Here are the top experiences to be had in this spirited Canadian city that’s high on culture, creativity and cheer, says Ananya Bahl
Toronto is high on the joie de vivre metre with eclectic neighbourhoods, food markets, sprawling museums and a gorgeous waterfront
This iconic symbol of Toronto is as popular today as it was when it first opened in 1976. Primarily a communications tower, this 553.3-m-tall structure is the tallest freestanding one in the Western Hemisphere. While it affords sweeping views of the business district, the tower is also home to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and 360, a restaurant offering modern Canadian cuisine and gorgeous views.
Royal Ontario Museum
With 13 million artworks, natural history specimens and cultural objects, the ROM museum is a must-visit. Founded in 1914, the museum houses 40 galleries and exhibition areas, and is considered among the finest cultural institutions in North America. Some of the must-sees include the Chinese temple sculptures, Gallery of Korean Art and the cedar crest poles carved by First Nations tribes in British Columbia.
Get your bohemian quotient soaring with a visit to this hip neighbourhood. Its outdoor market was designated as a National Historic Site in 2006 owing to its multiculturalism. Afternoon food walks are very popular here where you can savour immigrant history through various cuisines. Think empanadas, jerk chicken and Canadian comfort food and you have yourself a recipe for a delicious outing! Invest in some retail therapy at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkville Shopping Centre — both of which are sprawling malls.
Built at the site of what was once the British empire’s largest distillery — Gooderham and Worts Distillery — the five-hectare Distillery District is one of Toronto’s most popular design and art centres. The warehouses of the old distillery built in 1832 have been converted into high-end galleries, studios, boutiques and cafés. In summer, the quaint area is abuzz with art shows, live jazz performances and food events.
Jazz music aficionados must head to Rex — the city’s oldest-running jazz club. With over 80 shows hosted monthly, visitors will be spoilt for choice when it comes to listening to some of the finest musicians from Canada and beyond. The club is also home to a restaurant, which serves hearty burgers and finger food that are perfect for post-gig meals. At the Rex, whose motto reads: “more great jazz than anywhere else, all the time”, it’s common to spot jazz stars!
Toronto Botanical Garden
If you’re travelling through Toronto with kids, head to this delightful green haven. Divided into the Greensward (grassy portion of the Wilket Creek Ravine); the Entry Garden Walk (filled with witch hazels, viburnums, smoke trees and chaste trees) that was designed by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf; the Kitchen & Herb Garden; the Teaching Garden where kids can learn about plants; and Beryl Ivey Knot Garden, which exhibits the art of pruning and shaping plants – it is a green space that’s always a hit with families.
For city residents, the beach is a tony colony sitting pretty by Lake Ontario. For tourists, it’s a part of the beaches, a green neighbourhood that includes the waterfront and the parks around the lake. Summers call for long walks along its boardwalk, the chance to work up a sweat along the Martin Goodman Trail, relaxation by the waterfront, or the opportunity to unwind at the various cafés in this area. Walk along the quaint lakeside houses with neat flower-lined gardens or picnic at the three beaches – Wood-bine, Kew and Balmy. The neighbourhood also plays host to various events like the annual Jazz festival and Arts and Crafts show.
Head to Toronto Islands for a fun day outdoors. About 15 small islands make up this park, which is located on Lake Ontario. A 13-minute ferry ride takes visitors to this place from central Toronto. Swimming at the beach, biking, canoeing, kayaking, picnic spots, nature walks, and an amusement park can be enjoyed here. You also get to interact with locals, who live in charming cottages that are said to be almost 150 years old!
For those looking for even more family fun, the Toronto Zoo (home to pandas, meerkats and penguins galore), Ontario Science Centre (a museum showcasing scientific exhibits and boasting an IMAX dome) and Canada’s Wonderland (with its roller coasters, water park and Dinosaurs Alive exhibit) make for great outings with kids.
Take a day-trip to the Niagara Falls, located about 128 km away from Toronto. Get on board the “Voyage to the Falls” or “Maid of the Mist” boat tours and experience the gush of the cascades in all their glory.