The 25 Best Things to Do in Toronto: Insider’s Guide

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Welcome to Toronto, Canada’s most populous city and a cultural, financial, and cosmopolitan hub. With its iconic skyline punctuated by the CN Tower, Toronto offers many experiences for every kind of traveler. Best of all, the city is open 365 days a year, and many of its premier attractions are within walking distance in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Discover the ultimate guide to things to do in Toronto, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems. Elevate your Canadian adventure with curated experiences and local insights.

A Culture Lover’s Guide to Toronto

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Chihuly at the ROM 2016 DownshiftingPRO 38
Chihuly at the ROM Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

One of the first stops for anyone interested in culture should be the Royal Ontario Museum, commonly known as ROM. Located in Toronto, Ontario, the museum is a wonder, partly due to the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, a striking architectural marvel that has become iconic in the Toronto skyline. The ROM also hosts exhibits, from ancient Egyptian sandals to the most intricate contemporary art pieces. Besides the permanent collections, the ROM features rotating exhibitions, so there’s something new to explore each time you visit.

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

To delve deeper into the art world, visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). This world-class museum showcases an impressive collection of over 90,000 works, making it among North America’s most distinguished art museums. Whether you’re interested in European classics or contemporary art from Toronto and beyond, you will find something that captures your imagination.

Bata Shoe Museum

You might find it peculiar that an entire museum features footwear, but the Bata Shoe Museum will surprise you. This museum houses thousands of shoes and related artifacts within walking distance of ROM. Highlights include ancient Egyptian sandals and contemporary celebrity footwear. The museum offers a unique perspective on history and culture through something as simple yet essential as shoes.

Aga Khan Museum

Detail of a souvenir tile from Iran The Aga Khan Museum of Toronto @DownshiftingPRO
Aga Khan Museum Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

For a different cultural experience, venture a bit further to visit the Aga Khan Museum. This museum is dedicated to Islamic art and Muslim culture and offers stunning architecture and serene gardens. With a collection that features artifacts from the Iberian Peninsula to South Asia, it provides a deep dive into a rich tapestry of histories and traditions.

A Sports Fan’s Haven

Major League Sports in Toronto

For the sports enthusiasts out there, Toronto is a dream come true. The city is home to some of North America’s most renowned sports teams. Catch a hockey game featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, or switch gears and enjoy a Toronto Raptors basketball match. If baseball’s more your speed, the Rogers Centre regularly hosts Toronto Blue Jays games, offering an unforgettable experience with the ambiance only major league sports can provide.

Hockey Hall of Fame

If you’re a hockey lover, missing the Hockey Hall of Fame would be a cardinal sin. Located in downtown Toronto, this national treasure offers courtesy hockey hall displays that dive deep into Canada’s hockey heritage. From Stanley Cups to the sport’s greats, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a tribute to all things hockey.

Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre

Both of these arenas are meccas for sports fans. The Rogers Centre is not only the home of the Toronto Blue Jays but also hosts various other events, including concerts and monster truck rallies. The Air Canada Centre, on the other hand, is the go-to venue for basketball and hockey games, offering state-of-the-art facilities and an electric atmosphere.

Toronto’s Architectural Marvels

Iconic CN Tower

A guide to Toronto would only be complete by mentioning its most iconic landmark: the CN Tower. Standing at a staggering height of 553.3 meters, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest freestanding structure when built in 1976. For the thrill-seekers, consider taking a private helicopter tour for a bird’s eye view of the city. Or, if you prefer, the CN Tower also offers the EdgeWalk—a daring, hands-free walk around the circumference of the tower’s central pod.

Casa Loma

Step back in time with a visit to Casa Loma, a majestic castle that serves as a national historic site. Originally built as a residence for financier Sir Henry Pellatt, the castle now offers tours that glimpse early 20th-century aristocratic life. Casa Loma provides an experience like no other in Toronto with its well-maintained gardens and intricate interiors.

Roy Thomson Hall

Another architectural gem in Toronto’s crown is the Roy Thomson Hall. Known for its circular architectural design and sloping glass exterior, it serves as the home for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The hall offers diverse programming, from classical and jazz to pop and world music, making it a cornerstone of Toronto’s vibrant cultural scene.

Must-Visit Outdoor Spots

Toronto Islands

Just a quick ferry ride from the Toronto Harbour, you’ll find yourself in a different world—the Toronto Islands. Offering serene beaches and biking and walking paths, it’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto. Whether you’re interested in water sports or want to have a picnic while taking in views of the Toronto skyline, the Islands offer a diverse range of activities for everyone.

High Park

High Park is Toronto’s largest public park, featuring many hiking trails, sports facilities, a beautiful lakefront, and multiple children’s playgrounds. The park also includes the High Park Zoo, open every day from dawn to dusk. Whether you want to go jogging, paddle-boating, or relax, this park has something for everyone.

Toronto Music Garden

If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat, the Toronto Music Garden offers just that. Designed in collaboration with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, music influences every facet of this beautifully landscaped area, featuring sections corresponding to different musical intervals. It’s an excellent place for a stroll or to take in one of the many free concerts offered during the summer.

Family-Friendly Activities

Ontario Science Centre

For a day of learning and fun, take the family to the Ontario Science Centre. This interactive museum offers hundreds of exhibits where kids and adults can learn about the wonders of science. The Ontario Science Centre makes education a thrilling adventure, from hands-on experiments to awe-inspiring planetarium shows.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Jelly Fish at Canadas Ripleys aquarium in Toronto @DownshiftingPRO
Ripley’s Aquarium Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Another stop perfect for families is Ripley’s Aquarium, located at the base of the CN Tower. Home to a wide array of marine life, from the tiniest seahorses to gigantic sharks, this state-of-the-art facility offers interactive displays and educational talks. Take advantage of the underwater tunnel, where you can witness sea creatures swimming just inches away from you.

