Toronto is the capital city of Ontario province and considered the largest city in Canada with a population approaching 5.6 million. If you count the whole urban area around Toronto then the population increases to 6.5 million.
What distinguishes Toronto from other major urban centers is its multicultural vibe. Everywhere you go you will come across people from all over the world coexisting in peace and harmony.
Interesting Facts: The area known as Toronto now started life as the city of York, the capital of Upper Canada.
The city celebrates its cultural heritage by hosting many festivals and carnivals throughout the year. During my 5-day visit in August, I encountered 2 separate festivals: Caribbean Grand Parade (Caribana) and Taste of the Middle-East. Many more cultural events happening every month. See the calendar here.
Interesting Facts: In the annual survey of most livable cities, Toronto often places fourth in the world.
Toronto is also known for its support of diversity. LGBTQ residents and visitors enjoy the tolerant atmosphere, events and many venues and clubs catering to the community. The city also hosts the Toronto Pride which has been running for 38 years as of 2018.
It is possible to ditch your car in Toronto with the help of the extensive transit network. The Toronto Transit Commission offers Bus, Subway and Streetcar services to connect you to where you want to be.
The rocket line connects the Airport to Downtown. From there you can take one of the routes listed here to get to your destination.
Interesting Facts: PATH is considered the largest underground walkway in North America - extending for 17 miles. It connects 1200 stores and restaurants, 50 office towers, 20 parking garages, five subway stations and a railway terminal.
Finally, the downtown area is walkable. You can reach most attractions by taking a leisurely walk. During inclement weather (or just for fun), you can take the Path, which is a system of underground tunnels connecting many of the major buildings.
Things to do
You can go back to nature with visits to parks and the waterfront or go on a food tour to sample foods from across the globe.
Interesting Facts: The city boasts an average of 301 days of sunshine per year. But temperatures can vary from -24F to +105F
A short distance away, you can visit Niagara Falls for some amazing views and adventures. Read more about Niagara Falls here.
Take a stroll through downtown Toronto and experience its multicultural vibe first hand. As you walk around, you will notice historic buildings mixed in with modern skyscrapers, open public squares next to shopping malls. If you get tired from walking, just hop on a bus or a streetcar to your next destination.
Interesting Facts: The city of Toronto has over 1600 parks covering 13% of the city area.
During bad weather or just for the fun of it, go underground and traverse the city through the PATH – a system of tunnels connecting many of the important destinations.
Some highlights of downtown:
This public square is a recent addition to downtown and it is Toronto’s answer to New York’s Time Square.
A large open area is set aside for events and festivals. Around the public gathering place, you will notice huge billboards, pedestrian walkways, theaters and shopping centers.
Royal Toronto Museum:
Along with holding a treasure trove of artifacts from around the world and through the ages, the museum’s architecture requires a gander. The building itself is old with Neo-Romanesque architecture, but the eastern entrance looks like a giant crystal had crashed into the building dragging the museum into the modern era.
Every galley and exhibit is worth a visit, but if you are pressed for time you must see The First Peoples exhibit. Learn about the original inhabitants of the region– their arts, crafts and culture.
If the shops around Yong-Dundas Square are not enough, walk to this huge mall and enjoy the shops and restaurants. This mall is considered the busiest mall in North America, with 250+ shops, a large food court (The Urban Eatery) and many restaurants. It is also connected to the PATH.
St. Lawrence Market:
A public market where local vendors sell fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese. You can also find snacks and drinks. It is an interesting place to visit, but if you are at a hotel, you probably don’t need any of the goods.
Just west of Chinatown, this neighborhood is a great example of Toronto’s multicultural nature. A stroll through its streets will take you on a journey through world music, food and history.
The best way to explore this place is to go on a food tour and sample goodies from around the world. Read here about my food tour experience.
A great way to view the city. Go up to the observation tower and spend some time taking in the city and lake views. For a more leisurely experience, enjoy dinner at the 360 restaurants with a revolving platform. Reservations are strongly recommended and you will get guaranteed access to the observation deck.
Along the shores of Lake Ontario, you can find a lot of activities and dining places. The waterfront is 46 km long with pedestrian trails, beaches and a ferry harbor. Take a walk and enjoy the views or stop at a bar or a restaurant. From the harbor, you can take a ferry to Toronto Islands where you can find a lot of attractions.
Take a short boat ride to the islands and enjoy many activities like bicycling, Canoeing, Kayaking or just relax on a beach. Note that the west beach is clothing-optional.
The Islands also host an amusement park for young children.
Interesting Facts: The Toronto Islands, just a short ferry ride away from downtown Toronto, comprise the largest urban car-free community in North America.
Outside of Downtown
The largest park in Toronto, it attracts residents and visitors to escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy city. Along with a beautiful pond, trails and trees, the park hosts a Zoo and playgrounds.
It took 3 years to build and cost around 3.5 million dollars. You can spend between 2 hours and a half day roaming the hallways and grand rooms or you can spend your time in the 5-acre immaculate garden with fountains and sculptures.
For science buffs, a visit to this science museum is a must. With hundreds of interactive exhibits, you are bound to find something interesting and learn something new.
Some of the highlights are pilot a rocket chair, touch a tornado, play the hydrophone, see how you look as you age or gaze at the start in the Planetarium.
Those amazing waterfalls are not in Ontario, but you can visit and enjoy the splendor of nature after a 1.5-hour drive. The 3-waterfalls thunder down into the Niagara Gorge spilling millions of cubic feet of water (per minute).
While at the Niagara Parks you can enjoy many experiences that take you close to the falls. I really enjoyed the Hornblower cruise and the Whitewater walk.