Things to Do in Toronto
For many visitors to Toronto, this needle-like telecommunications tower—often seen from the airplane window—is their first glimpse of the city. When it was erected in 1976, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest freestanding structure. Though it no longer holds that title, it is still the tallest tower in Canada, and the spectacular views from its observation decks are second to none.
Located in the heart of downtown and a hub for the city’s Chinese-Canadian community, Toronto's Chinatown is a bustling neighborhood lined with an appealing range of small businesses. Visitors and Toronto residents flock here to dine at the area’s popular eateries and shop for produce and imported specialty items at corner grocers.
A foodie paradise, the long-running St. Lawrence Market occupies the historic South Market House building, which previously served as Toronto’s city hall and jail. Since 1803, residents and visitors have come here to meet, eat, and shop for food items ranging from Prince Edward Island oysters to peameal bacon to Montreal-style bagels.
Located in downtown Toronto at the base of the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre is a sports and entertainment complex that is home to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. The Rogers Centre is a great place to catch a Major League Baseball (MLB) game or other event held under its fully retractable roof—the first of its kind in the world.
A sacred site for Canadians—for whom ice hockey is a national obsession—the Hockey Hall of Fame holds a treasure trove of memorabilia, including the original Stanley Cup. Housed inside a grand 19th-century Bank of Montreal building, it also features interactive games including a virtual shoot-out where visitors can test their skills.
Established in 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada’s largest museum. Housed inside a heritage-meets-modern building, it boasts a 6-million-strong collection, which focuses on objects relating to world culture and natural history. It includes everything from First Nations’ crest poles to Egyptian mummies to T-rex skeletons.
The quirky Bata Shoe Museum in downtown Toronto showcases the changing style and function of footwear across four galleries. What started as a personal collection for Sonja Bata in the 1940s is now a museum with more than 20,000 shoes dating from ancient Egypt to modern day, including a selection of celebrity soles. It’s an unusual chance to view world history through the lens of footwear.
As the largest park in Toronto, High Park offers a bounty of recreational opportunities. Locals and visitors alike hop from activity to activity, including playgrounds, a dog park, zoo, hiking trails, tennis courts, swimming pools, baseball fields, and an ice skating rink. High Park is a popular spot for concerts and for enjoying nature, especially in spring’s cherry blossom season.
Toronto Harbour is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, the smallest of North America’s five Great Lakes. Protected from the lake’s tides by the Toronto Islands, the harbor offers smooth conditions for a wide range of water activities, including boat tours, ferry rides, sailing, and kayaking.
Once home to the 1832 Gooderham and Worts’ mammoth distilling facility, Toronto’s charming arts and entertainment quarter is now a popular strolling spot for off-duty creatives. The cobblestone streets are lined with Victorian-era industrial buildings, which have been repurposed to serve as contemporary art galleries, third-wave coffee shops, concept boutiques, restaurants, and bars.
More Things to Do in Toronto
Eclectic, diverse, and graffiti-slathered, Toronto's Kensington Market neighborhood is one of the city’s most distinctive enclaves. The district is packed with produce vendors, food sellers, vintage clothes shops, bric-a-brac boutiques, buskers, cafés, and restaurants, and attracts a steady stream of bohemian types.
Humber Bay Park, created from two man-made peninsulas near Mimico Creek and Lake Ontario, is a popular recreation hub in Toronto. Park pursuits include bird-watching, biking, hiking, and photographing the CN Tower and Toronto skyline, as well as lounging at the sandy beach area and taking dogs to the off-leash park.
The flashy urban scene of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square is reminiscent of New York City’s Times Square. More than 56 million people visit this iconic spot every year, making it one of the busiest intersections in Canada. This is where you find glowing billboards, Eaton Centre, Ed Mirvish Theatre, and great spots to people-watch.
New City Hall, which replaced Old City Hall in 1965 to accommodate a rapidly growing city, is the current seat of Toronto’s municipal government. Designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, winner of the city’s international competition, Toronto City Hall is comprised of two curved towers as well as Nathan Phillips Square, Canada’s largest public square.
Looking more at home in Europe than it does in Ontario, Canada, this faux medieval castle was a filming location forChicago andX-Men. Built for an eccentric businessman between 1911 and 1914, Casa Loma (literally House on a Hill) features a pastiche of old-world styles that include turrets, Tudor-style chimneys, underground tunnels, and secret passages.
A small recreation area in Toronto on the shore of Lake Ontario, Sugar Beach is not the place for a dip as swimming is prohibited. Its sandy shores are just fine for relaxing on a sunny day under the shade of a pink patio umbrella. Visitors have views of cargo ships and the Redpath Sugar Refinery, which inspired the name.
Though Toronto’s high-rise skyline is in sight, the Toronto Islands—a chain of islands scattered off the shore of Lake Ontario—feel a world away. The islands, once a narrow peninsula, were cut off from the mainland by violent storms, and now their sandy coastlines and verdant parklands serve as a peaceful escape for the city-weary.
A leading Canadian museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario is home of more than 79,000 works of art in its collection, including First Nations and Inuit carvings, noted Canadian works, and European art from Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso. Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry designed the gallery’s latest renovation.
In downtown Toronto, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada houses approximately 16,000 water-bound species from across the world. The displays are arranged by region, and visitors can explore the tropical Rainbow Reef, check out the Dangerous Lagoon shark tank, and learn more about the marine life found in the waters around Canada.
The Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) is Toronto’s major concert and professional sports venue. The facility clocks in at 650,000 square feet (60,387 square meters) and seats nearly 20,000 event-goers. The adjacent Maple Leaf Square hosts a variety of shops and restaurants, plus a hotel and condominiums.
One of Canada’s most prestigious universities, the University of Toronto is known to academics and scholars. But the downtown campus is also a top attraction for visitors to Toronto, who stroll its well-tended paths, check out the stately buildings, and wander through the leafy Philosopher’s Walk.
Occupying a prime 10-acre (4-hectare) site on the edge of Lake Ontario, the nonprofit Harbourfront Centre offers a jam-packed year-round program of events. The complex comprises more than 30 sights, including parks, outdoor and indoor performance venues, squares, art galleries, a boardwalk, artist studios, restaurants, and retail outlets.
Fort York was constructed in 1793 by the British Army and Canadian militia troops for the defense of York (now Toronto). Today it’s a National Historic Site with Canada’s largest group of original War of 1812 structures. Explore the stone and wood barracks used during the 1813 Battle of York, when the U.S. invaded and destroyed the fort.
Toronto’s Entertainment District lives up to its name with a variety of performing arts venues, clubs, and live sporting events. From symphony to jazz and blues, theater, and baseball games, it’s all happening. Other options for entertainment in the area include Canada’s iconic CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.
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