5 Things Everyone Must Do When Visiting Toronto

Although I can most often be found basking on a beach in the Caribbean or Mexico, when I’m back in Toronto there are certain things at the top of my list to do such as visiting the restaurants, pubs, neighbourhoods and other experiences I miss when I’m away. Plus,  2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday so it’s also a prime time to celebrate everything wonderful about our northern home. So, here’s my list of top things to do when friends or family ask me what they should do when visiting Toronto:

1. Sip a craft beer at the Distillery Historic District

Take a walk from the Distillery District to Union Station

Take a walk from the Distillery District to Union Station

The pedestrian zone within this collection of 47 Victorian industrial-era buildings known as the Gooderham & Worts Distillery is a top destination for enjoying a craft beer on an outdoor patio to browsing Toronto’s Christmas Market.   My fave spots are El Catrin Mexican Cantina ( for mezcal and its fantastic decor), SOMA ( for artisanal chocolate), Balzac’s ( coffee) and the Mill Street Brewpub ( for craft beer).   The Distillery Historic District is also within easy walking distance to St. Lawrence Market, North America’s largest food market and a itself a bustling spot to enjoy lunch on the go, shop for artisanal food products or just soak up the historic atmosphere of early Toronto.

2. Don’t miss the big attractions

 

Casa Loma Toronto

Beautiful Casa Loma is worth a visit in Toronto

While big name attractions can sometimes be a disappointment in other cities, there are certain attractions everyone must experience at least once during a visit to Toronto. Must-sees include the CN Tower (aim for a clear day) plus  one of Canada’s top museums, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) beloved for its beautiful historic interior and dramatic “crystal” addition. If you have time, include Casa Loma, Toronto’s real-life castle, the Ontario Science Centre ( if you’re travelling with kids)  and Ripley’s Aquarium. If you think you’ll be able to hit them all within your visit, it’s worth considering a CityPASS ( cost is $72 per adult) as you can avoid the main line-ups and get fast-tracked inside.

3.  Go neighbourhood hopping from Greektown to Chinatown

Greektown at night

Greektown at night

They say Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods (and it really is true) so be sure to go exploring. In addition to Kensington market, Chinatown, Yorkville, The Junction ( try Indie Alehouse for craft beer) and Queen Street West, it’s worth a visit to Greektown (Chester Subway station). Sure you could eat sushi, tacos or designer hamburgers but when you’re on the Danforth, you’ve got to eat Greek. Grab a souvlaki at Alexander the Great parkette but for romance your best choice is Myth ( 417 Danforth where you can order a dish of saganaki, a flaming dish of kefalogaveria cheese which arrives at your table to the shouts of Opa! from other waiters and diners.The Acropolis Bakery and Café at 708 Danforth is an authentic Greek-owned coffee shop and bakery that offers café frappe as delicious as what you’d find on the Greek islands. Enjoy your coffee with a square of spanakopita, a rich pie stuffed with spinach, onions, cheeses and herbs wrapped in crispy, flaky phyllo dough.

Taste of The Danforth in Greektown is North America's largest food festival

Taste of The Danforth in Greektown is North America’s largest food festival

A budget-friendly old-school Greek restaurant that’s a fave with our family (for example, you can score a great chicken souvlaki dinner complete with Greek salad, potatoes, rice and pita bread for just $8.25) is Asteria at the corner of Pape and Danforth. It’s home to one of Greektown’s last steam tables and  although the decor isn’t posh, it does have a large patio out back. We also eat at Pizzeria Libretto and Square Boy, a Greek-owned take-out joint near Jones that’s famous for its burgers, hot dogs and chicken souvlaki (and rock-bottom prices).

4.  Hit The Beach

Enjoy a city within a park at the beach in Toronto Credit Culture Tripper

Enjoy a city within a park at the beach in Toronto Credit Culture Tripper

On my first visit to Toronto, I totally missed the lakefront as it’s hidden behind the Gardiner Expressway. Now, Lake Ontario is one of my favourite spot to escape the city and soak up some sunshine, get some exercise or imagine I’m in cottage country (minus the traffic jams). To get to Toronto’s waterfront and its emerald green island archipelago, head to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, just west of the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. Bikes are welcome aboard the ferries and are a great way to get around. Then, it’s a breezy bike ride to the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes. You won’t find any better views of the Toronto skyline than this. Another favourite city escape is Leslie Spit also known as Tommy Thompson Park where you can pedal a bike or take a hike into a vast green space filled with migrating birds, butterflies and other wildlife.  The Martin Goodman Trail connects all these parks and is an easy, flat surface suitable for even the most wobbly cyclist. In summertime, be sure to make a stop at Toronto Harbourfront home to historic Queen’s Quay Terminal as well as The Power Plant contemporary art gallery, the Music Garden, Sugar Beach and a state-of-the-art museum exhibiting historic and contemporary Inuit art.

