What do the films American Psycho, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Repo Men have in common? Well, they were all set in the city of Toronto!
You don’t have to be a cinephile to appreciate this Canadian city, though. Here lies all the glittering modernity of cities further south in the USA, with just a fraction of the gun violence, and a hearty boost of ethnic and cultural diversity.
So if you don’t mind the slightly strange accents or a bit of northern wind-chill, perhaps this Ontarian capital may be the vacation destination for you. In which case, you’ll probably be looking for things to do in Toronto. What a total coincidence that you’ve stumbled across this article then!
Ripley’s, an American franchise better known for their “Believe It Or Not!” museums all over the world, has an aquarium in Toronto. Rather than the usual exhibits on strange phenomena from all over the world, the focus of this museum is on the somewhat more standard topic of aquatic life.
That is not to say, however, that this aquarium is in any way lacking intrigue. Featuring a total of 10 different galleries, a day in this aquarium can see you through a mind-boggling number of activities. From a journey on North America’s longest moving walkway - with some of the ocean’s most dangerous animals swimming around you - to a swim with real stingrays, you can look forward to a truly immersive experience with Ripley’s. For those who cannot stand queues at popular attractions like these, pre-booking your ticket is an absolute must! Look in the below for where you can book tickets online.
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Address: 288 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9, CANADA
Website: Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Ripley's Aquarium Entrance Ticket
2. Steam Whistle Brewing
Steam Whistle Brewery, as the name might suggest, specialises in brewing beer but not just any beer. Steam Whistle only brews one type of beer and that is a Czech Lager known as the Pilsner. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be the drinking type, the brewing tour offered by Steam Whistle might pique your interest. Tour around the real factory and learn about the processes that go behind churning out the excellent lager.
How good is their lager exactly? So good that it has consistently won Gold and Silver Awards at the Ontario and Canadian Brewing Awards in the past five years! Perhaps grabbing a drink here might be a good idea after all.
Steam Whistle Brewing
Address: The Roundhouse - 255 Bremner Blvd Toronto, Ontario M5V 3N9
Website: Steam Whistle Brewing
3. Watch an Ice Hockey Match
Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. If there was ever a sport held to be quintessentially Canadian, that would undoubtedly be Ice Hockey. Although variations of the sport of Hockey have been in existence as far back as 1000 BC (in Ethiopia, of all places), Ice Hockey is a contemporary variant of the game, and it was a Canadian innovation.
That said, one would come to expect a higher standard of Ice Hockey in Canada, especially in Toronto, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are considered one of the best in the country - hence, the world - and it would be nothing short of a pity to pass through Toronto without watching one of their matches if they’re in season. They play at the Air Canada Centre and you can check out the links below for more information!
Address: 45 Manitoba Dr, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3, Canada
Disclaimer: This is not a year-round attraction, so do check out their official website for information on dates and ticket prices!
Website: Ice Hockey
4. Allan Gardens Conservatory
The Allan Gardens Conservatory is one of the oldest in Ontario and is home to more than just your garden flora. This garden sprawls over 16,000 square feet (almost 1500 square metres) and nurtures a surprising variety of plants from all over the world. You’ll feel like you’re travelling through 5 different natural worlds, as the Conservatory is composed of 5 different greenhouses, each tuned to mimic distinct climates.
Enter the “Cool World” greenhouse, so named as it is where plants favouring cooler temperatures reside. There are even a waterfall and small pond in this particular greenhouse! Or maybe you’re looking for that tropical vibe, in which case the two tropical greenhouses will be right up your alley.
For those with a true appreciation for botany, the Allan Gardens Conservatory even hold seasonal shows. This is where plants and flowers are curated for special occasions, think poinsettias for Christmas, or blue and pink hydrangeas for Easter.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
Address: Allan Gardens Children’s Conservatory, 19 Horticultural Ave, Toronto, ON M5A 2P2, Canada
Availability: The Gardens are open year-round and free to admit for everyone
Website: Allan Gardens Conservatory
5. St. Andrew's Church
Speaking as somebody who does not personally identify as Christian, I cannot help but fall silent every time I step into a church. Of course, that was probably the intended effect. Churches are centres of religious worship, so it would only make sense that they were built to inspire awe in those who would step past their doors.
Tall ceilings, arcing domes and an expanse of neatly-placed pews. Whether or not you identify as a believer yourself, there is a deep appreciation of architecture to be had in churches. St. Andrew’s Church is no exception, so if you find yourself in the area, be sure to take a look around. The serenity of the area could be a good breathing break from the hustle of Toronto.
St. Andrew's Church
Address: 73 Simcoe St, Toronto, ON M5J 1W9, Canada
Website: St. Andrew's Church
6. Toronto Reference Library
This is not a tourist attraction in the same sense that some other entries on this article are. That is, it isn’t a place where you go in with and come out having accomplished an act of Tourism.
