican cuisine in portions suitable for sharing.
   Say ole to “Canada's largest mescal and tequila bar” as it had more than 120 different labels. ; (416) 364-1177
Chicken burritos at El Catrin Destileria (Barbara Fox photo)

   Lights, cameras, action
   The Cavalcade of Lights kicked off in Nathan Phillips Square, outside city hall, with the lighting of a huge Christmas tree that took two weeks to decorate, musical performances, a fireworks show and skating party.
   Head over to Queen and Yonge streets to view the elaborate holiday window displays at the Hudson’s Bay Co. while across the street, the Eaton Centre is decked out with lights and decorations – and hordes of shoppers.
Toronto’s “official” Christmas tree outside city hall took two weeks to decorate. (Barbara Fox photo)
   The Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre offers free outdoor skating, along with a DJ on Saturday nights.
   With festive red light beam illuminating it, the CN Tower should be on every visitor’s must-do list.
   Along with panoramic views is the acclaimed 360 The Restaurant some 351 metres above the ground.
   After a ride up the glass-enclosed elevator, the revolving restaurant offers seasonal themed menus and some 550 selections from its “wine cellar in the sky.”
At 360 Restaurant, CN Tower, wine 'cellar' with Vanessa Somarriba and $1,600-an-ounce bottle of Black Pearl Remey Martin cognac (by my right shoulder). — with Vanessa Somarriba.

   Diners also have access to the Look Out and Glass Floor levels. cntower.ca; (416) 868-6937
   There’s still time to check out the popular One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale, tonight (Saturday) until 9 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
   It’s at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place and features the works of 800 artists, designers and craftspeople. oneofakindshow.com

   The curtain rises
   The National Ballet of Canada performs the holiday classic The Nutcracker from Dec. 14 to Jan. 4 with lavish costumes, humour and fantasy. National.Ballet.ca
   Aladdin, the new musical, is at the Ed Mirvish Theatre through Jan. 5. mirvish.com
   The Second City Holiday Spectacular (Miracles Not Included) continues through Jan. 1 with an irreverent collection of sketches, songs and improvisations. secondcity.com
   An ongoing tradition is Ross Petty’s The Little Mermaid at the Elgin Theatre where he appears as a female character. rosspetty.com; 1-855-599-9090

   Skaters enjoy the ice rink in Nathan Phillips Square outside Toronto’s city hall. (Jim Fox photo)
   Where to stay
   We stayed in the fashionable part of town at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel (90 Bloor St. E.).
   This renovated boutique-style hotel, noted for its great service and amenities, offers direct underground access to the Yonge and Bloor subway lines, making it easy to get around and with shopping, dining and entertainment nearby.
   Room rates are from $139 nightly while concierge-floor rooms include breakfasts and evening food and drinks in a private lounge. marriott.com; 1-800-859-7180
   To plan a getaway: SeeTorontoNow.com; 1-800-499-2514


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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