Toronto is my favourite city in the world, and the one I live in (okay, maybe I’m bias). The city has so much to offer, making it impossible to get bored as a local and also a great destination to visit as a tourist. This list is the eh to Z (see what I did there?) list of some of the top things to do in the city to inspire your next visit!
Arts and culture
Toronto is filled with unique creative spirits and you’ll see this everywhere you go, from the colourful street art murals around the city, to the street performers or great galleries like the Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto is also one of the most multicultural cities in the world, so it’s not rare to find a different ethnic festival every weekend (especially in the summers), or to be walking down the street and step into a different cultural hub like Chinatown or Little Italy.
Every summer (and we even have a few in the winter), Toronto hosts several celebrations to one of Canada’s favourite drinks, beer. Enjoy taste testing Canadian craft beer brands at any of the beer festivals hosted across the city. My favourites are the Steam Whistle Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival (winter and summer) and the Toronto Festival of Beer. You can also try out our beer at one of our many breweries across the city like Steam Whistle, Amsterdam Brewhouse, Bandit, and Bellwoods Brewery (to name only a few).
Cheer on our sports teams
If there is one thing this city is proud of, it’s our sports teams, and although we don’t have a hockey team that regularly wins, there’s no shortage of team pride in this city. Toronto has been known to have one of the most dedicated fan bases, and catching either a baseball, hockey, soccer or basketball game is an experience in itself, even if you’re not a sports fan!
The Distillery District is a historical neighbourhood in the east end of the city which has many boutiques, and restaurants located in old Victorian industrial buildings. It’s a super cool area to explore and is home to some great restaurants including the Mill Street Brewery and the Mexican restaurant with one of the best patios in the city, El Catrin. This neighbourhood is also home to the Toronto Christmas Market throughout November and December.
Going up top Toronto’s CN Tower is already a popular site for out-of-town visitors, but to be honest, I find it a bit lame. However, in the last few years, the CN Tower has upped their game and came out with the Edgewalk. This attraction lets you walk around OUTSIDE the cities tallest attraction. This is the world’s highest, full circle, hands-free walk, and it’s a great activity for adrenaline junkies.
What many people don’t know about Toronto is that we are actually a foodie hot spot (according to Vogue). Being a multicultural city, you can literally find anything you could possibly want to eat, and it won’t just be average, it’ll be authentic and amazing. Visit Little Italy for homemade pastas, or Chinatown for some Asian delicacies. A trip to Toronto isn’t complete unless you leave with a full belly.
Go to the CNE
The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) happens every summer for about two and a half weeks. This is Canada’s largest annual fair and the fifth largest in North America. Many locals remember visiting the CNE as kids, and it’s often a family tradition as it’s been happening since 1879. Come enjoy the several events that happen throughout the two weeks, including the Air Show and concerts, and don’t leave without tasting some of the wacky food creations the food vendors come up with every year like the bacon wrapped grilled cheese photographed above from 2015.
High Park is the city’s largest park that spans 400 acres and is located in the west end of the city. The park includes sporting facilities, a dog park, lovely cherry blossom trees in the spring, and is a great place to go for a walk, bike or a picnic in the park.
Ice skating at Nathan Philips Square
Every winter, Nathan Philips Square (home of the famous big Toronto sign) opens up a skating rink. It opens daily and offers skate rentals for those that don’t have their own, making this the perfect wintery activity. Plus it’s right downtown which means that it’s convenient for just about anyone.
Join the Choir (Choir!Choir!Choir)
Whether you’re a Torontonian or visiting the city, you can join the choir for a night! Choir!Choir!Choir! is a drop-in choir in Toronto that brings together people to Clinton’s Bar to learn a song twice weekly. No commitments! You can come as often as you want, enjoy a pint, and sing your heart out.
One of my favourite places in the city, Kensington Market is a vibrant and one of Toronto’s most well known neighbourhoods. The market is one of the best street markets in North America and as you wander through the brightly painted alleyways, and fun boutique shops and restaurants, you’ll see why. The rich multicultural mix in this neighbourhood brings some of the most diverse, yummy and unique places in the city to one spot.
Lounge in luxury at a pool bar
Although pretending I’m in Vegas isn’t really my thing, pool bars are all the rage among certain groups of party-goers and sun-lovers in Toronto. Thankfully, Toronto has no shortage of them and they can be a great option when you want to escape the, sometimes unbearable, summer heat. One of the more popular ones are at the Thompson Hotel and Cabana Poolbar (for a full list, click here).
Toronto has a lively music scene with several local bands, international acts, popular DJs and something that could literally satisfy any music lover. For indie music lovers, catch live shows at Horseshoe Tavern or Cameron House, and for those looking for the big name acts, head to the Air Canada Centre or Rogers Centre. We even are home to Canadian Music Week, NXNE, and popular EDM festivals like Veld and Digital Dreams. For a full list of where you can catch what, click here.
