Canada TBEX Toronto

Downtown Toronto North to South part one

“It’s all good in the hood,” is not an expression I expected to hear in Toronto coming out of a seven-year-old-looking white girl’s mouth as she oscillated around the sidewalk in the way kids do while waiting for her mom to find car keys. She may have been speaking urban slang or simply referring to the absence of a parking ticket on her mom’s car that had overstayed the time limit on Spadina Street.

For me, her words summed up my thoughts of walking across downtown Toronto several times during the previous five days, primarily along a north-south route between the Bloor Yorkville luxury hotels like InterContinental and Park Hyatt to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Harbourfront area.

Many of Toronto’s tourist sites are concentrated in a relatively narrow area of the city stretching about five kilometers (a little over three miles) from Casa Loma and Spadina House in the north to the Harbourfront in the south.

This article is organized by sites I saw walking north to south during my week in the city, even though some of these sites were seen when I was walking south to north from the Metro Toronto Convention Center to the InterContinental Hotel Yorkville where I stayed a couple of nights.

Casa Loma

America’s gilded age, when industrial monopolies concentrated wealth with individuals, like New World royalty, heralded the construction of mansions.  George Washington Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate, 1889-1895, in the mountains of Ashville,  North Carolina is still the largest privately owned house in the U.S. with 250 rooms and 178,000 sq. ft. of interior space.

Toronto has Casa Loma. The estate commissioned by Sir Henry Mill Pellatt (1859-1939) was the largest private residence built (1911-1914) in Canada at 98 rooms. Pellatt made his fortune in stocks and as owner of the Toronto Electric Light Company which brought steam generated electricity to Toronto in the 1880s. He later was a major stakeholder in the first Canadian hydroelectric project at Niagara Falls and invested in Canadian railroads and land speculation.


Casa Loma, Toronto.

Henry Pallett lived at Casa Loma for less than a decade before misfortune and debt resulted in the loss of his estate and most of its interior furnishings.

Casa Loma has functioned as a Toronto tourist attraction for over 75 years. Admission includes a self-guided audio tour with a handheld device.


Spadina House

Spadina House, next door to Casa Loma, is one of ten Toronto historic house museums. Spadina House is an entirely different experience from Casa Loma in that four generations of the Austin family lived in the 1866 house for more than a century.


The present Spadina House dates from its 1913 remodel. The house was transferred to the city of Toronto for preservation and opened as a museum in 1984.

Spadina House provided me with my own personal guide as I was the only visitor on a Tuesday afternoon when there were probably over 300 visitors touring nearby Casa Loma.

Spadina House was recently restored to its appearance and interior furnishings of the 1920s, a time when the estate hosted grand social parties and events.


Spadina House, Toronto.

Toronto Archives

As a lover of social history I found the Toronto Archives free photographic exhibit of early 20th century immigrant living conditions worth a visit.

If nothing else, just seeing the viewing area for thousands of boxed city archives is worth stepping inside for a look.


Toronto Archives.


Photo take from Baldwin Steps looking south on Spadina Avenue. Casa Loma and Spadina House are at the top of the steps and Toronto Archives is located on the left side of Spadina.

The Baldwin family, prominent politicians in Canada, built the original Spadina estate in the early 19th century that was later owned and rebuilt by the Austin family.


Spadina Station Subway  entrance at historic Norman B. Gash house (1899). How cool is that for Toronto to save the residential character of northern Spadina Avenue?

Continuing south on Spadina leads to Toronto’s Chinatown.

I only passed through Chinatown riding a bus on a TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) tour. At a stoplight in Chinatown near Queens Street, a street person came off the sidewalk and squeegeed the bus window for a young female blogger from San Diego on our city tour. She instagramed the encounter before he returned to the sidewalk to pull his beer out of the waste bin and take a sip. He blew a kiss as our bus turned at the green light.

Rapid Travel Chai, another blogger on BoardingArea, had a less amiable experience in Toronto Chinatown during the TBEX conference.

Crime is always a risk in the big city.

My walk south down Spadina Avenue made a left turn at Bloor Street West to head into Toronto’s high end shopping and museum district of Yorkville and University of Toronto.


Varsity Stadium, University of Toronto. InterContinental Hotel Yorkville is reddish building on Bloor Street to left of bleachers.

My Toronto experience over the past week was all good in the hoods.


Blogger Disclosure: Admission to Casa Loma (CAD $20.55), Spadina House (CAD $8.99) and a Toronto Introduction 3-hour bus tour were all courtesy of Tourism Toronto as an attendee of the TBEX Toronto travel blog conference May 31- June 2, 2013.

I will write more detailed articles of Casa Loma and Spadina House in the future.

Part two of Downtown Toronto North to South will include Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto, Queen’s Park Ontario Legislative Building, Toronto City Hall, Entertainment District and more. There will probably need to be a part three to get all the way to the harbourfront.


Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed or subscribe to email newsletter on the upper left side of this page.


  • Aeneas June 5, 2013

    Loving your visit to Toronto. I live just outside T.O. and know the city well, but curiously have never visited the Islands. That’ll have to change.

  • bluecat June 5, 2013

    Seriously seems boring to me. If this trip was not paid for, and know what you know, would you have gone? (It is a serious question, even though it is a little rude of me.)

    I have been there once before on business and am considering taking my 17 year old for a three day trip, but will probably either use Toronto as a stop off for further travel to Niagara falls, or go to Montreal instead.

  • Ric Garrido June 5, 2013

    @bluecat – I tend not to travel to big cities except when I have a conference reason. I am a wilderness and parks traveler.

    Just to be clear this trip was paid for out of my pocket. $500 in airfare, $100 conference fee and $600 in hotels. I have never had free travel expenses or a paid hotel for any conference I’ve attended as Loyalty Traveler, except the BoardingArea conference two hotel nights in Colorado Springs last month and the annual Carlson Rezidor hotel conference typically includes three hotel nights for press.

    Toronto is the 5th largest metropolitan area in North America. I enjoyed seeing the city.

    I entertain myself everywhere I go with the things I can find.

  • bluecat June 5, 2013

    Thanks for your response. Had the impression that you were being shown certain places in the city as part of some sort of marketing package…

    But based on what you have seen and talked about, I think I draw the conclusion that I have seen the (few) things that Toronto has to offer already.

    Like you, I prefer nature over cities (unless it is one of the worlds great cities). I’ll take Banff over Toronto or Vancouver, any day!

  • Ric Garrido June 6, 2013

    @bluecat – After a week in Toronto the things I wish I had seen are the Toronto Zoo and Scarborough Bluffs on Lake Ontario.

    Niagara Falls was also an option along with the Zoo that were part of the Toronto Experience activities I could have done with my pass. Most of the time was booked and I really only had Tuesday for getting to either of these places.

    There are other cultural things in Toronto like plays, Toronto Symphony, Second City Comedy.

  • […] Downtown Toronto North to South Part One covers Casa Loma, Spadina House, Toronto Archives and Baldwin Steps. […]

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