A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Toronto, Ontario

Ok, another preface to another travel blog post…actually two. So, first up, our time in Toronto was not utilized very well. We got late starts every morning we were there, and we didn’t really do any planning for our time there. What I’m going to do is talk about what we actually did, and then share a couple of the spots that I wish that we had gone to. 

A second preface regarding the Covid crossing. A basic reiteration as to what I said in my first post (and apologies for not including it in my Sudbury post- I forgot and it worked out as that post went a lot longer than I thought it would). These may or may not be up to date when you are reading this post (as they still change day to day), so I would recommend checking the Canada travel site HERE for the most up to date information. To enter Canada as an adult you must be fully vaccinated and fill out the Arrive CAN app on the phone (you can do this via we browser and print the certificate as well if that is easier for you, I believe). Kids aged 5 & up are required to be vaccinated unless they are traveling with fully vaccinated adults. For the vast majority of Ontario, we were not required to wear masks.

So, on to Toronto…

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada, the fourth most populous in the North America Region (it’s also the fastest growing city, and second fastest growing metro region in the North America’s). It’s location at the entrance of a route to the NW (one of the oldest there is) has been inhabited and used since the 1600’s by the Huron, Iroquois, and Ojibwe. In the 1660’s the Iroquois created two towns, but then they left the area after the Beaver Wars. In 1701 the Mississaugas took over the region and were there until 1750 when the French established Fort Rouille (they were still in the region, but the French started to cultivate the region). Once the Seven Years War ended the French left and the region became part of British Quebec. The American Revolution saw an influx in Loyalists escaping America and in 1787 Toronto officially became a British Territory with the Toronto Purchase. Toronto wasn’t always known as Toronto, in fact in 1793 it was the Town of York, and it became the capital of Upper Canada the same year. When slavery was banned in 1834, the newly renamed city of Toronto, became a refuge for former slaves and all people of color. Toronto has had two “Great Fires”, the Cathedral fire in 1849 which destroyed most of the Market district as well as St. James Cathedral, and the Great Fire in 1902 which destroyed more than 100 buildings and killed one person. A final fun fact for you: Toronto was once the largest alcohol distribution center- it specialized in spirits, and in the 1860’s Gooderham and Worts Distillery was the largest whisky factory in the world. 

The first night in Toronto we simply did a little walking, did a little eating, and settled into our hotel. We stayed in the Chelsea Hotel (the largest in Canada), and it was both a good hotel as well as a good local spot. We started at Old City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, then over to Toronto Eaton Centre, which is a massive, covered shopping mall. We then walked down to Yonge- Dundas Square, which is similar (but a bit smaller) to Times Square. Opened in 2002 it is central to Downtown Yonge’s entertainment and shopping. 

The next morning, we set out for our first “must see” of Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is credited to James T. Sutherland who was involved in the sport. He believed the Hall of Fame should be located in Kingston as he saw that as the birthplace of Hockey. However, there were quite a few funding issues trying to create a permanent building (even after inductions began in 1945), and, in 1961, it was moved to Toronto. Initially the Hockey Hall of Fame shared space with the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, but in 1986 they ran out of space and in 1993 they moved to the current location inside Brookfield Place/Bank of Montreal Building. Within the museum you’ll find not only history pieces, trophies and rings, team memorabilia, and the like, but also an entire interactive zone where you can practice shooting pucks against a goalie, being a goalie, as well as learn how television broadcasting works. It was quite a way to spend the morning and we loved getting this deep dive into Hockey History. 

From there we wandered over to St. Lawrence Market. In the early 1800’s the governor recognized that the town needed to have a central market location, with specific dates and times that it would be operational. And so, St. Lawrence Market was opened. This heart of the town was not only a market, but also served as an auction space, a place of public punishment, and for a time, was the seat of the city council. A temporary structure was first introduced in 1814, with a permanent structure built in 1820. This led to a long road of construction, remodeling, destruction (it went down during the Cathedral Fire), and re building. The present St. Lawrence Market South Building dates back to 1845 (rebuilt in 1850 and remodeled in 1972). Originally there was two buildings, however the North building was demolished in 2015. It is full of just about any vendor you could think of, from food, to jewelry, stationary, clothes and beyond. It is a hectic, but fun stop to see. We wandered up and down the aisles of two floors and admired all the goodies being sold.  

