It's our fourth edition of Gothamist's travel content, Gothamist Getaways. A few times a year, we'll have a week of posts featuring looks at travel, food, products and tips—near and far—for making your trips more enjoyable. So sit back, dream of your next journey and let us know if you have any hints for us—email email@example.com.
Front Street in Toronto (mikeinlondon/istockphoto)
We'll leave most of the ridiculous number crunching to Mayor De Blasio and the MTA, but for those looking for an economically viable weekend getaway, you can't look past Toronto for five-star fabulous. For starters, budgeting $1,000 in spending money will land you with $1,136 in Canadian dollars thanks to favorable exchange rates. Skip Toronto Pearson International Airport and book your travel through Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ), where you'll slip by the CN Tower for an urban arrival that will get you downtown by free ferry in a matter of minutes. Drop your bags and hit the ground running for an itinerary that will make you question why Toronto wasn't on your bucket list to begin with, eh?
10 a.m.—West Queen West
Pace yourself. The stretch of Queen Street between Bathurst and Gladstone Avenue and the surrounding district is packed with more than 300 retailers, galleries, restaurants and cafes. Bypass Starbucks for White Squirrel Coffee Shop, where you can caffeinate on fair-trade, organic brews and grab a freshly made breakfast sandwich… then start shopping.
Elle Hardware (Facebook)
For funky jewelry, Elle Hardware curates original designs from around the world. Ladies can discover Canadian labels at Girl Friday, Rebecca Nixon's take on contemporary womenswear (along with a recently launched bridal collection). And never fear, the men won't be left behind—Great Stuff has been a neighborhood mainstay for nearly 20 years, and Simon Carter is home to the British brand's first outpost overseas.
Guys can then revamp their look with a visit to one of the city's many retro barbershops, like Garrison's. Grab a guilt-free lunch at Feel Good Guru, where you can indulge in "hyper-local, super-awesome, organic plant-powered food."
Spend the extra money for the Ritz-Carlton Club Level. It's all that and more. With soaring views of the CN Tower and an endless buffet of nibbles and flowing wine, you may never want to leave.
The CN Tower from the Ritz-Carlton (Ritz-Carlton)
Fortunately, resident artist Jacqueline Poirier will lure you away (at least temporarily) into the TOCA kitchen for a private art class, where you'll paint your own charger plate.
7 p.m. — Los Colibrís
It's a woman's world at Toronto's first upscale Mexican restaurant. Executive chef Elia Herrera and general manager Marissa Kelly oversee a runway-worthy staff who deliver inspired interpretations of classic dishes.
Ceviche blanco may look white as snow, but a kick of Serrano chile packs some heat. Standard fare like queso fundido and guacamole make comfortable bedfellows with more innovative dishes such as Cerdo en Mancha Mantel (pork belly confit in adobo sauce) and Rollo de Pollo y Huitlacoche (chicken roulade). Margaritas get a makeover with hibiscus and tamarind, while aged tequila is used in a new spin on an Old Fashioned.
9 a.m.—Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Don't judge a book by its cover. Not to be confused with its trailer park sibling, Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, the aquarium is a phenomenal display of aquatic life. Opened in October 2013, the massive 135,000-square-foot space is home to more than 16,000 marine animals and North America's longest underwater viewing tunnel.
Ripley's of Canada (Foursquare)
In addition to the Rainbow Reef, Dangerous Lagoon, and other sights, this particular aquarium also pays homage to Canadian waters with a gallery of 17 curated habitats that feature Pacific kelp and giant Pacific octopi.
11 a.m.—Yorkville, a.k.a. "The Mink Mile"
For high-end designer shopping, Bloor-Yorkville is the place to max out your credit cards. While you could navigate the charming boutiques on your own, if you're ready for a fashion throwdown, hire the expert services of Wendy Woods of The Refinery. The image consultant has personal relationships with dozens of retailers and can help navigate the latest trends within the time constraints of a quick visit.
If you choose to go renegade, don't miss Kimberley Newport-Mimran's Pink Tartan for sophisticated women's sportswear and Leatherfoot for bespoke men's shoes.
3 p.m.—Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
Within walking distance of Yorkville's posh shopping, you'll find decadent respite at The Four Seasons' global flagship hotel. Founder Isadore Sharp opened the first property in 1961 and since that time, the brand has expanded to a global presence of 96 hotels around the world. But the mother ship—built from the ground up—is a prime example of five-star excellence. Lush interiors by Yabu Pushelberg in neutral grays, cream and orchid set the stage for cultural amenities and other points of service.
At the Four Seasons (Four Seasons)
Be sure to allow time for a lengthy visit to the 30,000-square-foot spa (the city's largest), where you can indulge in an aromatherapy massage or a lengthier "retreat" such as the Cultural Mosaic of Canada, which includes foot bath, Indian head massage, Asian fusion massage, and a classic European facial.
8 p.m.—Shibui Robata Bar
Chef Masaki Nakayama brings more than 30 years of culinary training to this hotspot in Toronto's fashion and entertainment district. The open-flame, robata style of cooking originated in the rural regions of northeast Japan and is harnessed here in the form of sharable bites like pork belly with Shichimi pepper, miso-marinated black cod, and scallops with Yuzu garlic aioli. Signature cocktails lean on the sweet side, so go for the wide selection of sake.
Catch a Later Flight—Kensington Market
For a colorful last look at Toronto beyond the dozens of glass and steel towers that seem to be popping up on every street corner, head to the multicultural neighborhood of Kensington Market. Originally the Jewish garment district then home to Hong Kong immigrants, the hippy culture remains intact with an array of independently owned shops, vintage stores, and the obligatory invasion of overpriced coffee shops.
Don't leave the neighborhood without taking in the ample amounts of graffiti art followed by a final stop at Rasta Pasta, a fusion of Jamaican and Italian cuisine.
Matthew Wexler is the national travel editor for EDGE Media Network. In addition, his work has appeared in Hemispheres, Gotham, Hamptons Magazine, Private Islands, Passport and online for AAA, ShermansTravel, offMetro, among others.