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Things to Do in Toronto

Cosmopolitan and culturally diverse, Toronto sits nestled on the banks of Lake Ontario. Visitors come from far and wide to experience its food, buzzing nightlife, and colorful festivals, though things quiet over the winter season—when heavy snows and plummeting temperatures push people to the ski slopes. Within the city limits, top Toronto attractions abound, such as the majestic castle of Casa Loma; CN Tower, the third tallest tower in the world; Dundas Square; Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall; and the richly multicultural neighborhood of Kensington Market. Visitors will find plenty of shopping and sightseeing options—with guides on hand to shine a light on the region’s rich history. Travelers can take to the air by helicopter, spin through the streets on a bike or hop-on hop-off bus, or cruise the waves of Lake Ontario for fine views of the city skyline. The world-famous Niagara Falls is less than a two-hour drive around the shores of Lake Ontario on the border with the United States, and travelers using Toronto as a base can opt for a day tour with transportation for easy access. For something a little more sedate, delve into the wilderness on an Algonquin Park canoe tour. You can fine native bears, beavers, and moose in their natural habitats; swim in crystal-clear lakes; and discover the best of the Ontario wilderness—all within reach of bustling Toronto.
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CN Tower
38 Tours and Activities
Having recently turned 30, the funky CN Tower remains every bit as cool and iconic as it was when it opened in 1976. Its primary function is as a radio and TV communications tower, but riding the great glass elevators up the highest freestanding structure (1,800 feet/550 meters) in the world is one of those things in life you just have to do. On a clear day, the views from the Observation Deck are absolutely astounding; if it's hazy, you won't be able to see a thing. For extra thrills, tread lightly over the knee-trembling Glass Floor deck, or continue climbing an extra 330 ft (100 m) to the uppermost SkyPod viewing area, the highest public observation gallery in the world. Alternatively, if you're feeling chipper, you might want to enter the annual CN Tower Stair Climb - a heart-thumping dash to the top of the tower's 1,776 steps that happens every October.
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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
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With six million objects in its impressive collection, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada's biggest natural history museum. With its new eye-catching, über-modern Daniel Libeskind design, the main building is now a magnificent explosion of architectural crystals, housing six galleries, including the new “Renaissance ROM” building.

ROM's collections bounce between natural science, ancient civilization, and art exhibits. The Chinese temple sculptures, Gallery of Korean Art, and costumery and textile collections are some of the best in the world. Kids file out of yellow school buses chugging by the sidewalk and rush to the dinosaur rooms, Egyptian mummies, and Jamaican bat cave replica. The cedar crest poles carved by First Nations tribes in British Columbia are not to be missed; the largest pole (278 feet/85 meters) was shipped from the West Coast by train, then lowered through the museum roof.

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Distillery Historic District
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Toronto's Distillery Historic District comprises more than 40 heritage buildings and holds the largest collection of Victorian era industrial architecture in North America. Red brick is everywhere, including the streets themselves. As you wander along the street in the Distillery Historic District, you’ll notice many of the buildings are occupied with unique boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, jewelery stores, cafés and coffeehouses. One of the more popular attractions is Mill Street Brewery, which creates such tasty beers as pilsner and stout – a perfect spot to stop and rest your feet. The upper floors of a number of buildings house artist studios and a variety of other creative businesses. Also here is the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, which hosts plays by the Soulpepper Theatre Company and George Brown College.
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St. Lawrence Market
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Toronto's sensational St. Lawrence Market has been a neighborhood meeting place for more than 200 years. The restored, high-trussed 1845 South Market building houses more than 50 specialty food stalls including cheese vendors, fishmongers, butchers, bakers and pasta makers with lots of action and yelling of prices in silly voices.

Inside the old council chambers upstairs, the St. Lawrence Market Gallery is now the city's exhibition hall, with rotating displays of paintings, photographs, documents, and historical relics. On the opposite side of Front Street, the North Market building houses a farmers' market on Saturday and an antiques market on Sunday. Overlooking the market is the glorious St. Lawrence Hall, which can be seen for blocks. Considered one of Toronto's finest examples of Victorian classicism, the building is topped by a mansard roof and a working, copper-clad clock tower.

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Rogers Centre
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At the base of the CN Tower is sports and entertainment venue, The Rogers Centre (formerly known as the Skydome). Since the name change in 2006, the Centre welcomes over 3.5 million visitors a year. It will celebrate 25 years in 2014.

