A series of occasional articles exploring destinations that are easily reached via nonstop flights from Baltimore.
Summer is here, and you're ready to get away and play. But where can you go that's intriguing and exotic, yet close enough that you don't waste a precious day getting there?
How about a quick jaunt to one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, which you can reach from BWI-Marshall Airport in under two hours?
We're talking about Toronto, easily accessible via Air Canada's 26 weekly nonstop flights from Baltimore.
From the souvlaki stands in Greektown (aka The Danforth) to New Wave design stores in Cabbagetown, from swanky boutiques in Leslieville to bubble tea kiosks in one of the area's three Chinatowns, Toronto's multicultural vibe pulses from its array of ethnic neighborhoods.
With nearly half of its population born abroad, it's not surprising that the city publishes information for residents in 30 languages. For travelers, that means practically every neighborhood around town is a cultural enclave of authentic eateries, independent boutiques, diverse dialects, and eclectic music and art.
Located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto's landscape is made up of old-world European architecture and modern skyscrapers interspersed with bucolic parks and bordered by 29 miles of coastline featuring sandy beaches, bustling marinas and waterfront entertainment venues. Two major tributaries, the Humber River and Don rivers, flow through the city; each has a vast infrastructure of forests, parks and walking trails throughout the urban center. For visitors, Toronto is easily navigable on foot or by its excellent public transit, including a clean, efficient subway system and charming streetcars.
Especially in the summertime, the city's best attractions are as diverse and pioneering as its culture. From city center, look up 116 stories and you'll spot adventurous thrill-seekers waving as they traverse the edge of the soaring CN Tower. Below the streets you're roaming is PATH, the world's largest underground shopping complex. In between is a perpetually evolving smorgasbord of world-class festivals and performances, international music events, artist exhibitions, open-air cafes and street performers.
Spend an afternoon meandering through the galleries, clothing and home design shops of Queen Street West, Toronto's art and design district. Sample homemade fare in the Distillery District, which hosts food festivals on summer weekends. And if you're able to plan ahead, next summer Toronto will be hosting the Pan American and Parapan American Games (toronto2015.org). In preparation for the visiting crowds, the Union Pearson Express, an express rail service connecting the region's busiest transportation hubs, will launch in spring 2015 (upexpress.com).
By June, Canadians are raring to venture outdoors. Daytime temperatures hover pleasantly in the 70s, with gentle, breezy nights. Summertime spawns innovative festivals, fairs and outdoor extravaganzas, and Toronto puts on some of the best in the world. This year the city will be hosting two globally renowned events, WorldPride and Taste of Toronto.
Taste, the epic eating event that began in London 10 years ago, is making its first foray into North America with its premiere in Toronto this summer. It features the city's top eateries and renowned chefs showcasing specially created menus, interactive master cooking classes, performances, kitchen table discussion groups and tastings. (Taste of Toronto, July 24-27, Fort York National Historic Site, tasteoftoronto.com.)
WorldPride 2014, also premiering in North America this summer, features events and entertainment celebrating activism, education, and the history and culture of global LGBT communities. This year's festival goes through June 29 and spotlights Toronto's longstanding support of human rights, diversity and tolerance. (worldpridetoronto.com)
The Science Of Rock 'N' Roll is a new interactive exhibition at the Ontario Science Centre, exploring the physical effects that rock music has on the brain, psyche and body. Exhibits depict the ways in which technology helped rock evolve into a multibillion-dollar business and a lifestyle choice. (Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Road, ontariosciencecentre.ca)
The Toronto Zoo's new zip line ride opens midsummer and will enable visitors to soar over its award-winning Tundra Trek at a maximum speed of 30 mph.This is the only zip line that takes its riders forward and backward in tandem and over tundra animals including arctic wolves, polar bears and reindeer. (The Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave., facebook.com/TheTorontoZoo)
EdgeWalk at CN Tower claims to be the world's highest full-circle, hands-free, open-air walk along a 5-foot-wide ledge at the top of the tower's main pod 116 stories above the ground. Visitors are attached to a trolley harness system and have the freedom to lean back over Toronto with nothing but air and breathtaking views of Lake Ontario beneath them. (CN Tower, 301 Front St. West, cntower.ca)
Toronto Islands: Visitors can take the ferry, canoe or kayak to the parks, beaches and amusement park on the Toronto Islands, where good-natured signs read "Please walk on the grass." Many of the venues, including a flying-disc golf field, artist studio space, bicycle paths and music events, are free. (Ferry departures every 30 minutes, 8 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., 9 Queen Quay West, toronto.ca/parks/island)
Kensington Market's Jewish families sold food and wares from stands in front of their homes in the 1920s. Today, the neighborhood is a maze of narrow streets and alleys filled with vendors of ethnic foods, vintage wear and handcrafted items, and enlivened by multicultural music streaming from splashily colored Victorian houses. Bounded by Dundas Street, Spadina Avenue, Baldwin Street and Augusta Avenue. (kensington-market.ca)