T-dot. T.O. The Six. Whatever you call it, Toronto is the cultural hub of Canada, a mosaic of international cuisine, show-stopping events, and wondrous places to explore. There’s no doubt that Toronto, Canada’s largest city and capital of the province of Ontario, is one for the bucket list. Enjoy the city life and discover urban treasures by spending the weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District.
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Each district offers a different vibe, and none are more rambunctious than the Entertainment District. Here’s everything you need to know about spending the weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District.
Known for the culture that pulsates from every block, this neighbourhood is home to any entertainment you can think of – from sports to arts, film, music, live theatre and more.
It’s easy to spend a weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District without even leaving its “borders,” since there’s a high concentration of Toronto’s top sights right here.
Where is the entertainment district in Toronto?
The district stretches from Queen Street West in the north to the Gardiner Expressway in the south and from Spadina Avenue to the west and the Financial District on University Avenue to the east.
The district wasn’t always the centre for entertainment in the city. In fact, it started out much more industrial and known for its textiles as the Garment District. From the 1970s on, the neighbourhood evolved to include night clubs, theatres and concert halls.
Today, it’s the epicentre for entertainment and a must-see for any Toronto visitor.
How to get around Toronto’s Entertainment District
Getting here and around is easy. Union Station, Toronto’s central rail and subway station is right here in the district. There are two subway stations: St. Andrew and Osgoode. You can easily take a streetcar or city bus on King Street or Queen Street.
It is also easy to walk around, or if you wanted, you could take a taxi or Uber.
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Things to see in Toronto’s Entertainment District
The Toronto Entertainment District is home to the most famous building in the city, the CN Tower; a must-see when visiting Toronto. But it’s also home to some other attractions you won’t want to miss if you spend a weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District.
The CN Tower is easily the most iconic building in Canada. It is the 3rd highest tower (and 9th tallest free-standing structure) in the world. It used to be the tallest for 32 years before someone else built one taller. Thanks dude.
This incredible architectural wonder is a mainstay on the Toronto skyline. Every night, it is lit in a vast array of colours for different occasions or to commemorate certain events. For example, the tower is bathed in blue light if the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs.
After taking the 58-second elevator to the LookOut Level, you’ll see how Toronto expands in front of you through floor-to-ceiling windows. In the summer, you might also notice how many trees are in the city! For those who aren’t afraid of heights, you’ll want to check out the Glass Floor level, where you can stare straight down to the ground below. You can also see the Outdoor Sky Terrace. Head even higher to the SkyPod level, which is one of the highest observation decks in the world. You won’t want to miss the view from the top.
It costs $53 to take the elevator up to check out the views from all three observation levels. Once there, you’ll get an extensive view of Lake Ontario and a 360-degree view of the city. If you fork over $195, you can hang off the edge of the building on the outside! It’s for thrill-seekers only.
Cost: $38 to $195
Hours: Open daily from 9 am to 10:30 pm
Canada’s Walk of Fame
Along King Street and Simcoe Street, in the heart of the Toronto Entertainment District, you might come across a couple of familiar names. Over 170 names line the street next to maple leaf-like stars of Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Inductees include artists, actors, scientists, activists, producers, musicians and so many more. Go ahead and see how many names you recognize, like Céline Dion, David Foster, Donald Sutherland, Margaret Atwood, Wayne Gretzky, Clara Hughes, Robert Munsch, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Oh … I can keep going!
It’s amazing to see how many Canadians had an impact on the world, both in the sciences and arts.
Hours: Open 24/7
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which opened in 2013, is a giant aquarium that houses hundreds of species of underwater creatures. There are 10 galleries to walk through from Canadian Waters to Dangerous Lagoon to the Kelp Forest.
You’ll want about two hours to spend experiencing this underwater marvel, and I’m sure you’ll be as entranced as I was at the glowing jellyfish and the always-moving sharks.
Pro tip: You’ll want to buy your tickets in advance to skip the line. And since you can pick your time, plan your visit before or after the peak time of 11 am to 4 pm.
Cost: $32 (online reservation) or $37 (at the door)
Hours: Open daily from 9 am to 11 pm.
Roundhouse Park is a downtown Toronto park in what was once called the Railway Lands. Today it features the John Street Roundhouse, a preserved locomotive roundhouse. Here you’ll find the Toronto Railway Museum and Steam Whistle Brewing.
You’ll also be able to explore the collection of trains, a preserved train station and a miniature steam train!
