[y] Toronto Visitors Guide
Beautiful Toronto is a hotspot for travelers looking for a destination that has a little something for everyone from the outdoorsy ones to the city folk. The trick is knowing what to do before you do it. Here are a few pointers for a little bit of everything. Toronto is a city rich in history; yet, it is also a city that never grows old. Canada’s most cosmopolitan city is the cultural heart of south-central Ontario and of English-speaking Canada.
Toronto Fun Guide
One of the greatest benefits of living in or visiting Toronto is its location. From the United States, it is just a 90-minute drive along the Queen Elizabeth Way. Weather-wise, the location is ideal. Toronto is situated on beautiful Lake Ontario. A walk along the waterfront leads to beaches, marinas, boating facilities, parkland, bike trails, and tennis courts. The lake’s influence keeps the winters in Toronto from being severe.
The heart of the city is adorned with millions of plants and trees. It is also filled with galleries, museums, restaurants, music halls, theaters, and sports facilities. Toronto is the economic capital of Canada, with all major banks and most corporations headquartered there as well as a Stock Exchange. The city has been called the Hollywood of the North because of the number of movies and television shows that are filmed within it. The retail sector is enormous, with major shopping centers, both in malls and in every neighborhood.
Recreation is never hard to find in Toronto. There are miles of paths for hiking and bicycle riding, easy access to golf, tennis and swimming in summer and to skiing and ice skating in winter. There are over 2,000 public parks and gardens as well as secluded woodland nature reserves to explore.
Toronto’s 2.4 million residents welcome 22 million visitors each year. Families are honored guests with many hotels providing special services for guests with children, including separate child-sized registration desks, separate recreation areas and pools just for families and playrooms and games for families with children. There is even an entire museum designed just for children. The Toronto Zoo, Paramount Canada’s Wonderland Amusement Park, Children’s Village, and the Wild Water Kingdom are popular family attractions.
Toronto is a favorite convention city and gathering place. Toronto’s streets are safe, the air is clean, and the water is safe to drink. The city is strikingly cosmopolitan and vital in every aspect. In recent years, the United Nations named Toronto as the most ethnically diverse city in the world. Its residents have come to Canada from 170 different countries and speak more than 100 different languages and dialects. Within Toronto, the visitor will pass through neighborhoods that are Italian Asian, Greek, Portuguese, Jewish, Polish, West Indian and Pakistani. Toronto has welcomed its immigrants and the vitality with which they have infused the culture, religion, customs and cuisine of the city.
The Toronto Eaton Centre is more than just a shopping center. It is an architectural model for shopping malls around the country. Built in 1979, and given a new facade in 1999, it is the third-largest mall in Canada and is recognized as one of the city’s most popular attractions. The 3 million square foot building with its over 300 stores and services extends along the west side of Yonge Street all the way from Queen Street to Dundas Street (with subway stops directly entering and exiting it at each end). The Eaton Centre, and in fact the whole metropolitan area, is easily accessible by public transportation. The city’s PATH system connects miles of downtown buildings by a unique underground walkway lined with attractive shops and restaurants.
Toronto is the capital of the performing arts in Ontario. The Canadian Opera, the Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet of Canada, and the Canadian Stage Company are all based in Toronto. The theater scene rivals that of London and New York.
While in the city, be sure to spend some time at Harbourfront Centre, the recreational and cultural expanse of shoreline that stretches from York Street west to Bathurst. Boutiques, theaters, restaurants, an antique market, art gallery, and playgrounds are permanent features. From the harbor, tour boats and private charters take tours of the harbor and Toronto Islands.
Toronto Islands are only a 15-minute ferry ride from the foot of Bay Street, yet a world away from the bustle of city life. No cars are allowed in this island paradise. The islands are perfect for a picnic, a walk or bicycle ride, or a swim at the beach. There is a farm to visit, rides, playgrounds, tennis, and boat rentals. A free trolley provides island transport.
