Toronto, the biggest city in Canada, is sometimes still referred to as New York’s little sister. Sure, it has skyscrapers stretching up to the clouds and a steadily growing population, but Toronto is far more than just a wanna-be Big Apple. With its diverse range of events, history, cultures and people, the city is well worth a visit. And with a population of over three million, locals have found endless ways to keep themselves entertained. So, as a Toronto-dweller myself, here’s what I recommend checking out…
Here’s some excitement right off the bat – Toronto is home to Canada’s largest fair. The annual Canadian National Exhibition festivities entertain nearly 1.5 million visitors at the end of summer every year, both tourists and locals. Originally created in 1879 to promote Canadian agriculture, the CNE has evolved into a huge combination of concerts, carnival-style rides and games, amazing food, and the famous air show where pilots perform spectacular manoeuvres in the sky.
You probably already know that Toronto is a decent-sized city, but did you know it’s also situated right on Lake Ontario? This gives parts of it a seaside town sort of feel, and the Toronto beaches are some of the finest in Canada. Centre Island, Woodbine and Cherry Beaches are particularly popular, and they’re Blue Flag certified which means their sandy surroundings and water quality are top-notch. If you get sick of the bricks and concrete downtown, these little slices of heaven are right there to rescue you.
This is one of Toronto’s most picturesque parks, and trust me, there are tons. Mimico Waterfront is in the west end of the city, just a little removed from downtown, and its walking trail along the water front is pure bliss. You’ll have a totally Instagram-worthy view of the city skyline from across the lake (which is even more beautiful at night!), and you can even rent a bike and ride along the trail. Another bonus is lots of people walk their dogs through this park, so canine lovers should make a point of stopping by.
Toronto is all about adventure! Canada’s Wonderland is the country’s biggest theme park, and it’s right in the Greater Toronto Area city of Vaughan, just 45 minutes from downtown. What’s more, the world’s tallest, longest and fastest dive coaster just opened up there in May, so it’s a place to thrill seek. You’ll also find the most delicious snacks there, like the Cookiewich (literally just ice cream squashed between two giant cookies) and the iconic Canadian Beavertail, but I recommend waiting until after you’ve ridden the coasters to indulge.
Simply known as Caribana, this annual festival celebrates Caribbean culture and traditions. Caribana was first presented in 1967 as a gift from Canada’s Caribbean community to honour the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. It’s a three-week event, but the main weekend to enjoy it is between August 1st and 5th. This is where the nightlife reaches its peak, with family fun in full swing, and best of all is the Grande Parade. Think of the most beautiful and elaborate costumes you can imagine, multiply that by maybe a thousand and that’s what you’ll get if you watch the gorgeous parade crew go by.
This pedestrian-only area is set between 19th century Victorian buildings and it REALLY feels like a step back in time. Previously the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, this collection of industrial low-rises has been revamped into a unique setup combining the old and new in Toronto. Take a stroll down the old cobblestone streets, stop in at the bars, shops and galleries, and even catch a concert in this charming little district.
Hipsters and vintage lovers from all over the world can find their place in Kensington Market. This indoor/outdoor bohemian neighbourhood is full of quirky shops and contemporary cafes, not to mention endless collections of art. You’ll get so lost in this colourful community that you’ll be shocked to see the downtown high-rises just a few blocks away. Blue Banana Market is one of the largest and coolest shops in the area, jam-packed with souvenir items, market goods and trinkets, and signature Canadian products (basically lots of maple syrup).
Canadians may be friendly, but they put those manners away when it comes to sports. Join in on the competition and catch a beloved Blue Jays game, Canada’s only Major League Baseball team. The Toronto-based team entertains nearly 50,000 wild fans every game at their downtown ballpark, and it feels so very Toronto to drink a beer and cheer on the Jays inside the giant stadium. Even if baseball’s not your thing (it’s certainly not mine), you’ll still get tons of free entertainment watching the fans grow rowdier after they’ve had a drink or two.
Feeling brave? Walk on the edge of Toronto’s skyline-dominating structure, the CN Tower. Raised nearly 1200 feet off the ground on a mere five-foot wide ledge, visitors can look waaay down at the city on the world’s highest hands-free full-circle walk. Don’t worry, you’ll be safely harnessed, and leaning over the edge of the Tower will be totally worth the terror when you see how beautiful the view is. Plus, you’ll definitely have bragging rights over all your friends and family. If you’re not quite up for dangling over the edge, at least take a walk inside on the Tower’s see-through glass floor!
This escarpment in the eastern part of Toronto is home to nine parks situated across the beautiful Scarborough Bluffs. Stand up to 300 feet above the coastline and snap some Insta-worthy pictures of the water, or go for a hike along the trails. Do take the time to climb as high as you (safely!) can, because the views only get better as you become more out of breath searching for them. This escarpment feels far removed from all urban vibes, despite being a short 25 minute drive from downtown. Tip: Bluffers Park is the only one with a beach!
Toronto is full to the brim with fun, and this list barely scrapes the surface. The only way to see what else this dynamic city has to offer is to go discover its potential yourself. Whether you make the journey solo, with friends or family, you might just return home wondering when it’s acceptable to book your next flight back.