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Travel Guides Mapped

21 epic things to do in Toronto that you have to check off your list

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Ainsley Smith Oct 11, 2018 7:01 am

When researching the best things to do in Toronto, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

The Big Smoke attracts millions of tourists from all over the world with its renowned restaurants, famous attractions, and let’s not forget the long list of bars, museums, and eclectic neighbourhoods and districts to check out.

And whether you’re planning a month-long trip or just a day in Toronto, we’ve put together an epic insider’s guide on things to do in the city that would impress even the most jaded city-dweller.

Here are the 21 best things to do in Canada’s largest city including events, awesome activities and popular hot spots. So go on, book your flight and visit Toronto ASAP.

Explore the Distillery District

distillery

The Distillery District at night.

A visit to Toronto’s historic Distillery District will make you feel as if you transported to an old European city that has a distinct hip New York vibe. Located east of downtown, the Distillery District’s cobbled lanes, which originally housed the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery, are lined with numerous cafés and restaurants, and an array of artisans and specialty shops.

The 13-acre district is comprised of more than forty heritage buildings and is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America.

Eat your way through St. Lawrence Market

Howard Sandler/Shutterstock

Located in Toronto’s Old Town, the St. Lawrence Market was previously ranked as the best food market in the world by National Geographic, making it a must-see for foodies.

When visiting the market, you’ll want to get there as early as you can to beat the crowds, who line up early to shop for fresh produce, meat, artisanal goods and prepared foods, in addition to eating at the many restaurants and food stands housed in the market.

While there are plenty of delicious places to grab a bite to eat, you’ll always see hordes of people lined up to get their hands on the iconic peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery. All it really consists of is a bun and some peameal bacon but damn is it ever good.

Shop vintage in Kensington Market

National Geographic

Kensington Market/Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that Toronto is a mecca for vintage shopping and it just so happens that some of the best old-school treasure troves in the city can be found in Kensington Market.

You can easily spend an afternoon eating and shopping for hidden gems in this eclectic neighbourhood. Stop by popular vintage stores like Courage My LoveSub Rosa Vintage, Vintage Depot, Bungalow, and Flashback Vintage, which have their own loyal fan-base of shoppers who continue to come back time and time again for their unique vintage finds.

Take in a local sports game

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays/Twitter

Toronto is pretty spoiled when it comes to professional sports teams. Not only is Toronto home to the Maple Leafs (NHL), Raptors (NBA) and the Blue Jays (MLB), we’re also home to the Argonauts (CFL), Toronto FC (MLS), Toronto Marlies (AHL), Toronto Wolfpack (RLFC), and the Toronto Rock (NLL).

So regardless of what sport you fancy, there’s a team for you to cheer for while you’re in town.

Get away from the crowds and explore the ‘hoods

Leslieville

@patrickasseily/Instagram

One of the most exciting and entertaining things about Toronto is its extensive spectrum of ‘hoods. From the culture-coated areas like Little Portugal, Little Italy, Little India and Greektown, to the social-sexy scenes of Queen West, King West, Ossington, Yorkville and Riverside, no trip to Toronto is complete without exploring a few of the city’s unique neighbourhoods.

Cruise the harbourfront

waterfront parks

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

If you’re looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can head down to the harbourfront and enjoy the incredible lake and cityscape views and countless activities on hand.

Spend an afternoon checking out the weekly festivals at the Harbourfront Centre, contemporary art at the Power Plant, followed by a bike ride along the water and a bite to eat at Amsterdam Brewhouse, where you can enjoy a pristine view of the harbour in a Muskoka chair with a 3 Speed beer in hand.

Soak in the views from a rooftop bar

Broadview Hotel

Daily Hive Staff

Sunny days in Toronto call for rooftop patio hangs, where you can enjoy cold drinks and al fresco dining while taking in the surrounding views. Similar to New York City, there are countless rooftop patios peppered throughout the city, with Barhop Brew Co.Broadview HotelCactus Club CafeThe ChaseDrake Sky YardDistrict EateryGusto 101KasaMotoThe PilotThe PorchTequila Bookworm, and Kost serving up some of the best views.

Have a laugh at a comedy show

@allendavidov/Instagram

If you’re in the mood for a few good belly laughs, a visit to one of Toronto’s many comedy clubs needs to be in order. These are the spots where you can see some of the best up-and-coming stand-ups in North America in addition to countless celebrity comedians and SNL stars. Some great spots to check out are Comedy BarSecond CityYuk Yuk’sAbsolute ComedyBad Dog Comedy Theatre, and The Rivoli.

Take in the city views from the CN Tower

cn tower

Brian Hamilton/Daily Hive

Known as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the CN Tower proudly stands 1815 feet above the ground. During a visit to the iconic Toronto landmark, you can take in the views from the observatory decks or from the revolving restaurant.  Or if you’re feeling brave and aren’t afraid of heights, you can try the Edge Walk. Walk along the edge of the tower while harnessed for safety, of course.

Pro tip: Try to visit the tower when the sun is out and the sky is clear, so you can get the best view of the city.

When you’re done taking the views from up top, make sure to stop by Ripley’s Aquarium on the ground level, which is home to North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel.

Hike the Scarborough Bluffs

hiking trails

@umadsornah/Instagram

Between the sweaty streetcars, the congestion and perpetual construction in the city, the need for an escape to nature is more important than ever for Torontonians. If you have a few hours to spare, we recommend hiking the picturesque Scarborough Bluffs.

