We don’t have full, unlimited access to the Internet while in Canada, so I decided to use that as a good excuse not to post for a couple of days! We had wifi at the condo in Toronto so I did take some time each night to post a few photos from the day on Instagram. While it’s nice to unplug sometimes, it’s amazing how many times during the day walking around a city I want to grab my phone and look up directions, the history of something, restaurant reviews, etc.
Day 4 through Day 6 were spent in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’d visited the city (Canada’s largest city and among the top five largest in all of North America) last year for a travel writer/blogger conference; this was Lee’s first trip. The main purpose of this trip was to see a baseball game at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. We ended up seeing two games – we had tickets to Saturday afternoon’s game but after the All-Star break we saw that there was a great pitching matchup on Friday so we bought tickets at the gate for that game. I’m glad we went to both games because as a dome stadium Rogers Centre had a different feel with the dome open Friday night versus closed Saturday. I loved being able to look up and see the iconic CN Tower visible and changing colors during the game.
We did so much in Toronto that I couldn’t cover it all. Here’s a quick recap of our days followed by some best moments.
Day 4, Friday: braved driving in downtown traffic to pick up Charlie and Kim (friends we met in Wichita who now live in New York) from the airport, which is on Toronto Island; visited St. Lawrence Market and walked around that area of downtown (including a Melinda Street!); took the subway to and from the Blue Jays game.
Day 5, Saturday: took the subway to Graffiti Alley; met up with my friend Tanya, who I met at the conference last year, and her friend Kim for the Blue Jays game; walked around downtown some more; had dinner at Pizza Libretto on the Danforth, an area known for its eateries.
Day 6, Sunday: drove to the Distillery District, a collection of shops and restaurants set in cool, old buildings that once housed distilleries; walked to harbor front to take the ferry out to Toronto Islands; had dinner near the condo.
Day 7, Monday: walked up to the Danforth and got pastries for breakfast at Athena’s Greek bakery – chocolate covered baklava, cream horn, coke/kok – two cake-type cookies dipped in a light syrup and sandwiched with pastry cream, then dipped in a chocolate glaze; took Charlie and Kim to the airport; left Toronto.
Best of Toronto …
Best activity: Toronto Blue Jays games with our friends!
Best tour guide: thanks so much to Tanya for making reservations for our meals on Saturday and for helping us figure out the best way to get from here to there! She was a great tour guide on Saturday when we got out of the Blue Jays game and it was raining. It was great to spend the day with her, her friend Kim and her husband, Bruce, who joined us for dinner.
Watch video of the quad bicycle here: #schummer14 Quad Bicycle
Best team-building exercise: We took a ferry over to Toronto Islands and rented a quad-bicycle there. We rode from Centre Island to the east end (where Lee briefly lost his Wichita State Shocker jacket; fortunately someone hung it on a tree instead of stealing it!) and then all the way to the west end, where there is a plaque commemorating Babe Ruth’s first recorded home run as a professional baseball player (a minor league team played on the island in the early 1900s). To give you an idea of how small the islands are, it only took us two hours and that included stops to see the great views of the Toronto skyline.
Best photo opp: Loved the graffiti alley area, which is protected for graffiti artists. Lots of fun stuff to look at and photograph … although 90 percent of its meaning was lost on me.
Best meal: we had a lot of great food but Lee and I both agree that The Real Jerk was our favorite. The restaurant was not in any major tourist zones and near the condo; they served a variety of Caribbean jerk-style meat dishes. Lee had ribs and I had a pork/chicken combo. Oh, and I had a glass of Honey Badger wine … I’m not a big wine drinker but it was sweet and Honey Badger don’t care. Other food/drink we had: peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market, brisket nachos and steak sandwich at Rogers Centre, beer at C’est What; wings at Real Sports; beer at Beer Markt; very thin pizza cooked in 90 seconds at Pizza Libretto; brunch at Mill St. Brewery; pastries from Athena bakery.
Best sports bar: In fairness, we only visited one sports bar … but if you’re only going to one sports bar in Toronto, this is the one to go to! Tanya had made reservations for us to have lunch before the Blue Jays game at Real Sports, which has been named the top sports bar in North America by ESPN. It’s near Rogers Centre and right next to the Air Canada Centre, where the NBA Raptors and NHL Maple Leafs play. It has a massive HD TV screen we sat in front of and hundreds of smaller HD screens throughout the bar. Unfortunately all that was on TV was golf! But the food was good and the company was great!
Best musical performance: the song only heard at a Blue Jays game during the 7th inning stretch. I’m going to say it was called Let’s Play Ball. It sounded like something Robin Sparkles (How I Met Your Mother) would have sang at a Canadian shopping mall in the 1980s. They also played Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Best shop: Charlie and Kim found a vintage sports shop — The Sport Gallery — in the Distillery District that was part museum and part store. They had very nice clothing and items like bottle openers made out of game-used bats and tennis racquets. The walls were full of old photographs and magazine covers.
Most interesting drink: a beermosa that I had at Mill St. Brewery in the Distillery District. It was a mix of beer and pineapple juice. Not bad but not something I’d drink a lot of! But when you want a yogurt parfait and a beer, it seems like the best option! We had brunch here on Sunday so Lee had what was pretty much a traditional breakfast – eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, toast … and baked beans. Not a usual side dish at breakfast where we come from!
Biggest surprise: I honestly thought ESPN was everywhere. I’ve been surprised that the network isn’t aired in Canada.
Best way for a group to travel together: We’ve had great luck staying at rented apartments and condos (through VRBO, Vacation Rentals by Owners) in cities that we’ve traveled with Kim and Charlie. It gives us common space to hang out (watching Sunday night baseball is a must for this group) and usually saves us money over getting two hotel rooms or makes being in our desired part of town affordable. Our condo in Toronto was in a great location – one of the first neighborhoods outside of the downtown core – and it was about $150 a night total for two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a nice kitchen, a living room and a couple of outdoor decks. Hotel rooms in the downtown Toronto area are $200+ a night per room.
It was great to incorporate the annual baseball trip we take with Charlie and Kim into our Summer of Schnyder! We had so much fun exploring Toronto with them, and I’m glad they were there as Lee crossed home plate on his MLB stadium tour. This was the eighth year we’ve done these group baseball trips: New York (Yankees & Cooperstown), Boston, Florida (Miami & Tampa Bay), Northern California (San Francisco, Oakland), Southern California (San Diego, Phoenix), All-Star Game in Kansas City, Philadelphia/Baltimore and Toronto.
One of my favorite parts of our annual trips with Charlie and Kim is when we start talking about next year’s destination. I love having a trip to look forward to an entire year out!
#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.