We were told that looking for parking in downtown Toronto was going to be difficult as there was a major function going on today. Therefore, we parked our car at the closest subway station and we hopped on a subway to the Royal Ontario Museum. Their subway system is pretty easy to follow and attractions downtown are all accessible by the subway. The subway was pretty clean but there are the occasional panhandlers. You can buy an all-day pass or single fare at the attendant kiosk. For their single fare, they provide you with a small coin in lieu of a ticket. I found this quite neat.
It took us about 30 minutes to get to the Royal Ontario Museum from York Station. There was a swearing-in ceremony for new immigrants that day so a section of the museum was closed off. We had purchased the Toronto City Pass online so we were able to skip the line. The exhibits in the Museum occupy three floors which showcase taxidermy and artifacts from Asia, Egypt and Europe. Their layout is very similar to other Royal Museums that we have been to before but the exhibit that stood out for me was the dinosaur exhibit. The dinosaur fossils were neatly organized in the exhibit and they had fossils of many species of dinosaurs. One could easily spend a day here but we had only allocated three hours so we skimmed through some exhibits pretty quickly. We grabbed lunch at the café downstairs which has a decent selection of items to choose from ranging from sandwiches to soup to desserts. The fish and chips and the rice crispies were mediocre but my roast beef sandwich was surprisingly good. Prices are reasonable so if you are not too picky and are short on time, grab a roast beef sandwich here!
From there, we hopped on the subway again to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. It took us a while to locate the place as it is tucked away behind the food court of a commercial building. Admission is $18 per person and includes in and out privileges. Even though I am not a hockey fan, I still enjoyed my visit as there are lots of fun activities to do here such as air hockey, 3D presentation and goalie shoot out. There are many jerseys, helmets, skates and trophies showcased here. The highlights for me were the photo opportunity with the Stanley Cup and also the mock recording in the TSN studio. There is also a gift shop upstairs which sells official NHL merchandise. We were here for 2 hours but if you are a hockey fan, you should probably allocate 3-4 hours.
From the Hall of Fame, we walked over to the Ripley’s Aquarium. This is a very busy area of downtown as there are many other attractions located here – the CN Tower, the Railway Museum, the Rogers Centre and the Steam Whistle Brewery. Queue was long here but the Toronto City Pass helped us bypass the line again. I did not enjoy the Aquarium as the venue is really small and plus it was so crowded that we were simply just shoved from one tank to another. The only thing neat was the conveyor belt which takes you through the tanks where sharks and sting rays swim above you.
It was finally time for dinner! We made reservations at SOCO Kitchen and Bar which was only a few minutes’ walk from the Aquarium. It was 7:30 pm when we got there but the restaurant was not very busy. Not too many options on their menu but the prices are very reasonable considering its location. The venue is spacious and the décor is trendy. They also have a large patio area. Amongst the four of us, we got the Artisan Romaine and Kale Salad, Soco Meatballs, 5 Cheese Macroni and Cheese, Lobster Tagliatelle, Black Cod and 10 oz dry aged ribeye. My favourite was the 5 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese which has won 2 year champion in the Toronto Mac & Cheese festival. It was very creamy but did not taste very cheesy or filling. My second favourite was the Black Cod as it did not taste fishy at all and simply melted in my mouth. I highly recommend coming here for dinner!
After dinner, we went up the CN Tower to see the night view of Toronto’s skyline. Since it was an hour before closing time, there was no line up. The main observation deck is indoors but it is very hard to get a good picture as the light reflects off the glass. You can climb the stairs to the outdoor observation deck but no luck with pictures here again as the area is caged in. They really know how to get you with those expensive souvenir photos! We finished after 30 minutes and took the elevator back down. If you have acrophobia, I suggest you close your eyes on the elevator as both the door and the bottom of the elevator are made of glass! After spending 30 minutes at the gift shop, we went to take a look at the souvenir photos. If you have the Toronto City Pass, you get a discount at the gift shop and on the souvenir photo package. I think it is such a waste how they print and discard the photos of visitors that do not buy the pictures!
From the CN Tower, we walked back to the subway station and headed back to pick up our car. It was a long day of sightseeing and it was past midnight by the time we got back to our hotel!