Need a weekend away? Why not spend it in fun and exciting Toronto? In this ultimate weekend guide, we provide you with the top things to do in Toronto as well as other tips to ensure you have the best weekend getaway.
Visiting the CN Tower is something you simply must do while visiting Toronto. The iconic structure has been a part of the Toronto skyline since 1975 and is the tallest tower in the western hemisphere. Once inside and on the way to the elevator, you’ll pass placards and memorabilia that tell the history and story of the tower. Inside the elevator, hold on tight! Not only do they travel at 15 miles (22 kilometres) per hour, they also have glass panels in a portion of each elevator floor so you can see the ground get further away as you zoom to the top. If that wasn’t enough, once you’re on the LookOut Level you can walk over to the Glass Floor area (first in the world when it opened in 1994) and look 1,122 ft (342 m) straight down. There’s also an observation deck, restaurant, and Outdoor SkyTerrace. We were pretty happy to experience another glass floor, since we’d already been to the one in Chicago and really enjoyed the views from the observation deck. If you can, plan your visit to be around dusk for some amazing sunset views.
This is one of the top things to do in Toronto with kids, but we guarantee you’ll enjoy this aquarium even if you don’t have kids. We like to visit zoos and aquariums every time we’re in a new city, so to see animals we’d never seen before and learn new things about different habitats was pretty impressive. There were giant tanks filled with all kinds of creatures (we managed to spot Nemo and Dory swimming together) and also an underwater tunnel that allows you to see stingrays and sharks up close. In the Discovery Centre, everyone has a chance to touch horseshoe crabs and bamboo sharks in the touch pool. Another thing that we really liked about the aquarium is that it stays open pretty late. This allows you to see other “must-sees” on your list that might close earlier, before heading over to the aquarium.
Heralded as North America’s only full-sized castle, Casa Loma (Spanish for “Hill House”) will transport you back in time. This home was completed in 1914 and has 98 rooms, secret passages, towers, gardens, stables, a pool, and even a bowling alley! The history of the castle is quite interesting because it only served as a private home for about 10 years. Since then it has been a luxury hotel, a secret location for construction of sonar equipment during World War II, and now a popular tourist attraction. A lot of movies and television shows have been filmed here as well (including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). We really enjoyed going through all of the rooms and seeing the elaborately decorated suites and living areas. You can even climb up a tower and get great views of Toronto.
This square is definitely a fun place to hang out and people watch. There’s always something going on at Nathan Phillips Square, like concerts, farmers markets, exhibits, and during the winter months, the reflecting pool is turned into an ice skating rink. It’s also the home of the Toronto sign. It was installed in 2015 for the Pan American Games but became so popular with both locals and tourists that the city of Toronto decided to keep it there permanently.
With the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a pretty fun place to check out. The Hall of Fame also has a 3D hockey film, interactive games where you can go head to head with life-size animated versions of today’s top goalies, and is home to all major NHL trophies. What we enjoyed the most was actually getting to see and touch the Stanley Cup. We’ve gone to a few hockey games in Florida, Texas, and Colorado, but I wouldn’t say we are huge hockey fans. But still, we can appreciate what a big deal the Stanley Cup is so we were pretty happy that we got to spend some up close and personal time with it.
If you really want to feel the buzz and energy of Toronto, then head over to Downtown Yonge (pronounced like “young”). Here you’ll find Yonge-Dundas Square, or Dundas Square, where there is always something going on. It’s very much like Time Square in New York City. Across the street you’ll find the Toronto Eaton Centre, a large mall known for its many stores, restaurants, and glass ceiling. Even if you’re not there to shop, take a peek inside and marvel at the size of it or hang out and do some people watching.
We feel like this is one of the most unique things to do in Toronto. We had no idea Toronto had a beach until our tour with Toronto Bicycle Tours. It may not be exactly what comes to mind when you think of a beach, but it’s a beach nonetheless. It is considered an “urban beach” and gets it’s name from the Redpath Sugar Refinery that it sits across from. It has been open since 2010 and has great views of Lake Ontario. We didn’t spend much time there since it was a bit cold (you can see a bit of snow in the picture below) but we were told it’s a popular hang out spot during the warmer months.
Want to get to know the real Toronto? Head to it’s many eclectic neighborhoods. Toronto’s citizens come from all over the world and that cultural diversity has led to some pretty amazing and colorful places. Some of the most popular Toronto neighborhoods are Chinatown, Kensington Market, and Old Town. While in Old Town, visitors can stop by the St. Lawrence Market and see a variety of food, antiques, and displays. Also located in Old Town is the Distillery Historic District. This recently renovated area has trendy restaurants and shops, but if you’re lucky enough to be there between the end of November and December, you’ll also get to see the Toronto Christmas Market (considered one of the world’s best holiday markets!)
As you’re exploring Toronto and it’s many attractions and neighborhoods, make sure to look around you. And sometimes up. Toronto has some of the best architecture we’ve ever seen! From buildings with actual gold in the windows, to buildings that look like a table top, Toronto has it all. What we loved the most was the constant clash between older and more modern architecture.
If you’re a fan of street art, Toronto will not disappoint, so always be on the lookout for colorful murals. The most well know street art in Toronto can be found in Graffiti Alley near Chinatown, but there is plenty of street art in other neighborhoods as well.
Toronto has two airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). We chose to fly into Billy Bishop because it is closer to the city center and it has a free shuttle that takes you to Union Station which was within walking distance to our Toronto hotel. If you do choose to fly into Pearson, take the UP Express train to Union Station. The trip takes 25 minutes, with trains leaving every 15 minutes and tickets costing $12.
We found that Toronto is a very walkable city, which we loved! We walked to many of the attractions we wanted to see and anything that was a bit farther we got to by using Uber. Toronto does have a decent public transportation system as well as an underground walking path, but locals told us to stick to walking and Uber because the public transportation wasn’t always timely and because it was easy to get lost in “The Path.” The furthest ride we took with an Uber was to Casa Loma and it only took about 15 minutes, so nothing is really that far away.
Because of the diversity of this big city, you’ll find a lot of amazing food from all over the world. From poutine to contemporary French cuisine, Toronto has it all. You can click here for our suggestions on where to eat in Toronto.
Because of it’s close proximity to the US, there some places that allow you to pay with American dollars. The only time that we needed cash, however, was when we bought some poutine from a food truck. Other than that, we were fine using our credit cards.
Pro Tip: Make sure you let your debit and credit card companies know of your upcoming travels to avoid any cancelled transactions. For other useful pre-travel tips, click here.
Also, to help you save a little extra cash we recommend purchasing the Toronto CityPASS. It’s valid for nine days and includes admission to five major Toronto attractions (saving you about 44% on admission).
So there you have it, the best things to do in Toronto. We hope that you found this guide useful and that you enjoy your stay in The Six as much as we did. If you’d like to recommend anything for our next visit, feel free to leave them in the comments below! 🙂
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**We’d like to thank See Toronto Now for providing us with an Attractions Passport. Although this allowed for a complimentary visit to many attractions, as always, all opinions are our own.**
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