From the market we wandered over to the “old district” which didn’t have much that we could see- we actually got a little bit confused over the whole thing. We did see Toronto’s First Post Office, the De La Salle Institute, and St. Andrew’s Church. We ended our day on the docks, watching the water.

The next morning, we headed out once again, this time over to Allan Gardens Conservatory. This was a stop mostly for me, as I wanted to see all the plants. The area dates back to 1858 when George Allan donated a small plot of land to the Horticultural Society. The city then approached him to purchase the surrounding land to expand, which George agreed to as long as they kept it publicly accessible free of charge. It originally opened in 1879 before a fire damaged it in 1902. The present gardens opened in 1910 with the domed Palm House, which were quickly added to in both the 1920’s as well as late 1950. It’s not large, and to be honest not entirely necessary to see, but it was nice to pop in to somewhere to be surrounded by plants for an hour. The boys stopped and played at the nearby playground for a little bit while we tried to figure out what else we wanted to do. At this point we only had half a day left in Toronto, which cut out a lot of things that we wanted to do (like I said- we didn’t plan this stop well at all). 

We decided to head over to Ripley’s Aquarium as the boys have never been to one and it would be a fun stop for everyone that was also nearby. The Aquarium is really known for its Sharks and Sting Rays (in my opinion), and they are also the most active of all the fish. We were able to see not only those, but also a very active octopus, sea turtles, and jelly fish. It was a decent stop and a good way to cool off. 

From there we headed across the street to the Roundhouse Park & Toronto Railway Museum. I’ll be honest…I don’t think this is really worth the stop, even if your kids are massively into trains. The roundhouse park is really cool, first built in 1929 and the last in downtown Toronto, it’s a 32-stall house featuring, at that time, the most modern of technology. It closed operations in 1982 and became a Canadian National Historic Site in 1990. The museum opened in 2010 and features quite a lot of history on the Canadian Pacific Railway, artifacts from bygone times, as well as the ability to drive a simulated train. The boys liked to drive the simulation, but beyond that they didn’t care about any of the rest of it. You are able to see all the 10 train cars featured in the museum on the outside (without going into the museum) as well as take the mini railway. I don’t normally say that a museum isn’t worth going to because I believe in history, in museums, and in learning about the past, but this is one that I don’t think you need to go to. 

And that really wraps up our time in Toronto…

Now, some of the things I actually wished we did were:

Spend a day on Toronto Islands. The Toronto Islands consist of 15 small islands just south of the mainland. You are able to take a boat ferry from Toronto over to the Island Park and, like Mackinac Island, the Islands are car-free. We could have biked through Toronto Island Park, the Centreville Amusement Park, as well as walked and relax on the beach. We actually thought about maybe going for half the day but didn’t think it wise to try and beat the rush at the amusement park and get back to the mainland. I didn’t want to be rushed. 

We thought about going over to Casa Loma, however it was a bit out of the way of the other ideas we had and to take a tour within the castle was a bit pricey. It’s one of those- we saw so many real, old, historic castles in Europe that we haven’t found one here in North America that “measures up” to what we’ve come to expect (yes, I really said that and cringed every word through). I do think it still would have been nice to experience though. 

And, finally, I think that going to the Toronto Botanical Gardens would have been nice. I would have probably preferred them to the Allen Garden Conservatory, but it just didn’t fit in to our schedule or route in any way. 

I do think the Hockey Hall of Fame and St. Lawrence Market are must visits during your time in Toronto. I would say most of the rest, if you walk past or through on a route is fine, but not necessarily worth going out of your way to see. 

