Best Things to do in Toronto in Winter and Summer
Canada has its fair share of incredible cities, such as Montreal and Vancouver, but Toronto can feel like an afterthought. Canada’s largest city has a lot going on, and it has to be one of the most welcoming cities on earth. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise for a city where nearly half the residents are foreign-born.
It’s a melting pot of a city with a diverse range of neighborhoods from the immigrants who chose to call this great city home. It’s not just diversity that makes Toronto tremendous but mixes in its rich indigenous history and incredible lake culture. Toronto has no shortage of things to do with a great vibe all year round! Read on to see the best things to do in Toronto. t
Best Things to do in Toronto in Winter and Summer!
Hike Along The Scarborough Bluffs
Admittedly we aren’t city people, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise we start the list off with a hike along the Scarborough Bluffs. It’s a nine-mile stretch of cliffs along Lake Ontario that is home to several different parks.
You can hike along the 300-foot cliffs for views of the lake or head down to the shore to enjoy the sandy beach. It’s the perfect spot for a summer picnic or a hike to take in the fall foliage. Bluffer’s Park Lookout is the spot to go for the best views and a great beach!
Venture Up the CN Tower
Hours: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.Admission: Adult – $40, Senior – $27, Youth – $27, Child $14Location: 290 Bremner Blvd (GPS)
A unique thing to do in Toronto is to head up the CN Tower. The CN Tower is an icon of the Toronto skyline, and at over 553 meters tall, it is the tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere. With a stat like that, it boasts some jaw-dropping views of the city and harbor. The building has multiple observations decks, a glass floor, The Skypod, and a restaurant.
The Skypod is the real highlight for us as it’s one of the highest observation decks in the world. At the same time, you’re at the top watch the pendulum sway that illustrates how the tower moves in the wind! Tickets aren’t cheap to reach the top of the observation tower at $40 an adult, but the views are sublime.
Try the Toronto EdgeWalk
Price: $195Location: CN TowerAge: 13+
If you’ve gotten to the top of the CN Tower and still wondering what to do in Toronto, try the Edgewalk! EdgeWalk is probably the most exciting thing to do in Toronto and is perfect for those seeking a bit of a thrill.
As a guest, get ready to strap into a harness and walk out on a 5 ft wide ledge for an unhindered walk around Canada’s highest tower. There are no railings, so those with a fear of heights might want to give this one a skip. Check out the video to get an idea of the experience and determine if you have the nerves!
Royal Ontario Museum
Location: 100 Queens Park (GPS)Hours: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Wednesday – Sunday)Admission: Adult – $23, Child – $14, Senior $18, Student/Youth – $18Website: Link
One of the best things to do in Toronto in the winter is visit a museum! The Royal Ontario Museum covers everything! It’s the best place to learn about world culture, natural history, and art in Toronto.
As one of the largest museums in North America, it attracts more than one million visitors to see its six million items. It’s a city landmark in the neighborhood of Yorkville. We were overwhelmed by everything on display and recommend at least a couple of hours to explore.
Picnic in High Park
Location: 1873 Bloor St W (GPS)Website: Link
Head to the city’s largest park for a picnic or a stroll around the manicured grounds and gardens. It’s also a great place to work up a sweat with a run or tennis courts. There are also seasonal activities like the outdoor swimming pool and ice skating rinks. Kids and families will love the High Park Zoo, where they can see a variety of animals.
Catch a Hockey Game
Everyone should catch an NHL game at some point. It’s no secret that the national religion of Canada is hockey. Consider a game as a right of passage, as seeing a hockey game is a must-do while in Toronto or Canada for that matter.
The Toronto Maples Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967 but still manage to draw a massive crowd. Their home arena, the Scotiabank Arena, is located right in the heart of the city. If you’re already a diehard fan, Toronto is home to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Go For An Ice Skate
After catching a hockey game, you can always give it a try yourself. In the winter, Toronto has over 50 ice skating rinks around the city. The most popular one is at Nathan Philips Square, where the central fountain becomes an ice rink.