Just outside Toronto is the region of Peel with its many picturesque spots for a day trip. The Caledon Hills are a pleasant destination for antique shopping, country auctions, or just admiring the scenery.
Toronto is the fifth-largest city in the world, yet one of the most pleasant and welcoming and most easily accessible to visitors. There is something in Toronto for every interest and every budget. Few visit only once. It is a city to return to again and again. Come and see for yourself!
Toronto Downtown Hotels
Near the edge of Lake Ontario in Canada’s province of Ontario, Toronto’s Downtown is in the heart of the city. A part of the historic Old Toronto district, Downtown is where the historic Yonge Street starts, close to the center of Old Toronto. This long street stretching nearly 1,800 kilometers to Lake Simcoe was built in 1795. Today, Downtown is historical and modern, a hub of finance and business. Visitors often enjoy the central business area with its intriguing architecture. Towers of power, as well as steel, concrete, and glass, are impressive. Then, the sheltered walkways underneath the streets make walking in this area pleasant and interesting even in bad weather. These walkways are lined with miscellaneous specialty shops. Of the attractions within Downtown, modern Nathan Phillips Square is a must-see. The square across from Old City Hall that was constructed in the late 1890s is home to today’s City Hall built using modernistic architectural design. Union Station, as well as art galleries and fascinating museums, are also found in Downtown, Toronto. Downtown Hotel Service offers Hotels near Downtown Toronto that are quality hotels at an affordable price. Use our Search box above or click here to see available hotels!
About Downtown Toronto
Toronto is a beautiful place that everyone should see in person. The downtown area, in particular, has many sites and attractions that you can enjoy. The abundance of skyscrapers is one of the first things that you will notice. These skyscrapers are breathtaking because of their architectural designs. Downtown is where you will be able to find the main concentration of businesses and a variety of municipal buildings. The Royal Ontario Museum is also located in the downtown area where you can see its collection in anthropological and natural history exhibitions.
If you want to be close to all of the excitement, you are able to choose from a variety of hotels to stay in, which are certain to offer low, affordable rates. The Fairmont Royal York is located right in the downtown area of Toronto and next to the Union Station. The hotel offers elegant decor with many amenities. Some of these amenities can include an indoor pool, a health club, Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, saunas, and a fitness center.
Once you find the proper accommodations, you can make your way to the wide selections of restaurants in the downtown area. The Senator Restaurant is on Victoria Street and offers some of the best choices in breakfast, lunch or dinner alternatives. A few of the options are omelets, salads, sandwiches, roasted salmon, burgers and ribs. Another restaurant where you can take the entire family is the King West Kitchen. This alternative is excellent for those who enjoy their Italian food, such as pizza and pasta.
The shopping district in downtown Toronto is also thriving with a wide range of shopping malls. The Toronto Eaton Centre is a shopping mall that is home to many well-known stores. You can spend an entire weekend searching for great sales and quality designs on clothes, home decor, and electronics. Make sure to check out the Fairview Mall as well when you are in the downtown area of Toronto. Stores that are located within the mall can include Laura, Sears, Forever 21 and Urban Planet. Rest assured that you will be able to find everything you need in downtown Toronto.
The weather in Toronto is as diverse and unpredictable as the ethnic diversity there. The accepted classification of Toronto’s weather climate is that of the humid continental climate. This means that Toronto usually experiences hot and humid summers along with cold, blustery winters. Spring and fall are highly volatile, with plenty of nasty thunderstorms to cause an uproar in the atmosphere. There’s so much variance in the day to day temperatures that Toronto residents always keep plenty of different clothing on hand. They have to dress for all types of weather all the time due to their constantly-changing weather patterns.
