How do you know you’re in TORONTO? “It’s the little things.”

As a tour guide, I often show American visitors around town.  Their enthusiasm for TORONTO sometimes amazes me, and for a couple of hours I get to see the city through their eyes.  It’s a learning experience on both sides.

This spring, THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER sent reporter Laura DeMarco, and photographer Lisa DeJong to TORONTO for 48 hours.  You can read their story on http://www.cleveland.com/travel, but here are some notes from their two day visit to the Big Smoke.

” – 48 hours in TORONTO; 300 miles from Cleveland; adult quotient/cool quotient: TORONTO is a fantastic weekend getaway for families or adults. There are a multitude of dining, theater, club and pub, shopping and museum attractions for those who decide to leave the kids at home.

” – we dedicated ourselves to exploring what makes this city uniquely Canadian, not just a slightly altered version of an American or English city.

” – I was worried about it getting rather late for dinner by the time we made it back from the islands. Silly me! TORONTO is truly a late-night dining, big-city kind of town.”

In two days, Ms. DeMarco and Ms. DeJong visited the Bata Shoe Museum (“more than 13,000 footwear artifacts”); Horseshoe Tavern, 368 Queen Street West (“one of the oldest bars in town”); the Paddock Tavern, 178 Bathurst Street (“a lovely midcentury Art Deco oasis”); the Communist’s Daughter, 1149 Dundas Street West (“known for its amazing rock ‘n’ roll jukebox”); a double-decker bus tour (“an easy way to explore”); Harbourfront, St. Lawrence Market (“reminiscent of Cleveland’s West Side Market”); the Distillery District (“nicely restored example of 19th-century industrial design”); window shopping in Yorkville (“once a hippie enclave, today a high-end shopping mecca with names such as Prada, Hermes and Holt Renfrew”); Kensington Market (“vibrant, funky mix of bakeries, Jamaican patty shops, vintage stores, vegan and gluten-free shops, bars with open-air patios, cheese shops and indie designer boutiques”); Grossman’s Tavern; El Mocambo; passed by Casa Loma and the Royal Ontario Museum; took the ferry to Toronto Islands (“the view from the ferry of the Toronto skyline is the best you’ll see — an ideal picture-taking spot”); Greektown; the Gay Village; and the Beach neighbourhood (“we picked up a Turkish demi-bread, and strolled through picturesque Kew Gardens park to the waterfront, grabbed a bench, sat back and took in Toronto. It was a picture-perfect ending to our Canadian weekend.”)

And they stopped for a coffee at the Senator, 249 Victoria Street (“This gorgeous diner dates back 76 years, and has a lovely wood bar that rivals Cleveland’s chic Velvet Tango Room”)

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<PHOTOS BY Lisa DeJong, Cleveland Plain Dealer – illuminated waterfall in Yorkville Park; Nervosa on Bellair Street; Sky Yard at the Drake Hotel; trumpet player Michael Louis Johnson at the Communist’s Daughter; and Kensington Market>