Canada’s largest city is defined by being difficult to define. Toronto is one of the most historic places in Canada, yet also its most modern. It is one of the world’s largest cities, yet it is made up of dozens of unique and distinctive neighbourhoods. Bay Street is Canada’s business powerhouse yet Toronto is also the nerve-centre of the country’s creative industries.
Toronto offers visitors an enormous variety of attractions, both mainstream and offbeat, free-spirited and cerebral, chic and relaxed. This is a mere cross-section of the delights travellers will encounter when they book a trip to this cosmopolitan Canadian destination.
Tickle the Tastebuds
Toronto vies with Montreal and Vancouver for the distinction of having the best culinary offerings in Canada, but regardless of who is the rightful owner of that claim to fame, no one can dispute that Toronto has an impressive selection of delicious food to eat. Sample the delights at the historic St. Lawrence Market, book a table at one of the country’s swankiest restaurants, or enjoy stick-to-your ribs fare at one of the city’s more casual institutions – just sit back and enjoy because it’s all good.
Feast the Eyes
Hundreds of opportunities to experience visual and performing arts await travellers in Toronto. Meander along Queen Street West and West Queen West to take in weird and wonderful sights at dozens of boutique galleries and bohemian shops, view the motherlode of visual arts at the Art Gallery of Ontario with its recently expanded space designed by Frank Gehry, or enjoy the fascinating exhibits at the Bata Shoe Museum or Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Then take in a performance by the Canadian Opera Company or the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, or rock out with a show at venerable music venues such as Massey Hall, Lee’s Palace, or the Air Canada Centre.
Connect with the Past
Revel in the distant past at the Royal Ontario Museum where you’ll find dinosaur skeletons, ancient sarcophagi, first-nations artifacts, and other gems from the ROM’s permanent collection alongside a constantly refreshed slate of temporary exhibits in the controversial Crystal designed by Daniel Liebeskind. Tour palatial Casa Loma, visit Old Fort York and experience the War of 1812 brought to life, or immerse yourself in the life of Upper Canada’s settlers at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Boggle the Mind
To put things in perspective, ascend the CN Tower and see the entire city, and then some, all at once from one of the tallest structures on Earth. Stimulate your grey matter with a visit to the Ontario Science Centre or the Design Exchange, or explore the city’s underground art and cinema scene. Expand your horizons and time your visit to coincide with the all-night art crawl that is Nuit Blanche, or Luminato which showcases new ideas through many disciplines such as performing arts, technology, and food.
Toronto is a hive of activity, with a packed calendar of events occurring year round. The city hosts one of the largest Pride festivals on the continent, and the Toronto Caribbean Festival is a raucous week celebrating island culture that culminates in a dazzling parade. The Toronto International Film Festival is a fixture on the world cinema circuit and the city fills with film stars and up-and-coming figures from the film world eager to showcase their latest projects. At any given time there is bound to be a music or film festival of some kind happening in this cultural hub.
Indulge in Retail Therapy
You may want to acquire a few things to take home after your visit to Toronto, and there is no shortage of places to let your inner shopaholic roam free in Toronto. The most famous and consequently touristy option is the Eaton Centre right in the thick of downtown. Upscale shops are concentrated in the Yorkville neighbourhood, and the Yorkdale Shopping Centre is slightly out of the way but is a mecca for fashionistas. For something a little different head east along Queen Street to Leslieville, where you can find funky home decor, browse Kensington Market, or stop by the shop at Harbourfront Centre which promotes the work of local artists and craftspeople.
Stay on the Move
It’s not easy to run out of things to see and do in Toronto, but there are also several places within striking distance that are worthy of a day trip.
Niagara Falls. It’s one of the world’s natural wonders. Need I say more? A visit to the falls can be combined with a jaunt to quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake with its wineries and cafes, or take a theatrical outing to Stratford. Prince Edward County lies east of Toronto and is an emerging destination for gourmands due to the abundance of delectable artisanal goods produced there. To the north is Wasaga Beach, the longest freshwater beach in the world, and one of Ontario’s most popular tourism regions. All of these are worth a visit if you can tear yourself away from the wealth of amazing attractions Toronto has to offer.
About the Author
Stephanie Spencer is a travel writer and blogger.