This is the type of attraction that strikes a similar chord to St. Andrews Church. Come here for a love of books, knowledge and learning. This complex is vast, with students and casual readers scattered all around. Expect light background noise in the lush sound of pages flipping, fingers typing and the hum of air-conditioning.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes might be interested in the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection of this library, considered one of the most comprehensive in the world. Marvel at the first edition of Sherlock’s adventures, or pick up a copy of Doyle’s other, less well-known books.
Toronto Reference Library
Address: 789 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4W 2G8
Website: Toronto Reference Library
7. Casa Loma
Originally built for Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, a Canadian financier who was credited with pioneering hydro-electricity in Canada by building a plant to harness the power of the Niagara Falls, Casa Loma is stunning.
A house built in the Gothic Revival style, sitting at 140m above sea level and overlooking the rest of Toronto, Casa Loma has been the setting for many a famous film, no doubt because of it’s otherworldly architecture. Jutting turrets, exposed grey brick and grand glass windows, it plays to every gothic fantasy there ever was.
The attraction here, however, doesn’t end with just the castle itself. Casa Loma is also known for its enchanting gardens. Wandering around the immaculately groomed grounds will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped back into a place far, far away, from a long, long time ago. Fr those wishing to learn more about the history behind this building, self-guided tours are available here in several languages!
The original X-Men movie was actually filmed here!
Address: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, ON M5R 1X8, Canada
Opening Hours: Open Daily, 9.30am - 5pm If you are interested in visiting the gardens, know that they are open from May-October only
Website: Casa Loma
8. Ontario Science Centre
You’re never too old to learn something new! Whether you’re 6, 16 or 60, there’s sure to be something interesting in the Ontario Science Centre for everyone.
For the older ones among you, there are the typical science exhibits you may remember from middle school excursions. Think planetariums, practical physics exhibits and fun science shows demonstrating the seemingly impossible!
If pure science doesn’t quite seem to be your cup of tea, take a walk around and admire the many art displays around the museum. Ogle at The Maple Museum Forever Tree or consider the significance of climate change with the Portraits of Resilience photo exhibition.
In the spring and summer season, there’s even an outdoor park section of the museum where one can see live moss graffiti and take a ride on a tree slide made of 125-year-old Eastern White Pine.
Ontario Science Centre
Address: 770 Don Mills Rd, North York, ON M3C 1T3, Canada
Website: Ontario Science Centre
9. St Lawrence Market
St Lawrence Market can look like a stern - even boring - structure from the outside, but appearances can be deceiving. Step inside, and you’ll find yourself whisked away into the delightful mess of one of the world’s best farmer’s markets.
To clarify, know that St Lawrence Market is actually split into three distinct sections, namely The South Market, The North Market, and St Lawrence Hall. Depending on when you drop by St Lawrence Market, the mix of shops will be different. Weekends would really be the best time to come, as The North Market holds two special events on each day.
Saturdays are for Saturday’s Farmer’s Market, a centuries-old tradition where Ontarian farmers bring their finest seasonal produce down to Toronto, where Sundays are when The North Market floods with antique sellers hawking their wares.
Fresh produce is not all there is to the Market, however. If you do come down, be sure to come down with an empty stomach, as St Lawrence Market is also home to hawkers selling the best of Ontarian comfort food. If you’re looking for a good Portuguese egg custard tart or a proper Canadian peameal sandwich, St Lawrence Market is your place!
St Lawrence Market
Address: 93 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3, Canada
Website: St Lawrence Market
10. Distillery District
Where Kensington Square may have piecemeal sections of Victorian-era architecture splintered across the neighbourhood, the Distillery District rocks the Victorian vibe through and through.
As the name suggests, this area was first developed as an industrial complex to support the distillation of whisky. At one point, this neighbourhood held the biggest distillery in the world, exporting more than 2 million gallons (7.6 million litres) of whisky a year. When alcohol was no longer enough to keep this busy industrial area afloat, the district did undergo a period of abandonment.
In the modern-day, however, the Distillery District has been yanked back to life. Now a pedestrian-only area, the industry that’s come to wash over this area is art. Expect galleries and theatre shows here, and stop for a bite to eat in one of the District’s many award-winning restaurants and cafes.
Address: The Distillery District, Toronto, ON, Canada
Website: Distillery District
11. Toronto Zoo
Almost every major city has a zoo of some sort. However, not every zoo can claim to have the same number of species in its care as the Toronto Zoo. As of now, it has over 5000 individual animals in its care, totalling more than 500 species!
