The Year of Sport in Canada has begun. Governor General David Johnston declared in October that 2015 will be a 12-month celebration of athletics and there are two big reasons why: the Pan Am Games and the FIFA Women's World Cup.
These two large events have already impacted Canada's tourism industry. Toronto, the Pan Am Games host, will complete a $500-million train that will carry travellers -- for a cost of $27.50 -- from Pearson International Airport to downtown's Union Station, a 25-kilometre journey that can be seriously aggravating because of vehicle traffic. Some of the six Women's World Cup host cities are already reporting sold-out hotel rooms for games. Winnipeg, in particular, is euphoric as it will be home base for Team USA and that powerhouse's fans are expected to arrive in big numbers to cheer on their squad.
The Pan Am Games (July 10-26) will be the biggest multi-sport event ever held in Canada, with more than 6,000 athletes from 41 countries competing. The FIFA tournament, meanwhile, will be credited for what is likely the most anticipated sports event in Canada in 2015, the championship game that will be played in Vancouver on July 5.
Both cities rank in the top five of the Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Travel in Canada in 2015. Vacay.ca's travel journalists placed Toronto at No. 1 because of the Pan Am Games, the new Union-Pearson Express train and the 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. Vancouver ranks fourth while sports-centric destinations such as Revelstoke, British Columbia (No. 2) and Charlevoix, Quebec (No. 16) also placed on the list for the first time.
Voters named destinations for their significance in 2015 as well as notable anniversaries, events and festivals. Some entries -- such as Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley (No. 13) and Alberta's Cowboy Trail (No. 20) -- were also noted for their unheralded or emerging tourism infrastructure and their uniqueness as a travel offering.
The Vacay.ca guide is in its fourth year and has established itself as an accurate forecaster and influencer of Canadian travel. For 2014, Charlottetown was ranked No. 1 and Prince Edward Island tourism businesses reported a record year for revenue as $401 million was spent on hotels, tours and activities.
In 2013, Vacay.ca ranked Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia as the No. 1 destination and it saw a 37 per cent increase in visitation from its 2012 levels. In 2012, Calgary topped the list and witnessed record numbers of travellers, many of whom arrived for the 100th Calgary Stampede.
1. TORONTO, Ontario
What's Happening in 2015: The Pan Am Games come to Toronto (July 10-26), along with 6,000 athletes, international media and thousands of fans. To prepare, the city has built several new athletic facilities and what promises to be the games' lasting legacy, a 456-million dollar rapid-transit train linking the city's main airport, Pearson International, with the downtown Union Station. The cost for a single fare on the Union-Pearson Express will be a hefty $27.50, but that is less than half the price of taxi from the airport to downtown and also a time-saving option as the train trip will take 25 minutes, faster than a car ride into the city.
The other major event for 2015 is the 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, which takes place September 10-20 and figures to attract even more big-name movie stars because of the milestone.
Beyond the two big happenings that will grab international attention, the city is getting noticed for its fabulous art scene, diverse culinary offerings and its talented NBA squad, the first-place Raptors. Oh, and in case you haven't heard, there's a new mayor. That change at City Hall won't impact your visit but it sure will limit the crude jokes about a city that is keen to be considered as world class and sophisticated.
Why You Should Go: Visitors to Toronto are always spoiled for choice. With so many things to do and see, trying to figure out what to do in the time you have is usually the biggest headache. Bad news folks -- that headache just got worse. The city will host the Pan Am Games this summer, an event that is expected to draw 10,000 athletes from across the Caribbean, Latin, South and North America. The event will feature 36 Pan Am sports and 15 Parapan Am sports. It is also expected to bring 250,000 visitors from around the world.
Toronto traffic congestion is well known, and while this event isn't expected to help, there is good news -- Metrolink will connect the airport to the main train station with the Union Pearson Express, expected to be ready in 2015 (hopefully in time for the games). This isn't just good news for locals, but it should make it easier for tourists to get downtown.
One thing tourists will be lining up to see downtown -- besides the high jumpers at the Pan Am Games -- is the red carpet. Now celebrating its 40th year in Toronto, the event should continue to bring some of Hollywood's brightest stars.
Vacay.ca Columnist Adrian Brijbassi writes: "Harmony is cool. Having lived about 10 years of my life on and off in Toronto it is that neighbourliness which I most cherish. There's a place for everyone here. The social conflicts that harangue so many other metropolises mostly do not exist in Canada's largest municipality, which is remarkable given that the population is larger than Chicago but police records about 400 less annual homicides than that Illinois city. For a visitor, it is liberating to know you can travel to an urban capital and enjoy all the great things of such a place without feeling wary about what might happen if you make a wrong turn. In Toronto, you're more likely to walk into a curious space than an uninviting one." Read more of "Toronto Is No. 1 in 2015″
20 Best Places To Visit In Canada For 2015 - Full List
Toronto tops Vacay.ca's 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada in 2015. Toronto welcomes the Pan Am Games and 40th edition of Toronto International Film Festival. Revelstoke, Nunavut, Vancouver and Kingston round out the top five.
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