Toronto is a great city – packed full of people, cultures, restaurants, and shopping! This isn’t the first time that Eastern Canadian Regional Oireachtas (ECRO) has been hosted in Toronto, but there is always something new to see and do when you visit!
Oireachtas is a busy dance-filled weekend, so it can be hard to take time to get outside of the venue even for a few hours. As someone who has competed at many an “O”, trust me, you’ll want to make sure you get outside and enjoy the experience and see the city! Don’t let it pass you by, or stay inside all weekend; the stress of competition can get quite heavy, even for the most seasoned competitor.
I can’t possibly capture everything there is to do, and which restaurants to eat at in the area! But with a few top tips, and a simple walk to explore the area you’ll easily find something for everyone to do. (click here for Tourism Toronto’s top picks as well).
Read on for the Happy Dancer’s things you need to know to enjoy the full weekend in Toronto this year at the ECRO:
Getting around the city
There are two main airports in Toronto now: Pearson, and Billy Bishop Toronto City. Both are easily connected to downtown Toronto, so you’ll have easy access to the venue hotel (Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel).
If you’re flying with Porter Airlines, you will arrive at the Toronto City airport, where it’s just a short walk through the pedestrian tunnel under the harbour to Bathurst St; another option is the ferry that departs every 15 minutes (one of the shortest rides in the world, and free!).
The trip from Pearson Airport into downtown Toronto is a bit longer. Taxis and the TTC (public transit) are available, but your best option is the new UP Express shuttle. It takes approximately half an hour, and departs every 15 minutes; this will take you right downtown to Union Station, which is just around the corner from the venue!
Once you’re downtown there are plenty of options available for transit, ask at the front desk of the hotel for specific directions. If you don’t want to use a taxi or public transportation, there are plenty of things to see and do right downtown that you can walk to!
What to see and do
If this is your first visit to downtown Toronto, make sure to take some time this weekend to see the classic Toronto sites: the CN tower is only a 5 minute walk (you’ll see it!), and the waterfront isn’t much further beyond that. Any time you take a walk around downtown Toronto you’re guaranteed to find something new and interesting, and if you’re like me you can walk along the waterfront imagining what it’s like to be a millionaire and live in a condo there!
Photo Ops and Sightseeing Outside
Personally, when I travel I like to take some time just walking around exploring. It’s the best way to find new things (like this little Graffiti Alley) and get a good feel for the city. Walking around and taking photos is also the cheapest (read: free!) type of tourism. Click here to see all the best spots to take some great photos downtown according to Tourism Toronto. Share with me on Instagram if you take some of these photos!
For some great, big city vibes (and people watching) make sure to head over to Nathan Phillips Square, across the street from the venue hotel. The square is turned into an ice rink in the winter, but it is also the home of the ‘Toronto’ sign – an excellent photo opportunity and souvenir of your weekend! A little further away, on the other side of the Eaton Centre, is Dundas Square. On the corner of Dundas and Yonge Streets, Dundas Square is a great public square filled with all the bright city lights, restaurants, shopping, and people watching that you could need!
Arts, Culture, and Shopping Inside
If the weather isn’t great for walking outside, or maybe indoor arts and culture is more your style, check out the Art Gallery of Ontario just a short walk from the venue. Please note though, they are closed on Mondays so if you’re planning to go, find some time before the weekend is through!
A little further away (but open on Monday!) is the Royal Ontario Museum. The building is architecturally very interesting – people either love it or hate it – but the exhibits inside are possibly even better! Both of these are great options for you to get away from the stress of the venue for a couple of hours, or for bored siblings and family members to visit when they’re tired of feis music! For a fun afternoon for the whole family (Friday afternoon before dancing on Saturday?), visit the Ripleys Aquarium of Canada down near the waterfront. These aquariums and museums are pretty common in many cities, but if you’ve never visited one before, it’s worth seeing!
Toronto is known for having great shopping, and the Eaton Centre downtown is worth checking out if you are in the mood to shop! It is just a few minutes down the road from the venue hotel, and is an easy way to spend some time.
Toronto overall, and the downtown area specifically, is packed full of things to see and do for everyone. Every time you go out exploring the area, you’ll be sure to find something different. And while it is sometimes difficult to find time to explore during a full weekend like Oireachtas, it can really go a long way towards keeping stress down and making it a fun experience overall.
Best of luck to all dancers at ECRO 2017, see you in Toronto!