17 must-see places when you visit Toronto
Over the years, Toronto’s popularity has grown as an international city with diverse, cultural roots and with that unique attractions (and old favorites) are popping up throughout the city and suburbs. The cosmopolitan capital of Ontario is often compared to New York City with its breadth of the arts, theatre, nightlife and family fun.
Here are 17 of the top attractions in Toronto that will mesmerize visitors, both young and young at heart.
1. Toronto Islands and Centre Islands
If you’re looking for a day away from the city, this group of 15 islands is connected via bridges and paths for a fantastic outdoor adventure. Everything from bike and kayak rentals to the Centerville Amusement Park with a carousel, bumper cars and mini-golf. Throw in beaches (including a clothing-optional area!), picnic areas and 200-year-old lighthouse, and it’s all just a 13-minute ferry ride from downtown.
2. St. Lawrence Market
The St. Lawrence Market is one of the most iconic spots in all of Toronto, a culinary must-see with two floors of restaurants, boutique grocery stores and food stalls. There are more than 120 merchants and farmers here, and the historic market is easily considered a haven for foodies. Located in a building that dates back to 1803, the market offers juice bars, fish markets, sandwich joints, deli food and much more. National Geographic magazine even named this landmark the best food market in 2012.
3. Distillery District
Set among beautiful brick buildings with modern updates, Distillery District is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. Located among 10 streets, more than 40 buildings and brick-lined courtyards, it is Toronto’s center for arts and culture. Check out the numerous shops, galleries, restaurants, and one of the first original breweries for… Japanese sake. The District also offers walking and Segway tours that cover the area’s history.
4. Art Gallery of Ontario
With more than 80,000 collections of European and contemporary pieces, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest galleries in North America. Highlights include a sculpture gallery that extends the length of a neighboring street and allows curious visitors to see inside parts of the museum. Affectionately known as AGO, the gallery expanded in 2008 with design led by renowned Toronto native Frank Gehry, who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
5. Second City Theater
Catch one of the nightly shows at the world’s premiere comedy and improv club. With live shows nightly, you can experience laughs from Canada’s renowned troupe, whose alums include Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Catherine O’Hara, Tim Meadows and Bill Murray. The Second City offers pre-show lunch and dinner packages with Toronto, a restaurant next door from Canada hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky. See a troupe member before they become famous.
6. Casa Loma
The majestic castle of Casa Loma sits in midtown Toronto. It took more than 300 laborers over three years to build the Gothic Revival-style building and its 98 rooms. Amenities include an oven large enough to roast an ox, two secret passageways, an 800-foot tunnel and a meticulous five-acre garden. Several movies have been filmed here too, including X-Men, Chicago and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Tours are available daily through 4 p.m., excluding holidays.
7. Sake Bar Kushi
Sake Bar Kushi opened in 2014 and quickly gained a loyal following from locals. There’s a special menu for Kushi, which means skewer in Japanese. This Izakaya has a large menu outside of skewers and also more than 40 different kinds of sake. Have a large group? Discover the private tatami room in the back and enjoy your Kushi in a traditional Japanese setting.
8. The Monkey’s Paw
If you’re a traveller who seeks arts and culture on a vacation, then this unique bookstore is perfect for you. The Monkey’s Paw specializes in uncommon books organized around four categories: the absurd, the arcane, the beautiful and the macabre. Its name derives from the magical wish-granting monkey’s paw, and that wish extends to the store’s most magical feature: The Biblio-Mat. A coin-operated vending machine that randomly dispenses old books for $2. Watch it in action.
9. High Park
Enjoy a day in Toronto’s crown jewel of parks with its diversity of activities and beauty. High Park is home to Sakura, or cherry, trees that bloom in roughly April or May. Combine that with hiking trails, serene Grenadier Pond or the mini zoo and it becomes a full day of activities. Visit the Hillside Gardens, a collection of three elaborate gardens and waterfalls or hop on the trolley that weaves through the park.
10. Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame is much more than a museum, it’s modern technology and interactive exhibits delight visitors with the littlest of knowledge of Canada’s national sport. There are state-of-the-art games for actual shooting and goalkeeping fun, a replica of an NFL dressing room, relics from hockey past and relics from hockey history. The 65,000 square foot museum is located inside a breathtaking historic building, a former Bank of Montreal completed in 1886. Rumor is the famed Stanley Cup will be there too.
11. Crothers Woods
Looking for some outdoor adventure? Toronto’s Crother Woods offers an escape into nature with its popular trails and century-old trees. The woodland preserve is just outside the city and is great for running, hiking or biking. Walk along the Don River and find “Slab City,” a collection of concrete scattered along the river or visit Crother Woods in the fall with its amazing color way of golds, reds and oranges.
12. Royal Ontario Museum
Easily one of the most diverse museums in North America, the Royal Ontario Museum is home to six million objects ranging from dinosaurs to artwork and archaeology to biodiversity. Opened in 1914, the museum expanded in 2002 with a state-of-the-art design that draws people from all over the world. The ROM is the only place in Toronto to hear an active beehive, explore a bat cave and see Egyptian treasures.
13. Kensington Market
Toronto’s most unique neighbourhood, Kensington Market is one of the city’s most diverse areas with restaurants, shopping and grocers from every walk of life. You might hear Caribbean drums playing or smell delicious Middle Eastern food as you walk the narrow streets. Eclectic is the perfect word to describe this amazing neighborhood. Take an official tour or enjoy Pedestrian Sundays, which doesn’t allow traffic.
14. CN Tower
It’s time to take a walk on the wild side. CN Tower can be seen from most anywhere in the city and is a true icon for Toronto. For thrill-seekers, try CN Tower’s EdgeWalk. Attached to a harness, you walk around the circumference of the tower, more than 1,000 feet in the air. Afterwards enjoy lunch or dinner at the Tower’s 360 restaurant, which slowly revolves with optimal views of Toronto.
15. O Noir
Looking for a unique food experience in Toronto? O Noir asks guests to experience food, drinks and dinner chat like never before – without seeing what you’re eating. Why? The concept came from a blind Swiss man who would blindfold his guests so they experience dinner as he would. You can even order surprises dishes to be more adventurous. It’s not all dark: You hang out a well-lit lounge before being led to a room that darkens as the dinner begins.
16. Snakes & Lattes
Coffee, pastries… board games? If you’re looking for different kind of cafe, check out Snakes & Lattes where a full menu of food and drinks is accompanied by a library of board games. From classic Jenga to board games from around the world, staff members give recommendations depending on your interests. They even give instructions on how to play. There’s a $6 admission fee.
17. Niagara Falls
Map the location (90 minute drive)
While visiting Toronto, it’s an easy drive to see the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. Experience the power of the Falls from the Hurricane Deck, almost 175 feet into the Gorge. If you go at night, experience Illumination – where colors are projects on to the falls throughout the evening and night. Wanna get closer? Take the Maid of the Mist boat tour into Horseshoe Falls, full of rock formations and whitewater. There are plenty of Niagara Falls hotels too, if you decide to make a full day of the Falls and hiking around Niagara Falls State Park.
The layout of the city, the public transportation system, and the location of many of its most popular attractions near the walkable downtown districts makes Toronto easy to maneuver. So no matter what you want to do during your visit, there’s an IHG Toronto hotel nearby to keep you close to the top attractions.