Toronto Zoo

Zoo Sauvage de Saint Felicien Black Bear @DownshiftingPRO
Black Bear Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Last but not least, the Toronto Zoo is a must-visit. As North America’s largest zoo, it offers a wide variety of animals housed in expansive, naturalistic habitats. From the African savannah to the Canadian Arctic, the zoo provides a journey through diverse ecosystems without leaving Toronto.

The Shopper’s Paradise

Eaton Centre

Toronto is a shopper’s dream; no place embodies this better than the Eaton Centre. Located in downtown Toronto, this bustling mall is open daily and offers high-end boutiques and popular retail stores. And if you’re not in the mood to shop, it’s still worth a visit for its impressive architecture, including a glass galleria that spans multiple levels of the mall.

St. Lawrence Market

Voted as the world’s best food market by National Geographic in 2012, St. Lawrence Market is a must-visit for any foodie. Open every day except for Sundays and Mondays, the St. Lawrence market features a variety of vendors selling everything from fresh produce to gourmet cheeses and artisanal bread. The market also hosts cooking classes and offers a cornucopia of ready-to-eat meals.

Kensington Market

Vintage Stores in Kensington Market Toronto DownshiftingPRO 31
Kensington Market Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Not to be confused with the St. Lawrence Market, Kensington Market is not a traditional market but rather a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood that offers a variety of shops, cafes, and eateries. This bohemian paradise offers vintage clothing stores, international foods, and even street performances, making it a place you could easily spend a whole day exploring.

Food and Culinary Delights

Queen Street West

When it comes to dining, Queen Street West is the place to be. From high-end restaurants to cozy cafes, this street offers a gastronomic journey that reflects Toronto’s multicultural makeup. You’ll find it here whether you’re craving authentic Japanese sushi or Jamaican jerk chicken.

Yorkville

For those willing to splurge a little, Yorkville offers some of the most exquisite dining experiences in Toronto. This upscale neighborhood is also home to various high-end boutiques and art galleries, making it the perfect place for a luxurious day in Toronto.

Distillery District

Toronto Christmas Market Peace on Earth @DownshiftingPRO
Distillery District in Toronto Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

For a blend of culinary and historical experiences, visit the Distillery District. Walk its cobblestone streets lined with well-preserved Victorian Industrial Architecture and enjoy its many unique eateries, galleries, and shops. The district is also home to some of Toronto’s most exciting food festivals.

Festivals and Seasonal Events

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

If you visit Toronto in September, the Toronto International Film Festival is an event you will want to attend. One of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, TIFF offers a range of movies from blockbusters to indie gems.

Toronto Christmas Market

Toronto Christmas Market Distrillery District photo credit @DownshiftingPRO
Christmas Market in TO’s Distillery District Photo Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Held in the historic Distillery District, the Toronto Christmas Market is perfect for getting into the holiday spirit. Its festive decorations, seasonal foods, and unique crafts make it a glorious winter wonderland.

Caribana

For a more vibrant and colorful experience, Caribana, Toronto’s annual Caribbean Carnival, takes place every summer. It celebrates Caribbean culture that fills the city’s streets with life, featuring parades, live music, and plenty of dancing. If you plan to attend these events, chances are you’ll be there for long hours. It might be a good idea to pack some delicious and convenient meals for the day.

Travel Tips and Essentials

Transportation

Whether flying into Toronto Pearson International Airport or coming in by train to Union Station, getting around the city is convenient thanks to its extensive public transit system. Toronto’s subway, streetcar, and bus services are efficient and well-connected. Consider getting a CityPass to save money on transit and significant attractions.

Outdoor and Survival Skills

If your adventure in Toronto involves hiking or spending time outdoors, you may find it helpful to know some survival skills. Toronto offers various outdoor spots like High Park and the Toronto Islands, where you can explore nature. While the environments in these places are generally safe, learning survival skills is always beneficial.

Hotels in Toronto

Toronto offers many accommodation options, from luxury hotels like the Westin Harbour Castle or the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel to more budget-friendly options. For those seeking a unique experience, the Drake Hotel in the trendy Queen West neighborhood offers boutique rooms and a vibrant arts scene.

Long-Term Stays and Alternative Living

Toronto has a lot to offer, and some visitors choose to extend their stays, sometimes in unconventional ways like living in an RV. While this can be an exciting adventure, knowing the risks involved with alternative living like RVs is essential.

Weather

Toronto experiences all four seasons, so pack accordingly. Winters can be cold and snowy, making it the perfect time for winter sports and visiting the Toronto Christmas Market. Summers are warm and humid—ideal for a Toronto Island getaway or a visit to High Park.

Things to Do in Toronto

From its world-class museums like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario to its bustling markets like St. Lawrence Market and Kensington Market, from major league sports to internationally acclaimed festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival, the city offers a wide array of activities and experiences that are available every day of the year.

Whether you’re a culture vulture, a foodie, a shopaholic, or just someone looking to explore, Toronto offers it all within walking distance or a short ride on the city’s efficient public transit system.

In a city as dynamic and diverse as Toronto, the list of things to do and places to explore is virtually endless. So whether you’re visiting Toronto for the first time or are a seasoned local looking to rediscover the city, there’s always something new and exciting waiting for you around every corner.

This article originally appeared on Savoteur.

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Jeff Fang (Guest Post)

Jeff is a pupil of life and is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things travel and finance related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys pursuing financial freedom, but also enjoys exploring the outdoors in his free time. Outside ofblogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.