Toronto, natty to the north

From 18th century British roots as a muddy colonial town, Toronto has burgeoned into North America's fifth-largest city and a hot spot for films and festivals. Nearly 100 languages are spoken in its multicultural mosaic of neighborhoods. You can visit the espresso bars of Little Italy's College Street, have mezes (Greek tapas) on Danforth Avenue or sniff the global trade winds of Kensington Market, which offers fare as varied as European cheeses and Caribbean seafood.

Still a bit Brit

Like a counterweight to Francophone Montreal, Toronto is Canada's de facto Anglophonic capital. Here you can take high tea at the Windsor Arms or sleep at the "King Eddy" hotel, where royalty once laid their heads. Walk down cobblestone streets lighted by gas lamps in the neighborhood of Old York and stop for gourmet noshes at the St. Lawrence Market. Ride a quaint streetcar east to the Distillery Historic District, where artisans, art galleries and coffeehouses jostle for space.

Show time

After dark, you can head back downtown to the city's Entertainment District for evolving nightlife or to the Theatre Block, which boasts the world's third-largest number of onstage productions, after New York and London. Elsewhere around the city, the music scene is vibrant. Sip a beer and listen to some tunes at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, where Sting once played in his underwear, or the vintage blues-and-jazz dive at the Rex Hotel, both on Queen Street.

Festival fever

Try to time your visit to catch one of Toronto's major festivals: indie music at North by Northeast and Pride Week celebrations in June, the Caribbean carnival of Caribana in mid-July or the Toronto International Film Festival in September. This year's film fest, in "Hollywood North," starts Thursday and runs through the 17th. But don't forget to escape the city while you're here. The awesome natural spectacle of Niagara Falls is just a two-hour drive that passes tempting detours onto the back roads of the Niagara Peninsula's wine country, where you can taste sweet ice wine made from frozen grapes.

Where to stay

Le Royal Meridien King Edward is a historic showpiece, with doubles from $165; (800) 543-4300, . A fresh boutique hotel, SoHo Metropolitan boasts the epicurean Senses bakery and restaurant downstairs. Rooms from $300; (866) 764-6638, . Toronto's residential blocks burst with B&Bs. Doubles start at $50; . Hipsters and artistic types crash at the Drake Hotel in Queen West Village. Doubles from $132; (416) 531-5042, .

Where to eat

In Queen West Village, you'll find the swanky diner Swan serving lunch and dinner, plus weekend brunch. Dinners from $13; 892 Queen St. W.; (416) 532-0452. The pan-Asian Red Tea Box serves lunch for about $15, including all taxes, tip and tea; 696 Queen St. W.; (416) 203-8882. A few blocks north, College Street has posh Italian restaurants and sidewalk cafes for the late-night scene. Plan to spend $15 to $35 for a filling meal.

Getting there

Air Canada and American offer nonstop service between LAX and Toronto. Connecting service (change of plane) is offered by Air Canada, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, US Airways and WestJet. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $464.

For more information

For schedules of upcoming events, lodging information and a particularly good set of city maps, check out .