Grab your hockey stick, lace up your skates, and get ready for a fun time! It is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Toronto in the winter! You won’t need your skates if you head to the managed rinks like the Nathan Philips Square, as they have rental facilities.
Walk Down Graffiti Alley
The graffiti alley has a few names, such as Rush Lane or Rick Mercer’s Alley. You can find the kilometer-long art gallery between Spadina and Portland on the south end of China Town.
It’s an explosion of creativity and color spread across the street, covering just about everything. We love checking out areas like this as they play an essential role in urban culture.
The best way to visit Graffiti Alley is through a free tour with Tour Guys. Your guide will dive into the history of graffiti and point out notable works. While the tour is free the guide does work on tips, we’ve done a lot of these free tours and always pay our guide for their time.
Go Axe Throwing
Get in touch with Canada’s plaid-clad lumberjack roots at Toronto’s Bad Axe Throwing and BATLgrounds. You probably guessed it by now, but the two venues host a Canadian style of darts that involves hurling axes at a target.
They’re both BYOB, so you can throw on a Canadian Tuxedo and a two-four of Labatt Blue before tossing your ax. No more stereotypes, I promise!
Catch a Concert
Toronto hosts a wide range of musical acts and has numerous venues. You can hear everything from big-name artists at the Scotiabank Arena, an opera at the Canadian Opera Company, or your favorite band at the historic Massey Hall. Toronto has no shortage of live performances to enjoy all year round.
Massey Hall is one of the most famous venues in Canada and has hosted a fantastic line-up. Some of the people who have graced its stage include Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Luciano Pavarotti, the Dalai Lama, and a whole lot more.
Shop at the St. Lawrence Market
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Monday-Friday) 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Saturday)Location: 93 Front St E (GPS)Website: Link
One of the best places to visit in Toronto is St. Lawrence Market. This famous food market has been named the world’s best by National Geographic. It’s been open since 1803 and started as a temporary weekly market.
The current structure dates back to 1845. The South Market houses over 120 vendors who sell fresh produce, meats, baked goods, and cheese. While the North Market is only open for a weekend antique market and private events. Make sure to check their website for up-to-date event information.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Location: 317 Dundas St W (GPS)Hours: (Tuesday – Thursday) 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Friday) 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Saturday – Sunday) 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.Admission: Adult – $25, Under 25 – Free, Indigenous Peoples – FreeWebsite: Link
This art gallery is over a century old and includes more than 90,000 works from the first century onwards. This vast museum is on Dundas street, and if you’re walking by, you definitely can’t miss the 45,000 square meter building. As one of the largest museums in North America, it’s safe to say that you can fill a day here quickly with all of the contemporary art, interactive exhibits, and photographs.
The AGO is also home to Peter Paul Ruben’s The Massacre of The Innocents painting. The AGO prides itself on being kid and family-friendly with tours, art-making activities, and Family Sundays and Summer camps for kids. For an up-to-date schedule of unique art exhibitions, check here. The museum has a long-standing tradition of free Wednesday evenings from 6:00 – 9:00.
Toronto Botanical Garden
Location: 777 Lawrence Ave E (GPS)Hours: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.Admission: Free
We’ve mentioned our love for botanical gardens before, and it hasn’t changed. Since leaving New York and saying goodbye to our beloved Bronx Botanical Gardens, we frequently make an effort to visit new ones worldwide. The Toronto Botanical Gardens are free to visit and give visitors the joy of indoor and outdoor experiences, garden tours, and even nature camps.
If you are visiting Toronto in the summer, staying here is a must, and when things liven up. There are frequent outdoor music events, garden dining, and an organic farmers market on Thursdays. The gardens are open every day besides significant holidays.
