How to become a tourist in Toronto during COVID-19 stay-at-home order

The nicer weather has arrived and Torontonians don’t need to feel stuck as the COVID-19 stay-at-home order continues through June 2. Between doing some birdwatching and building your own historical walking tour, there’s still plenty to see and do.

Mid-May is the peak of spring songbird migration just a few minutes from downtown Toronto at Tommy Thompson Park and if you listen and look really closely, it’s possible to find about 100 species in a day.

“Thousands and thousands of birds are migrating north right now and they’re stopping over at Tommy Thompson Park on their journey from their tropical winter grounds to their breeding grounds – as far north as the boreal forest in the Arctic,” said Andrea Chreston, project manager at Tommy Thompson Park.

From songbirds to shore birds to waterfowl – now is the time to use your eagle eye and all you really need are two things: binoculars and a field guide to help with bird identification.

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Wildlife and Landscape photographer Phil Vriend visits Tommy Thompson Park throughout the year but over the last few weeks, he’s spotted a Northern Parula, Crowned Kinglet and a rare bird for Toronto – a Prairie Warbler among many other birds.

Vriend told Global News birdwatching requires incredible patience and he can easily spend six to eight hours peering in and around the same spot.

“I have to keep silencing my brain saying – the only way nature photographers get the nature shot is if they stay in nature,” said Vriend.

Toronto walking tour

Pre-pandemic and within the concrete jungle, you would have found Toronto Historian, Bruce Bell giving daily walking tours to tourists throughout downtown. Global News asked Bell to come up with four significant locations Torontonians can walk to in a single morning or afternoon that would offer more than a century’s worth of perspective.

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The first stop – 260 Adelaide St E – is Toronto’s first post office which opened in 1833. It’s also the oldest purpose-built post office in Canada that functioned as a department of the British Royal Mail. During the stay-at-home order, it’s the only museum in Toronto that people can visit inside.

From there, Bell walks to the country’s finest example of a classical beaux-arts railway station: Union Station.

“This train station was built by John Lyle. He also built the Royal Alexandra Theatre. You couldn’t get two more different buildings in our city,” said Bell.

Then, directly across the street on the north side of Front Street W is another imposing limestone structure – Fairmont Royal York – the Royal Family’s hotel of choice when visiting Toronto.

“The Royal York hotel was, when it opened, the tallest building in the British Empire,” said Bell.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Toronto’s tourism industry likely to lose billions in revenue, officials say

A couple of blocks north at 66 Wellington St W, the architecture takes a dramatic, modern turn with TD Centre.

“Over 500 buildings were demolished in the 1960s to build the TD Centre. It takes up four city blocks. Streets were ripped up, not just buildings,” said Bell.

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So, whether you’re looking to take a walk in nature or you want to take in some historical downtown architecture – both can be accomplished fairly easily without leaving your home city of Toronto.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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