Torontonians love their city, and they have a lot to celebrate. As the largest metropolis in Canada, Toronto is also one of the most multicultural cities in the world. From dynamic districts to natural wonders, historical sites and museums to malls and amusement parks, this city has certainly got a little something for everyone.
Experience Toronto from dizzying heights! Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the CN Tower stands at 553.2 meters (1,815 feet) tall and is the city’s most prominent attraction and remains an enduring symbol of the city. You can enjoy the cityscape and the view of Lake Ontario and beyond from the LookOut Level at 346 meters (1,136 feet), walk across the Glass Floor and outdoor SkyTerrace at 342 meters (1,122 feet), and check out the views from the very peak, the SkyPod, at 447 meters (1,465 feet) above the city. You can also eat at the 360 Restaurant, with its incredible revolving views of Toronto. The CN Tower experience now includes EdgeWalk, a thrilling hands-free “stroll” around the circumference of the tower – the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk.
Conveniently located at the bottom of the CN Tower in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is home to 16,000 of the city’s most beautiful and exotic inhabitants. With over 12,500 square meters (135,000 square feet) of interactive underwater exhibits, the aquarium features North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel with more than 5.7 million liters of water and over 100 interactive demonstrations and exhibits. Acquaint yourself with giant lobsters, jellyfish, sharks, stingrays and wildly colorful fish from fresh and salt waters around the world – and get up close with the Touch Tank gallery.
The Hockey Hall of Fame boasts the most extensive collection of hockey gear and memorabilia from around the globe and features interactive games, multimedia stations and exhibits on the game’s most iconic players. You can even take a selfie with the Stanley Cup, one of the most coveted prizes in professional sports. Or you can lace up and give Canada’s beloved sport a try yourself at one of the more than 50 outdoor ice rinks that open across the city during the winter, including Nathan Philips Square – the quintessential skating spot for generations of Torontonians.
Listed as a National Historic Site, the Distillery Historic District is one of Toronto’s most picturesque neighborhoods. With cobblestone lanes and Victorian-style shops and buildings, the site was founded as the city’s first distillery in the 1830s. Redeveloped in the early 2000s, the district now features high-end boutique shops, art galleries and studios, and restaurants. Located in the Old Toronto area, you can stroll the laneways and courtyards during the warmer months, or visit the lovely Toronto Christmas Market through December.
Built as a private residence in 1914 by Canadian businessman Sir Henry Pellatt, Toronto’s Casa Loma – Spanish for “House on the Hill” – attracts visitors from around the world with its lush gardens and elegant rooms, secret passageways, and buildings. It also hosts special events like escape games, concerts in the garden, and even creepy events for Halloween. For more of Toronto’s elegant historic residences, you can check out the nearby Spadina Historic House & Gardens.
The Royal Ontario Museum is Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history, and one of the largest museums in North America. Attracting over one million visitors every year, the ROM features extensive art galleries and exhibits of archaeology and natural science that hold over six million items. Also in the area are the Gardiner Museum for historical and contemporary ceramics and the unique Bata Shoe Museum – both just a few minutes away.
Making an excursion to the Toronto Islands is a unique summer experience. Located about one kilometre (.6 miles) offshore, the short ferry trip from Queen’s Quay Terminal offers a prime view of the city’s skyline. With multiple islands to explore, you can spend an entire day wandering trails and beaches, enjoying picnic areas and sports facilities, and taking advantage of canoe and kayak rentals. After exploring the islands by foot or bike, families can also enjoy Centreville Theme Park, with over 30 fun-filled rides. The islands also host a number of open-air events.
Set in the Old Town district of Toronto, the historic St. Lawrence Market hosts over 120 vendors selling a wide variety of food, souvenirs, flowers, and specialty items. There are also weekly farmers’ and antique markets, as well as art exhibits and cooking classes. As a testament to its 208-year history as a culinary focal point of Toronto, St. Lawrence Market was even named one the world’s best food markets by National Geographic in 2012.
Located in the downtown core, the Toronto Eaton Centre is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and is North America’s busiest mall. The Eaton Centre has a long history as a key feature in Toronto’s retail landscape, and nowadays, it is home to over 250 retailers – fulfilling anyone’s retail therapy cravings. After an afternoon of shopping, you can rest at one of the Eaton Centre’s seven dine-in restaurants, or grab a bite in the Urban Eatery.
