With its proximity to cities like New York, Boston, and Montreal, Toronto is often a layover point or weekend excursion for travelers and business folk alike. If you’ve only got 48 hours to experience the city, here’s a quick guide to what can’t be missed.
Assuming that you’re in town during the warmer months, plan for a long and leisurely first day spent mostly outdoors. You’ll want to energize for the day by taking part in an important Toronto pastime: brunch. There are countless options no matter which neighborhood you find yourself in, but you might want to head over to Queen Street West in particular. This trendy area is home to Toronto brunch and breakfast classics like the Drake and Easy Restaurant, among many others. Fill up on scrambled eggs or huevos rancheros, blueberry scones or pancakes, and then head out for the day to work it all off.
From Queen West, you can walk southeast toward the Harbourfront area, where there’s always something fun and engaging happening during the summer. You might be able to catch the Hot and Spicy Food Festival or a free live classical music show in the beautiful Toronto Music Garden. Or if your interest leans more towards literature, the Word on the Street book festival is on around mid-September. From Harbourfront, you can walk over to the nearby Queens Quay Terminal and take a short, cheap ferry ride over to the Toronto Islands. The Islands offer a refuge from the noise and rush of downtown, as well as great panoramic views of the city’s skyline. Bike, canoe, and kayak rentals are available on the Islands, and if you’ve got kids, you can spend the afternoon among the rides in the Centreville amusement park.
What better way to end a fun-filled day than with some local craft beer? You can head over to the celebrated Distillery District and surround yourself with historic architecture, boutiques, and trendy bars. Here you’ll find Mill Street Brewery, which was East Toronto’s first commercial microbrewery to open in more than 100 years. You can also visit the multi-award-winning Steam Whistle Roundhouse and try Ontario-brewed lagers and beyond. If you’re interested, you can also hit up one of the city’s coolest nightclubs.
After a late night out on the town, you can take this morning easy and grab some more brunch. This time, you can head over to King West, another popular meeting point for Toronto’s favorite meal. There’s the 24-hour Thompson Diner if you want to enjoy your home-style breakfast in a laid-back atmosphere, or the must-try School restaurant with its unique theme. After eating, you can visit the Eaton Centre for a while, which has been called North America’s busiest mall. Featuring over 250 retailers, you can shop to your heart’s content—and don’t forget to pick up some tacky Canadian souvenirs.
After an easy-going morning, it’s time to do something really memorable—visiting the CN Tower. The quintessential Torontonian tourist experience, you won’t just stop at the top. While you’re already up there, why not brace yourself and experience Edgewalk? This attraction is the world’s highest hands-free external walk on a building. And it’s not just any building. The CN Tower is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, standing at 553.2 meters (1,815 feet) tall. As Toronto’s most conspicuous attraction, it remains an enduring symbol of the city. After this breathtaking experience, you can enjoy a meal at the revolving 360 Restaurant.
As the sun goes down on your final day in Toronto, you can head over to Ripley’s Aquarium—conveniently located right at the base of the CN Tower. Here, you can explore 12,500 square meters (135,000 square feet) of interactive underwater exhibits with exotic creatures. The aquarium is home to North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel, with more than 5.7 million liters of water and over 100 interactive demonstrations and exhibits. It’s fun for kids and adults alike. Alternatively, if you’re interested in art and history, you can choose to explore the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum, the two most internationally renowned cultural hubs in Toronto.
Now that you’ve whetted your appetite for all things Toronto, you can plan your next—and longer—visit to the city’s numerous other events and attractions.