Best Things To Do in Toronto
To get the lay of the land, catch a bird's-eye view from one of the observation decks at the CN Tower. From there, get a taste for authentic Torontonian suds by sampling some beer in the historic Distillery District, then walk over to the historic St. Lawrence Market for the best in Canadian fare. When it comes to keeping the kids entertained, Toronto's got it covered; numerous attractions like the Toronto Zoo and the Ontario Science Centre are sure to keep the youngsters in good spirits. And if the weather's right, hop a ferry to the nearby Toronto Islands.
Updated April 6, 2018
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When you're in need of a break from the hustle and bustle of Canada's biggest city, hop a ferry to the Toronto Islands. This collection of islands and islets offers a welcome touch of green to the city's skyscraper-speckled mainland. The three islands, Centre, Ward's and Algonquin, are all connected, so you don't have to worry about having to get on and off a boat to fully experience the area. Each main island offers something different. Centre Island lives up to its name, providing the most in terms of activities. There, visitors will find expansive picnic areas, beaches, sporting rentals and the Centreville Amusement Park, which features more than 30 rides, a petting zoo and a boating lagoon. Ward and Algonquin are more laid-back, dotted with 1920s-style cottages and English gardens. Hanlan's Point, located next to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport at the northeastern tip of the island, features the area's only clothing optional beach, as well as a lighthouse believed to be haunted. All of the islands are largely car-free, making them the perfect venue for a peaceful stroll, bike ride or picnic. And while the winter brings biting winds and lots of snow, the Toronto Islands are also a great place for cross-country skiing and ice skating.
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Back in the early 1800s, this waterfront neighborhood was home to Canada's largest distilling company, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Today, this historic pedestrian-only neighborhood – flanked by industrial-style Victorian buildings and paved with cobblestone once tread on by horse-drawn carriages – overflows with art galleries, performance spaces, cafes, restaurants and yes, a brewery. For a true glimpse into Toronto's past, this is the place to go. Enjoy festivals and outdoor exhibitions throughout the year, join an art class or kick back, relax and enjoy an authentic Canadian brewski.
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Located in Toronto's historic Old Town, the St. Lawrence Market has seen many faces since its construction in the 17th century. Along with being a marketplace, the St. Lawrence Market has served as the city's social center, as well as its City Hall. Today, the market sells goodies galore, from gourmet cured meats on one end to handcrafted jewelry in the other. The St. Lawrence Market is divided into three buildings: the South Market, the North Market and St. Lawrence Hall. The South Market features 120 vendors that sell a mix of food and retail items. There are also cooking classes held at the Market Kitchen as well as exhibitions on the city's art, culture and history held in the Market Gallery. The St. Lawrence Hall houses retail businesses, while the North Market is famous for its historic farmers market. Every Saturday since 1803, purveyors from Southern Ontario gather at the North Market to sell their seasonal produce. On Sundays, the farmers market converts into a flea market, where more than 80 vendors sell antique items.
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Situated along the banks of Lake Ontario, this 10-acre attraction has transformed from a derelict shipping terminal to an upscale neighborhood bustling with hundreds of things to do. Abandoned warehouses have been transformed into theaters and an art gallery, giving it an atmosphere comparable to Pier 39 in San Francisco and Baltimore's Inner Harbor. There's also multiple eateries around as well as several small parks, including the Toronto Music Garden, designed in part by cellist Yo Yo Ma. And if you're around during the summer, you can kick back on Sugar Beach, a former parking lot transformed into an urban beach. What's more, Harbourfront Centre hosts upward of 4,000 events throughout the year to service the 17 million people that pass through the area annually.
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If you don't mind a bit of chaos, the Kensington Market in a Toronto must-see. Previously a Jewish neighborhood, the market came to life around the 1920s when families would set up stands in front of their houses to sell one another goods. Today, this marketplace has grown in both size and diversity. Streets are lined with shops and restaurants selling a variety of goods from Europe to Asia and beyond. Note: Kensington Market is the name of the neighborhood in which these shops and restaurants reside, not an actual outdoor market. The last Sunday of every month, however, is the closest you'll come to having that traditional market experience. The area goes completely car-free and fills up with shoppers, along with some lively street performers.
