Toronto, a thriving and magical city that resides on the shore of Lake Ontario, is a top destination in North America that brings in travelers from all over the world. This melting-pot booms with shops, nightlife and a restaurant scene that will satisfy any food lover’s appetite. With an endless list of possibilities, here are 13 options that no visitor should miss.
Walk the Kensington Market
On the outskirts of Chinatown lies the Kensington Market, a multicultural neighborhood featuring rows of vibrantly colored Victorian-style homes that have been converted into an outdoor market. Originally used to house immigrant workers in the 1800s, this area has seen a huge influx of artists and writers in the last decade. It now represents Toronto’s counterculture, and deters the mainstream by keeping big names and brands out of the neighborhood. Appealing to vintage-lovers and foodies alike, the Kensington Market is like a cross between Disneyland and a scene from ‘Alice and Wonderland.’ Spend a couple of hours inside Sanagan’s Meat Locker or shop for some second-hand gear. If you’re hankering for novel culinary adventures, this is the spot for you. As a pioneer in the city’s ethnic street-food scene, you can find anything from Venezuelan arepas to Jamaican pasta.
Sanagan’s Meat Locker, 176 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 593 9747
Go to the Top of the CN Tower
The CN Tower is Toronto’s iconic structure, visible in almost every photo of the city. While it is mesmerizing to look at from below, it is a must for any tourist to see the view from inside. Head to the very top floor, the SkyPod, and revel in the 447m (1,465 ft.) vantage point. Go on a clear day for a picturesque cityscape or switch it up and do the night version. For all the daredevils out there, try the Edgewalk, a harnessed walk around the circumference of the building (available during the warmer months).
CN Tower, 301 Front St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 868 6937
Experience the Cultural Diversity: Little Italy, Chinatown, Greektown, Little India
Toronto is far from lacking in ethnic diversity. With a neighborhood to represent almost any culture, visitors can experience a wide swath of ethnic food and activities. Head to the famous Cafè Diplomatico in Little Italy for an espresso or pitcher of sangria while sitting on the outdoor patio, or meander along the blue-and-white flag-lined streets of Greektown, stopping for a gyro along the way. And don’t forget to stay updated on the summer festivals!
Check Out the Distillery District
The Distillery District, just east of downtown, is a historic area lined with Victorian architecture, boutique shops, small cafés, restaurants and coffeehouses. Once home to the largest distillery in the world, it is now a hustling and bustling neighborhood filled with culture, art and music. Visit an art gallery, have a pint at Mill Street Brewery and walk the brick-lined streets meant for pedestrians and cyclists alone. Stay through the evening and see the district come to life.
Mill St. Brew Pub, 21 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 681 0338
Plan to Attend a Festival or Event
With a bone-chilling winter that lasts for months, the first sign of warm weather in Toronto marks the beginning of festivals and outdoor events. The locals quickly break out their tank tops and short shorts, ready to let loose. There is something going on every week of the summer, but here are a few to watch out for:
North by Northeast (NXNE), June 15-19, 2016
Pride Toronto, June 24 – July 3, 2016
Caribana Toronto, July 28 – July 31, 2016
Toronto International Film Festival, September 8-18, 2016
Try the Peameal Bacon Sandwich at Carousel Bakery
The St. Lawrence Market is made up of two buildings: the North, for farmer’s markets and antique shows, and the South, which is filled with butchers, fish mongers and cheese shops. Skip the grocery shopping and head straight to Carousel Bakery. If you’re new to the city, get the Peameal Bacon Sandwich. A Torontonian staple, the sandwich is made with thick slabs of salty pork loin sliced and stacked on top of a Kaiser bun and slathered in mustard. Hello, bacon heaven!
St. Lawrence Market, 92-95 Front Street East, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 392 7219
Have a Bucket o’ Poutine
With the rise in popularity of gastropubs and gourmet bar food, poutine, the newest craze, is popping up on menus all over North America. Originating in rural Québec, a French-speaking province in eastern Canada, this mound of fries smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds is a fast-food staple, though many are coming up with creative gourmet additions like seared foie gras and grated black truffle. First-timers and long-time poutine-enthusiasts alike should stop by Poutini’s House of Poutine for a bucket of the cheesy, melty goodness.
Poutini’s House of Poutine, 1112 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 342 3732
Try The Late-Night Street Meat
The hot dog carts that line the streets of the city are a must-have after a long night of drinking. Pick any cart for a quick grab-and-go ‘street meat’ encounter loaded with toppings. If you’re looking for a more elevated experience, head to WVRST, a gourmet sausage shop and beer hall off King Street West in the Entertainment District. Pick a wild combination like the bison with blueberry and maple, or keep it simple with one of the more traditional sausages. Don’t forget to indulge in the duck fat fries, a house-made dipping sauce and a couple of pints.
WVRST, 609 King St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 703 7775
Take a Stroll Down King Street West
King West Village, Toronto’s ‘SoHo,’ is a chic and trendy area known for its artsy culture, intense energy and industrial-style architecture. It’s received a stylish makeover over the past decade, and is now filled with art and music studios, an eclectic foodie scene, and is the perfect spot for bar hopping. If you’re looking for entertainment, this is the place for you. Shop ’til you drop, pop into one of the many top-rated restaurants and end the evening with one (or three) craft cocktails at Weslodge Saloon. Try the Orange-Spiced Old Fashioned, an interesting spin on an old-school classic.
Weslodge Saloon, 480 King St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 660 0999
Venture Over to Toronto Island
Toronto is beautiful in the winter, but it’s best taken advantage of during the warmer months. Spring and summer are prime time for a trip to the Toronto Islands. This small chain of islands lies just across the water from the city and is easy to get to by ferry. (Note: it’s a car-free area, so walking shoes are essential.) If you’re not ready to put foot to pavement, take advantage of Bike Share Toronto and cycle on over to Ward’s Island Beach or head down the trails through Toronto Island Park.
Taste Some Wine and See Niagara Falls
If you have access to a car and some extra time, take the hour-long drive outside the city to Niagara, home to some of the best wineries in Canada and to the glorious natural wonder that is Niagara Falls. Be sure to try Canada’s ice wine and end the day marveling at the massive falls, the largest by volume in the world. Once dark hits, the falls are illuminated in every color of the rainbow — a sight that should not be missed.
Go to A Sports Game
During the winter, seeing a live Toronto Maple Leafs game should be first on the itinerary. Act like a local and head to Air Canada Centre, where you can watch two men go head-to-head in a gloves-off fist-fight while guzzling down a liter of Molson Canadian, the nation’s Budweiser. Come spring, move it to the Rogers Centre (aka the Skydome), and see the Blue Jays. Not into sports? Not to worry! This open-air venue is also used for concerts, hosting some of the world’s most popular musicians.
Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 341 1000
Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 815 5500
Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame
Hockey, while steadily gaining traction in the states, is what defines Canada. To get fully enveloped in this city’s culture, the Hockey Hall of Fame should be on your Toronto bucket list. Housed in the former Bank of Montreal, this historical building acts as an interactive museum filled with memorabilia, games and theaters. See a film, take a look at exhibitions on some of the best players in the NHL or stand in wonder at the Stanley Cup on display.
Hockey Hall of Fame, 30 Yonge St, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416-360-7765
By Alexia Wulff