Since my European visitors are quite sporty I figured that renting a bicycle would be the perfect way of exploring the city. So to join them on their first guided bicycle tour I grabbed my bike and the 5 of us headed off to the subway station to go to Bicycle Solutions near Parliament and Carlton Streets. Getting outfitted with a bike didn’t take long and the cost was pretty reasonable at $70. 00 for a whole week. Now all 5 of us had a bicycle.

Our tour began in Cabbagetown, one of Toronto’s historic districts. We first explored Riverdale Farm which is composed of a historic farm house, a number Top10toronto of stables and several corrals holding a variety of farm animals. This miniature zoo allows city kids to get to know farm animals up close. We then headed to the entrance of Toronto’s Necropolis. Established in 1850, the Toronto Necropolis is one of Toronto’s oldest and most historic cemeteries. Its picturesque location, collection of sculpture and Victorian buildings also make it one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the city.

Riding through the gritty Regent Park neighbourhood on Parliament we made a left to head over to the Distillery District – Toronto’s newest entertainment district. Founded in 1832 by Brother-in-law William Gooderham and James Worts, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery eventually became the largest distillery in the British Empire. Set on 13 acres in downtown Toronto, the forty plus buildings constitute the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North america.

The Distillery is now a pedestrian-only village entirely dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment. Internationally acclaimed galleries, artists’ studios and workshops, restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as live music, all form part of this new landmark cultural centre. In addition to the history, arts and culture, The Distillery has been the location for over 800 film and television productions in the past decade, including Chicago, X-Men, Against the Ropes and the Hurricane, making The Distillery District the most popular film location in Canada.

Of course we had to stop at the Mill Street Brewery, one of Toronto’s fine micro-breweries. My Austrian visitors are great beer lovers and I have been working on giving them a wide variety of samples of Canadian beers, and we added the Mill Street brand to our tasting tour.

From the Distillery District we headed south to Lakeshore Boulevard where we cycled west past Harbourfront, an area that holds high-priced condos right next to the waterfront, where highlights include speciality shops at Queens Quay Terminal, art, theatre and cultural facilities at Harbourfront Centre and a terrific lakeside walking trail. Cruises of the harbour and ferry services run from here.

Our bike tour continued west by the water on the Martin Goodman Trail, past Ontario Place and the CNE – Canadian National Exhibition, which was in full swing with its rides and amusement activities. We enjoyed the lake-front ride and were fascinated by the Toronto Hippo Bus that was cruising on the water inside a harbour basin.

Our turnaround point for the tour came at Sunnyside Pavillion, a historic bathing pavilion dating back to a time when the lakeshore was home to a large amusement park. We sat down and had some refreshing drinks right next to a sandy beach on Lake Ontario. Rejuvenated we started our ride back and stopped off at a hot dog stand just outside the Princess Gates of the Canadian National Exhition Grounds. My European visitors were fascinated by the hot dog stands, particularly about the fact that you could scoop all sorts of salads and condiments like sauerkraut, hot peppers and even corn onto the sausages, and we simply had to stop and sample some road-side cuisine.

After heading back through Harbourfront we took the ferry over to Hanlan’s Point with our bicycles and started exploring the Toronto Islands on two wheels. We were all astounded by the serenity of the surroundings, truly an oasis of green right in front of busy downtown Toronto. We cycled all the way from the west to the east side where we had another fabulous view of the cityscape from an old abandoned pier.

Of course all this working out would necessitate a little refreshment break and we cycled over to Centre Island where there is a restaurant next to the ferry dock, unfortunately it was closed. So we cycled back to the Centerville amusement park area where there was a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous outdoor patio right next to a tranquil waterway and we had a well-deserved rest., admiring the huge white geese that came up to us to request some food.

After taking the ferry back to the mainland we followed the Martin Goodman Trail east along the Eastern Beaches and had a peak at Ashbridges Bay and the little peninsula right next to it, one of the most scenic and tranquil spots in Toronto. We then headed home on the trail past the Kew Gardens Tennis Club, the hockey/ lacrosse arena and the lawnbowling facilities and my European guests commented on how surprised they were that so much of Toronto’s waterfront is publicly accessible and not fenced off as private property as is the case with so many European waterfront locations.

A gourmet dinner capped off a beautiful day of exploration, allowing us to rest up for the next day to explore the CN Tower, just in time before the remnants of Hurricane Katrina were scheduled to come into town. On Tuesday I joined my guests only for a half day since i had to do some work in the afternoon and we took the subway in to explore the CN Tower. There were absolutely no lineups on Tuesday, which was great, since the Sunday before we had noticed hundreds of people lining up to get up the famous tower.

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