While it’s not the most challenging hike, a trek through the stunning bluffs is definitely the most scenic and view-filled (and, naturally, the most Instagram-worthy). You could easily forget you’re in Ontario when you find yourself strolling atop the eroding sand cliffs, staring at the crystal blue water below.

Take in a show

March 7

@po13th/Instagram

Whether you’re in the mood for a play, musical or some incredible live music, there’s always an impressive selection of shows and performances to check out at the city’s many historic theatres and venues including Ed Mirvish Theatre, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Princess of Wales TheatreElgin & Wintergarden Theatre, Roy Thompson Hall, Massey Hall, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Roadtrip to Niagara Falls

GO Niagara

Niagara Falls/Shutterstock

Located just over an hour and a half from downtown Toronto is Niagara Falls, one of the most spectacular wonders of the world. On the Canadian side of the falls, you can check out the impressive views of the falls from the observation decks or get up close and personal with the falls aboard the Hornblower Niagara Cruise where you can admire the natural wonder from all angles.

Another popular way to experience the falls is from the top of the Niagara SkyWheel or along the White Water Walk, which gives you an up-close look at the Niagara Gorge and its stunning crystal waters.

Take in a different view from Toronto Island

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Maxi_kore/Shutterstock

If you want to see a different side of the city, a quick hop, skip, and short ferry ride away will get you to the scenic Toronto Island. Whether you visit on a weekend, or an evening after exploring the city, the Toronto Island offers family fun or adult fun depending on what you’re after. If you haven’t been to the Island yet, pack a picnic and head out to explore the beautiful grounds, winding bike paths, and numerous beaches.

Wondering where to go? Catch the ferry at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay West.

Get your art and culture fix

Royal Ontario Museum/Shutterstock

If you like getting your culture fix, you’re definitely in the right city, because you can easily spend your entire Toronto visit exploring the numerous museums and galleries in town.

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), is a true Canadian institution and features something for everyone. From the dinosaur exhibit, bat cave, and eco-galleries to the Egyptian and Asian exhibits and rotating special exhibits, the ROM showcases global and Canadian discoveries of all kinds.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is a must-see attraction for both travellers and locals alike, bringing in major exhibits from all over the globe, including the extremely popular Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit.

Additionally, you can also check out the Bata Shoe Museum, the Aga Khan Museum and even the Hockey Hall of Fame if history and art aren’t your jam.

Explore Graffiti Alley

Toronto spring art walks

@sheenaglaze/Instagram

From bold building murals to alleyways covered in colourful graffiti, you don’t need a gallery membership to check out some seriously awesome art in this city. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that these gorgeous creative works also make pretty great photo backdrops. Running just south of Queen Street from Spadina to Portland, you’ll find some of Toronto’s most colourful street art in Graffiti Alley.

Grab a cold one at a microbrewery

Bandit Brewery patio

Bandit Brewery/Facebook

The official International Beer Day might occur in August, but Toronto celebrates its love of beer daily in the city at its countless craft breweries. From the east end to the west end, we love our beers in Toronto, so much so that the craft brew scene is expanding each year. Check out a local brew and try out a new flavour – the options are endless.

Not sure where to go? You can start by checking out our guide to microbreweries here.

Go sailing on Lake Ontario

August 3

@kyleetemp/Instagram

To truly experience Toronto to the fullest, you need to see the city from as many vantage points as possible. Head to the harbourfront where you can go on a sailing cruise and take in the incredible city views from Lake Ontario.

Chill in High Park

Fall foliage

@doomraw_/Instagram

Regardless of the season, High Park is always a must-see for visitors. Spend a sunny afternoon exploring the grounds whether on foot or bike, and take in the beautiful grounds and amenities of Toronto’s largest park.

The 400-acre park is located in the heart of the city, and boasts a mix of sporting and cultural facilities, historical attractions, gardens, playgrounds, and a zoo, making you forget you are in the largest city in Canada.

Get your brunch fix like a true local

breakfast sandwich

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen/Facebook

One thing that Torontonians don’t mess around with is brunch. It’s the one meal of the day we have no problem waiting in line in the rain to try just so we can tell our friends we’ve dined at the hot new spot. We respect the culinary mash-up so damn much, we even have a food festival solely dedicated to the meal lifestyle.

From old-school neighbourhood favourites to must-try new openings, trusted spots include Le Select, Peter Pan, The Senator, La PalmaMildred’s Temple Kitchen, Maha’s, Saving Grace, Aunties & Uncles, Le Petit Dejeuner, School, Thompson Diner, and Drake Commissary. Just make sure to arrive early to avoid waiting in long lines at these hot spots.

Take in Dundas Square

@maxwhitehead6/Instagram

Toronto’s answer to Times Square, Dundas Square is located in the heart of downtown along the longest street in the world and hosts hundreds of concerts, fairs, and a variety of other weekly events annually that are usually all free.

Hit up Nathan Phillips Square

baggage check

Toronto City Hall/Shutterstock

And of course, no visit to Toronto is complete without paying Nathan Phillips Square a visit. Here you’ll be able to pose in front of the iconic Toronto sign, snap a pic or two of City Hall, which resembles a spaceship to the amusement of visitors, and depending on the season, go skating on the frozen outdoor skating rink. Don’t forget to check out the various festivals and street vendors on-site.

What are your favourite things to do in Toronto? Share with us using the hashtag #dailyhivemapped.

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Ainsley Smith
Ainsley is a Staff Writer at Daily Hive. She's a former Vancouverite turned Torontonian who is passionate about avocado toast, aesthetics, and avocado toast aesthetics. Story idea? E-mail her at [email protected]
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