The actual city itself has a diurnal temperature structure, which means that the differences between high temperatures and low temperatures are minimal. This is because the city is packed tightly together and it’s located near a body of water. The nights usually stay warmer in the city than in the suburbs due to these facts. Lake breezes do make colder spring and fall temperatures, however, inside the city limits. Because of the proximity to water, Toronto also experiences plenty of lake-effect snow and fog. Toronto’s location along Lake Ontario plays the biggest role in its ever-changing weather patterns. The residents of the big city have come to understand and appreciate this.
Winters can be brutally cold due to temperatures and wind chill factors. It’s not uncommon to see temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills well below zero degrees. The city regularly experiences large winter precipitation storms that contain snow, ice, and freezing rain. Snowfall accumulations happen any time between November and the middle of April. The tricky part about Toronto’s climate is that the city often experiences warm patterns in the middle of winter that cause snow accumulations to melt. Winter is a fascinating time in Toronto’s weather climate.
Toronto summers are characterized by high temperatures and sticky, humid air. Most people wouldn’t think that Canada has large heat spells, but Toronto certainly does. Average summer temperatures in July and August can exceed 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Combining these temperatures with humid air can make the weather seem absolutely smothering. People in Toronto who suffer from asthmatic symptoms often have to take extra precautions in the summer to avoid further health issues. Fall and spring feature many hot and cold days. One day could be 40 degrees Fahrenheit while the next day has temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The unpredictable nature of Toronto’s weather makes it a fascinating place to visit. You never know what type of weather you might experience when you take a visit to Toronto.
As the largest city in Canada, Toronto boasts the best public transit system in the country. The Toronto Transit Commission operates an extensive network of bus, rapid transit, and light rail services throughout the city. The Toronto Subway and RT system consist of 4 lines that circulate all major parts of Toronto.
The Yonge University Spadina Line is the busiest and most historic subway route in Toronto. With a yellow color code, the Yonge University Spadina Line serves more than 30 stations along its U shaped loop throughout Toronto. This TTC subway line runs between Downsview Station and Finch Station. The Bloor-Danforth subway line runs through the eastern and western parts of Toronto. With a green color code, this TTC subway line operates between Kipling and Kennedy and also serves more than 30 stations.
The Scarborough RT line is essentially an extension of the Bloor-Danforth route. The blue color-coded Scarborough RT service operates between Kennedy Station and McCowan Road. With a purple color code, the Sheppard Line is another short route that runs between Sheppard-Yonge Station and Don Mills Station.
The TTC also operates more than 10 total streetcar routes that offer express service throughout Toronto. The light rail network consists of routes that are named after major streets in Toronto. For example, the TTC streetcar lines include the 501 Queen, 502 Downtowner and 505 Dundas routes. Each of these busy light rail lines makes more than a dozen stops throughout Toronto.
Last not but least, The Toronto Transit Commission operates more than 200 total bus routes throughout Toronto. There are bus stops on nearly every block in Downtown Toronto so making transfers to other buses and the subway or streetcar system is easy.
Union Station is the main rail hub in Toronto. This major train station is served by commuter and intercity rail services from local and national companies. Several Via Rail routes offer service to major cities within the province of Ontario and other neighboring provinces. GO Transit offers commuter service between Toronto and major Ontario cities and towns such as Oshawa, Hamilton, Richmond Hill, and Markham. The Amtrak Maple Leaf line connects Toronto with major cities in New York State including Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and New York City.
As the busiest airport in Canada, The Toronto Pearson International Airport offers convenient direct flights to more than 100 total destinations. This airport also serves as the main hub for Air Canada, the official flag carrier for Canada. Toronto Pearson International Airport is also directly linked to major cities in Canada including Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver.
Now that you know there are numerous opportunities for getting around, it’s time to find out what you are going to use them for. Toronto has quite a few things you’ll want to see before you leave.
Niagara Falls is a beautiful example of Mother Nature’s greatness is a must-see when you are in the area. Just a 90-minute drive from the city, Niagara Falls offers the perfect destination for all. Three waterfalls in one results in the highest water flowing rate in the world…750,000 gallons of water per second tumbling over a cliff is a pretty amazing thing to see.
