Visiting Canada’s largest city—and the fourth largest city in North America—offers a wealth of entertainment, culture, and historical sights, and we’ve got our top ten things for you to discover and explore, especially for the first-time guest. This is Toronto 101.
The CN Tower has the world’s highest “hands free” walk, more than 1,160 feet above ground. The tower also offers the famous Glass Floor with a view of 1,122 feet down, SkyPod with 360-degree views of the city, and glass-fronted elevators with glass floor panels. At the 360 Restaurant, you can enjoy gourmet cuisine in a rotating room with breathtaking views of the Toronto.
Foodies flock to St. Lawrence Market, top food market of 2012 as named by National Geographic Magazine with more than 120 specialty vendors, offering a variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, grain, and baked goods, plus non-food items. The market itself is three areas—the South Market with its vendors and Market Gallery; the North Market, which houses the Saturday Farmers’ Market and the Sunday antique market; and St. Lawrence Hall, which hosts special events and weddings.
Toronto is also a shopping mecca. The Bloor-Yorkville district of Toronto has more than 700 designer boutiques, trendy restaurants, world-class hotels, and galleries. Shop for anything, from fine jewelry to cigars to designer clothes, and then grab a massage or a facial at one of the specialty spas. Relax at a wine and cheese bar or a cheesecake café. Want live music, contemporary galleries, charming boutiques, and an indie vibe? Then head over to Queen West, which was named one of Vogue’s coolest neighborhoods in 2014.
Explore Toronto’s cultural side at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The gallery has an inspiring mix of Canadian art, African and Oceanic collections, European paintings, and a contemporary experience. Families will enjoy The Kids’ Gallery, which now offers Pets and Me: Explore, Imagine, Create. This exhibition has paintings, sculptures, and photographs with children and pets, and there are pet-inspired costumes and props for visitors to dress in and pose for their own pictures. Finish out the day with dinner at Frank’s, AGO’s award-winning restaurant, or perhaps start your day with brunch.
One of the leading museums for natural history and world studies, The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) explores science and civilization. Learn about the destructive power of Mount Vesuvius in the exhibition Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano or see original dinosaur skeletons from the famous fossil fields of Alberta, Canada. Mummies, samurai weapons, and a bat cave (you can walk through)—ROM is not an experience to miss.
Known as Toronto’s majestic castle, Casa Loma has been used in such movies as X-Men, Chicago, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and more. Now, it serves as an attraction of wealth and prestige with tours and banquets, and like most castles, it offers secret passageways and gardens, towers, stables, and decorated suites, perfect for entertaining and high society events. Plus, it also houses a vintage automobile/car exhibit. Visitors can discover the castle’s elegance, beauty, and history on self-guided, multimedia tours.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is an interactive experience with marine life, including curated habitats with Canadian marine life from the Great Lakes and other seas; spectacular animals in the Dangerous Lagoon; and Planet Jellies with five, colorful species of jelly fish. The aquarium also offers stingray encounters, shoreline gallery with creature interactions, and a behind-the-scenes look at the life support systems which help to create the experience visitors enjoy. Don’t miss out Friday Night Jazz, Sleepover with the Sharks, and even Yoga by the Rainbow Reef.
Historic buildings that once were used as flourmills, a wharf, storehouses, an icehouse, and of course, the namesake distillery, the Historic Distillery District is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North American and was used for more than 1700 films in the 1990s, making it the second largest film location outside of Hollywood. Now, the district has been transformed into a pedestrian-only village with retail, entertainment, and cultural attractions, such as theatres, art galleries, and gourmet bistros.
The largest waterfront revitalization in North America, Waterfront Toronto is a mixture of urban green areas, event spaces, public art, and residential housing. Take a walk through the rejuvenated Queens Quay, or take in one of the exhibitions at The Harbourfront Centre. During the winter, skating rinks provide cool fun with a beautiful backdrop of Toronto and Lake Ontario.
No trip to Toronto would be complete without a stop at the Hockey Hall of Fame, home of sports’ most coveted trophy, the Stanley Cup. Don’t miss the chance to see other great hockey hardware, like the Art Ross Trophy, the Calder Memorial Trophy, and the Conn Smythe Trophy. You can also explore a replica of the Montreal Canadiens Dressing Room from the old Montreal Forum, exhibits on international hockey, an interactive game zone, two theatres, and more.
Ready to make your summer the best ever? Then head up north to Toronto and experience all Canada has to offer with culture, history, entertainment, international cuisine, thrills, and perhaps a shopping excursion or two.