So, there you have it. Our 3 nights in Toronto. Up next is our final stop on our Summer Holiday…

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2022 – Sudbury, Ontario

The next stop on our trip was a bit of an “place to stop on the way” kind of stop, but we were pleasantly surprised with the city of Sudbury. It has a lot of history, a lot of mining history, it was actually such a good spot to stay for a night or two. We learned so much not only about the city itself, but actually about mining, its history and its effects on our world, as well as what we can do to protect it. Whew, we might go a little deep in this post, but this city is such a…surprise.  

Quickly before we get too deep into the Sudbury history and stop, we did make a short stop at Onaping Falls.

So, the thought is that about 1.85 billion years ago a meteorite hit Earth and this crater, that has since been filled with all sorts of debris and formed and re shaped by nature, is where the A.Y. Jackson Lookout and Onaping Falls is. Sudbury City Center lies at the south, this lookout at the north. We started at the Lookout with a view of the Onaping River and High Falls- a drop of 46 meters of several falls. From there we hiked down through the rocky terrain (which I somehow did in my Birkenstocks- possible but not recommended) and up over to the bridge. The bridge is right on the rim of the crater and offers views of the river and falls. It was a great stop and a way to stretch our legs all while being right in the heart of both outside the planet and the nature of earth. 

From there we headed into Sudbury. So, a little history…

Similar to our previous stop in the region, Sudbury was initially inhabited by the Ojibwe of Algonquin People some 9,000 years ago. However, in 1850 they struck a deal with the British Crown (the Robinson Huron Treaty) that they would share the region with the Crown if they were paid a tax. The first French Jesuits established the Saint-Anne-des-Pins- coincidentally the patron Saint of minors. A little foreshadowing for the area possibly. 

During the excavation and paving for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883 high concentrations of nickel-copper ore were found in the rock that formed Murray Mine. Nickel-Sulphide Ore was also located in the region. This led to a boon of workers and opportunity both in the mines, but also for railway workers trying to establish and run the railway. Thomas Edison (visiting as a prospector) found an ore body in Falconbridge. Through this boon to the region, two companies emerged, Inco (1902) and Falconbridge (1928). They went on to become two of the largest employers of the region as well as two of the world’s leading producers of Nickel. 

Because the region was so rich, they were able to bounce back from the Great Depression much quicker than many other places in the world- in fact, the problems that they dealt with during the Great Depression ended up being a lack of infrastructure to meet the rapid growth of the city and industry. The Frood Mines produced 40% of all the nickel in Allied artillery production, as well as was a main supplier to the U.S. during the Cold War. It’s hard to make clear just what the impact of these mines were on the region- at one point Sudbury was the wealthiest and fastest growing city in the country. 

However, for all the wealth and good economic value the mines brought to Sudbury, they also completely destroyed the green life in the city. The slag heaps, open coke beds, and various logging caused almost all the natural plants to die. Not only that, but they experienced the left-over rocky outcroppings turn charcoal black and acid rain. An environmental crisis caused by the mines. 

Not to catastrophize, because this story has a “happy” ending in that the once the Inco Superstack was built (in 1972 to help disperse the the sulphuric acid further distances to cut down on the acid rain) they were able to bring in a team of environmentalists and ecologists to help find solutions. They started in the early 1970’s by putting lime on the charred soil, laying wild grass seed, and planting trees (9.2 million planted as of 2010). With that initial push completed, they went to work on the slag heaps- rehabilitating them with biosolids (basically compost), as well as grass seed and trees. In fact, we learned that the mines are the perfect greenhouses- but more on that a bit later. The city of Sudbury has actually been recognized by the United Nations for its regreening and improved mining practices. They have a long way to go though, there are still 74,000 acres of land still to be touched by rehabilitation. 

In 1978 there was a strike at Inco over production and employment cutbacks. This strike completely shuttered Sudbury’s economy and since then they’ve been trying to diversify the local economy…which is where we get into what we did in the city. 

One quick fun fact before we go, quite a bit of the famous Canadians come from Sudbury- like Alex Trebeck! Sudbury has also produced something like 81 National Hockey League players- the largest of any European City, and several NHL Hall of Famers. 

