Follow Toronto's PATH to a Land of Endless Shopping
When the weather outside is frightful, it's delightful to find a way to get out of the house without spending much time out of doors. Enclosed shopping malls are one option, but can be limiting. Luckily, residents of — and visitors to — Toronto have a BIG additional option: Toronto PATH.
Covering 17 miles (28 km), the PATH is a network of pedestrian tunnels beneath the office towers of Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. According to Guinness World Records, PATH is the largest underground shopping complex in the world with 371,600 m² (4 million sq. ft.) of retail space.
More than 50 buildings and office towers, including the city's largest, are connected. As a bonus, ample retail, services and entertainment venues line the PATH, allowing an enterprising individual to spend a day (and night, if so desired) roaming the center city.
How it all began
The PATH's origins can be traced to the earliest days of the 20th century, when T Eaton Co. (a large Toronto department store) built an underground passage from its flagship location to its bargain annex. By 1917, there were five underground tunnels in the city, and in 1927, when Union Station opened, a tunnel was built to connect it with the Royal York Hotel (now the Fairmont Royal York).
Significant growth came in the 1960s, when city planner Matthew Lawson convinced business owners that underground shopping areas would lure customers from crowded city streets and turn inexpensive property into a revenue stream. In the 1970s, a major expansion linked the Richmond-Adelaide Centre and the Sheraton City Centre.
In the 1980s, the city of Toronto took over as coordinating agency for the PATH, while businesses retained ownership of the area directly adjacent (or under) their property. The city hired a design firm to create uniform signage and, while some users report that it's still easy to get turned around on the PATH, color-coded signs (to indicate direction) and destination markers are the city's helpful doing.
How it works
The north end of the PATH is situated at the Toronto Coach Terminal at Dundas and Bay streets. The south end is the South Building of the Toronto Convention Centre. To the east, Yonge Street is the primary boundary, and the PATH extends beyond Simcoe Street to the west. But the PATH isn't a straight line, so pedestrians can use a multitude of entry points, including from within City Hall, Trinity Square (featuring the Toronto Public Labyrinth), the Design Exchange ("Canada's Design Museum"), and the Air Canada Centre – home to the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and the Toronto Raptors professional basketball franchise – to name but a few.
Access is also easy from any of the 50 buildings/office towers above the PATH, 20 parking garages, six hotels, five subway stops, two major department stores (but not the now-defunct Eaton's, unfortunately), and the railway terminal at Union Station.
What to do
There are the obvious – eating and shopping – and the not-so-obvious: hockey museum, architecture, midday lectures. If your needs are simple: start with the basics. Either above-ground or below-ground, the PATH gives access to a wide variety of restaurants – everything from coffee shops and world food to fine dining establishments located at the city's best addresses. In fact, a December 2012 Food & Wine column sang the praises of Toronto's food scene, calling attention to Momofuku, a noodle bar from celebrated chef David Chang, which is only steps away from the PATH via the Hilton Toronto.
The dedicated shopper will delight in stores that line the PATH as well as those found in the city's most notable buildings above the PATH, such as Eaton Centre, Toronto-Dominion Centre, Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place, First Canadian Place and Commerce Court. From chain stores to specialty shops, the choices are virtually endless.
If you want something a little different, check out First Canadian Place, with regular lunchtime offerings ranging from musical performers to speakers. Recent topics included tips from Reader's Digest editors on making Valentine's Day special and "Shark Tank" Kevin O'Leary's financial management advice. Or head over to the Hockey Hall of Fame, where you can explore a replica of the Montreal Canadiens dressing room and get your picture taken with the Stanley Cup!
If it's live action you want, get your game on at the Air Canada Centre or the Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Roy Thomson Hall and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts are also on the PATH, as is the Canadian Broadcasting Centre and its free museum.
Architecture lovers can create their own walking tour of some of the city's finest structures. Commerce Court, with one building dating to 1931, features three modern buildings and significant public spaces designed by I.M. Pei. The Canadian Broadcasting Centre's jewel is the Barbara Frum Atrium, designed by Philip Johnson, with a patterned terrazzo floor and skylight towering 10 stories above the ground. Once known as "Lambert's Folly" (for the visionary TD Bank chairman Allen Lambert), the Toronto-Dominion Centre was designed more than 50 years ago by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and continues to be a vibrant city block covering more than six acres (2.4 hectares).
There are so many things to do but one must-see in Toronto is the CN Tower, available with your CityPASS, offering the best view of the city from either the LookOut level at 1,136 ft. (346 m) or the Glass Floor with its outdoor terrace at 1,122 ft. (342 m) – not for the faint of heart!
Whatever your need or desire, Toronto's PATH can help you get there.