One of Toronto’s most distinctive neighborhoods, Kensington Market is brimming with eclectic shops, cafés, restaurants, and other attractions. With a diverse legacy that embeds the area in Toronto’s Jewish, working-class, and counterculture histories, Kensington has evolved into a hub of Toronto’s cultural life as artists and writers move through the area. Though becoming increasingly gentrified, Kensington Market was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2006. While you’re there, you can also stroll a couple of blocks east over to Chinatown along Spadina Avenue and get to know another one of Toronto’s must-see downtown neighborhoods.
Home to over 5,000 animals, the Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada. With award-winning exhibits representing species from the African Savanna to the Tundra Trek, the Gorilla Rainforest to the Great Barrier Reef – and much more – you can come face-to-face with creatures from all over the globe. One of the major attractions is the Giant Panda Experience, hosting Canada’s only panda cubs, which opened in 2013.
The renowned Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest galleries in North America. Located in the downtown area, the AGO’s collections includes over 80,000 works that range from the first century to the present day. Highlights include the collections of Canadian, African and Oceanic, and European art, which incorporate sculpture, photography, mixed media work, and traditional painting. The museum also holds a particularly impressive permanent collection of First Nations objects and Canadian paintings, including the infamous Group of Seven.
High Park is a vast green oasis just west of Toronto’s centre. With picturesque gardens, nature trails, natural ponds, and streams, the 165-acre country property offers a place to retreat from the rush of the city. There is also a small zoo, swimming and wading pools, playgrounds and picnic areas. Major draws include the springtime blossoming of Sakura cherry trees and the annual summer Shakespeare in the Park open-air theatre production by the Canadian Stage Company.
Overlooking the Don Valley about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northeast of Toronto, the Ontario Science Centre offers engaging and interactive exhibits for families. From the hair-raising electrical ball to the steamy Rain Forest simulation, visitors can enjoy firsthand discoveries with recent technological innovations, telecommunications, optics, biology, physics, space travel, and meteorology, and more. Also, check out the on-site IMAX® Dome Films experience.
Located in Toronto’s east-end district, the Scarborough Bluffs form an escarpment at the edge of Lake Ontario. Composed of nine parks that cover much of the eastern area of Toronto’s urban waterfront, the Bluffs offers stunning views of the city, the lake, and beyond. At its highest peak, the escarpment reaches 90 meters (300 feet) above the coastline and extends around 15 kilometers (9.3 miles). The area offers hiking and biking paths, picnic areas, a restaurant, and a boating club.
Situated just north of Toronto, Black Creek Pioneer Village offers an open-air historical immersion experience for visitors of all ages. Especially popular with children, the site recreates village life in 19th-century Ontario, offering reenactments, visiting artisans, and historical interpreters through over 40 19th-century buildings – including a general store, a water-powered grist mill, various trades buildings, a church, and a one-room schoolhouse.
For history buffs, Fort York offers the most historic site in Toronto. First established in 1793, this series of military fortifications protected the city from the late 18th century through to the end of World War II. Today, visitors can tour the quarters of soldiers and officers, watch military drill re-enactments, and participate in flag raisings and seasonal demonstrations. The site displays Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings and an 1813 battle site. Located on the western end of the Harbourfront district, Fort York is open year-round.
Established in 1858, Allen Gardens is one of the oldest parks in Toronto. The area incorporates six interconnected greenhouses, a playground, and off-leash areas for dogs. The greenhouses – which cover a total of 16,000 square feet (1,486 square meters) – hold rare tropical plants from all over the world. An array of colorful seasonal plants complements the permanent plant collection that is open year-round to the public and free to visit.
Canada’s Wonderland is an amusement park located in Vaughan, just outside of Toronto. Established in 1981 as the first major amusement park in Canada, it boasts 70 rides and the 20-acre Splash Works water park, making it the largest in the country. Legendary rides include the Behemoth, Vortex, Leviathan (Canada’s longest wooden coaster) and Flight Deck (the country’s first inverted coaster).
Although it’s a 90-minute drive from the city itself, this natural wonder of the world is a must-see. Almost 750,000 gallons of water per second churn over the cliff, and you can watch from the top, or get right up close on the Maid of the Mist. You can also venture into the falls themselves with the Journey Behind the Falls – which involves heading down 38 metres (124.6 feet) in a lift to stand next to the thick curtain of water. There are even helicopter tours of the area.