Toronto never seemed to me like a place to travel to, until I started travelling to other countries. People from all over the world want to know what to do and see within Canada’s biggest (but not capital!) city. I can see the attraction of the city: it’s large, there are lots of things to do, it’s by Lake Ontario, it’s multicultural.
I’ve had the pleasure of growing up in a town of fewer than 500 people about 2.5 hours north-west of Toronto. My mother, however, was Toronto-born. Her loathing of the city kept us away for years. And I totally see her side of things. I don’t think I could live there, but being a tourist and being a resident are two very different things.
To be clear, Toronto is not and has never been the capital since Canada became a country in 1867. But it is Canada’s most populous city. It’s no surprise that Toronto welcomes over 40 million tourists annually.
Who wants to stand on the 3rd highest tower in the world (9th tallest freestanding structure)?! Well, it used to be the tallest tower for 34 years before someone built one higher. HOW DARE THEY?!
The CN Tower is the most iconic buildings in Canada, which means it is THE thing to do while in Toronto. Some Torontonians will tell you to skip the tower. The lines to get up there can be long, but there is something about standing above everything. It’s like being on an airplane and seeing how tiny all the cars and buildings are.
It costs $48 to check out the views from the three observation levels and a whopping $225 if you want to brave the heights and HANG OFF the building. ON THE OUTSIDE. Totally rad, in my opinion.
If you’re going to be hitting up all the touristy places like Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Toronto Zoo (or) Ontario Science Centre, then invest in a City Pass. It will save you many dollars.
Check out the different neighbourhoods
Toronto is made of little neighbourhoods, each with a unique personality.
In Cabbagetown, check out the wonderfully restored Victorian homes and enjoy the numerous eateries that make up this core. Church and Wellesley is an LGBT-oriented enclave. Check out the eclectic and diversity area of Kensington Market.
If you’re in the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood, then check out the St. Lawrence Market, a public market that has been held since 1803!
Of course, the most famous are in Toronto has to be the Distillery District. A favourite for both locals and tourists, this commercial area is a national historic site. This is must see area!
High Park is sort of like New York City’s Central Park, except not as central and not as big. Still, it is the largest in the city, and it features trails and cherry blossoms, and lakefront access. There’s even a zoo!
It’s like an outdoor getaway right in the city.
This Island is Toronto’s own getaway island full of beaches, boats, butts. Yup, butts. Hold on to that for a moment.
Toronto Island is actually a group of islands off the shore of Downtown Toronto that is half park, half theme park, half beach. To get there take a ferry that leaves every hour on week days or every 30 minutes on weekends (in the summer) from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Or you can take a water taxi from the Harbourfront.
While on the Islands you can check out the Centreville Amusement Park or the Franklin Children’s Garden or maybe the Farm Enough Farm.
Th island has several beaches. On one end is Ward’s Island Beach, in the middle, there’s Manitou Beach and the other end Hanlan’s Point Clothing Optional Beach. Hence, the butts.
There are also numerous places to rent boats and bikes. It’s such a wonderful place, so spend the whole day!
Check out a restaurant or a bar
Toronto has a vast collection of restaurants and bars. It seems like every other building has one.
If you feel like blowing some cash, dress up and head to one of many fancy, fine dining establishments. You won’t regret it, but your wallet might.
If you’re into Mexican deliciousness, El Catrin in the Distillery District is to die for. Such a perfect setting too.
Heading out for the night? Get magical at the Harry Potter inspired bar the Lockhart. The bar boasts cocktails and tapas inspired by the wonderful book series Harry Potter. You’re going to want to get here early because the tiny place fills quickly.
The best way to decide where to go for food/drinks it to open google maps and type in “restaurants near me.” You will have and endless choice of places to go. So just pick and go.
If you haven’t heard of an escape room by now, then you must have been living in one. Honestly, these real-life puzzle games are just so much fun. Grab some friends and head to the nearest escape room.
Prepare to get tested, because it’s going to be mind-boggling.
A group of friends and I headed to Trapped! On Dundas Street West and tackled “Claustrophobia”. We solved all the clues but ran out of time! The place is well-maintained, and the staff were great.
Nathan Phillips Square
This is it. Nathan Phillips Square is the place everyone recognizes. It might have to do with the giant sign that says “TORONTO” on it. The sign was installed in 2014 for the Pan Am Games that were held in the city but were left up when it became a major tourist attraction.
Come here in summer for some water fun or in the winter for the skating. At night tie, the sign is lit up, the Christmas lights come on, and it’s like you’re in a winter wonderland.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Get your selfie-skills ready because you’re going to want one with a shark. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a relatively new place. Opened in 2013, the giant aquarium houses many species of underwater creatures.
Try to spot Nemo in the Rainbow Reef, count how many fish species you can see in the Kelp Forest, watch the Jellyfish change colour in the Planet Jellies, or be on the lookout for Jaws in the Dangerous Lagoon.
Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario
Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario are two places you’ve got to check out while visiting the city.
At the ROM, you can see the ever-changing exhibits including history, science and art. There is so much to see here; you’ll want to spend the whole day.
The AGO is an excellent place to get lost in art. Walk through the ages from the 1600s to modern installations. Don’t miss the uniquely-Canadian Group of Seven exhibition!
Try out the transit system
Toronto transit system is something to be desired if you have taken any European train. But there is something endearing about it. From the subway to the streetcar, it makes getting around to all the places you have to check out in Toronto easier to get to! Dig into your pockets, grab your loonies and toonies, and enjoy Toronto.
Have you been to any of these places? What did you like the most?
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