The Rogers Centre is the home of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, World Series Champions in 1992 and 1993, and the Toronto Argonauts Football Team, who last won the Grey Cup in 2004. It is known as having the world’s first fully retractable roof. The roof opens and closes in 20 minutes and is a fun feature while being at a game or event. The Rogers Centre is the ideal venue for a big stadium concert; some of the biggest names in the business have entertained the masses from The Rolling Stones to Bon Jovi. To learn more about the Rogers Centre, you can experience a one hour fully guided behind-the-scenes tour. Highlights include a visit to different levels, a press box and a luxury suite among other stops.

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Fort York National Historic Site
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Fort York is one of Canada’s most important and earliest historic sites and was in use between the 1790s and 1880s. The military fortifications consisting of stone and wood barracks, powder magazines and officers’ quarters were put in place by the British Army and Canadian militia troops as the primary harbor defense of the city of York, Toronto’s old name and back then the capital of Upper Canada. It guarded the entrance to Toronto Harbour and Fort York saw action three times, the most notable of these battles being the Battle of York in 1813, when the invading U.S. Army destroyed the fort and the retreating British soldiers blew up the powder magazines, killing hundreds. Of course, the British government was not pleased by the defeat and subsequent ransacking of York and this event spurred the much better known British invasion of Washington D.C. a year later, which resulted in the burning of Congress and the White House.

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Toronto Islands
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A quick ferry ride from the city center, the Toronto Islands are chain of small islands that offer a pleasant respite from the bustling city. Come here to soak up the sun, laze on the beaches, or take a peaceful bike ride. One of the most popular Toronto Islands is Centreville, which is a favorite for visitors. The island includes a children's amusement park, tiny shops on a turn-of-the-20th-century Main Street, and the Far Enough Farm, where the kids can pet lambs, chicks, and other barnyard animals. Kids will love riding the old-fashioned carousel and the miniature railway. The other popular islands, more residential than Centreville, are Ward’s Island, Algonquin (Sunfish Island), and Olympic. The Toronto Islands have several swimming beaches, including Centre Island Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan's Point Beach and Ward's Island Beach. The Islands also host a number of events, including the Olympic Island Festival, an annual rock concert.
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Hockey Hall of Fame
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Hockey is akin to a religion in Canada and its shrine is The Hockey Hall of Fame, located at the foot of Front and Yonge near the Financial District in downtown Toronto.

The Hockey Hall of Fame offers something for fans and non-fans alike: the finest collection of hockey artifacts at all levels of play from around the world; interactive games that challenge shooting and goalkeeping skills; themed exhibits dedicated to the game’s greatest players, teams and achievements; multimedia stations; theaters; larger-than-life statues; a replica NHL dressing room; an unrivaled selection of hockey-related merchandise and memorabilia; and NHL trophies. The piece de resistance, of course, is hands-on access to The STANLEY CUP. A new addition to the Hall of Fame is to view The Clarkson Cup, awarded annually to the team that wins the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) championship. Donated in 2013, it is named after former Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson.

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Toronto City Hall
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The New City Hall is one of Toronto’s most characteristic landmarks. Overlooking the busy Queen Street West in downtown Toronto, the New City Hall is nicknamed “the eye of the government” because of its shape on a plan view. The building’s easily identifiable dual curved and almost identical towers surround a council chamber that is mounted on a raised platform, a creation of Finnish architects Viljo Revell, Heikki Castrén, Bengt Lundsten, and Seppo Valjus, as well as landscape architect Richard Strong, who designed the building after an international architectural competition that yielded submissions from 42 countries in 1958. Part of the competition also included the Nathan Phillips Square below, which is now home to overheard walkways, a reflecting pool, and large concrete arches – it remains one of Toronto’s main gathering places, and New Year’s Eve celebrations are held there every year.

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Casa Loma
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Literally the “House on a Hill,” Casa Loma - a mock medieval castle with Elizabethan-style chimneys, Rhineland turrets, secret passageways, and an underground tunnel - towers above midtown Toronto on a cliff. A walk through the sumptuous interior of this eccentric 98-room mansion is a trip back in time.

Inside, you can wander through the majestic Great Hall, marveling at its 59 foot (18 meter) high hammer-beam ceiling, while in the Oak Room the stately paneling took three years for artisans to create. Elegant bronze doors open up into the Conservatory, which is lit by an Italian chandelier with electrical bunches of grapes. Rugs feature the same patterns as those at Windsor castle. The original kitchen had ovens big enough to cook an ox, and secret panels and tunnels abound. The stables were used by the Canadian government for secret WWII research into anti-U-boat technology.