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No trip to Toronto (or Canada in general, really) is complete without a dose of hockey in one form or another. Although hockey isn't the official sport of Canada, it is the unofficial religion; thousands of Torontonians flock to the Air Canada Centre to support the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even if you're visiting in summer, you can still get your fix at the Hockey Hall of Fame, just a block or so east of Union Station. Covering a whopping 65,000 square feet of space, this site is a goldmine of paraphernalia, with exhibits including such artifacts as the original Stanley Cup, Max Bentley's stick and Terry Sawchuk's goalie gear. While you're here, check out the reproduction of the Montreal Canadiens' locker room and the Puck Wall, which displays more than 1,000 pucks that were each collected from different tournaments around the world.
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According to travelers, the Toronto Zoo is a hit with the kids (and most adults). This sprawling facility in Scarborough is one of the largest zoos in the world with more than 6 miles of walking trails spread over 700 acres. With 5,000 animals (representing more than 450 species) calling this place home, there is tons to see. The zoo is separated into seven geographic regions, but travelers shouldn't leave without visiting the park's award-winning exhibits, including the largest indoor gorilla exhibit in North America, the Gorilla Rainforest. There are also a plethora of seasonal activities to engage in. Along with a ropes course there's a carousel, as well as the Zoomobile Ride, which takes you through some of the parks various regions, including Africa, the Americas, and, of course, Canada. The Discovery Zone is also a top attraction for families, housing a 2-acre water play area, theater and an interactive wildlife experience designed for the kiddos.
- #8View all Photos#8 in TorontoHistoric Homes/Mansions, Museums, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, Museums, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Love castles? So did Sir Henry Pellatt, a former soldier whose lifelong dream was to build a castle overlooking Toronto. The 98-room Casa Loma – built in the early 1900s – took nearly three years to construct and cost more than $3.5 million to complete. The only full-size castle in North Toronto, this grand home features everything one would need to feel like a king: towers, horse stables, secret passageways and a massive wine cellar that can hold more than 1,800 bottles. There's also an immaculate 5-acre garden outfitted with fountains and sculptures, as well as wildflowers when the weather's right.
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A standout among Toronto's dazzling skyline, the 1,815-foot CN Tower is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The tower's height provides enviable vistas of the city below, but it also serves a practical purpose. When the city's skyline began to grow amidst a construction boom, television and radio transmission towers were having trouble broadcasting. With the structure's completion in the 1970s, the CN Tower allowed transmissions to pass with ease.
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Perched on the northern edge of the University of Toronto campus, the Royal Ontario Museum (also referred to as the "ROM") is a must-visit for history buffs. Since its establishment in 1912, the ROM has accumulated more than six million artifacts, making it Canada's largest museum of world cultures and natural history. The museum features a diverse range of relics on display, including dinosaur bones, ancient Roman sculptures, Chinese temple art and an exhibit on Canada's First Peoples, to name a few.
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If you're looking for a learning experience that's more than just reading placard after placard, you should head to the Ontario Science Centre. The facility features interactive exhibits in the hundreds, with the goal to maximize learning opportunities for both children and adults. Here, visitors can pilot a rocket chair, explore the city's only public planetarium and bust moves on a dance floor that turns energy into light power. You can even touch a tornado in the Living Earth experience, or see what you'll look like as you age with the help of the Amazing Aging Machine. Before starting your tour, stop by the information area to see if there's anything special going on that day – the on-site IMAX theater showcases a variety of educational movies and the museum often presents demonstrations on everything from electricity to papermaking.
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Fort York sits well at the top of many history lovers' sightseeing lists. Established in 1793, it's the most historic site in Toronto, having protected the city from the end of the 18th century right up through the end of World War II. It is also the site in which the city of Toronto today was established, as the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada at the time moved the capital up from the border town of Niagara due to war conflict near the area. Today, visitors can tour the soldiers' and officers' quarters, witness cannon firings, military drills and participate in flag raisings.
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According to recent visitors, the Toronto Botanical Gardens is a great spot for visitors and families of all ages, as it offers free admission to the grounds and tours, nature camps, courses and a summertime farmers market. For those looking for a more in-depth look at the attraction's 17 themed gardens, guided tours run between 45 and 90 minutes (depending on the tour booked) and cost $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. If you want to walk around on your own, there's also an app-guided tour that'll take you around the grounds.
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Known for being a top foodie destination, Toronto should be high on your list of places to visit if you have a hankering for delectable cuisine. The city is home to more than 200 ethnic groups, and features diverse neighborhoods like Koreatown, Little Italy and Greektown, to name a few. If you don't know where to start, consider booking a tasting tour that will take you through the city's different cuisines and neighborhoods. Below are some of Toronto's best tours:
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