There really isn’t one thing Toronto does really, really well, instead they aim to be the jack of all trades. The nightlife in Toronto is something that needs to be experienced at least once in your lifetime, and just like everything else on this list, Toronto has aimed to offer something for everyone. You can find ritzy nightclubs, casual pubs, or live music venues (see above) on just about any night of the week. The Drake, Early Mercy, The Ballroom, and Dog & Bear are all popular choices, but for a list and description of everywhere, click here.
This is also on my to-do list as I haven’t actually got a chance to watch a movie outdoors in the city, but there is no shortage of places to do so in the summer months when the weather is nice. Every summer, different venues pop up offering outdoor movies, but you can usually find some at the Harbourfront and Sugar Beach. See the full list of places offering for 2016.
Held at the end of June every year, Toronto Pride Week is a celebration of the LGBT community in Toronto and beyond. The centre of pride happens around Church and Wellesley Village in the east end of the city, but events and parties really happen throughout the entire city for almost the whole month of June. Pride in Toronto has been a celebration for over 30 years and is one that is fun for everyone to come out to!
Queen Street West
Named the world’s second hippest district, Queen Street West is Toronto’s art and design district and one of the most happening streets in the city. This street is said to be a goldmine for fashionistas with the many fabric shops, boutiques, and big box stores. You can of course also find a handful of bustling patios, bars, and restaurants along the street too! Take some time to take a walk down Queen West to really get a feeling for how incredible the city of Toronto is.
Relax at the Beaches
Although Toronto has quite a few spots where you can take a dip and soak in some rays, the Beaches located in the east end is a great option, especially if you don’t feel like making the trip out to Toronto Island. Woodbine Beach is the most popular and you’ll be impressed at how large it actually is for being placed so conveniently in the city. Grab your picnic basket and sunblock and head there for the day!
St. Lawrence Market
Ranked by National Geographic as being the number one food market in the world, St. Lawrence Market has over 120 vendors, merchants, and artisans in their lively market. The market’s history dates back to 1803 and has been a culinary focal point in the city since. Buy fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and ethnic groceries, or try out some of the great food vendors. You can read my recommendations here for where to eat.
An escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s hard to believe you’re even in Toronto when you hop on a short and cheap ($7.50 CDN return) ferry to head over to the islands. Choose between the kid-friendly Centreville, go topless at Hanlan’s Point, or head out to enjoy the day at Ward’s Island. You can also rent bikes, and water sports equipment and bring your own food and alcohol. You’ll find some of the best views of the Toronto skyline here! P.S. if you’re brave, it’s also open in the winter!
Unwind at Allan Gardens
One of the oldest parks in Toronto, Allan Gardens has the typical playground, dog parks, and places to kick back in the grass and relax, but what many people visit is the botanical gardens. You can enter the conservatory for free and see the rare tropical plants from all over the globe covering 16,000 square feet! The garden is over 100 years old and is a great activity to enjoy some nature in the concrete jungle.
Toronto has an endless amount of vintage stores to shop at across the city. Even if you aren’t someone who can pull off the whole vintage look, exploring these shops is a step back in time and can be a lot of fun! Twice a year (spring & fall) you can also find the Vintage Crawl Toronto where several vintage shops across the city stay open late, have different events happening, and have great sales. For a list of some of the best vintage shops, click here or if you want to explore on your own you can find a bunch along Queen Street West and in Kensington Market.
Just because you’re in the city, doesn’t mean you can’t be outdoorsy. During the summer months, rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard or take a tour from the Harbourfront Centre or Toronto Island and see the city from the water.
Xplore graffiti alley (okay, I cheated on this one)
Nothing really starts with “X” does it? Anyway, graffiti alley is located south of Queen Street West from Spadina Avenue to Portland Street. You can easily walk right past graffiti alley because it is in a hidden alleyway that you would only notice if you looked down. I love this spot in the city because there are so many incredible and colourful street art pieces and it is an Instagrammers paradise.
Yonge & Dundas Square
A public square situated at the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street East, Yonge & Dundas Square is really like the Time Square of Toronto. The square is one of the liveliest and busiest places in the city and is home to several events throughout the year which is mostly free and range from film showings to concerts.
Located in Scarborough (just outside the core of Toronto), the Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada and a great activity for people of all ages. The zoo is divided into seven regions (Ex. Africa, Americas, etc.) and has the most diverse collection of animals on display in any zoo (over 5,000, representing 450 species). Ticket prices range from $18 CDN to $28 CDN.
What are some of your favourite things to do in the city? Share them with readers below!