There’s a reason when you say “Canada” to travellers they immediately think of Toronto. Canada’s largest city is the hotbed of multiculturalism, the epicentre of culture and is home to the country’s best dining scene. There is no shortage of activities to do in Toronto, no wonder in 2017. The 6ix hosted over 43 million visitors who spent $8.8 billion. Here’s the ultimate Toronto travel guide. Remember to bookmark and share.
When to Visit?
Let’s be honest that would be summer. Besides the Toronto Christmas Market; skating at Nathan Phillips Square or the Bentway; Winterlicious; catching a Maple Leafs home game; and Icefest, winter in TO can suck be brutal. But there’s nothing like summer in the city; if you can’t travel at that time, then I suggest the fall.
What to Do?
Families: Toronto has a tonne of pocket-friendly family-friendly activities that are sure to entertain and delight. On the super affordable end, there’s the High Park Zoo that has free entry and has bison, llama, capybara, and reindeer. Other cost-effective activities include taking the ferry to Centre Island; participating in a scavenger hunt at Evergreen Brickworks; train rides at the Toronto Railway Museum; and Buskerfest. For families who can splurge there’s the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada; the Science Centre; the Toronto Zoo; Jr Jays weekends; bus tours; and of course the CN Tower.
Culture Buffs: Theatre, museums, galleries — Toronto has some of the best in Canada. From musicals straight from Broadway and nationally–recognizeddramafestivals to opera and ballet, Toronto has world-class productions that will have you leaping from your seats at curtain call. Fancy a day at the museum? There’s the ROM, Gardiner; Aga Khan; and Bata Shoe Museum. Care for something a bit more niche? There’s the Textile Museum; and the CBC’s museum at its Toronto Broadcasting Centre. As for galleries get lost in the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery; and a host of smaller galleries throughout the city.
Outdoor Enthusiasts: If you enjoy spending time on the water, there are many activities to do on Lake Ontario. There’s stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, paddling tours and yes, sailing. If you’re into cycling and hiking, there are many excellent trails to traverse like Scarborough bluffs, Leslie Street Spit; Humber Valley; Todmorden Mills; and the Don Valley. There are great golf courses, horseback riding; and LARPing, minutes from the city centre.
Festival Lovers: Festivals are a cornerstone of Toronto Summers, and there is something to appease various tastes. Indie music lovers tend to flock to the family-friendly Field Trip festival (FYI: the event is on hiatus in 2019). Boots and Hearts appeal to country music lovers, and EDM fans can choose to attend Veld, Ever After, or Dreams. The city loves jazz so much there are three well-respected jazz festivals — the titular TD Toronto Jazz Festival; the Beaches International Jazz Festival; and the TD Markham Jazz Festival. For the Caribbean diaspora there’s Caribana, Rastafest and the TD Irie Music Festival; and for the LGBTQIA communities, their families and allies there’s the epic and fabulous Toronto Pride parade.
Unique Tours: From walking tours of graffiti alley to walks through some of the city’s haunted spots to architectural tours to food tours, there is something spectacular to participate in and great information to learn.
Must Visit Neighbourhoods
Kensington Market: Great vintage shopping, a hodgepodge of global cuisine, affordable groceries; great watering holes; and epic cafes converge in this easily navigable ‘hood.
Queen West: One of the hottest neighbourhoods in the city, Queen West is not only the headquarters of hipsterdom but offers a great way to see the different versions of Toronto (immigrants, wealthy folks, middle-class millennials, big box stores, mom and pop shops etc.) within four kilometres.
Ossington Avenue: One of the hippest strips in TO and located between West Queen West and Dundas West, Ossington is a haven of independent shops, cafes, hip bars, restaurants beloved by locals.
The Danforth: Yes there’s copious amounts of Greek food, but there are also beautiful churches, great florists, lovely gastropubs and a well-appointed LCBO location.