At Toronto Zoo, exotic wildlife roams here for your viewing pleasure. Toronto Zoo plays host to over 50,000 animals, including Gorillas, Polar bears, Elephants, Cheetahs, Kangaroos, even a Komodo dragon. Kids of all ages are going to love this one but everyone is sure to have a great time here.
Toronto is a large enough city to have entertaining events all year round. The Toronto Zoo is open every day but Christmas, and visitors can drive to it or go by public transit. The Tundra Trek at the zoo is a habitat for animals associated with frosty climates, like polar bears, arctic wolves, and foxes, reindeer, snowy owls and snow geese.
The Ontario Science Center
Even if you don’t classify yourself as a science nerd…which most of us don’t…you’ll be surprised at how cool this place is. Just look around or watch a demonstration of what science can do with things such as electricity. At the end, you may also choose to watch a giant 3D-esque IMAX film.
Toronto City Pass
Toronto offers a gigantic supply of theaters, parks, squares, and gardens that are sure to please. Don’t pass up going to a show in one of the historic studios such as the Massey Hall or taking a stroll through places such as Edwards Gardens. You can also tour museums, The Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto University, Yorkville, The CN Tower and much more.
A Toronto City Pass gets visitors into five major downtown attractions for a 43% total discount. This includes the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, the Toronto Zoo, Casa Loma and the Ontario Science Centre. When cold weather drives people indoors, these attractions fill the entertainment bill.
Casa Loma is a well-preserved castle built in 1911 by Sir Henry Pellatt, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Sir Henry had it built as a replica of a medieval castle, and it takes visitors back in time as they tour the enormous great hall and other parts of the castle. Self-guided audio tours in nine languages are available; elevators do not accommodate strollers.
Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Science Centre, a gleaming futuristic edifice, offers exhibits that families can enjoy, including those with teenagers, and there is an IMAX theatre and cafe. Kids can experience hands-on activities that are scheduled throughout the week.
Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum is a wealth of knowledge about many things, and the dinosaur exhibit is just one example. The dinosaur gallery provides even more thrills, and the Reed Gallery of the Age of Mammals follows up on what came next. Asian art and the gallery of the First Peoples offer glimpses of other cultures and different times. There is so much more, including a gallery of textiles and costumes, that could take up hours of browsing and wandering.
The CN Tower is a huge draw for visitors to Toronto, even after 36 years of enticing them to its heights overlooking the whole city. It was the tallest tower in the world until 2010, and it still is the tallest in the Western Hemisphere. Day or night, the view is superb and the thrill is not gone. Look straight down through the glass floor and feel the reality of the elevation.
Fine dining is another appealing “attraction” of Toronto, and fine beverages are also easy to find on Yonge Street. The Eaton Centre mall is a shopping mecca of 285 shops of all kinds, and the mall is near the downtown theatres.
In Toronto, there is an endless selection of Thai, Italian, Vietnamese and American restaurants. The restaurant scene can be described as eclectic in downtown Toronto. For excellent Italian restaurants, visitors will want to try Trattoria Giancarlo, Tutti Matti, Buca and Terroni. A selection of French restaurants can also be found in the downtown area, including Biff’s Bistro & Wine Bar, Delux and Globe Bistro.
For those who enjoy dining at fine restaurants, Toronto also has a wide range of gourmet restaurants to offer. These include restaurants like Rodney’s Oyster House and Auberge du Pommier, which are some of the most popular seafood restaurants in Toronto. Canoe Restaurant & Bar is one of the top European restaurants in the Entertainment District of Toronto. For an excellent sushi restaurant, visitors should check out Le Cafe Michi. There are also plenty of exquisite steakhouses to be found in Toronto. These include The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, La Castile Steak House, Barberian’s Steak House, and Harbour Sixty Steak House.
