Canada Calling – a review of the CN Tower, Toronto

July 10, 2012 3:41 pm

Toronto’s famous skyline contains the CN Tower and the Rogers Center.

Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario as well as the financial, entertainment and cultural capital of Canada. Bigger than the country’s capital Ottowa, it boasts millions of visitors annually, the largest downtown shopping centre in North America, it hosted the first legal same-sex marriage and has the largest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere. These are just some of the facts that have been shoved down my throat since I set foot on Toronto soil.

The latter in the list is the CN Tower in the harbour district of Toronto city. It stands at an impressive 1,815 foot tall and before the Shanghai World Financial Centre took over in 2008, it was the world’s largest free-standing structure for a whopping 34 years. It was completed in 1976 and was a local telecommunications provider, Canadian National. Today, it still continues to be imperative in the telecommunication systems of Canada but has a very prominent side-feature: tourism. This is where I come in.

From first-hand experience, I can confirm the tourist industry of Toronto is one which is certainly accommodated for. Numerous hotels, shops, restaurants, entertainments and guided tours are compacted together to ensure that no visitor ever gets bored. My hotel was situated on the famous Yonge Street, which runs for 1,178 miles from the shores of Lake Ontario, in Toronto, to Rainy River on the US border. It houses the Eaton Centre, Hard Rock Café, an adult cinema and guided tour bus stops within just tens of metres, to name but a few.  Close to the bottom of this street stands The CN Tower (La Tour CN in the country’s second language) which is also very well equipped for the odd tourist. I decided to test out its tourist standards and braved the 15mph glass elevator as it zipped straight up to the restaurant. This restaurant stands –or should that be revolves– at 351m high and is the tower’s 360 degree eatery. Taking 72 minutes to do one complete turn, the glass-panelled restaurant slowly spins as you dine, displaying the 2.48 million-strong population of Toronto, the Toronto Islands and on a clear day, anything else for over 100 miles including the mist from Niagara Falls, all while guests enjoy some of the delicacies the restaurant has to offer. From this height you can see planes land and take off below you; an experience in itself.  As well as a regular, fairly pricey, menu, there are set menus from $48 (£30) per person. As is to be expected when you pay such prices, the meal was lovely, although the staff seemed to be rushing to get customers fed and out in record time. A shame.

If you reserve a table in the 360 restaurant, your entry to the tower is free and you simply pay for the meal with the rest included. If this option isn’t available to you, a standard ticket into the tower costs you $23.99 (about £15) which only includes the Look Out and the Glass Floor. £15 to look out a window…not cheap by anyone’s standards.

EdgeWalk is one of the CN Tower’s main tourist attractions, but at $175 + tax each, it’s not for everybody.

As well as the revolving restaurant, the tower contains glass-panelled elevators, which allow spectators to see very clearly Toronto City surrounding them on their ascent or descent, a glass-floored level, an outdoor observation area and an opportunity to harness up and take part in EdgeWalk; an adrenaline-filled 30-minute walk around the edge of the structure over 1,000 feet in the air –with no railing to cling on to. Unfortunately, I had to leave the adrenaline-junkie in me at the door, as this experience is steep at $175 plus tax (around £111 without VAT) and is not for the faint-hearted. With such a price tag, it’s no wonder it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

One of the tower’s most famous statistics is the number of steps up to the top. The tallest metal staircase on Earth, with its 2,579 steps, is not readily available to tourists’ use. Due to security reasons and restrictions on access to certain ticket holders, the steps are only available twice a year when the tower does charity stair-climb events. In these annual events, it opens its doors to those willing to raise money and face the challenge of walking up one of the tallest structures in the world. So, because of these restrictions, the queues for the glass-panelled elevators are lengthy (one of the perks of dining in the 360 restaurant is that you have access to the lifts that the masses do not, so you can skip the 30-minute queues and scoot down the tower before anyone else; score!), and you do spend a lot of your time staring at the wall as you wait for a lift.

From what I found, it’s an amazing experience to be so high above such a great city and certainly to look down on planes taking off and landing. If the money, time and nerve are available to you, it is definitely worth a visit and maybe a half hour wandering around the edge of the pod harnessed only by your waist. However, I found that there are plenty of queues, a lot of bustling between people and the staff are on a bit of a get-them-in-get-them-out mission in the restaurant and I felt quite rushed. A photograph is taken with your party as you go in, which acts as a lovely memento of your visit, however, these are also fairy expensive at $25 (£16) each. As with most other tourist hotspots, you have to go with the knowledge that they quite fancy taking your money off you. So; great experience overall but as well as leaving with a full stomach and a nice photo, I also left with my purse feeling significantly lighter.

Toronto from the CN Tower.


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