I’m only half seriously considering this, but with a long layover at Pearson (11 am to 10:30 pm), how could a person fill up the last Saturday in March? I am always up for a good museum and public transportation. I have a interest in the Niagara Escarpment if there’s a segment within rental car reach. I’ve seen Niagara Falls like 50 years ago but never visited elsewhere in southern Ontario.
Your actual time to do anything will be constrained as you need to allow time for Immigration on arrival and going through security when departing. You might consider the Royal Ontario Museum followed by dinner before heading back to The Airport. Who knows where we will be in terms of COVID protocols for travellers coming into Canada by the end of March.
You're really looking at at least 2 hours to get anywhere with a good trail/tourist access, probably more considering traffic. Potentially doable, but not really worth it IMHO, considering after immigration, getting the car, driving there, and driving back in time to go through security again you're not looking at any substantial time wherever you end up. But I'm very anxious about time, it might be a nice day trip for you! If you want to escape, since you've done Niagara Falls I'd focus on Niagara-on-the-Lake (easy highway access, not usually delayed that much heading back into Toronto, but quite touristy), or go up to the Elora area (very cute, small towns around it, unsure when the hikes in the Gorge open for the season though, if that was of interest, usually okay traffic coming back into town but sometimes slow getting up there).
Personally, I'd take public transit downtown, go to the St Lawrence Market depending on your timing, walk around the waterfront, and head up to Kensington market to wander. Either way, Pearson has baggage storage, it'll just be a bit circuitous to get there if you're coming in to the International arrivals.
I'd probably be anxious going that far, but a place like Fort George Historical Site near Niagra is really good, https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/on/fortgeorge. Staying closer, public transportation from Pearson to downtown Toronto is efficient. The Royal Ontario Museum is worth it. I don't know if you're a hockey fan, but I never miss the Hockey Hall of Fame when I'm in Toronto https://www.hhof.com/ . Great restaurant is https://www.lenarestaurante.com/.
How about going downtown for lunch and a pub crawl? Or visiting some wineries on the Niagara Peninsula? It's been years since I've been to Toronto and I've never visited the wine country - but sitting in the airport for 11 hours would not be for me. We have a 15-hour layover at LAX this coming April and we're definitely going to do something!
Thanks for something to chew on. Air Canada seems to always have fairly awful (5+ hours) layovers in Toronto heading to Europe for some reason. I'm also noting that like European airlines they charge a hefty fee for seat selection, about US$60 just for the TATL portion, although the little planes headed into Pearson are 2-2 seating so no middle seats.
Having never done this, then the arrival from the US splits people into either entry to Canada, or international transit, and in either case there is some kind of interview and passport check.
There is an express train that runs from the airport to union station, downtown. It also stops at Bloor, which is close to HIgh Park, which has some nice walking trails. If you end up with a bit less time, you could have a nice walk there, early dinner in Bloor west village and head back
If you're a fan (and maybe if you are not) Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Some pressure on the hockey hall of fame. I don’t know, I kind of burned out on hockey in high school.
Although the 11-1/2 hour layover itinerary is dirt cheap, US$550 for basic economy, I’m noticing that premium economy with “only” a 7 hour layover with bags and seat selection in addition to the upgrade perks is US $1075, have to think about it. American Airlines with a much more circuitous routing via Dallas is nearly $6000 for premium economy.
I would not want to spend that much time hanging around Pearson. Keeping in mind that you would need to be back there with enough time to go through security before your flight, you do have enough time to check out a museum or two.
The UP Express runs frequently, about every 5-7 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to get to Union Station. Right by Union Station is Ripley’s Aquarium, I haven’t been there but have heard it’s worth a visit.
If fish aren’t your thing, from Union you can walk to the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas St. in about 20 minutes. Lots to see there, excellent permanent collection, and right now there is a Picasso exhibit- you can easily check out what will be on at the end of March. There’s a cafeteria for a quick snack but also a good restaurant. Or you can head out to Kensington Market or Chinatown, both just a few minutes away and lots of restaurants to choose from.
Or at Union you can get on the University line of the TTC and go a few stops to Museum Station, to visit the Royal Ontario Museum. Right across the street from the ROM is the Gardiner Ceramics Museum. The Avenue Rd-Bloor St-Yorkville area also has lots of restaurants. For green space, a stroll through the University of Toronto campus, along Philosopher’s Walk would be good (though not sure how green it would at the end of March....)
From any of these places it would be easy to get on the subway back to Union Station to catch the UP Express back to Pearson.
There are also the Aga Khan Museum and the Ontario Science Centre, but they are both in North York so require a much longer subway and bus ride to reach. Also lots of smaller museums, it just depends what your interests are.
If you leave the secure area you may be subject to quarantine rules.
If the quarantine rules no longer apply on your travel date, then using the UP train is the best way to go to Toronto as Khrystia mentioned.
With covid rules changing so frequently, you might want to be checking them on a daily basis if you are still planning on this flight.
I've looked and looked today, but can't find out anything about whether you would need to be fully vaccinated to board a flight in Canada when transiting through.
If you leave the transit area and go outside to see some sights, you definitely would, as you have now entered Canada, and anyone boarding a flight from here needs to be double vaxed within two weeks prior to flying.
I also don't know if you would need to quarantine if you left the area.
It seems if you are planning this flight, the safest thing would be to stay in the secure transit area , and not leave the airport at all to avoid any delays or problems!
You may be better changing planes in the US, or in Europe if that's where you are headed.
Does anyone have the very latest information about this; I'm curious.
Have you been to Casa Loma in midtown? My travel partner and I enjoyed it quite a few years ago. I see that it's open until 5:00 pm. https://casaloma.ca/
My wife nixed the idea of going last night due to family issues.
I don't see a quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers entering Canada. There may be random testing though. There's always the opportunity during a long layover to buy into the Maple Leaf Lounge if leaving the terminal seems unwise.
Thanks to all, I will visit some time. Toronto and Mexico City are the 2 serious omissions in my unvisited North American cities.