I haven’t sat my butt on a bike in more than two years, but when I got the opportunity to do a bike tour of Toronto with Toronto Bicycle Tours, I jumped right on it. With limited time in the city, it seemed like it would be the perfect way to see a lot in a short period of time – better than some trolley or double decker bus tour!
I lucked out with perfect, sunny weather for my Sunday afternoon “Heart of Downtown” tour. We met at the corner of Dundas Street and University Avenue, truly in the heart of downtown. There were only two others in the group, one of whom had taken the same tour a couple years earlier! We headed into a parking garage below ground to get our bikes and take them for a test drive before hitting the streets of Toronto (fully equipped with helmets and bottles of water, of course). I have to admit, I was a bit nervous throughout the four-hour tour, biking alongside traffic, with no designated bicycle lanes like we have in Chicago. But luckily, our guide Terrence took us through side alleys and parks often to get away from the traffic. And on a warm, sunny day, the breeze that we got while riding was wonderful!
We rarely rode more than a few minutes without stopping to hear Terrence explain all sorts of interesting facts about a neighborhood or building – which meant I never really got tired and I had plenty of chances to take pictures. Downtown quickly evolved into Chinatown, which morphed into Kensington Market, a historically Jewish area that is now a multicultural mix.
After making an unscheduled stop to check out the filming of the movie Pixels on University Avenue, we stopped at Eaton Center and Dundas Square (a Times Square wannabe) and then took a whirl through the financial district on the way to Union Station. There, we tried to look past the massive amount of construction going on to check out the Royal York Hotel, once the tallest building in the British Empire.
Heading further east, we cycled through Toronto’s Old Town, past the famous St. Lawrence Market (unfortunately closed on Sundays), to the Distillery District and then down to the waterfront. Coming from a city like Chicago, sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan with miles of beaches, the lakefront was a bit of a disappointment (including the saddest looking “beach” I’ve ever seen), but I was assured there are many more beaches further out from downtown.
Finally, we came around to Roundhouse Park by the base of the CN Tower, home to the Toronto Railway Museum and the Steam Whistle Brewing Company. Battling the Toronto Blue Jays crowds as they were letting out of the nearby Rogers Center, we then made our way back to where we began four hours earlier. The time absolutely flew by, but I felt like I saw almost every inch of downtown Toronto – and learned a lot about a city that I didn’t know very much about! Toronto Bicycle Tours offers a variety of different tours about the city and I will definitely try to do another one the next time I’m in town (which is a matter of when, not if – there is so much more I need to see and do in Toronto!!).
Disclaimer: Toronto Bicycle Tours invited me to join their Heart of Downtown tour free of charge, but my opinions are, as always, my own.