I finally turn my attention back to completing my review trip to Canada in the fall of 2019. As the title implies, the real purpose of this trip was to get some poutine in its native habitat. Yes, I can get poutine at the Maple Leaf Diner in Dallas. And it’s really quite good. But why drive the 20 minutes to Dallas when you can fly to Toronto via New York and Vancouver instead? And so began the quest for poutine and a brisk morning walk in Toronto.
Date of visit: October 19-20, 2019
Poutine and a Brisk Morning Walk in Toronto
Fresh off my Premium Economy flight from Vancouver, I reached the Delta Toronto just in time for a late dinner. While looking for places to eat in my room, I discovered the Maple Leafs and Bruins were wrapping up a game down the street. To avoid the worst of the crowds, I made the 15 minute walk to the waterfront to check out Amsterdam Brewhouse, a sports bar and craft brewery. First, though, I grabbed a quick night photo of CN Tower across from the hotel.
I managed to grab a seat at the bar to watch Game 6 of the Astros-Yankees ALCS game. And some good poutine and a Downtown Brown Ale to go with it.
While the poutine hit the spot, unfortunately, it appears that it’s a pandemic casualty. The current menu doesn’t have it. But if you like sports bars, Amsterdam Brewhouse is worth a visit regardless because it’s a great place to watch sports while betting on sites like midas slot; just beware it gets really busy.
The next morning, though a noon departure didn’t give me a ton of time, I did have just enough for a brisk morning walk. It was a truly beautiful fall morning in Ontario.
I began with a walk across the street to see CN Tower and Olympic Park in the morning light. You’ll quickly see what looks like a busted telephone pole on the northwest corner. But it’s actually the Blue Jay Statue, a tribute to the baseball team next door.
And yes, the CN Tower looks might impressive against a blue sky.
The tower, built by Canadian National Railway, once claimed the title of tallest free-standing structure in the world, at 1,815.3 feet. The Burj Khalifa eventually surpassed it in 2007; it now ranks as the 9th tallest, but still ranks #1 in the Western Hemisphere. The tower wasn’t open for tours at 8 am on a Sunday, but it’s a marvel even from the outside.
Just to the south is the Toronto Railway Museum, housed inside historic John Street Roundhouse. The roundhouse, built in 1929, served as Canadian Pacific’s main maintenance facility. It also doesn’t open until noon on Sunday, but Roundhouse Park contains a nice collection of vintage locomotive cars and engines and historic outbuildings. You can also see the track for the miniature railway that travels around the park.
The building with the pointed roof is historic Don Station. At one time, the station served as Canadian National’s primary downtown station, beginning in 1896. It was originally situated about 2 miles east, on the west bank of the Don River at Queen Street. Over time, the station declined in importance, until Canadian National abandoned it in 1967. While the building remained in storage for many years, the city of Toronto moved it to Roundhouse Park in 2008. Today, visitors to the Railway Museum can purchase tickets for the miniature railway at the station.
The grounds also provide excellent views of the Toronto skyline – and in mid-October, the fall foliage.
After some time in Roundhouse Park, I headed south for a quick daylight look at the Toronto waterfront. I basically followed the same path as the night before, heading past Amsterdam Brewhouse to HTO Park. At this time on a Sunday morning, there’s not much going on. So I enjoyed a peaceful stroll admiring the foliage and a few boats parked at the marina.
If I had more time, I would’ve headed a little further west to Little Norway Park to get some photos of Billy Bishop Airport. Alas, I had to get ready to head back to the airport. However, if you have just a little more time, check out one other Toronto institution in the vicinity. I visited on a subsequent short visit a few months later, before my infamous Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (mis)adventure.
The Hockey Hall of Fame
If you’re a hockey fan, this is an absolute must visit. The entrance is on the lower level of the Brookfield Place mall off Front Street. Current admission runs CAD 25 for adults and CAD 15 for kids ages 4-13.
At the time, the Hall featured a “9 & 99”, celebrating NHL legends Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. (Surprisingly, the exhibit’s still going, more than two years later.) There are several displays and videos outlining the history of both careers. Gretzky, of course, holds pretty much all NHL scoring records. But Howe, Mr. Hockey, set the gold standard before the Great One, playing an incredible 32 seasons between the NHL and competitor WHA.
There’s also an exhibit and cycling video chronicling Stanley Cup champions of years past. From the 1970s, I found Bob Gainey’s jersey, winner of the 1979 Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP). Gainey was one of my dad’s favorite players with the Montreal Canadiens; he also presided as the general manager of the Dallas Stars during their championship runs in the late 90s.
There was also a blurb about the Stars’ 1998-99 league championship. (Apologies to any bitter Buffalo Sabres fans out there.)
This particular season was an especially special time to visit for Dallas Stars fans. Fan favorites Guy Carbonneau and Sergei Zubov were both inducted into the Hall’s 2019 class a few months prior. Though both made their marks with other teams – Carbonneau with Montreal, Zubov with Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers – they played integral parts on the Stars’ 1998-99 championship team. Carbonneau in particular enjoyed something of a cult following among Stars fans of the late 90s.
You can have your photo taken with the Stanley Cup upstairs; unfortunately, they charge extra for the privilege.
After a quick visit to the Hall, I headed to lunch at Gretzky’s Sports Bar and Grill. Unfortunately, Gretzky’s shut down in October, 2020 after a 27-year run. Not because of the pandemic, but because of a planned condo development on the site. And yes, I had poutine here, too. This one, though, was a unique version with tater tots and hollandaise sauce. Very tasty, especially with a Great Old Fashioned.
Was this enough time in Toronto? No, but I like to say, any time exploring a new city is better than none. I’ve long had a rough plan to drive from Dallas up to the Canadian Maritimes, spending a few days in Toronto on the way. The little bit I saw definitely makes me want to come back and explore more. And next time, I’ll do more than poutine and a brisk morning walk.