Hotel restaurants in Toronto can make for a welcome departure to typical dining. Most hotels in downtown Toronto feature a warm ambiance, bar area and sometimes live music. Locals enjoy visiting the hotel restaurants for their excellent dishes and hip atmosphere. The Azure Restaurant and Bar is one popular selection for its stained glass and dark wood furniture. Senses Restaurant and Bar is the place to go for a smart martini and a chocolate dessert. The bonbons and cakes at Senses are incredible. Located in the Four Seasons Hotel, Studio Cafe offers an eclectic menu in an artsy environment. At the Windsor Arms Hotel, the Prime Steakhouse is a very popular selection.
Bars in Toronto
For a fun experience out in Toronto, visitors should check out the SPiN bar. The bar offers fast food and drinks, as well as an endless assortment of fun activities to enjoy. SPiN is actually more like a social club, and it offers private rooms, ping pong and a menu with a wide selection of drinks. The Dakota Tavern is a great place to visit for a frosty mug of beer. The tavern is decorated with antlers and other wildlife. The stools are made out of wooden barrels, and this just adds to the Old Western charm of the bar. For those who enjoy watching sports, the best place to go is the Real Sports Bar. There is also an extensive wine list available at the Real Sports Bar, offering visitors an alternative to the usual selection of beers offered by sports bars.
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche
If you’ve never ziplined across a major city square, you’ve clearly never been to Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, one of Toronto’s more exciting art festivals. Originally conceived as a simple showcase for modern art, it has since grown into a dusk-til-dawn celebration where hundreds of independent artists create everything from giant ice sculptures to graffiti portraits. The streets themselves are turned into a creative enterprise, with food, paint and good cheer flowing freely. The fun only ends when the sun rises!
Held every year in January, Winterlicious is Toronto’s two-week dedication to fine dining and everything that tastes good. Chefs all around the city fire up their grills for special culinary events and samplings, and for the price of a single ticket, or “prix fixe,” you can enjoy exclusive discounts at more than a hundred restaurants throughout Toronto. If you’re a fan of new tastes and experiences, this is one event you won’t want to miss. Just be sure to save some room for dessert!
Luminato, also known as Toronto’s Festival of Arts and Creativity, is a celebration of art, music, dance, fashion and theater. It attracts more than a million artists and musicians each year and that number is only expected to climb as the event grows larger and more daring. You may be asking yourself, “It already boasts everything from laser light shows to full ballet productions, so what could possibly be next?” Well, only time will tell, but since it’s more than 80% free and open to the public, there’s no reason you can’t check it out for yourself.
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival
Costumes and parades are only the beginning of the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival. Hailed as the largest street festival in America, it’s a celebration of Caribbean culture that can be enjoyed by anyone with a feathered headdress and a spirit for revelry. There’s music, movies, and dancing; restaurants throw open their doors with drinks and tropical dishes; live bands line the streets to give the marchers a steady beat. To experience a festival that’s truly unlike any other, drop by Toronto in the summer for the Caribana.
Toronto International Film Festival
One of the biggest events in the ‘biz, the Toronto International Film Festival is an annual “who’s who” of Hollywood and beyond. It welcomes more than 300,000 attendees each year from over 50 countries! It’s also the noted starting point for any serious director on an Oscar campaign. For popularity, prestige, and prominence, this is one event in Toronto that you definitely have to put on your bucket list.
Family Fun near Downtown Toronto
Forget the romantic island get-a-away for two at least once with a family excursion to Toronto. Canada’s largest city means a fun-filled vacation for the entire family. It is here that the family together can discover the “other island” with a 12-minute ferry ride over the Toronto Harbour.
Ward’s Island is an island that connects with two other islands, Centre and Algonquin. Once disembarked, there are bikes and quadri-cycles to rent for a three-mile ride out to Ward’s Island beach. Spend some time soaking up the flavor of the local eclectic community. There are old houses, modern homes and everything in between.