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More Things to Do in Toronto

Scotiabank Arena (Air Canada Centre)

Scotiabank Arena (Air Canada Centre)

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Well known as the ACC, The Air Canada Centre is home of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). Some of the art deco facade on the outskirts of the arena pays homage to the building’s history previously occupied by Canada Post’s Toronto Postal Delivery Building.

Since its inception in 1999, the outlying area of the ACC has developed into Maple Leaf Square, with the Le Germain hotel and condominiums as well as a number of restaurants, supermarkets and office buildings in the vicinity. The ACC is a premier concert and event venue. The Tragically Hip played ACC’s first concert and other bands like Bon Jovi, U2, The Police and Rush have played up to 4 or 5 concerts in one tour at the ACC.

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Humber Bay Park

Humber Bay Park

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Humber Bay Park consists of two man-made peninsulas, that jut out at the mouth of Mimico Creek just before it joins Lake Ontario. Humber Bay Park East is a great place to go animal watching, as a large number of cormorants, geese, herons, swans and ducks congregate here. Also frequently seen are Great Egrets and Red-Tailed Hawks, and you might even spot a turtle basking in the sun on a nice day. Most people combine this with a walk on the many trails that either lead along the shore of the lake or through the greenery of the park. Along the shore, you will find two sandy beaches and if you are a photographer, Humber Bay Park is also a great spot to see the spectacular Toronto Skyline with the CN Tower rising up in the midst of the skyscrapers. The two peninsulas are connected by a small pedestrian bridge and on the other side at Humber Bay Park East, visitors can find a parking lot and the big marina.

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Toronto High Park

Toronto High Park

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High Park, with its numerous cultural institutions, sports facilities, playgrounds and even a zoo, is the largest park in the Canadian metropolis Toronto and serves as a recreational area for locals and visitors alike. About a third of the park is left in its natural state and is home to both large groups of trees, shrubs, grasses and Canadian flowering plants as well as the many species of birds that are native to the area. High Park is especially beautiful late April and early May, when the Sakura cherry trees around Hillside Garden are in full bloom and spread their wonderful fragrance. The first of these trees that now make up a huge big pink canopy were given to High Park as a present from the citizens of Tokyo, while later on more and more Sakuras got donated by various sources.

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Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

11 Tours and Activities

Opened on October 16, 2013, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, next to the Rogers Centre and the CN Tower. It features a total of has 5.7 million liters of marine and freshwater habitats, including a spectacular and crowd-pleasing walk-through tank. It is organized into nine galleries featuring 16,000 animals from different areas of the world: Canadian Waters, Rainbow Reef, Dangerous Lagoon, Discovery Centre, The Gallery, Ray Bay, Planet Jellies, Life Support Systems and the Shoreline Gallery. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is home to more than 13,500 exotic sea and freshwater specimens from more than 450 species, including octopuses, eels, sharks, stingrays, seahorses, exotic fishes, sea dragons, and many more. It also hosts many unique events for an additional fee, including a Stingray Experience, Friday Night Jazz, sleepovers, yoga, Sea Squirts for children, and photography classes. There is a store and café on-site.

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Bata Shoe Museum

Bata Shoe Museum

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This quirky museum is dedicated to the style and function of footwear in four impressive galleries. With over 10,000 pairs of shoes, displays range from different cultures from China to Egypt and even a collection of 20th century celebrity soles

The museum has three types of exhibitions:

The main exhibitions, which include one semi-permanent and three changing exhibitions in specially-designed galleries, which can go on to become Travelling Exhibitions

'Snapshot' exhibits, on display for one or two weeks and feature five to ten display cases

Online exhibitions

Semi-Permanent exhibitions give you an overview of footwear history such as the All About Shoes flagship display, a voyage through 4500 years of footwear.

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Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre

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One of the most enjoyable activities for both locals and visitors is spending time on the Toronto Harbourfront. It’s a great place to stroll, have a picnic, shop, duck in and out of art galleries, or grab a ferry to the Toronto Islands. Queen’s Quay is usually the first stop for visitors to the Toronto Harbourfront. Ferries to Toronto Islands and harbor boat rides depart from here. At York Quay are a series of galleries including the Photo Passage and the Craft Studio, which runs courses in ceramics, jewelry, glass-blowing, and textiles. Concerts are held at the Toronto Music Garden, the Power Plant is a contemporary art gallery, and the Premiere Dance Theatre host many dance performances. Throughout the summer, especially during the weekends, the Toronto Harbourfront puts on a kaleidoscopic variety of performing arts events at the York Quay Centre; many are aimed at kids, some are free. Performances sometimes take place on the covered outdoor Concert Stage beside the lake.
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Toronto Kensington Market

Toronto Kensington Market

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Kensington Market is a must-see on a visit to Toronto. The lively market is filled with a mix of food stores selling a variety of meats, fish, and produce. If that isn’t enough to make your mouth water, you can browse bakeries, spice and dry goods stores, and cheese shops. It is also home to many restaurants covering a wide variety of styles and ethnicities.