Hours: Open 24/7
At the Toronto Railway Museum, you can revisit the golden age of railway travel through the historical exhibit. Check out the railway simulator and artefact display before exploring the Canadian National steam locomotive No. 6213, a preserved train engine in the heart of the Roundhouse.
Hours: Open daily, noon to 5 pm in summer and Wednesday to Sundays, noon to 5 pm in the spring, fall and winter
Things to do in Toronto’s Entertainment District:
Other than picturing Russell Crowe yelling “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!” there’s a ton of awesome things to do within the Toronto Entertainment District. You may not get to all of them in a weekend, but you can pick which one appeals to you.
Laugh till your stomach hurts at Second City Toronto
Some of the best comedians in Canada have had their start right here at Second City Toronto. It’s been making people laugh in the city since 1963, where some of the famous Canadian faces – like John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Colin Mochrie, and Mike Myers – have taken the stage during their daily shows.
The theatre has a neat cabaret-style atmosphere, with food and beverage table service. Plus the tickets are reasonably priced, so it can be an economical way to enjoy a weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District.
Enjoy a show at Princess of Wales Theatre
If you’re looking for flair, then be quick and grab a ticket for one of the Broadway shows that are held at the Mirvish Theatres. Mirvish has two theatres in the Toronto Entertainment District, Princess of Wales Theatre and Royal Alexandra Theatre. Both offer incredible shows, like Les Misérables, The Sound of Music, Come From Away and so many more. I recently went to see The Lion King – easily one of my favourite productions.
To see what’s playing, visit the Mirvish Productions website.
The Ed Mirvish theatre and Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre are also under Mirvish Productions but are located just outside the Entertainment District.
About the Princess of Wales Theatre: The Princess of Wales Theatre, located just down the street from the Royal, seats about 2,000 people and despite its grandeur inside, the building was actually constructed in the early 1990s.
About the Royal Alexandra Theatre: The Royal Alexandra Theatre was built in 1907 and is a National Historic Site of Canada. It seats a little under 1,500 people and has been running productions for over 100 years.
Cheer at a ball game at Rogers Centre
If you’re into baseball, then you’ve got to catch a game at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the SkyDome. It was built back in 1989 and is known for its fully retractable motorized roof, the first of its kind.
It home to Canada’s only national baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, but it previously housed the football team Toronto Argonauts and Canada’s only national basketball team, the Toronto Raptors. Today you can also catch other events and concerts there too.
If baseball isn’t your thing, you can also take a tour. You’ll go the behind-the-scenes and get a first-hand look at the operations of the venue, all while learning about the building history and the people that play here. Tour tickets can be purchased inside the Jays Shop located at Gate 5.
This iconic building, which has been part of the Toronto skyline for decades, is a must-see place when you spend a weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District.
See a concert at Roy Thomson Hall
Roy Thomson Hall is a concert venue located in the heart of the Entertainment District. From symphony performances to concerts to comedy nights, this place has seen it all.
They even offer free choir and organ concerts. One of the coolest things they do is a movie music concert night, where they play the soundtrack of movies, like Harry Potter, Star Wars and more.
Catch a movie at TIFF
The Entertainment District becomes a spot-the-famous-person parade during the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). My friend, an avid TIFF attendee, has spotted the likes of Johnny Depp, Ryan Reynolds and more.
Held for 10 days in September, hundreds of new films are screened during the festival, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.
But you don’t have come just for TIFF. The TIFF Bell Lightbox shows movies year-round, so embrace your inner critic and catch an indie film at this venue.
Where to sip and eat in Toronto’s Entertainment District
This area is known for its amazing entertainment, but it also has a ton of amazing food and drink venues. There are hundreds of venues, and you won’t be able to visit them all in a weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District, but here are some of my favourites.
Let’s start with dessert first, shall we? Sweet Jesus is an over-the-top soft serve ice cream shop. From their cones that come with a birthday candle or another dressed in cotton candy, this shop knows how to go all out. Splurge for this delicious treat; I’m sure you won’t be able to have anything like it elsewhere.
Hot Black Coffee
This trendy coffee shop offers all your usual cafe drinks, plus a ton of fresh sandwiches and treats. But Hot Black Coffee stands out for a couple of reasons. One, they are an award-winning shop, who treat their employees right. And two, they give back to the community, donating to the likes of David Suzuki Foundation, OCAD University, Sick Kids and more. They say they have the world’s best coffee and I believe them.
