TORONTO – It is the beginning of August and still plenty of time for Montrealers to make a quick trip down the 401 to Toronto for what amounts to be an excellent vacation option not requiring a passport.

My first recommendation is that you stay downtown, where you are within walking distance of the Broadway calibre presentations of Mirvish Productions. The Grand Hotel and Suites (www.grandhoteltoronto.com) is located at 225 Jarvis Street and only a few short blocks from the gigantic Toronto Eaton Centre. It features 177 guest suites. The 400 square foot junior suites are just perfect for a family of four or five. You have a spacious living room/work area separated from the bedroom area by a set of double French glass doors and all the comforts of home, including a fully equipped kitchenette with a microwave, fridge, coffeemaker and cutlery.

All guests get to enjoy a splendid breakfast buffet, free of charge, with an extensive array of items to choose from. There is also a fitness centre, the two-storey neo-classical indoor pool (surrounded by exquisite hand painted murals) and two whirlpools on the rooftop garden, with a nice shady gazebo to keep you in the shade.

The real reason for our trip, planned since last winter, was to see Billy Elliot the Musical. It has been playing before packed audiences at the downtown Canon Theatre for seven months, but will end its Toronto run on September 3. So get your tickets quickly at mirvish.com or by calling 1-800-724-6420. Otherwise you will have to try your luck in New York. You can see why this production won 10 Tony Awards in 2009. We loved every moment and would happily see it again.

Based on the 2000 film Billy Elliot, the story revolves around motherless Billy who trades boxing gloves for ballet shoes. The depiction of his personal struggle and fulfilment are balanced against a counter story of family and community strife caused by the 1980s coal miners’ strike.

One of the wonderful places to take a walk and dine in Toronto during the summer is the pier. Hence, the Pier 4 Storehouse Restaurant at 245 Queens Quay West is a great choice. This was our second visit to the very attractive waterfront hideaway, which offers casual dining on fresh fish, seafood, meat and poultry, amidst the largest private collection of nautical memorabilia in Eastern Canada. Ask for a table on the outdoor patio overlooking the water. There is no better place to enjoy a meal on a warm summer evening.

There was so much to choose from on the vast menu. Start off with a soup, clam chowder or salad and sample a few of the appetizers. If you are a lobster lover, Pier 4 cooks them up beautifully. They are served cut up, making the experience much more easy and pleasant. The kids menu is very reasonable. Call 416-203-1440 for reservations.

If you are going to Toronto with the kids or grandchildren, be sure to include Canada’s Wonderland (www.canadas-wonderland.com) on the itinerary. This is Canada’s premier theme park and features over 200 attractions and 68 thrilling rides, North America’s greatest variety of roller coasters, and Splash Works, a 20-acre water park featuring over two million gallons of heated water fun. My family and I had not been to this park in about five years. It is enormous to say the least and indeed a place to spend the entire day and evening. The park moves to a weekend only schedule after Labour Day and remains open until Sunday, October 30. We spent an entire day there, leaving after a spectacular 10 p.m. light show.

My recommendation is that you go to the water park first and keep your bathing suits and sandals on for two very wet rides – White Water Canyon and Timberwolf Falls. New this year is the Windseeker, which takes passengers very high in the air for a very comfortable spin.

There are plenty of roller coasters to choose from. For the little ones, Kidzville is the place to stop. Planet Snoopy has replaced the former Sponge Bob Square Pants section. Check out their website for all of the details. There is so much ground to cover, one day probably won’t be enough time.

Go to www.seetorontonow.com for other ideas when visiting.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca . Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and on Twitter @mikecohencsl.

TRAVEL PLANNER

Where to Stay: Grand Hotel and Suites, 225 Jarvis Street:
www.grandhoteltoronto.com

For other Broadway-calibre musicals check out: www.mirvish.com

Canada’s Wonderland: www.canadaswonderland.com

Where to Dine: Pier 4 Storehouse Restaurant, 245 Queens Quay West: 416-203-1440

Toronto Tourism Information: www.seetorontonow.com