So, first off, we visited Dynamic Earth and the Big Nickel. Well…technically first we visited Bay Used Books, but I don’t think I really need to go into details on that- if you’re in the area give them a visit! 

Dynamic Earth is an Earth Sciences Museum opened in 2003 that focuses heavily on the geology and mining activities of the region. Not only were we able to tour an underground model mine that showed us the different forms mining took over the years (and it’s gone through A LOT of changes), but we were also able to learn about how the local city and mines are trying to repair the damage done to the environment and nature of the region. We learned about how a mine is actually the perfect greenhouse (with some light and such) for plants as it stays the same temperature year-round. So, the mines use unused tunnels as greenhouses in an effort to grow the number of trees to rehabilitate various parts of the grounds. Once you finish with the tour of the mine (which is an optional addition to the museum that I would recommend), you are able to walk through a short video presentation that goes through what happens after the rock is mined. This shows how they manipulate the rocks and get the nickel and other metals out and then, further, what those metals are used for. A very kid friendly, but good for adults too, style video. Within the museum you are also able to use the tools that would be available to miners, both for kids and adults. For the kids there is a soft play style playground that has everything an old mine would have, the carts, the belt up and down, as well as a variety of tools and “rocks”. The adults are able to manipulate an actual drill located deep within the model mine. You are also able to pan for gold, explore and learn about all sorts of different kinds of rocks and stones in the exhibits. One final piece of importance about Dynamic Earth- it was the first museum in Canadian history where a private enterprise and public education collaborated to provide on-site training. 

Inside the museum was easily my favorite part and I really enjoyed learning about mining, where it started, and what companies are realizing is harmful, but I couldn’t deny that the statue outside is one of the biggest draws to the area…The Big Nickel. 

The Big Nickel, a 9-meter replica of the 1951 Canadian Nickel, is a world-renowned landmark that turned Sudbury in to a tourist stop. The idea came from Ted Szilva when the city was soliciting for ideas to celebrate the Canadian Centennial. The city, of course, did not like his idea, but he persisted. His full idea was to have the nickel, a mining center, and an underground mind. He faced quite a bit of back and forth (and opposition from the city), but finally opened the Big Nickel for visitors in 1964. He picked the 1951 nickel for three reasons: commemorate the 200th anniversary of isolating nickel into a metal, show where Sudbury’s wealth came from, and to honor the mine workers of the region. His dream didn’t stop there as he had Maclsaac Mining and Tunneling Co build the very same mine we toured in 1965 (they then expanded it in 1969). 

His final dream was to form the Sudbury Science Centre – later known as Science North- though the city initially opposed that too as it was proposed to be a private enterprise. However, much like the Big Nickel, after some time and some fierce determination, he succeeded and now known as, Science North came to be. 

Science North is Northern Ontario’s most popular tourist attraction- an interactive science museum. And it deserves every bit of that hype as it is such a cool spot to spend some time. In fact, you could easily spend a whole day just within the complex. The complex consists of two buildings connected by an underground tunnel sitting on a geographic fault. The buildings were not initially built on this fault; however, it was discovered when they were building. The first portion features an IMAX theatre and planetarium, as well as a boat tour and board walk. The second building is the museum itself which consist of a wide variety of exhibits from the natural region of the area to more STEM related exhibits. Our favorites were easily the insect pavilion where you were able to see different varieties of insects with far too many legs (belaugh), the Animals of Lakes & Rivers, as well as Northern Forests which featured rehabilitated animals like a porcupine, turtles, snakes, and a beaver. We also highly enjoyed the BodyZone, which dealt with the body and all of its’ functions and wonders, as well as the Space Place which had a “fly your own plane” exhibit, as well as a mechanical arm where you could practice your grabbing skills. 

I think if you are going to these two places, start early early at Dynamic Earth and plan on spending ¾ of your day at Science North. Once we finished at both, we walked along the Boardwalk for a little way before getting dinner and heading to the hotel for a swim and bed. 

Which wraps up our time in Sudbury. As I already mentioned- this city was a surprise to both of us. We knew there were things to do, but we didn’t know how rich the history was of the city and how big a role Mining played.