Enjoy the Toronto Islands
I had no idea before I visited Toronto that the city had its own little set of islands in Lake Ontario. The Toronto Islands are a group of 15 small connected isles, and some refer to them as just one island because of their easy connection of paths. It’s a 13-minute ferry ride from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.
Once you land on the islands, a whole day of fun awaits for every age. It’s possible to canoe, kayak, ride your bike, or hike around the islands. There are a few swimming beaches here, including Hanlan’s Point Beach, which is clothing optional.
As a Michigander, I would recommend dipping into the Great Lakes at least once in your life. Kiddies and families can enjoy the Centerville amusement park (geared for younger children, but still a treat!). It is the perfect place to ride a bike or bring your dog for a walk in the summer. Make sure to keep in mind there are still 600 full-time residents living on the island, so be respectful.
Canoe Along the Toronto Waterfront
Website: LinkAddress: 283 Queens Quay W (GPS)Cost: Starting at $60 for 2 hours
Hit the water to take in the Toronto Skyline views from a unique perspective. On a summer day, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Toronto. You don’t need a canoe as the Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre rents them along the boardwalk. If it’s your first time in a canoe consider one of their tours or lessons.
If you prefer a kayak or stand-up paddleboard they offer those as rentals too. Of course, a canoe is the most classic form of transportation for the lakes around Ontario. The indigenous people of the region used them along the lake centuries before Toronto was founded.
Learn about wildlife at the Toronto Zoo
Location: 2000 Meadowvale Rd (GPS)Hours: (Monday-Friday) 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Saturday-Sunday) 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.Admission: Adult – $28, Senior – $23.15, Child – $18.30, Parking – $14
Although there are no more pandas at the Toronto Zoo, there are still over 5000 other amazing animals to go around. These notable animals are the one-horned rhino calf, Sumatran Tiger, and a two-toed sloth named Sally. After a year on safari in Africa, we admittingly have a tough time entering a zoo.
However, we know that not everyone can head into the wild and enjoy the many beautiful animals that populate our earth. Most zoos do great things for animal conservation and funding. Rest assured that the Toronto Zoo is one of the zoos that do fantastic work and makes a considerable effort to conserve endangered species.
They have rescued polar bears from the wild, reintroduced over 120 animals back to the wild, and monitored and saved wild bats around Ontario through their Native Bat Conservation program.
The Toronto Zoo is the largest in Canada and well worth a whole day. There are seven regions to visit: Africa, Tundra, Indo-Malaya, Americas, Trek, Australasia, Eurasia, and Canadian. It will be hard to see everything, so get there early!
This hip Toronto neighborhood is our favorite spot in the city and one of the best places to visit in Toronto. It’s full of cafes, boutique shops, record shops, cool bars, and restaurants. It’s long been the neighborhood of immigrants before turning into a hub for artists and now a hipsters playground. The bohemian neighborhood is well worth an afternoon.
If you’re in the mood for mouth-watering tacos Seven Lives Tacos Y Mariscos has become a city fixture. Every day customers line up around the block to eat some of their sensational tacos. If you’re after coffee check out Moonbeam Cafe. Or for a libation sample of some of the brews at the Kensington Brewing Company.
Walk around the Distillery District
A series of large Victorian industrial buildings is the former home to the largest distillery in the world. The hip area is full of boutique shops, upscale restaurants, a brewery, a sake distillery, and a chocolate factory.
It’s all pedestrian-friendly, and no cars are allowed in the district. It plays a crucial role in the soul of Toronto and hosts several events throughout the year. Asides from the waterfront, it’s probably the most photographic area of Toronto, and it’s perfect for a night on the town.
Get Sprayed at Niagara Falls
Okay, this technically isn’t in Toronto, but it’s a thing to do when visiting Toronto. The world-famous waterfall straddles the border between Canada and the US. It’s only a 90-minute drive from Toronto and is definitely worth the trip. Around 750,000 gallons of water a second roll over the cliff.