The Coffee Lab is an 18 square foot European-style espresso bar. That’s right. Barely enough room for the equipment and the barista. But it serves “damn good coffee.” It’s the kind of place you just need to experience. All they do is coffee, and they know how to do it well.
There’s nothing more appropriate for the summer season as sitting out on a patio, and The Porch might just have the best outdoor seating area in the city. Their rooftop venue offers beautiful views of the city, and you can’t beat those patio lights. Stop in for a brew or a cocktail or go for a full meal with their fun pub-style menu.
Queen Street Warehouse
Too cold for a patio, but want a fun venue? Well, look no further than the Queen Street Warehouse. There are so many things to look at here; I don’t even know where to start. Their food is okay, but their drinks menu is where it’s at.
Fox on John
If you’re looking for a mix of delicious food, stellar indoor venue and great outdoor seating, then Fox on John is the place to be. They have an ample choice of delicious cocktails and brews as well as a full menu, which is a classier take on British pub food.
Plus, they are across the street from the Princess of Wales Theatre, making it the perfect spot for dinner before or after a show.
I love crepes; they are such a versatile food item that is great for people who love sweet or savoury dishes. Cafe Crepe on Queen Street West has it all.
For their savoury crepes, dive into their specialties, like the Baja Chicken, Italian Memories and Big Filler, or go for the classics like ham and Swiss or spinach and feta. For their dessert crepes, they’ve got special flavours like Funky monkey, Fairytale, and salted caramel bliss, and classics like cinnamon and maple syrup.
The Parisian-style cafe actually has multiple locations in Toronto, Vancouver and Hong Kong!
Where to stay in Toronto’s Entertainment District:
Like many big cities, hotels in Toronto’s Entertainment District can be pricey. But I found one that was both comfortable and reasonably priced right on Queen Street West. The Beverley Hotel is a boutique hotel with small, well-acquainted rooms that make spending a weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District an enjoyable one.
The Beverley Hotel takes the minimalist design and flourishes! The studio room I stayed in is only 130 square feet, but it’s the perfect size for a weekend since you just need a bed and a washroom. Just because they have a minimalist style, doesn’t mean they’ve skipped on the amenities, with flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, free Wi-Fi, a safe and more.
If you don’t want to go far to eat, then check out the hotel’s Carlotta Bar! It’s a Mexican, tapas-style bar known for their out-of-this-world cocktails. Plus, they have a rooftop patio that is top-notch.
Lastly, make sure to peruse the shop before you leave! They have a bunch of locally-made products that are truly the best souvenirs you could buy.
Not sure about staying at The Beverley Hotel? Here are some other hotels in Toronto’s Entertainment District:
Head out to nearby sights
There is honestly so much to see and explore in Toronto’s Entertainment District, but if you want to venture out a little further, you can do that! It’s easy to get around on foot or by public transit.
Prove to your friends that you enjoyed your trip to Toronto by posing in front of the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square.
Pro tip: You can skate here in the winter. If you decide to make the trip to Toronto’s Entertainment District during the bitterly cold Canadian winters, then you’ll absolutely have to lace up your skates and experience it yourself.
Just one neighbourhood over, Toronto’s Chinatown is a marvel of vendors, restaurants and shops that you cannot miss! Take in this culturally-significant, historic area by walking the streets and enjoying whatever tickles your fancy.
Pro tip: The Dumpling House Restaurant on Spadina is such a great little spot for dumplings, plus you can watch them being made through the front window!
Get your camera ready because you won’t stop taking photos at Toronto’s infamous Graffiti Alley. The alley between Queen Street West and Richmond Street West in the Fashion District became a sensation after Rick Mercer used the area for his weekly “Rants.” Now, you can tour some of the incredible street art that line this backroad alley.
Honestly one of the coolest places to see in Toronto, the Distillery District is the perfect mix of historic charm and new experiences.
It was once a whiskey distillery and is now home to shops, restaurants and galleries. It also has outdoor interactive art and is home to Toronto’s Christmas Market
Weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District
There are so many great things to do in Toronto’s entertainment district, from the delicious restaurants to the trendy bars, and of course, the incredible entertainment options you’ll find only here. If you find yourself in Toronto for the first or 15th time, there’s always something new to discover. Enjoy the city life and discover urban treasures by spending the weekend in the Toronto Entertainment District.