11 Ultimate Things to Do in Toronto
A patchwork of unique neighborhoods, this multicultural city plays host to a bustling arts scene, stellar restaurants (from mom ‘n’ pop to fine dining), great shopping, and electric nightlife while still maintaining a connection to nature.
Toronto is officially the world’s most multicultural city, as 50% of its almost three million residents were born outside Canada. Visit Toronto for the diverse international cuisine, eclectic art scene, the international film festival, and world-class attractions. There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Toronto, Canada’s biggest and buzziest city. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TORONTO?Toronto comes alive in the summer with waterfront festivals, night markets, and the option to take a “Tiki Taxi” and explore the beaches, visit the amusement park, or hike and bike on the Toronto Islands. But with plenty of indoor museums, art galleries, and even the only full-size castle in a North American city, you’ll find plenty to do indoors in winter too. Stay up to date with provincial rules and COVID-related information for Toronto at Public Health Ontario. Read on to learn what are the top attractions to visit and the best things to do in Toronto.
See the City From the CN Tower
Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, which was the world’s tallest free-standing structure until the completion of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in 2009, is well worth visiting. Ride the glass-bottomed elevator up 1,220 feet to the observation deck where you can gaze out onto the city below and test your acrophobia on a 258-square-foot glass floor (don’t worry about it breaking—it’s been engineered to withstand a weight equivalent to 14 hippos). If “fear of heights” is a foreign concept to you, pony up CAD $195 for the EdgeWalk, where you stroll around on the top of the tower tethered to the structure via a harness. Once you’re back on the ground, take some time to explore the area; some of downtown’s biggest tourist draws, including the Rogers Centre (home of the Blue Jays MLB team), Steam Whistle Brewery, and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, are all right there.
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Take in Incredible Art at Toronto's Museums
From historic theaters, and modern art galleries, to festivals, and events that showcase the country’s creativity, Toronto has it all! First on your list should be a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, which packs in 95,000 pieces from Canada and around the world, including a Ruben masterpiece and works from the famed Canadian landscapers, the Group of Seven. The gallery features pieces from the first century AD all the way to today with a contemporary collection that includes pieces by Dali, Rothko, and Matisse, as well as a permanent exhibition of Indigenous artwork. It has played host to touring exhibitions from the likes of Andy Warhol, Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh. Further south along the waterfront, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, inside the Harbourfront Centre, focuses on recent work by Canadian and international artists. In the Junction neighborhood, you’ll find the newly built Museum of Contemporary Art (or MOCA), a center dedicated to cutting-edge work from Canada and abroad.
John(CC BY-SA 2.0)/WikimediaCommons
Explore Kensington Market
For vintage wares, cute cafes, and independent boutiques, head to the pedestrian-friendly streets in the Kensington Market neighborhood. A robust schedule of festivals, fairs, and special events means there’s always something new and exciting to see on Kensington Avenue. Shop in eclectic stores housed in rainbow-painted Victorian homes (favorites include Sub Rosa, Courage My Love, and Cinderella Vintage), plus adorable Swedish café Fika and taco spot Seven Lives. One street over on Augusta is gift shop Kid Icarus, Indigenous brunch spot Pow Wow Cafe, and bar/live venue Handlebar, to name just a few. To really get a taste of the neighborhood, sign up for the Kensington Market International Toronto Food Tour where you’ll get to sample a Jamaican patty in coco bread and a jumbo Empanada!
Eat Your Way Through St. Lawrence Market
Once home to Toronto’s first city hall and jailhouse, this sprawling indoor market has become one of the city’s must-hit destinations for food lovers, with dozens of vendors offering everything from meats and produce to baked goods, cheeses, condiments, and prepared foods. While you’re there, be sure to grab the market’s signature dish: peameal bacon (what the locals call Canadian bacon) on a bun. On Saturdays, St. Lawrence Market plays host to the city’s largest farmers’ market, and on Sundays, it’s replaced by an antique market.
Courtesy_St. Lawrence Market Complex
Stroll Along Queen West
Vogue named Queen West one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods, and it’s easy to see why. Home to the landmark art hotel, the Drake, a plethora of independent boutiques, some of the city’s trendiest restaurants, pop-up installations, and vibrant street art, don’t miss a stroll here. The eastern portions around the Eaton Centre and City Hall are decidedly more corporate, with plenty of big shopping chains—but the further west you go, the quirkier things get. Check out boutiques like Coal Miner’s Daughter, I Miss You Vintage Inc., or Horses Atelier; then grab a meal at Salad King or Early Bird. Duck into Graffiti Alley and check out murals by local artists or people-watch in Trinity-Bellwoods Park. At night, take in a show at the Horseshoe, the Gladstone Hotel, or the Great Hall, or grab a cocktail at Barchef.
