Toronto is the largest city in Canada, with nearly three million residents living in this eclectic city on the norther shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto was initially established as a French trading post and eventually became the capital of the Canadian province of Ontario.
Less than two hours from Buffalo, New York and under four hours from Detroit, Michigan, Toronto is a popular destination for Americans taking a long weekend away, especially when the exchange rate favors the American dollar. Toronto has a robust public transportation system, with a network of subways, streetcars and buses to get you around the city. With so many things to do in Toronto, it can be hard to decide, so we’ve rounded up some of the top Toronto attractions.
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The CN Tower is the focal point of the Toronto skyline and at 550 meters high was the world’s tallest freestanding structure until 2007 when Asia started building super-skyscrapers. Originally built as a communications tower, the CN Tower is open to visitors who seek panoramic views of Toronto.
You can visit the observation deck, enjoy a meal at 360 Restaurant, or for the particularly adventurous there is the Edgewalk, a tethered walk along the outer edge of the tower, 356 meters above the ground. Don’t forget your wallet, as the Edgewalk experiences costs $225 CAD as of 2018.
St. Lawrence Market
Toronto visitors looking to pack a picnic lunch or just sample from many food stalls should head to St. Lawrence Market, a farmers market / specialty food hall with an ongoing calendar of special events. Every Saturday, farmers converge on the market as they’ve done for 200 years, bringing meat, cheese and produce. In addition to food, you can find artist’s selling crafts, accessories and souvenirs, and cooking classes are sometimes offered.
Kensington Market is Toronto’s bohemian neighborhood where hipsters like to hang out. In 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada, thanks to the history of numerous waves of immigration since the early 1900’s, which made it the multicultural hub of Toronto. Today, the neighborhood has trendy bars, international cuisine indie shops and vintage boutiques.
The Distillery District originally housed a large whiskey distillery and today is a pedestrian-only area with restaurants, bars and boutiques lining the 19th century cobblestone streets. The area also has several art galleries, outdoor sculptures and live dance and musical performances. In December, this is where you’ll find the Toronto Christmas market.
Yorkville is Toronto’s upscale shopping district and also where many of Toronto’s best hotels are located. Alongside five-star hotels, you’ll find gourmet restaurants of many cuisines, as well as Victorian homes. Tucked in between designer stores are art galleries featuring local art, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Bata Shoe Museum, the world’s largest collection of shoes. For breathtaking city views, grab a drink at the Roof Lounge of the Park Hyatt hotel.
Toronto Eaton Centre
From the outside, Toronto Eaton Centre looks as if it belongs in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, with its large neon signs. Inside is one of Canada’s largest shopping malls, which draws almost 50 million visitors per year to it’s 250 retail shops.
Anchored by Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, the mall also has at least a dozen places to grab a bite to eat, from fast food to sushi, crepes and gelato. Parking at Eaton Centre can be expensive, so it’s best to arrive by taxi, Uber or public transportation.
Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum is the largest and most visited museum in Canada, which is reason enough to pay a visit! The museum has over six million items housed in 40 galleries, including Natural History galleries, fossils and evolution, World Culture galleries and hands-on galleries with special exhibits for young visitors to the Royal Ontario Museum.
The museum also features temporary and special exhibits, such as Spiders: Fear and Fascination in the summer of 2018, so even if you’ve visited before, you’re bound to find something new when you return!
Art Gallery of Ontario
The Art Gallery of Ontario is a major art museum in Toronto, housing more than 90,000 pieces of art from the first century to today. The building itself was redesigned by world-famous architect Frank Gehry, who was born in Toronto.
The museum has iconic pieces of Canadian and Inuit art, as well as European and contemporary pieces. The gallery’s restaurant, FRANK, is award-winning and the gift shop has many unique items for purchase.
Casa Loma, Spanish for “Hill House” is a Gothic Revival mansion built for a local financier in 1911. Today, it is a historic museum and landmark of Toronto. Visitors can tour secret passageways, rooms furnished with authentic period furnishings and take in the five acres of outdoor gardens filled with sculptures, fountains and flowers.