Along with the plethora of food shops in Kensington Market are a wide variety of new and used clothing boutiques plus discount and surplus stores. And just when you need a respite from all the shops, grab a seat in cozy café or stop for a meal in one of the many restaurants. In summer, Kensington Market hosts several car-free Sundays, and a pedestrian mall unfolds on the narrow streets. Live music, dancing, street theatre and games are among the special events on the closed streets.

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Toronto Chinatown

Toronto Chinatown

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One of three Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto area, the area that runs from College just before Queen on Spadina as well as along Dundas, west of Beverly Street ( past the Art Gallery of Ontario) is the largest Chinatown in the city. The two other Chinatowns are located at Gerrard and Broadview in Toronto’s east end and in Mississauga, in the Greater Toronto area. The Chinese community is one of the largest ethnicities in Toronto. According to the 2006 data from Statistics Canada, there were 283,075 Chinese people living in the city; the Chinese population is the second largest visible minority--after South Asian--comprising of 11.4 per cent of Toronto residents.

It is no wonder that Chinatown is one of the most densely concentrated and chaotic areas of Toronto. Whether you’re trying to buy fruit at one of the many markets on a Saturday morning or find a bargain at one of the many shops, you’ll always be surrounded by excitement.

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Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario

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After undergoing an extensive renovation by Toronto-born Frank Gehry, the Art Gallery of Ontario has reopened in a dramatic new building that strikes a dazzling balance between art and architecture, and makes great use of natural light.

The Art Gallery of Ontario holds a staggering 79,000-plus works, as well as a huge photograph collection. Highlights include rare Québécois religious statuary, First Nations and Inuit carvings, and major Canadian works by Emily Carr and the Group of Seven. European art is also well represented with works by Thomas Gainsborough, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte.

The AGO also displays a comprehensive collection of contemporary art in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, projection art, painting, and instillation art. A wide spectrum of exhibitions round out the AGO’s art-filled experience.

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Yonge-Dundas Square

Yonge-Dundas Square

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CF Toronto Eaton Centre

CF Toronto Eaton Centre

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Known as a landmark as well as one of Canada’s most well-known retail centres--with over 200 shops-- it’s hard to miss the Eaton Centre in the heart of Toronto’s downtown core, stretching over two city blocks. Named after the now-defunct Eaton’s department store chain led by Timothy Eaton, the retailer filed for bankruptcy in 1999; Sears acquired all assets, though the Centre still retains its name.

Architecturally, the Centre is known for its flock of Canadian geese, designed by artist Michael Snow, suspended from the centre of a glass-galleria. During the holiday season, a massive Christmas Tree towers in the centre of the mall -- the swarovski crystal decorations have been popular with visitors and shutterbugs. The mall has 7 different restaurants and a modern food court --renovated in 2011--appealing to all tastes. The mall is still undergoing renovations near the Queen entrance yet the Centre remains one of Toronto’s biggest tourist attractions.

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Toronto Harbour

Toronto Harbour

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The Toronto Harbour comprises of a few areas. Running east to west from Jarvis, just south of Queens Quay to lower- Spadina along and south of of Queens Quay is the downtown Harbourfront area. The focal point of the Harbour also known as The Harbourfront is where the Harbourfront Centre, Power Plant art gallery and Queens Quay Terminal are located. At Bay and Queens Quay, the walkway to the ferries ($7 per adult each way) to access the Toronto Islands.

The Harbourfront has transformed over the years due to the proliferation of condo developments and a new population that never existed. It is now become more of a destination due to its revitalization. You can picnic, rent a boat or take a tour over to the Toronto Islands or simply walk along the boardwalk. Key spots to picnic other than the islands are on the man-made beaches, mainly Sugar Beach (named after the Redpath Sugar Factory nearby) and the HtO Park.

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University of Toronto

University of Toronto

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Queen's Park

Queen's Park

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