Accomodations in Toronto and Stratford
March 30, 2014 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Family members and I are planning a quick trip to Toronto and Stratford in June. We expect to meet in Toronto, travel to Stratford to catch some plays, then return to Toronto for a couple days of sight-seeing.

I'd appreciate suggestions for places to stay (we'll need to rent three rooms -- cheap is obviously good but it could be trumped by location) in both cities. I'd also love to hear about less-well known things to do -- we like history, art, horticulture, and good food. We're already planning a visit to the ROM and some more prominent art museums, but advice on things to see or do would be grand.

Lastly, while we are planning on renting a car, if we decided to get between the two cities by public transportation, is there any reason to pick a bus over rail besides timing?
posted by GenjiandProust to Travel & Transportation around Ontario, ON (8 answers total)
I like the Forest Motel in Statford but you would need a car to get from the motel to the Theatres. (get one room with the outdoor hotub if you can) For Toronto I like to stay at the Sheraton (opposite City Hall) for it's central location and ease of getting coupons/deals.

I would not recommend taking the VIA to Statford. They still use the old carriages with crappy shocks sometimes on that route and it can be very uncomfortable.
posted by saucysault at 1:48 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you going to have children with you? If not, my husband and I stayed at the The Toronto Townhouse and loved, loved, loved it. Cabbagetown is a really interesting neighborhood, and there was a tram stop right nearby that took us in to Downtown, etc. Also had a parking space, which is good if you're renting a car. The prices don't seem to be online, but I think it was around $150 a night? Owner is very friendly and the breakfasts were always delicious.

I highly recommend checking out the Music Garden, and catching a show there; going out to the Harbor Islands was also nice. For food, Guu Izakaya was both tasty and fun, but be ready for a wait.
posted by damayanti at 1:55 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Allan Gardens has a lovely 100 year old conservatory, with palm trees, fish, turtles. You'll be glad you went. It's free.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:03 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

No children. Two couples and one other adult.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:43 PM on March 30, 2014

I was going to say the Forest Motel for Stratford as well. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for anywhere you can have a decent cup of tea in the morning outside under a tree in a real mug. The Swan Motel is somewhat similar (out of the town center, space it sit around outside), but not as nice, as I recall. We've probably stayed at like half the hotels in Stratford that aren't outrageously expensive at some point, but none of the others really stand out.
posted by hoyland at 3:57 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

For five people it'll probably be much more cost-effective to rent a car. Inter-city public transport, especially to places like Stratford, is impractical for trips like yours.

If you want to save money its definitely cheaper to stay out by the airport and simply drive in every day. It's definitely more fun to stay downtown and not have to drive everywhere.

My suggestion would be to find a hotel you can live with downtown (ish) and maybe just rent a car for the day(s) you're going to Stratford. If you have a credit card that covers rental car insurance then you can save the $30-ish you'll pay per day for rental insurance. Some plays get out pretty late and it may be easier to stay overnight in Stratford the night of the play.

The new aquarium in Toronto is apparently good although Toronto never struck me as an especially great place for an aquarium. In June there will be concerts happening at Harbourfront which is usually a lot of fun. Don't miss the St. Lawrence Market.
posted by GuyZero at 4:00 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stratford: Stratford has a lot of really nice B&Bs, though they can be more expensive. But you tend to get really nice freshly made breakfasts, and it fits in more with Stratford's style. It may be hard finding 3 rooms though. I would avoid the big Arden Park hotel - it's reasonably far from downtown/good food and a lot of the rooms look out onto the walls of other rooms. There is a small art gallery in Stratford, which is quite nice. I'd also recommend walking around the lake or in TJ Dolan trail.

Food: Bijou is probably my favourite place for really nice food. Down the Street and Pazzo (downstairs) are also great options. Revel is great for coffee. For ice cream, go to Scoopers. There's lots of chocolate shops where you can get variations on the mint smoothie. There's a slow food farmers market on Sundays.

Toronto: Seconding the Toronto Islands (you can bring or rent bikes) for a picnic/beach (weather depending), Allen Gardens, and the Toronto Music Garden. Depending on when you are here, there will be one or another festival: World Pride is happening this year at the end of June. Just prior to that is the Toronto Jazz Festival - both worth attending if it coincides with your trip. The Distillery District is quite touristy, but I still like wandering there. Be sure to get chocolate/gelato from Soma (in the Distillery or on King Street).

Toronto is really a city of neighbourhoods, so I'd recommend picking a couple and taking the time to explore. If you're into art galleries, there are lots of smaller galleries and nice cafes/shops on Queen West. Little India can be fun (Lahore Tikka Hut is a bit of an institution).

High Park is a lovely park, and near a neighbourhood with some nice places to wander.

NOW Toronto and The Grid are our local free weeklies that list lots of events.

There is tons of good food, and it really just depends what you like - lots of cheap food from everywhere in the world, and lots of pricey places with 10 course tasting menus. It really depends what you're into.

For accommodations, I'd check out airbnb, and see if you can rent someone's house. Otherwise my only recommendation is to try and be on the subway or streetcar lines - driving is annoying in this city.

Transportation: A car can be handy in Stratford, depending on how much you like walking. The main theatre is about a 20 minute walk from downtown. The train to Stratford isn't bad, though the last 30 minutes are, as someone noted, a bit bumpy. But I wouldn't say it's unpleasant. However the train only goes 1-2 times a day, which can be inconvenient. A new and really easy way is the Stratford Express Bus Stratford Express bus (). It's $20 return and takes as long as the train anyway.
posted by asparagrass at 6:33 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Luminato Festival is in Toronto June 6-15 and has a wide range of arts events. If you're into Stratford plays there will probably be something that floats your boat in their lineup.

There's also NXNE June 13-22 - it's mainly a music festival, with big free outdoor shows at Yonge-Dundas Square Thursday-Sunday. It can be kind of crazy downtown during the music week, so you might want to avoid those days if it's not your scene. Hotels could be more difficult then too.
posted by Gortuk at 8:01 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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