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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Top 10 Uncommon Places to Visit in Toronto and Hamilton

Hello again.  SauL here, bringing you another beginner traveler’s entry.  If you’re like me – someone who doesn’t mind tourist spots, but also doesn’t like crowded areas and long lines – then maybe some of these places will interest you.  From nature spots to dining areas and things in between, here are my “Top 10 Uncommon Places to Visit in: Ontario, Canada” from my winter trips in December 2017 and March 2018 around Toronto and Hamilton.

1.      Hamilton is Home

“Home is where the heart is” – with my partner!  Cheesiness aside, Hamilton’s saying “Hamilton is Home” is definitely true for fellow travelers seeking a cozy getaway from, well, home.  Downtown Hamilton has your usual conveniences such as grocery stores and local restaurants, but also some unique local activities.  Scattered outside the city are also various waterfalls which live up to its nickname, “The City of Waterfalls.”  The BnB we rented, its view, and the city overall takes this first spot on my list.

2.      Tiffany Falls (Hamilton)

Frozen in the winter, this usually running (falling?) stream of water makes for an interesting sight for those of us used to warmer climates.  If you listen carefully, however, you can hear the water traveling beneath the sheet of ice.  And if you listen even closer still, you just might hear the sound of Paul Bunyon and his companion, Babe the Blue Ox, snoozing until spring.  By bus, take the 5C Meadowlands and get off on 1039 Wilson.  The trek to this fall from the bus stop was only about 10-15 minutes, depending how quickly you walked (or how fast you wanted to get out of the cold air).  There are plenty other waterfalls to see, but we were too cold to keep exploring.

3.      Toronto Island

Continuing the nature trend but hopping over to Toronto, we have a gorgeous “chain of islands” collectively known as “Toronto Island.”  The ferry we took from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal only had tickets to Ward Island; but once you land, you can easily trek along several paths that take you to each link of the chain.  While undoubtedly greener and more vibrant in actual springtime, we had some nice views crossing bridges and strolling between trees.  Great nature walk.  But bring a jacket and a pair of gloves – the surrounding bodies of water definitely keep it quite cool.  And definitely, DEFINITELY consider bringing a bike!

4.      Graffiti Alley (Toronto)

Back to the urban side of town, a little detour from Queen St. East and Augusta will lead you to this artistic alley.  The walls’ artwork range from cute to dark and even some random Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.  And if you get hungry while walking, there are many restaurants nearby ready to fuel your stomach before unleashing upon the world (or future walls) your inner-artist.

5.      Nook Café (Hamilton)

First possible stop: coffee shops.  Back in Hamilton once again, which is also the birthplace of Canada’s famed Tim Horton’s, we have Nook Café located on the corner of James and Bold St.  What sets this place apart from the others is their potent Turkish coffee.  While I’m no coffee connoisseur, my partner did enjoy the strong taste on that cold day.

6.      Aztec’s Mine (Toronto)
Need more than just coffee?  Jumping back to Toronto (after our coffee fix) is a deliciously aromatic and authentic Mexican restaurant on Bloor St. between Quebec and Clendenan Ave.  We cannot begin to praise this place enough for their mouth-savoring enchiladas.  The fish tacos were also tasty, but the enchiladas definitely took the proverbial cake.

7.      O’Noir’s Dine-in-the-Dark (Toronto)

If you’re looking more for a dinner with a fun twist (not the kinky kind, mind you), then consider this blind experience, literally.  As you might guess, you’ll be dining in an absolutely light-less room, with only your other senses to help you find your utensils, your food, and its inevitable path to your mouth.  Not only are you, the customer, are blind to the surroundings, but so are your waiters/waitresses.  Literally a “blind leading the blind” event, but they can sense things far better than we did.  The meal is a little pricey, but the delicious and dark experience is WELL-worth it.

8.      Heli Tours (Toronto)

My partner surprised me with this sky-high tour of Toronto after nabbing a voucher online (which is conveniently linked on the right-hand side of this blog site).  From their website, the tour is $109 for two, lasting about 6-8 minutes.  “That’s really short, SauL!” I hear you shouting telepathically.  It sounds short, but when your feet are off the ground and at the mercy of the wind and helicopter turning some 45 degrees to the side, it can feel very long.  As my favorite uncle used to say, “Time is relative.”

9.      Alcatraz Escape Rooms (Toronto)

And now for something completely different before wrapping this up.  Hear me out before you jump at the word association that comes with “Alcatraz.”  If you’re a fan of CSI, Bones, Law & Order, then this might possibly pique your interest.  There are various themed rooms, each with its own set of scenarios and puzzles that more or less place you in a locked room with a timer to escape before you’re caught.  Magnets, locks, secret compartments and more impede your exit – all in all testing not just your brain, but also your teamwork.  Sadly, my partner and I didn’t escape in time; but we were pretty close with just us two.

10.  Ice Skating (Toronto)

And lastly, a very common activity: ice skating.  So what makes it uncommon?  It’s easy to miss, isn’t standing tall with a massive parking structure, and surprisingly doesn’t pop up on a typical Google search of “Toronto tourist attractions.”  There’s a skate rental right beside the rink at a fair price, with food stands in front in case you get the munchies before, during or after skating.  It’s beautiful in the day, but as you see in the picture above, it’s definitely something to check out once it gets a bit darker.  Music plays in the background, arches light up, and a freshly cleaned ice rink awaits your steeled dancing feet.  Queen and Bay St. eagerly await your visit.

Canada a bit too cold?  Looking for some warmer Cali weather?  Come back again later for some places to see in “The City of Angels,” Los Angeles, California.  Thanks for reading!

A few words from my Guest Blogger:

“Hi, my name is SauL. Be curious. Live, love and laugh. And yes, take the cookie.”

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