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.
Travelers and locals alike both take to the Toronto Islands. Recent visitors said it's a great place to take a long breather from the big city atmosphere of Toronto. Many say the incredible views of the city's skyline are reason alone to visit. However, some visitors found the area to be overrun, especially in Centre Island. Others also expressed disappointment with the inflated prices for amenities in and near the Centreville Amusement Park. Otherwise, the majority of visitors, especially those with families, thoroughly enjoyed their time on the island.
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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.
The St. Lawrence Market is often regarded as one of the best food markets in the world by foodie experts, and travelers couldn't agree more. Not only were recent visitors impressed by the overwhelming amount of delicious food under this market's one roof, but they also loved how reasonably priced items were. According to some visitors, the food is only half the fun. Many strongly recommended holding out on a visit for Saturday, when the market truly comes alive with vivacious vendors hawking their fare to both hungry tourists and locals. If you're not one for big crowds, make sure to get there really early. Some visitors say you cannot leave the market without getting a peameal bacon sandwich at the Carousel Bakery. A signature dish in Toronto, the sandwich is simple – Canadian back bacon stuffed between a Kaiser roll – but packs a flavorful punch.
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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.
Travelers say the best part of this attraction is its ambiance. Yes, the food is tasty and the shops are unique, but simply visiting to take in the atmosphere of one of Toronto's most beloved hangout spots is worth a walk around alone. If you're not around in the summer don't fret – Torontonians and winter visitors alike say the Christmas Market is a gem, especially with some mulled wine in hand. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday hours are extended until 8 p.m., but on Sundays, businesses are only open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can find the Distillery District near downtown Toronto, a little more than a mile from the King subway station. For more information, visit the Distillery District's website.
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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.
Travelers and locals alike both agree that Harbourfront Centre makes for a pleasant visit, not to mention the perfect place for a peaceful stroll. Travelers loved the city and lake vistas, but some warned visitors to pack an extra layer to brave the lake winds, no matter what time of year you visit. If you happen to be around in the winter, locals strongly encourage an ice skating excursion here, simply for the views.
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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.
Recent visitors lauded Kensington Market for its variety, with many saying the neighborhood truly has it all. Fashionistas will appreciate the plethora of vintage stores while foodies will salivate at all the delectable (but oftentimes pricey) options available. Even if you aren't much of a shopper, many say a casual stroll through the quirky, art-clad neighborhood is more than enough to satiate travelers.
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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.
Recent visitors enjoyed their time at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Many travelers, both Canadian and foreign, were impressed with the extent of information and artifacts on display. However, this may not be the best place for someone who isn't a fan of hockey, or sports in general. The majority of travelers who took to this attraction expressed a slight to serious interest in the sport, while those who didn't admitted to boredom after some time.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Toronto14.6 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND14.6 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
Hours vary by season, but the zoo is generally open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with extended hours on the weekends. Admission prices are also dependent on season, but range from CA$23 for adults (about $18) and CA$14 for children ages 3 to 12 (about $11) during the winter. Summer admission is CA$29 for adults (about $22.40) and CA$19 (approximately $15) for children 3 to 12. If yu purchased a CityPASS, your entrance fee is covered. The only grievance travelers had about the zoo was that it was hard to get to, as there are no subway stations near, only buses. The Toronto Zoo is located about 22 miles northeast of downtown Toronto. Keep in mind that some animals may not be present in their exhibits during the winter months due to the chilly temperatures. Along with restrooms and restaurants, there are also several gift shops on-site. For up-to-date information about hours and ticket prices, check out the zoo's website.
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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.
Today, elevators bring visitors to the top in less than a minute. Once there, you have four observation areas to choose from: the Glass Floor room (at 1,122 feet), the LookOut Level (at 1,136 feet), the revolving 360 The Restaurant (at 1,150 feet) and the SkyPod, which at 1,465 feet is one of the highest public observation area in the world. Meanwhile, the EdgeWalk allows the daring to experience the world's highest hands-free external walk on a building. Connected via harness, participants can take a walk on a 5-foot-wide ledge encircling the top of the tower's main pod 116 stories above the ground. The steep ticket fee of CA$225 ($174) also includes a keepsake video, printed photos, certificate of achievement and a ticket to re-enter the tower.
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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.
According to recent visitors, this quirky attraction will certainly appeal to history buffs, museum-goers and families (kids love the 800-foot-long underground tunnel connecting the house to the stables). Even if you don't identify as one of those travelers, visitors' collective sentiment of the castle's stunning interiors are enough to illicit a trip.
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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.
With so much to see, you'll need to plan your time wisely, otherwise, you'll find yourself wandering the museum for longer than you expected, according to recent visitors. But travelers agree that the museum's variety is a gem, and time spent there is worth every minute. And if you're traveling with children, you don't have to worry about keeping them entertained: The ROM has a hands-on gallery where children can feel the skin of a snake, get up close and personal with the jaws of a shark and visit a fox's den. There is also the CIBC Discovery Gallery where kids can try on costumes and even dig for dinosaur bones.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Toronto4.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
Recent visitors said because there's so much to do, it's possible to end up spending the entire day at the Ontario Science Centre. Consider picking out what you want to see ahead of time so you don't end up spending hours on end here.
- #12View all Photos#12 in Toronto2 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
According to recent visitors, if you're into history, you'll love this site. If you don't consider yourself a history or military aficionado, you may want to skip Fort York, according to select reviewers. While many acknowledged that the site was incredibly well-preserved, and offered a cool glimpse into the past lives of the soldiers who used to live there, there were some who didn't find it all to be as stimulating.
- View all Photos5.1 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND5.1 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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.
Recent travelers said the gardens are a great place to go to relax, walk and view gorgeous flowers, but that because the gardens are on the smaller side, you should plan on spending only an hour or two here. Recently engaged? This is also a popular spot to get photos taken.
- View all Photos1.1 miles to city centerCafes, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerCafes, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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:
Toronto Food Tours: Offering a dozen different food tours, several drink tours, excursions and classes, Toronto Food Tours offers a little something for everyone. From pizza to markets to food halls to Chinatown and beyond, this company has been showing locals and tourists around since 2010. Tours are offered every day of the week at different times, so check the website to find one that works best for your taste buds and schedule. Tours last between three and four hours with tickets starting at CA$89 (around $68) per person.
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