Yonge & Eglinton: The north Toronto neighbourhood is a dazzling mix of Jewish delis, movie theatres, wine bars, boutique workout studios, shopping centres and restaurants.
Toronto’s robust food scene allows you to have cuisine from almost every culture. A number of the country’s best restaurants are in TO and if the budget doesn’t allow you to splurge on a fancy night out, ensure to participate in Summerlicious. The annual food event enables diners to visit restaurants and have prix fixe menus that are a fraction of the usual cost of dining. There are, too, numerous food festivals such as Brunch Fest, Toronto Taste, Taste of Little Italy, Taste of the Danforth, the Toronto Jerk Festival, and the Toronto Veg Food Fest, in addition to a food truck festival and huge Asian night markets. If you’re into epic and unique food experiences, check out the communal dinners curated by U-Feast.
Pairing well with the city’s food offering are local craft beers, award-winning wines and small-batch spirits. Toronto is home to over three dozen craft breweries — each with its own distinctive charm and appeal. Fancy a tasting, brewery tour, or wish to brew your own? The city’s got you covered. Oenophiles can choose a day trip to award-winning Niagara wineries and stock up on lovely bottles. There are a handful of distilleries in Toronto as well that produce high-quality gin, vodka, and even sake.
Want to get out and see Toronto’s surrounding areas, then it sounds like a day-trip should be on your vacation itinerary. In addition to the Niagara Escarpment wine region, there’s also Prince Edward County, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pelee Island which make for fantastic day trip destinations. Want something more family-friendly? There’s St. Jacobs, rich with Mennonite history and Port Dover with its almost tropical beaches. If cannabis tourism is more your speed, well, there’s Smith Falls home to Canada’s first cannabis golf club and the Tweed visitor’s centre.
Besides being home to the Raptors, Maple Leafs, Blue Jays the Wolfpack, and Toronto FC, the city offers many high profile sporting events that attract attendees from all over the world. Still saving for Wimbledon but can’t wait to to see your favourite tennis stars, then grab tickets for the Roger’s Cup. With tickets starting at $20, you’ll be able to see world-class tennis at a tournament that has attracted the likes of Serena Williams, Canada’s own Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens, and Simona Halep. Full disclosure: the men’s tournament is held in Montreal.
If your attendance to the Kentucky Derby has been postponed another year, no worries the Queen’s Plate can step in, and all you’ll miss will be the mint juleps. The Queen’s Plate is a weekend of horseracing at its finest, eye-catching fashion, music and celeb sightings. And, for those who require even more speed, the Honda Indy is the city’s answer to Talladega.
Toronto International Film Festival (September 5 – 15, 2019): As one of the world’s largest and most respected film festivals TIFF attracts dozens of A-List celebs; hundreds of acclaimed actors and actresses; and close to half a million attendees annually. The ten-day festival sets the city abuzz, and if you’re lucky (and can afford it), you could be seated close to (or even behind) an Oscar nominee/winner.
Doors Open Toronto (May 25 – 26, 2019): A City of Toronto initiative that’s celebrating its 20th year, Doors Open gives attendees unprecedented access (via tours) to some of the city’s architectural marvels and culturally significant buildings.
Nuit Blanche (October 5, 2019): The all-night event is one of the country’s preeminent contemporary art festivals. With over 1.2 million attendees viewing over 1,400 installations from sundown to sunrise, Nuit Blanche is a great way to tour the city and experience authentic Toronto culture.
The Ex (August 16 – September 2, 2019): The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) aka The Ex signals the end of summer in Toronto. However, autumn in the city can be spectacular with its own list of noteworthy events like Halloween on Church Street. The Ex has live entertainment, rides, family fun, and each year the food hall unveils some culinary twist that makes Canadians relieved that we have Universal Healthcare.
Tall Ships Festival (June 20 – July 1): Officially called the Redpath Waterfront Festival, the event is known for attracting tall ships (and a Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker) that dock in Toronto’s waterfront and offer tours. Whether you’re a maritime lover or not, the event is loads of fun.