Toronto Islands...best summer spot in the city...Orlando hotel rates on the rise
You can keep the CN Tower, thank you. And Casa Loma. And even the ROM and the AGO. When the weather's fine, there's no place in the city better than the Toronto Islands.
I make it a point to do a bike ride on the islands at least once or twice every summer, and it's a fresh delight each time. I did it again the other day, bypassing the hordes of folks waiting for the Centre Island ferry and going, as I always do, straight to Wards Island. I guess families with kids want to do Centre Island for the rides and the fountains and the Franklin the Turtle park and all that, but I use the islands as a place to get away from the city.
I love the old homes on Wards and the loveliest garden in the city that sits hard by the eastern gap, with incredible views of the city. Also the Marvin Gardens house and just about any tumble-down spot with a nice grouping of flowers.
The Rectory Cafe is an awesome spot to cool off on a hot day, with easily the prettiest patio in the city. And the boardwalk that leads from Wards to Centre Island offers fine views of the outer harbour, with waves crashing on the rocks in such a way that you can almost feel like you're on Georgian Bay. Almost.
It's great people-watching, of course, with folks of all sizes and sexes and colours and shapes riding the rental bikes, hauling picnic hampers or tossing a frisbee for the first time in 20 years. I told someone after my ride that if you really want to get a sense of the flavour of Toronto, take the summer ferry to Toronto Islands and simply watch the parade. It's a lot cheaper than renting a cottage, and it's amazing how quickly you can get out into semi-wilderness; with the rocks and the beach and the waves and quiet waterways between the islands where you can kayak or row to your hearts' content without bumping into sea-doo's or motorboats.
Of course, if you're into the au naturel style of sunbathing, and why not, there's always Hanlan's Point beach, which stretches on for a huge stretch on the island's western side and offers great views over to Ontario Place and beyond. Don't forget to pay your respects to Hanlan on your way to the ferry, of course. There's a huge statue of the famous rower right by the ferry dock, not far from the plaque that recognizes how famous baseball slugger Babe Ruth hit his only minor league home run at the old ballpark near Hanlan's Point. It's a shame I'll never see a minor league game on the island, as it sounds a lot like a day at the Rogers Centre.
We're incredibly lucky to have the Islands, and I'm always thankful that the yahoos who used to serve on Metro Council weren't able to evict the homeowners. There's tons of empty space in the ballparks and fields near Hanlan's Point, so it's not like the city needed to get rid of the homes on the eastern side of the island. The fact the homes are there makes the Islands so much more interesting, and if a few families got away with a great deal, well, good for them. I'm thrilled they're there to decorate the city with their individual gardens and goofy signs and funky front porches.
Regardless of the politics, it's hard to deny that the Islands are a special place; a quick retreat from the traffic and noise of the city.The views are great, and it's hard to beat the feeling of being out on the open water, even if it's a five-minute ferry ride across the harbour.THANKS, HARRY, NICE WORK
Well, it probably had to happen. USA Today is reporting that the huge success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando has had an impact on hotel rates, with the first increases in two years taking place in the last little while.
"We're definitely inching up on our rates," said John Parkinson, general manager of the Embassy Suites on International Drive. "Summer looks great."
The Orlando Sentinel says the average daily room rate of $91 rose 2.1%, marking the first year-over-year boost in Orlando since June 2008.