If you want to feel the full force of Niagara Falls, check them out with Journey Behind the Falls. The Journey Behind the Falls takes you through a tunnel and directly behind the falls. They’re probably some of the most incredible waterfalls in the world and draw quite a crowd for a reason.
Get Some Healthy Eats
One of our favorite things to do in Toronto is to get some healthy food. Some excellent restaurants specialize in healthy food that is tough to find outside of Canadian cities.
We tried out Calli Love and Iq Food and highly recommended them both! Calli Love has some great smoothies and poke bowls. Iq Food serves up salads, veggie bowls, coffee, and healthy baked treats.
Catch a Toronto Blue Jays Game
Baseball games are an awesome thing to do in the summer in Toronto. We aren’t diehard baseball fans and find it boring to watch on the TV. However, going to a baseball game in person is a blast and such a festive event.
It’s hard to think of anything more (North) American than heading to a baseball game. Best of all tickets are pretty affordable if you don’t mind sitting higher in the stands. If sports really aren’t your thing the Rogers Centre also hosts some huge acts and bands such as U2, Madonna, Metallica, Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen.
Go Cafe Hopping in Toronto
Cities are driven by a love of coffee so you can find some excellent coffee shops in Toronto. If you’re looking for some of the best coffee we had in Toronto, head to Quantum Coffee, The Tampered Press, Rooster Coffee Broadview, or Reunion Coffee Roasters.
If you’re in the city center check out Dineen Coffee Co. for one of the most beautiful interiors we’ve seen in a cafe.
Go on a Ski Holiday
The last time we visited Toronto, we wanted to go snowboarding on the Eastern side of Canada. It led us to Billy Bishop Airport and onwards to Mont Tremblant. Mont Tremblant is one of the best ski resorts in Canada and a 90-minute drive from Montreal.
It is also only a very short and direct flight away from Toronto with Porter Airlines and is where many locals choose to go in the winter. Mont Tremblant isn’t just a ski hill, but instead a whole winter resort experience where families can go dog-sledding, snowmobiling, and even shopping under the Laurentian mountains.
When you are cold and chilly during a Canadian winter, checking out a show is one of the best things to do in Toronto! Toronto’s booming theatre scene is known as North Broadway. The self-described label hosts many touring companies and has several beautiful theatres.
The most famous theatres are Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre, North America’s only two-floor theatre complex, and Young Centre for the Performing Arts. The Young Centre for the Performing Arts has three stages in 19th-century tank houses located in the Distillery District.
This is more for the international crowd, but poutine is Canada’s national comfort food. It’s a base of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. There are variations with creative toppings, but those three ingredients make up its core components. It originates from Quebec, but you can find versions of it throughout Canada.
The best poutine can be found at Nom Nom Nom. It’s a shipping container food stall located in Market 707. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, head to Poutini’s House of Poutine, where they make a vegan version.
Where to Stay in Toronto?
The Hazelton Hotel
The Hazelton Hotel is one of the top-rated hotels in all of Toronto. Located in the upscale district of Yorkville and is near Toronto’s restaurant scene, this is the ultimate place to stay if you are looking for optimal comfort and a good location.
The Ritz Carlton
You know it’s not going to be a bad stay at any Ritz Carlton. Besides the name recognition, this hotel is very well-reviewed and centrally located downtown.
The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar
One of downtown Toronto’s most iconic locations, this hotel has live jazz and blues music every night. The location and price are fabulous, and if you’re on a budget in Toronto, it’s not a bad option.
Should You Get a Toronto City PASS?
The Toronto City Pass is great if you want to see multiple tourist sites around Toronto. Places like the Toronto Zoo, CN Tower, and the Royal Ontario Museum so that it could be a, could option if you are really planning to hit the sites.
Once activated upon first use the City Pass is good for nine consecutive days so you never have to feel rushed. You can get your City Pass before your visit to Toronto here!
Plan and Pack for Toronto
Book a Toronto Tour
It’s nice not to always do all the travel planning and book a tour ahead of time.
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
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