Summer in the City: Toronto
It’s Canada’s largest city and a top destination for millions of travellers each year — including world leaders and royalty. With the wealth of cultures, attractions and activities, a Toronto itinerary can quickly fill up.
Need some help planning your getaway? Here are 10 top things to do in Toronto:
See the view from above
Towering more than 533 metres above the city, the CN Tower is one of Toronto’s most popular attractions and a local icon. If you dare, stand on the glass floor and look straight down over 1100 feet, or feel the breeze on the Outdoor Observation level. On a clear day, you can see over 160 kilometres from the Sky Pod — the highest observation level. The latest — and most daring — addition is the Skywalk: an open air walk on a five foot ledge with nothing to keep you safe but a harness.
If you’re looking for an unusual dining experience, book a table at the 360 Restaurant. As its name suggests, the restaurant slowly revolves to give diners a complete view of the city (one rotation takes about 72 minutes). Admission to the Look Out and Glass Floor Levels is included with purchase of en entrée, and during the summer months the restaurant offers prix fixe selections for lunch and dinner. For more information, visit CNTower.ca.
Catch a game
Baseball season is in full swing, and fans flock to the Rogers Centre to catch the Toronto Blue Jays — or cheer on the opposing team. It isn’t just about seeing the game live — you can’t help but get caught up in the ball park atmosphere and find yourself cheering with the crowds. For a behind-the-scenes-look — including areas like the press box and Luxury Suite — include a Rogers Centre Tour Experience.
Of course, baseball is just one of the many sports on the field (or court) in Toronto. See a live soccer match with Toronto FC, or watch the pros play at the annual Rogers Cup at York University in August.
Can’t make it to a game? Cheer with the crowds at a local sports bar instead.
Explore the Harbourfront
Art, festivals, theatre, performances, workshops, parks, camps, shopping — we could go on, but there are more than 4000 events each year. The 10 acre Harbourfront Centre has sometime to suit every interest, not to mention a great view. Tour the parks, stroll the boardwalk, book a romantic dinner cruise or get out on the water in a canoe.
If you’re looking for some hands-on fun while you’re in town, the centre has activities for all ages, including a Craft Department where you can take in a guest lecture, demonstration or workshop. For more information, visit HarbourfrontCentre.com.
Savour the flavours
True, there’s no shortage of ways to tempt your taste buds anytime of year, but summer festivals bring out the best of Toronto’s diverse fare. Every July, many of Toronto’s best restaurants offer up significant savings during Summerlicious. Prix fixe menus offer a great value with meals ranging $15-$25/person for lunch and $25-$45/person for dinner. The event is widely popular, so reserve a table to avoid disappointment.
Also, ethnic food aficionados won’t want to miss Taste of the Danforth in August, or visit the Fortune Cooking Festival, which highlights Pan-Asian cooking. Wine, beer and whiskey will also be the highlights with their own festivals — with tastings, of course.
For some cheap eats, stop at Nathan Phillips square for Fresh Wednesdays and Tasty Thursdays where you’ll find free live entertainment and well-priced foods.
Enjoy the arts
Toronto has a thriving theatre scene to rival New York and London, not to mention 50 dance companies, six opera companies and two symphony orchestras. Catch a play or musical, enjoy a concert or indulge your love of the arts with the wide variety of events and concerts, like the Beaches International Jazz Festival. To take advantage of toasty summer weather, many of the events are held completely or partly outdoors, like the Fringe Theatre Festival or the Cooking Fire Theatre Festival.
For a little down-time, cool off in one of the city’s many museums and galleries — there are over 125, after all. Many places offer free or pay-what-you-can events. Or, for a look at the latest art, check out the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. (For more ideas, see Toronto for the art lover.)
Celebrate at a festival
Pride Week Toronto (featuring one of the city’s largest parades)
Scotiabank Caribana Festival (Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival, complete with colourful parade)
Canadian National Exhibition (a popular all-generations event starting mid-August)
TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival (the city’s other major jazz festival)
For more events, check out the list on the City of Toronto website.
Explore the zoo
Need an outing with the youngsters in your life? The Toronto Zoo is one of the largest in the world and there is plenty to keep the young ones busy. In addition to the six zones based on areas of the world — like Africa, the Americas, Canada and Australasia — there’s the Zellers Discovery Zone for kids. The zone features the Kids Zoo as well as a theatre and water park. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell them it’s educational!)
Some must see exhibits: the 10-acre Tundra Trek has a polar bear habitat with an underwater viewing area, and the Special Exhibit Sharks at Stingray Bay where guests can interact with the animals (in a safe and humane way).For more information about the zoo, visit TorontoZoo.com.
Tour a neighbourhood
Get the skyscrapers out of your head! Toronto’s many neighbourhoods each have their own personalities and attractions. For instance, enjoy the elegance of Bloor-Yorkville’s designer shops and fine dining, or be entertained in the Distillery District — a hub of arts and cultural activity.
If it’s a little culture you’re after, you’ll find plenty of it in places like Little Italy, Little Korea, Little Poland, Little India and Chinatown. Take in the best that each area has to offer — like restaurants serving up traditional cuisine and shops selling specialty goods.
For a full list, check out BlogTO’s Toronto Neighbourhoods.
Shop ’til you drop
So many places, so little time… From specialty boutiques to major centres like Brookville Place, the Yorkdale Mall and the Eaton Centre, you can find just about anything in Toronto.
One of the classic shopping experiences is the St. Lawrence Market, where you can enjoy fresh fare and shop for specialty items from around the world — like clothing, gourmet foods and jewellery — and enjoy a hardy meal or tempting snack. On Saturdays, the market fills with fresh produce, baked goods and meats, and Sundays bring more than 80 antique vendors peddling their wares on the grounds.
For more information on where to shop in Toronto, try this directory.
Relax at a spa
Tired just thinking about your itinerary? Book some pampering at one of the many spas in the area. There’s no shortage of options from which to choose, like indulgent treatments, day-long outings and weekend getaways. (You might just forget you’re in the middle of a busy metropolis.)
For the ultimate indulgence, enjoy the luxury of the Hazelton Hotel, reputedly the city’s most exclusive hotels. One of the most luxurious treatments is the New World Relaxation Wrap, which envelops the body in the anti-inflammatory and calming essential oils of lavender and melaleuca.
And yes, there are treatments for the gentlemen too, like a Sports Pedicure. (For more information, visit the hotel’s website.)
WHEN YOU GO
– Learn the transit system. The TTC can take you just about anywhere, and maps are available online via the Toronto Transition Commission website.
– Go underground. To beat the heat and the smog, look for the PATH walkway through Toronto’s downtown area. (It has miles of shopping too.)
– Consider passes and packages for popular attractions. Hotels often include tickets as part of the deal, and there’s the Toronto CityPASS which offers discounts on popular attractions.
– Look for free stuff to do to keep your budget in good shape. (See our suggestions in Free (or nearly free) in Toronto.)
– Consider all accommodation options. Hotels can be pricy, but hostels, university and college residences and vacation rentals offer less expensive options.
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