Sunday, April 4, 2010

GOing to the Toronto Zoo

Having less than a month left in Toronto, and given the beautiful Easter weekend weather, I decided to check out the Toronto Zoo. I had no idea where it was, and was surprised to find out it was in the far-flung Rouge Hill area about a half hour away on the GO train plus a connection to a local bus, which on the map did not look that far. To take a bus from my neighborhood would have taken an hour and a half. The obvious choice was the train, particularly since it was only $10.50 round trip.

The journey started at Toronto's lovely old Union Station.

The GO section of the train station, however, is below, in what looks like a 1980s bus station.

Near the destination of Rouge Hill, the tracks follow along the shore of Lake Ontario.

The GO Trains are a split level design, quite confortable and modern. So far, so good. The suburban stations don't have signs telling you which direction you're headed, which I thought was a curious oversight. But the worst part was that even though I knew the number of the bus to take to the zoo, the ticket seller at the Rouge Hill station didn't know where the stop was and there were few people about. This surprised me. I expected to see a sign saying "Zoo Bus here." Finally I asked a driver of another bus. Even he wasn't sure. So I stood for a half hour waiting for bus 85. Finally, one arrived with three people on it. We rode and rode through neighborhoods, making turns and more turns and I quickly realized that I never would have been able to walk from the train station. Then, much to my surprise, the driver made an announcement: "This bus does not go to the zoo. Get off here." Yes, it appeared that I had picked the only 85 bus that did not go all the way to the zoo that day. I asked which direction the zoo was. He pointed to the right but said nothing more. I expected it to be a short stroll. It wasn't. I walked about a half hour or more along a throughway, wondering if the sidewalk would really take me to the zoo and if at some point I'd have to dash across six lanes of traffic. Eventually, I found myself walking through the parking lot. As for the zoo itself, first of all, it's not cheap. It's $21 for an adult ticket. It is modern, but not new. There are a lot of glass pavillions but I wasn't thrilled with the displays themselves. However, it is big -- or at least very spread out. It felt like I walked ten minutes between some exhibits.
The buffalo seemed to have a very large area to roam. This is just part of their domain.
I was disappointed in other areas, however, like this bear exhibit. Leaving, I made the assumption it would be much easier, but I waited at least a half hour for a bus back to the GO station. There were buses every five minutes going north, however, and the times weren't even close to those posted on the bus stop. So, final analysis: if you go to the Toronto Zoo from downtown, I suggest you drive.

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