Even if those numbers seem abstract to you, at least know this about the Zoo. It is one of only 13 Zoos around the world that has the privilege of hosting Giant Pandas. They are further distinguished by the fact that they, in fact, have 2 Giant Pandas! Who on earth could possibly resist these charming fuzzy creatures?
Address: 2000 Meadowvale Rd, Toronto, ON M1B 5K7, Canada
Website: Toronto Zoo
Kensington Market proudly boasts of itself as Toronto’s “most vibrant and diverse neighbourhood”. That’s a high bar to set for yourself in any city, but especially so in a city so known for it vibrancy and diversity as Toronto. So, what’s fun in Kensington?
Without stepping into any of its stores, a brisk walk around will reveal Kensington Market to be an area of architectural asynchrony. Victorian buildings from the 19th-century brush shoulders with blocks of bright shops proudly wearing the colours of graffiti. Kensington Market has seen the ebb and flow of immigrants from all over the world in its time, be they Chinese, Italian or Afro-Caribbean.
Although gentrification is a rising problem in the area, one can still see that this is a thriving community. For those so Instagram-inclined, this area has no lack of pretty cafes. FIKA Cafe is one perennial favourite and is famous for its gorgeous wall of books. Fashionistas will love the many vintage clothing stores in Kensington. Lastly, those who simply enjoy historic neighbourhoods will delight in Kensington, named a National Historic Site of Canada in 2005.
Exploring neighbourhoods like Kensington can be quite the daunting task, of course. One sure way to know a place, however, is through its food. Get familiar with the taste of Kensington Market with our recommended food tour below!
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
What can be said about the Niagara Falls that has not been said before? It is an awesome sight, in the most original sense of the word. It is a vivid display of Mother Nature’s might, flowing at up to 68km/hour (41 mph).
For those not familiar with North American geography, did you know that the Falls actually span across both the US and Canada? However, if you were to visit Niagara Falls from New York, you’d be seeing a completely different Falls than from Ontario. The good news here, though, is that the Ontarian end of the Falls is the grander one, with a much wider brink and more powerful stream. Score for Canada!
While it is about a 1.5-hour drive away from Toronto, it is definitely a must-see for anybody in the southern region of Ontario. In addition to the falls proper, there is also the Niagara History Museum, two different waterparks, as well as the World’s Largest Free-Flying Aviary - Bird Kingdom. For those who feel the prospect of planning an entire day trip out to the falls is too overwhelming, perhaps an organised tour might be the option for you! Check it out in the tour link below.
Duration: 9 hours 30 minutes
Located right in the middle of downtown Toronto, no visit to the city is complete without at least a brief visit to the Royal Ontario Museum. It is the largest museum in Canada, and certainly one of the largest in North America.
The Royal Ontario Museum covers more than just art. Let sheer curiosity be your guide, and you’ll find yourself seeing everything from Near Eastern and African cultural artifacts to the world’s largest collection of fossils (more than 150,000 specimens!). There’s even a gallery that’s a life-size mock-up of the St Clair Cave in Jamaica, complete with 20 bat specimens and over 800 models.
Just don’t expect yourself to be able to finish the whole museum in a day (or even a whole week), as there are over 40 galleries in this museum, totalling more than 6 million artifacts. If you took only a second to look at each artifact, that would still amount to almost 70 straight days of browsing!
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
New York has Soho, Toronto has Queen Street West - known by locals as Queen West.
You won’t be able to mistake this type of area. Every metropolis has something like it. Instead of plaster and paint, you find brickwork and graffiti. For tourists, this is the land of Chinese restaurants and antique stores. You can even swing by after the sun goes down for a drink with live jazz music at The Rex.
If hipster adventures are your thing, this is the street for you. And what meal could really be more hipster than brunch? For those seeking a less conventional meal experience, give our recommended King and Queen West Brunch Walking Tour a shot. Link below!
Duration: 4 hours
Were you the type of kid to eagerly await ghost stories at school camps or sleepovers? Or maybe you’d sneak a flashlight and a horror novel to read under the blankets past your bedtime? If you relate to the above, then we’ve got the perfect activity for you!
Introducing Haunted Walks, a tour company offers walking tours of Toronto, just with a twist. As the name might suggest, they specialise in tours that speak on the more gruesome histories of districts in Toronto. Donning black capes and kerosene lamps, your guides will make it their very mission to ensure you don’t leave this tour without being sufficiently spooked.
Hungry for horror? Then book your tour now!
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
A place for everybody
Arguably the urban heart of Ontario, if not the whole of Canada, Toronto pulses with the energy that all big cities do. Most cities claim to celebrate diversity, but Toronto takes this to the next level. No matter your race, religion or sexuality, there’s sure to be something for you to enjoy here!
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