There is also a cafe and gift shop on site. Special events include holiday brunches and a seasonal haunted house and gardens in October leading up to Halloween.
Harbourfront Centre is a non-profit cultural organization that provides arts, culture, education and recreation programming along Toronto’s waterfront area. There are ongoing craft and design workshops including glass-blowing, jewelry-making, pottery and textiles. Outdoors, you’ll find a skating rink, concert stage, gardens and ponds, plus several options for eating and drinking. This is also where you can grab a water taxi for a different view of Toronto.
TIFF Bell Lightbox
The TIFF Bell Lightbox is the heart of the Toronto International Film Festival, held each September, occupying an entire city block in downtown Toronto. The building houses five cinemas, a film reference library, restaurants, a gift shop and rooftop terrace. There are also galleries in the Lightbox, with exhibits often tying in to current movie screenings at the cinema.
While technically not in Toronto, Niagara Falls is an easy day trip from Toronto. Of course, if you have time, you should plan an overnight visit to see the falls at night, but if you’re short on time, Niagara Falls is only 90 minutes by car. Once there, the best way to experience the falls is to take a boat trip below the falls on a Hornblower Boat Tour. You can also cross over to the American side as the falls are different in Canada and America.
Aside from the falls, this area has lots to offer, from cheesy tourist attractions like mini-golf and gambling to dozens of wineries in the Niagara wine region. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charming historical town that offers a more sophisticated experience than Niagara Falls.
Toronto Island Park
Toronto Island Park is actually a chain of 15 islands in Lake Ontario that form Toronto’s largest downtown park, just a 15-minute ferry ride from from downtown. There are paths and bridges connecting the islands, so you can walk from one end to the other, for a nice, 5km urban hike. The island has three beaches, including clothing optional Hanlan’s Point Beach. There are changing rooms, lockers, and stand-up paddleboarding on the lagoon of Ward’s Island. Visitors to Toronto Island Park can rent bicycles, canoes or kayaks, and join a walking tour led by island residents.
There are several restaurants on the island when you get hungry. Centre Island is a popular destination in the park, best known for Centreville theme park, with more than 30 rides and attractions, Franklin Children’s Garden, a playground and splash pad, and a petting zoo. There is also a cherry blossom orchard, which blooms each spring.
The Beaches is a waterfront neighborhood comprised of four beaches: Balmy, Scaroboro, Kew and Woodbine. Woodbine Beach is the largest of the four, with a boardwalk running along the beach, and beach volleyball courts that fill up quickly on the weekends. At Kew Gardens, you’ll find tennis courts, baseball fields, a skating rink and wading pool.
Even if you’re not into the beaches, this neighborhood is worth a visit, just to experience the laid-back beach vibe and the main street, Queen East, which is lined with cute boutiques and trendy cafes. In July, you can catch the Beaches International Jazz Festival, which brings nearly 1,000 artists to perform over a 10-day period.
Sports fans will have plenty of options to choose from in Toronto. Baseball fans can catch a Toronto Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre, while the Air Canada Centre is home to the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and the Toronto Raptors basketball team. The Hockey Hall of Fame is also located in Toronto, and is both a museum and a hall of fame. Players, builders and on-ice officials are inducted into the Hall of Fame each November, followed by a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibition game.
Recommended tours in Toronto
- Niagara Falls Day Trip from Toronto
- Niagara Falls Evening Lights Day Trip from Toronto
- Ultimate Toronto Tour
- Small-Group Toronto Beer Tour
- 30-Minute Distillery District Segway Tour in Toronto
- Hockey Hall of Fame Admission
- Skip the Line Royal Ontario Museum Ticket
- City Sightseeing Toronto Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Toronto Islands Morning Bike Tour
- Luxury Private Tour of Niagara Falls from Toronto
- 14-Minute Helicopter Tour Over Toronto