9 Things to Do in Toronto
Featured destinations: Toronto
Published 13 January 2017
Toronto: Canada’s most populated and most multicultural city. The capital of Ontario and the gateway to Niagara Falls. It’s a lively, exciting place, stuffed to the brim with cultural sights and modern architecture, international restaurants and bars, all perched peacefully on the edge of Lake Ontario. If you’re planning a trip to east coast Canada, a day or two exploring Toronto should be number one on the agenda. Here’s what to do:
Admire the view from the top of the CN Tower
At 553m high, the CN Tower, once the tallest in the world, is the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1976 it has loomed high above Lake Ontario, the most recognisable feature of Ontario’s skyline. Of course the number one thing to do is to climb it, so take the glass elevator to the top, brave the transparent floor and look out across the city. If you’re feeling extra brave you can even go for a walk outside on the EdgeWalk, held on by just a rope.
Take a day trip to Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is just 90 minutes’ drive from Toronto, so is easily doable on a day trip. You can hire a car or take a tour, which will often stop off at the delightful town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and its surrounding wineries on the way, where you can sample a vintage or two. The cascade itself, three waterfalls 51 metres in height, is undoubtedly the highlight – see it on a boat tour, from the viewpoints or for a real treat, fly over it in a helicopter.
Browse the markets
Toronto is home to a number of markets, the best of which are St Lawrence Market and Kensington Market and, if you’re here in December, the delightfully twinkly Christmas market. St Lawrence Market is found in the city’s Old Town, and consists of 120 stalls of wonderfully fresh, local artisan food. Be sure to come hungry and taste your way around the products, from warm baked breads to oils and honeys, with a few clothes and accessory shops thrown in there too. Kensington Market is a little grittier, covered in graffiti and stocks retro clothes and tasty treats; it’s well worth a wander.
Watch the fall colours emerge
In October, in Toronto’s city parks, the trees slowly change from green to orange to red, creating a magnificent spectacle popular with nature lovers, photographers, and pretty much everyone else too. You can see the colours just by strolling down the street, but for the best vantage points, try the Don Valley ravine system, where wandering or cycling among the dense foliage is pleasantly relaxing, Rouge Park or, for some eerie shots, Necropolis Cemetery, a beautiful yet melancholy spot.
Catch a hockey game
In a country where hockey is less of a sport and more of an obsession, the Maple Leafs are Toronto’s much-loved hockey team, despite having been, shall we say, less than brilliant in recent years. To see them in action, get down to the Air Canada Centre. If there’s a game on, it will most likely be shown in most of Toronto’s sports bars too, so if you can’t get tickets to the live show, or aren’t quite sure what all the fuss is about, this is a great way to get a taster of ice hockey in a more relaxed environment; try the famous Loose Moose bar. To learn more about the game and its players take a look around the Hockey Hall of Fame, a museum displaying more National Hockey League (NHL) memorabilia than you can shake a (hockey) stick at.
Pretend to be royalty at Casa Loma
A gothic revival mansion, Casa Loma was built in 1914 and served as the home of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a Canadian financier. After he moved out in 1923, the house was turned into a hotel, then later became a museum and wedding venue. With 98 rather grand rooms the house includes a pool, two secret passages and three bowling alleys, and has been used as a filming location for the X-Men movies and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. With lovely gardens too, it makes a refreshing change from all the skyscrapers downtown.
Have a drink in the Distillery District
Lined with brick built houses and cobblestone streets, Toronto’s Distillery District is made up mostly of Victorian Industrial buildings, all sympathetically restored and now home to boutique stores, quirky cafes and swanky restaurants, plus a few designer bars. Totally pedestrianised, it’s a nostalgic spot to while away an afternoon. As it was once home to the largest distillery in the world, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, it would be a crime to leave without sampling the local brew on a pub patio.
Island hop on Lake Ontario
Toronto is located on the shores of Lake Ontario, where you’ll also find a small chain of islands, known as the Toronto Islands. Mostly covered with lawns, trees and parks, these islands make a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and are easily accessed by ferry or water taxi in just 15 minutes from Toronto’s downtown. Cycling is a popular pastime here, as well as canoeing, kayaking and boating, and there’s also a Frisbee golf course. There are beaches too – popular for escaping the summer heat, and offering what must be the definitive city skyline view, with Lake Ontario in the foreground.
Museum it up
Toronto has plenty of excellent museums to choose from so, if it’s a rainy day or you just love museums, then you’re in for a treat! Top of the list is the Royal Ontario Museum (pictured), with its funky glass and steel exterior, which houses artworks and artefacts from around the world, including the world’s largest totem pole. The Art Gallery of Ontario, the largest art gallery in Canada, is also worth a browse, as is the quirky Bata Shoe Museum, home to a pair of Napoleon’s socks.
Toronto tickle your fancy? Take a look at Round the World Experts' Toronto holidays and give our Experts a call.