While you’ll often see Toronto substitute for major American cities in movies and TV, the CN Tower is what makes Toronto recognizable. At 1,815 feet, it looms over the skyline as a beacon for visitors. Going to the top will make you want to jump off it.
Until 2010, it was the tallest freestanding structure in the world until the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea opened, but it held onto that title for three decades. It continues to be the one thing most visitors want to do.
I knew I had to check the CN Tower off my to-do list, and my plan was to get to the top for sunset. To make a long story short, I started from the bottom at 5:15. Three hours and 15 minutes later, I was done and the time I spent enjoying the view was 10 minutes. When Drake rapped “Started from the bottom now we’re here”, I don’t think he meant a visit to the Tower.
Here’s the long story, starting with my only time-shaving advice besides not to go — buy your ticket via the CN Tower app. It saves you 20-30 minutes in the first snaking line. The only drawback is once you buy your ticket and download the PDF, it’s only good for that day.
I walked into the main hall at 5:15 and saw a rather lengthy line. Obviously, it’s off season so it could have been way worse. The end of the line started where you take those dopey green screen photos, which I skipped. I asked the photographer how long the wait is at this point. “Oh, it’s 30 minutes, it moves quickly.”
That was a lie. The line snakes through a round room with TVs that all play the same video. It’s a 10-minute promo on how great Toronto is using the view from the trolley. I watched this fucking video nine times on repeat.
This could be the worst constructed line in all of tourism. There’s no place to sit, nothing to look at, bathrooms aren’t nearby, it’s stuffy and because it snakes around, people move up, shuffle around and before you know it, the guy behind you is now in front of you. There was a couple with two toddlers in front of me whom moving forward was a big production number.
After an hour of this nonsense where not even listening to comedy podcast was making it easier, I still was nowhere near the elevator. There’s one point where the line never moved for 20 minutes. By 6:45 and past sunset, I finally got to the point where my ticket was scanned. It took another 30 minutes to get to the elevator.
Now, the way to bypass this line is to get dinner reservations for the top restaurant. That’s bullshit because I’m not eating at some over-priced, shitty restaurant. So there’s one elevator for the restaurant, the other for the observation deck. At this point, I want this crap to be over with. This bloody line is separating me from dinner and beer.
I get crammed into the elevator for the one-minute ride where you rise above Toronto. It kept on going and going. FINALLY, I was at the observation deck at 7:15, two hours after getting on line.
Look at that view.
It’s sunset-ish. I was in a fowl mood, cranky and with a headache. I wondered around to see darkness all around me. I wasn’t in the mood to stare upon nothingness. I’m sure it’s wonderful in the day time. The outdoor deck was closed, so it prevented me from parachuting off of it.
Then it hit me, if it took two hours to get up, how long will it take to get down?
I look for the exit, and wouldn’t you know it? A fucking huge overflowing snaking line to get down. At least with this one, you get a different video on repeat that explains the history of the tower.
This line was only an hour to get to the bottom. I resorted to some deep, meditative breathing to help me deal this nonsense. When I got down to the gift shop, I want to overthrow a display of snowglobes.
There’s nothing that’s worth three hours of waiting, which is why I don’t like roller coasters and theme park rides. They’ve got to switch to a timed ticket system to cut down on the ridiculous lines. For a city filled with nice people, the CN Tower experience doesn’t make you feel so happy-go-lucky.