Tourism Toronto really did it right with offering a plethora of tour options for TBEX visitors -combining the best of the city with the passionate Toronto guides.
My morning tour, the 501 Trolley was led by a local professor who also writes for the local newspaper and has written a book about Toronto. If I had any questions, he was the guy to ask. The 501 was named one of the top 10 Trolley Rides by National Geographic which intrigued me. The Queen Street trolley is one of the longest route in North America passing through downtown Toronto and all the way out to the beach (who knew there are beaches here?). Our small group of eight made our way out of the convention center walking up to Queen Street as we learned the history of the city.
With our day pass, we boarded the trolley for a ride along Queen Street. The business district quickly faded and with each neighborhood we passed you got a sense of the old and new coexisting as you looked at the buildings, the storefronts and the residents. We would exit in the Corktown area (Old Town Toronto) and begin our walking tour of the area.
Walking down a small street to a dead end, we could see the older homes of Toronto (shoebox sized almost, my 900 sq ft house was living large in comparison).
Behind the small homes, the driveway/alley showed us another side to the buildings and a fun surprise in the tree.
Continuing our Queen Street stroll, we walked over the bridge and crossed into a new neighborhood, you could look at the city behind, look down below at the water on one side and the highway on the other. A reminder of the old and the new.
Further ahead, with my camera lens, I spied a shortbread cookie shop (i have a sixth sense!) which conveniently was next door to a coffee shop (our morning break). Walking into the cookie shop, you were enveloped with the smell of butter – pure butter, full of fat and calories, yummy butter. Perfect ingredient for shortbread cookies. We were all offered free samples but only a few of us purchased cookies (I, of course, inquired into US shipments -for work purposes! they were good cookies).
Sufficiently sated with coffee and cookies, we continued our Queen Street trek with a compare/contrast of the old/new. With time pressing, we boarded the trolley for the 20 min ride back to the downtown (we would not make it out to the beach as was planned). We exited the trolley and walked into the mall to cool off (it was a hot day), looking at the famous art installation of Canadian geese.
We would then make our way toward City Hall and despite the infamous mayor and his recent transgressions, we were able to visit for more of our history lesson and an overview of the ever changing city in model form.
Our final stop was the train station which reminded me of a small version of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia (my hometown).
With the tour concluding, we walked back to the convention center. A bit disappointed that this was mostly a walking tour rather than an on/off the 501 Trolley for the entire length of the city, I was given a glimpse into the various neighborhoods outside the city center for future explorations. As a first time conference attendees, I was thrilled to have met fantastic people on this tour that I would see throughout the weekend. Taking the 501, I was able to look into the past, experience the present (with a cookie bonus!) and envision the future of Toronto – each only a trolley stop away.