5.  Pop over to Niagara Falls

Taking a photo of Niagara Falls in winter

A visitor taking a photo of Niagara Falls in winter

OK, so it’s not exactly in Toronto but Niagara Falls is less than an hour away ( assuming no traffic) and is a true wonder of the world whether you visit in summer or wintertime. Plus, you’ve got the added bonus of being able to spend time at one or more of the many wineries in the Niagara Region.

Check out Niagara wines at one of the Niagara Wine Festivals

Check out Niagara wines at one of the Niagara Wine Festivals

Viewing the waterfalls is free, but visit the Niagara Parks website to purchase a Wonder Pass, an attractions pass that will give you access to Journey behind the Falls, visit the magical Butterfly Museum and other once in a lifetime experiences. From April 1st onward, the Hornblower Cruise Voyage to the Falls is also an exhilarating  must-do.

Misc.  Catch a game and more

Toronto FC Game

Catch a Toronto FC Game

Travel Planner

 

Celebrate Canada Day and many other festivals at Nathan Phillips Square

Celebrate Canada Day and many other festivals in Nathan Phillips Square

Here are some insider tips on how to find a deal for your next trip to Toronto:

1. Look into whether it makes sense to get a CityPASS during your visit. The cost is $72 per adult which saves you money off the regular price of 5 major attractions but for me, the biggest advantage is that a CityPass allows you to bypass the lineups.

2. Get the best deal on your hotel by using Hotelscombined.com, a search engine that compares top travel websites (such as Booking.com, Expedia and Hotels.com) to find the cheapest price. Check it out below.

3. Take the TTC (subway, bus and streetcar network), the UP Express or Uber to get around. You don’t need to rent a car. The Union Pearson Express rail link  connects Union Station to the Toronto Pearson Airport.  

4. Pick up free maps, tourist booklets packed with information and get advice at the Tourism Toronto and Ontario Travel visitor information centres.

5. A Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour is a great way to orient yourself to a city. Check out Double Decker City Sightseeing (they operate year-round)and save 5% by buying a ticket online with promo code 1111.  They also offer a combo ticket to Niagara Falls, that includes a stop at a winery.

6. If you’re planning to visit a shopping mall, I recommend you make your way to Vaughan Mills Premium Outlet Mall rather than go to Yorkdale or Eaton Centre. If you have kids they’ll be entertained at Legoland (check out those kiddie strollers with touch screens) plus there’s a Banana Republic Factory Store, Kate Spade, BOSS, Calvin Klein, Cole Haan, DKNY, Winners and well you get the idea, there’s lots of designers store and they’re all under one architecturally beautiful roof.  There’s even a FREE seasonal shopping shuttle from Union Station ( June 1 – Sept 30).


Toronto_120x90

Here’s a handy Pinterest image to share or save:

Five incredible experiences in Toronto

Five incredible experiences in Toronto

Looking for more travel ideas for Toronto? Check out these posts on A Taste for Travel as well as articles I’ve written for other magazines, blogs and publications:

Watch a Soccer Game: The Ultimate Toronto FC Game Guide: Go Reds!   appeared in MasterCard Priceless Cities

Listen to Live Music: Music to Your Ears: Top Live Music Venues in Toronto appeared in MasterCard Priceless Cities

Sip Some Whisky: Toronto’s Top Bars to Sample Whisky appeared in MasterCard Priceless Cities

 

Looking for travel ideas on how to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday? Check out my travel feature in Fifty-five Plus Magazine’s January 2017 issue

Oh Canada! Celebrating Canada's 150th Birthday

Recommended Posts
Showing 7 comments
  • Karen Warren
    Reply

    Yet another place I need to get to! Toronto looks lovely, and I’ve never been to a city with a separate Greektown area before.

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    I’ve visited Toronto many times and have seen the big attractions and some of the neighbourhoods. But it’s been years since my last visit. It may be time to go back. I’ve not been to Greektown or the Distillery District. Both sound interesting. And a revisit to the big attractions would be also be fun.

  • Denis Gagnon
    Reply

    It’s been so long since I’ve been to Toronto ! Exploring the various ethnic neighborhoods would certainly be near the top of my list of things to do as well.

  • Sand In My Suitcase
    Reply

    There’s going to be lots of partying in Canada this year with our 150th birthday! Perhaps we’ll go to a Greek restaurant in Greektown when we visit Toronto this year for a family visit :-).

  • Judy Freedman
    Reply

    This is great. I’ve mainly been to Toronto on business during my corporate career. Now I have to go as a tourist! Really makes me want to plan a visit. Love your blog.

  • Nathalie
    Reply

    Haven’t been to Toronto in so long, I’m sure it’s changed a lot since then. I think the CityPass is a great idea in any city if you plan on staying for a few days.

  • Kurt
    Reply

    You make Toronto look like a place I want to visit soon.

Leave a Comment

2,225 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments