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A Weekend in Toronto

Short on time but yearning for a truly international getaway? Try Toronto. The city is a virtual United Nations, bringing together more than 200 ethnicities and 140 languages and dialects. Even better, it’s a 90-minute flight or less for more than half of the United States—perfect for a quick weekend escape.

Anchor yourself at the Ritz-Carlton, an oasis of unpretentious luxury steps away from Lake Ontario. The hotel functions as a mini art gallery, showcasing more than 400 works from Canadian artists, and it hosts a resident artist, Jacqueline Poirier, who created the whimsical painted plates at the on-site restaurant, TOCA. Touches such as a salt water pool ringed with übercomfy lounge chairs, an expansive spa and a 20th-floor club level offering almost nonstop food and drink will make you never want to leave. But get out and explore the neighborhood—some of the city’s most noted attractions are within a 10-minute walk.

Even without kids, wandering through the variety of habitats at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada—including galleries devoted to jellyfish, Canadian species and Pacific reefs—will keep you oohing and aahing for an hour or two. The highlight is a moving walkway that glides through an underwater glass tunnel, surrounding you with stingrays, sharks and fish of every shape, size and color.

Next door is Toronto’s most iconic landmark, the CN Tower, a concrete spire that juts 147 stories into the sky. While most visitors content themselves with the 58-second trip up to the outdoor observation deck and a walk across the potentially vertigo-inducing glass floor, those in search of an adrenaline rush can harness up for a hands-free tour along the outside edge of the tower’s main pod—116 stories above the ground. (The less intrepid can watch a live stream from inside.)

To get a feel for Toronto’s multicultural vibe, head north on Spadina Avenue to Chinatown—you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Browse through stores selling everything from herbs and ointments to Asian pop music and bubble tea. Or stop at one of the tiny restaurants specializing in dim sum (Lai Wah Heen is always a reliable bet).

A few blocks away, you’ll find one of the most diverse and lively spots in the city, boho-hipster Kensington Market, an eclectic mix of restaurants, vintage shops, clothing boutiques and cafés. Grab a streetside seat at Casa Coffee for some entertaining people-watching. Pick up a trendy graphic T or statement necklace at Model Citizen. Or travel the world via the area’s food scene: Jamaican-Italian fusion at Rasta Pasta, Tijuana-style tacos at Seven Lives, Portuguese dishes at Amadeu’s Dining Lounge, Swedish baked goods at Fika, Mexican sandwiches at Tortería San Cosme and more.

On your way back to the hotel, treat yourself at SOMA Chocolatemaker. The bright, airy store and café overflows with temptations: beautifully patterned chocolate bars, homemade gelato, cocoa and an intriguing assortment of truffles (think vanilla-laced brown butter or Douglas fir-infused bites). Don’t pass up the bicerin, a triple-threat drink layering dark chocolate, espresso and whipped cream.

Back at the Ritz, wind down in the steam room, sauna or one of the relaxation spaces in the 13,000-square-foot spa before indulging in a specialized service. The My Blend facial is pure decadence: 60 or 90 minutes of massage, customized masks and an LED light treatment that’ll refresh your skin—and have you wondering why you don’t do this more often.


WHERE TO SHOP

Unique boutiques line Queen Street West in the art and design district. A few standouts: Hanji Gifts, a must-stop for gorgeous handmade paper and crafts; BYOB Cocktail Emporium, the spot for drinks-related accessories; and Cambie Design, where you’ll find colorful blankets, rugs and other textiles from makers in Peru, Morocco and Canada.   


WHERE TO EAT

For contemporary Canadian cooking, sit down to the tasting menu at Canoe: seven courses highlighting ingredients from around the country, with dishes such as wild rabbit with cloudberries, spring lamb with stinging nettles and wildflower panna cotta. If you can’t nab a reservation, try Luma at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Run by the same owners, it’s an equally delicious choice. 

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