Oh, Canada!

The Lazer Speaks

What do you do when there is a caravan heading through Mexico toward the United States? Go to Canada of course. While Montreal and Quebec City rightfully get a lot more travel attention, Toronto should be considered for a quick, long weekend trip. The vibe is very different from its French sister cities, as Toronto is more firmly rooted in its English past.

The first thing to consider is that Toronto is only an hour’s flight away. And while you do need a passport or enhanced driver’s license to get past customs, it is a pretty easy process. Even easier if you have Global Entry, a kind of TSA pre-check for international flights. Air Canada is a good option to get there and back, but be forewarned, they fly out of LaGuardia Airport and that place is still a construction mess.

When you get into Toronto, getting to downtown takes about 40 minutes by cab. The good news is once you are there, the exchange rate is highly in your favor, with each American dollar worth about 1.25 in Canadian dollars. A pretty good discount!

Toronto is broken up into highly distinctive neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Italy, Greek Town, and Cabbage Town. I couldn’t figure out the Cabbage Town reference, until I looked it up: that’s where the Tory British put the Irish! But the streets are safe and highly walkable, and in late October and early November, those streets are littered with fall leaves. What kind of leaves? Well, maple leaves of course!

Toronto is home to several sports franchises, such as the baseball Blue Jays, the hockey Maple Leafs, and the basketball Raptors. In addition, Toronto is home to the Canadian version of Second City Comedy which spawned such talents as Martin Short, Eugene Levy and John Candy to name a few. A visit to the city is not complete without catching a show there.

Toronto is also a big music city and hosts various music festivals during the summer. It also has some of the finest intimate jazz clubs anywhere. One in particular I can recommend is N’Awlins in the Entertainment District, a cozy place with New Orleans style food and great jazz, blues and Motown live music.

A couple of interesting side facts about Toronto: it is the fourth-largest city in all of North America behind New York, Mexico City and Los Angeles. It is also a city on the move with cranes everywhere, building around its historic roots with modern, architecturally interesting new apartment buildings. Ethnically, Toronto has changed dramatically. In 1980, Toronto had about 13 percent of its population that fit neatly into minority groups. By 2018 that percentage had grown to over 51 percent with large increases in its Chinese, Indian and South East Asia populations.

So, an easy flight, nice, friendly people, a discounted currency, and a different country. A good weekend trip! And Uber works very well there too. Canada, our friendly neighbors to the north, well worth a visit.

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