Hang With Dinosaurs at the Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum—the biggest museum in Canada—is a must-visit for history buffs and culture vultures alike. The museum building is a striking presence on Bloor Street, thanks in large part to the shard-like Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition that was built in 2007 (and remains a love-it-or-hate-it piece of architecture among locals). The museum’s collection is broad, ranging from prehistoric creatures—including a T. rex and an 88-foot-long barosaurus—to artifacts from Rome, Greece, and ancient China. It also houses hands-on interactive galleries for families to learn about biodiversity. The museum features special traveling exhibits with more contemporary topics, including shows revolving around horror and sci-fi artwork, the history of tattooing, and an exhibition all about Winne the Pooh.
Set Sail for the Toronto Islands
Located just a scenic 15-minute ferry ride away from downtown, the Islands are an idyllic getaway hidden just off the shoreline of Lake Ontario. The most popular is Centre Island, which is home to beaches, a fountain and gardens, a bike rental station, and the Centreville amusement park geared toward younger visitors. Potentially less family-friendly is Hanlan’s Point, a beach destination with a locally infamous clothing-optional area. Ward’s Island is home to its own beach area as well as the Island Cafe, a homey all-day spot with a big, covered patio.
Eat Your Way Around the Globe
Thanks to Toronto’s massively diverse population, fueled by waves of immigration from all over the world, the city is home to a wealth of global cuisines—everything from Sri Lankan to Salvadorean to Ethiopian. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese food all have a strong foothold here, with plenty of long-running mom-and-pop restaurants, trendy food chains, hole-in-the-wall joints, and extravagant multi-plate tasting menus. Some top picks include the plant-based Avelo Restaurant on Nicholas Street, Canoe Restaurant and Bar for great views of the city or the elegant Richmond Station. Be sure to sample some traditional inspired Indigenous dishes at spots like NishDish and Pow Wow Cafe. If you get the chance, pop by Market 707 on Dundas Square, a street food market where all the vendors are housed within shipping containers offering a global mix of cuisine.
Alex Nirta/Tourism Toronto
Soak in the City’s Film Scene During Toronto International Film Festival
If you’re a film buff, you’re likely already familiar with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which takes over Toronto every September and rivals Cannes for Hollywood star power. A number of hotly anticipated movies make their debut here, with stars and directors flying in to walk the red carpet and appear for panels and Q&As. The action isn’t over once the stars leave town; the film festival’s main hub, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, hosts special screenings year-round. Meanwhile, Hot Docs, North America’s biggest documentary festival, lands in May, as does queer film fest Inside Out which runs until the first week in June—and horror buffs won’t want to miss Toronto After Dark in October.
Jesse Milns/Tourism Toronto
Tour the Distillery District
Sure, it’s touristy, but you can’t beat this historic district, located just southeast of the downtown core, for old-world atmosphere. Once the site of the world’s largest whiskey distillery, this cobblestone-paved neighborhood still oozes Victorian industrial character—in fact, it’s served as a stand-in for old-timey London or New York in plenty of movies and TV shows. The streets are lined with shops and cafés; hunt for statement shoes at Canadian brand John Fluevog or dapper special-occasion looks at Gotstyle; grab a coffee at the stunning two-floor Balzac’s, and pick up artisanal chocolate at Soma. The Distillery also hosts Segway tours and is the site of a massively popular holiday market.
Things to Do in Toronto With Kids
Toronto is an incredibly family-friendly city with so many attractions aimed at kids of all ages. Hockey fans should head to the Hockey Hall of Fame to see artifacts dating back to the invention of the game and a chance to see NHL trophies and the Stanley Cup up close.
Venture under the sea to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and marvel at life below the waves. For a museum with a difference, older kids especially will enjoy a visit to the Museum of Illusion, here you’ll enter a visual and sensory playroom where nothing is quite as it seems. Casa Loma is the only full-sized castle in a North American city and is well worth exploring.
Take a drive out of the city to nearby Vaughan and enjoy a day out at the Legoland Discovery Centre, full of rides, games, interactive stations, and where you can see a miniature version of Toronto’s famous skyline, called MINILAND®, created from half a million Lego bricks!