Head for Centre Island and take the kids to a small but charming amusement park. Rent canoes or kayaks and paddle along the lagoons to a quaint old-fashioned farm. There is no need to pack a picnic, there are a few fast-food restaurants here.
However, if the family is partial to picnics for this trip, the pristine beaches of Center Island and Hanlan’s Point are surrounded with neatly manicured lawns and gardens perfect for picnicking and daydreaming.
It is fun to dip into a little history here with a visit to the ancient lighthouse, old piers and a church at least a century-old. Two great light dining options for dinner are available with both indoor and outdoor seating. No need to worry about getting hungry before reaching the mainland via one of the frequent ferry rides.
You will want to spend one day, maybe more at the Toronto Zoo. This huge zoo can hardly be fully experienced in only a day. The fascinating animals there are geographically grouped in large habitats. Tour a little version of the world’s animals on the many routes to explore.
Be entertained by the hilarious penguins and the antics of the gorillas. Enjoy adorable pandas at the Panda Interpretive Centre. There will be plenty of places to have lunch with pizza, burgers and other typical zoo fare available.
Kids will love the new splash pads after a long zoo tour on hot days. Parents will appreciate the cooling mist stations. In chillier times, no one will be disappointed. There are many fantastic indoor exhibits to visit at the Toronto Zoo.
Between all these adventurous places to visit, be assured you can find a family-friendly hotel or bed and breakfast for resting nearby.
Shopping near Downtown Toronto
No vacation is complete without a little shopping or browsing. Visit Bloor Street West and see the latest in haute couture. There are shops that cater to children as well. Experience the culture of the city here with cafes, boutiques, bakeries and more. It will be easy to find something for everyone when shopping on Bloor Street West.
Toronto has plenty of shopping opportunities to offer visitors. The major malls that can be found in the city are Fairview Mall, Scarborough Town Center, Sherway Gardens, Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre. For the largest mall in downtown Toronto, Eaton Mall is the place to visit. This mall offers a mix of locally owned retail stores and popular chain stores. Technology stores like Apple can also be found in the mall. The mall has plenty of shoe stores, including Nike, Adidas, Nine West, Aldo and Sketchers. There is also a wide range of restaurants that can be found in the food court of the Eaton Mall. For high end stores like BCBG and Michael Kors, Sherway Gardens is the best mall to visit.
Toronto is renowned for its vintage stores that offer everything from antique furniture to designer apparel at drastically reduced prices. Cabaret is the best place to go for a cocktail dress on sale. 69 Vintage Collective gathers clothing from different eras and places it throughout the store for shoppers. Courage My Love is one of the most popular vintage stores in Toronto, and it has also been opened the longest out of any vintage store in the city. Courage My Love offers jewelry, accessories and a men’s vintage section. I Miss You is the place to go for a gently used Chanel handbag or a pair of Yves Saint Laurent heels. House of Vintage is another place where fashionistas can find designer shoes and accessories at very low prices.
For those who love shopping at designer factory stores, there are plenty to be found in Toronto. The Dixie Outlet Mall, Heartland Town Centre, Pacific Mall and Vaughan Malls are just a few of the outlet malls to be discovered. The Dixie Outlet Mall regularly features semi-annual sales with great bargains on apparel. Stores like GUESS and the Levi’s Outlet can be found at the Dixie Outlet Mall. A fascinating place to visit is the Pacific Mall. The Pacific Mall only features Asian boutiques all contained within one large building. There are all sorts of Asian-inspired dresses, jewelry and foods that can be purchased at the Pacific Mall. The Vaughan Malls features a wide range of high-end designer outlets that offer discounts on clothing. The Oakley Vault is one of the more popular stores at the Vaughan Malls, because it sells original Oakley sunglasses at highly reduced prices. Winners is another popular store that offers reduced-price clothing and has a wide choice of accessories, home goods and shoes.