Two Days in Canada’s Winter…as a southern girl

The winter weather’s got me thinking of my trip to Canada in 2019. One last hurrah before Covid interrupted multiple of my travel plans, this trip remains one of my favorites.

Texas has the reputation as the sweltering armpit of the US. Other states compete with our summers…Louisiana, Arizona, maybe Florida…but in popular culture, my home state is the clear winner.

The hottest state.

So, perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve never built a snowman. Not that it’s never snowed in Texas. As a kid, I lived in Dallas, a city where winter actually comes. Snow angels, check. Snowballs, check! But snowmen?

One year, the backyard had enough snow that our short-legged dachshund had to leap like a gazelle in order to chase squirrels.

My mom struggled to stuff my excited, jumping body into jacket and boots. She raced after me with a hat as I threw open the door to join my dad. We were building a snowman. I happily hopped behind him, as he rolled a ball of snow around the yard. But by the time we gathered enough snow for the base, grass was reaching for freedom.

We had used up all the snow.

Let’s jump forward fifteen years. Two friends and I were planning a trip to see Broadway’s Anastasia on tour. Our 8th grade year, the Anastasia’s soundtrack encouraged us as we practiced cartwheeling. Ever since the play was announced, we had been waiting to see it together.

We compared calendars, found a date, and checked the tour. Our destination…Toronto! The date…December!

I would finally get the answer to my lifelong question. Could I survive a “real” winter?

Spoiler alert! I survived. And not only that, but Toronto is now one of my favorite cities…

Read on for my 6 Favorite Toronto Destinations!

Eaton Centre and the Path

Canada clearly has winter down to an art. If ever it was too cold to walk outside (most of the time), we took advantage of the various skywalks and underground shopping districts connecting the city. Behold, the Eaton Centre.

Connected to the Dundas and Queen Stations on Line 1 Yonge-University, the Eaton Centre makes avoiding Canada’s winter bite a shopping spree opportunity. Yes, please.

We covered the basics…fancy macaroons, Tim Horton’s, the Disney store. All the while lit up Christmas trees and decorations brought life to what should have been a dreary, fluorescent-lit tunnel. And of course, towering arched glass ceilings give it a level of grandeur.

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel

With easy access to the Eaton Centre and Path and conveniently located right in downtown Toronto, I present to you the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel!

As a hotel, it did not disappoint. With a beautiful view of downtown, I could never forgot that I wasn’t in Texas anymore. Though we never mustered the willpower to go down to the ice-rink right below our window (several, several stories down), it definitely added to the aesthetic. And, of course, if you wanted to forget it was 14 degrees outside, then one could always descend to the lobby and sit before the greenhouse of tropical plants and a small waterfall.

Hockey Hall of Fame

I had no idea that people liked hockey unironically. Football, sure. Soccer, yes. But hockey? The Hockey Hall of Fame blew this perception right out the window. They have a temple to commemorate the trophies.

As a non-hockey watcher, I don’t have much to say on the Hall except they had a lot of giant-sized hockey mannequins. And you can pretend to be a sports announcer and email the video to yourself, which is pretty fun. If you’re a hockey fan, check it out! But if you’re a hockey fan, you didn’t need me to tell you that.

I will add, the short 3D film they had at the start of the experience was not worth it. Even my hockey-loving friends agree. But if you’re looking for a laugh, it definitely fell under the “so bad it’s good” category.

Royal Ontario Museum

Now, this is right up my alley. First of all, the Royal Ontario Museum itself is beautiful. It reminds me of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Housed in the Crystal Palace, the building glass building was just as magnificent as the artifacts it housed.

Not to mention, there was a perfect corner for this Texas girl to toss some snow around without the judging looks of Canadians who consider the snow as commonplace as grass.

This museum had a little bit of everything…ancient Rome, Egypt, Chinese sculptures, the Middle East, Korea, Greece…the museum goes on and on! But of course, my attention was immediately drawn to the Gallery of Birds. Over 100 birds and bird eggs are displayed. Posed mid-flight, they create an immersive experience and a healthy appreciation for just how big some of these birds can be–I’m looking at you, albatrosses! The gallery covers all avian taxonomic orders, giving this ornithologist nothing to complain about.

I will admit, we spent a bit more time in the dinosaur section than the bird section (though one could argue they’re one in the same…with several caveats). You might say I’m not a real bird lover, but at this point I’ve seen a thousand and one bird specimens. And though I have seen my fair share of dinosaur, this gallery had a special feature. If you took a picture with their built-in-kiosk, the skeleton comes to life, leading to some really fun action shots ^^

CN tower

Can anyone go to Toronto and not visit the CN tower? I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s the tallest building in North America.

At 1815 feet, the tower definitely beat my personal visits of tall buildings–previously held by the Empire State Building. Nothing in the Americas rivals its height. But the CN Tower can only enjoy it’s first place spot on my list for so long…My upcoming trip to South Korea will usher in a new winner: The Lotte World Tower.

But the fact that it’s not the tallest building in the world, didn’t stop me from enjoying the view…or feeling more connected to the birds (if you like bird facts, check this out) than ever before. Take the picture below as proof.

And if you can tell by my face, I wasn’t scared. At the top of the tower, I was aware that I should be afraid, but my heartrate didn’t get the memo. Not even when walking on the glass floor. Perhaps I should be concerned that my life-saving flight or flight response is damaged, but for now I’ll just take it as courage.

Or perhaps so much time has passed that I simply don’t remember being afraid. I do tend to have a selective memory.

Ed Mirvish Theatre

And, of course, the theatre. The reason for the trip.

After a delicious dinner, we braved the cold for a brief walk to the theatre. Though if my friends were writing this, they would be quick to point out that what I call “brief” is actually “long.” My definition of a “block” is evidently not universally recognized.

It just means the number of turns on the map, yes? If the walk involves one right turn, and one left turn…that’s two blocks!

We arrived at the theatre after our brief walk. The outside had a vintage look with its curvy trim on the overhand and the classic font. But the inside was pristine, featuring a palette of golds and blues.

Marble stairs and golden railings led us up to our seats. We passed conveniently situated concession and souvenir stands where I spent happy minutes debating between this expensive teacup versus this expensive music box.

And finally, the play. The music and lighting filled the theatre with magic. It was everything I had hoped for.

So, did I build a Snowman?

So, did I get to build a snowman? Somehow the opportunity never arose. But I did come away with this cute polar bear keychain. His name is Gleb in honor of one of the villains of the play. And, of course, I also bought this overpriced, but much-loved mug.

Want to know how I paid $0 for the flights to Canada? Check out this post!


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