Traveling to Toronto is an intensely curious and urban experience unlike any other. It is a city of diversity and multiculturalism, blending the high and the low, the chic and the accessible into a distinct blend. If there is a food you’ve been dying to try, chances are Toronto has a street vendor, fine dining, artisanal bistro, and a 3-day festival dedicated to that cuisine.
Or maybe you have a hankering for entertainment -- in which case, Toronto does not disappoint. It leaves no stone unturned with the bright lights of Massey Hall, the Toronto Opera House, the Canadian National Ballet, and the end-of-summer carnival and the CNE. Love to go star gazing? This eclectic city takes center stage on an international platform with TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival.
If you’re missing the great outdoors within the city, take a walk along the boardwalk of Ash Bridge’s Bay, stroll along the vast lakefront of Lake Ontario and trek through the rich, wooded areas of High Park. There is so much to see and do! You may come for a few days and end up falling in love serendipitously.
Like any of the most happening urban jungles, Toronto’s food experience is unparalleled. Here, you’ll find high-end cuisine from heavy-hitter celebrity chefs like David Chang’s Momofuku and the ever-popular Terroni’s. You will also be able to dig into more eclectic finds like Mother’s Dumplings on Spadina and The Grand Electric for delicious fish tacos.
There are popular music spaces in Toronto like the Danforth Music Hall and Soundclub Academy. These venues host a ton of popular artists and bands like U2, and Norah Jones. But Toronto is well-known for its indie music scene. Themed and moody spaces like The Rex, a Jazz and Blues Club on Queen St., the Mod Club, and The Drake host local and lesser known bands all year long.
The Royal Alexandra, the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and TIFF BellLightbox are just a few of the glittering venues where you can catch the latest independent flicks, international musicals, and world-famous plays. If independent and experimental theater is more your thing, check out Theatre Passe Muraille.
Toronto’s pride and joy, its lakefront, is an incredible hub for outdoor and social activities. Here, teams join in the morning to dragon boat race, solo kayak, enjoy a friendly game of volleyball or take a yacht out into the harbor. During Canada Day, it’s a prime location for fireworks.
Toronto would not be the unique urban landscape it is without a reverence for nature built into actual activities you can take advantage of. Besides the rich farmers’ markets, travelers and residents alike enjoy biking along the lush Don Valley River. You can also capture the cherry blossoms in the spring and a “Shakespeare in the Park” show at High Park for C$25 during the summer.
No trip to Toronto is complete without visiting the CN Tower. Iconic and beloved, the Western Hemisphere's tallest freestanding structure offers incredible views of Toronto as well as the shimmering Lake Ontario from the Observation Deck and the glass floor at a heart-stopping 1,122 feett. Adrenaline seekers will relish a chance to try the "EdgeWalk", where visitors that are harnessed to an overhead rail system walk the edge of the roof. Once you're done, head to the revolving restaurant, Restaurant 360, below.
Formerly the Skydome, the Rogers Centre is where all major sporting events and concerts take place. It's the "home of the Blue Jays", Toronto's MLB team. It has also played host to several historical tennis matches and concerts by big names like Coldplay and David Bowie. A word to the wise: bring a hat for when its sunny [i]and[/i] rainy because the roof of the dome opens up during events. Enjoy a game with a beer and hot dog or the music underneath the stars!
Showcasing hockey's living legends, the sport's history and coveted, rare memorability are housed at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Located downtown at the corner of Front Street and Yonge Street, the Hall of Fame features inductees, their stories, the majestic Stanley Cup and plenty of exhibits that recall major decisive games, such as Canada vs. USSR in 1972.
The famous post-modernist architectural flare of Frank Gehry has left its mark upon the AGO, as its better known. Located on Dundas Street, the gallery has over 480,000 sqare feet, making it one of the largest in North America. The permanent collection is a prime opportunity to view major Canadian artists such as the "Group of Seven", work from artists like Picasso, pieces from major movements like the Renaissance and Baroque periods and also African and Oceanic art. Major special exhibits include an exposition on avant-garde and experimental artists, pieces by Monet, works from Canada's indigenous artists and an archival space. The AGO is also closely linked to the nearby Ontario College of Art and Design and frequently hosts graduation exhibits at the end of the year.
One of the busiest (and largest) malls in North America is the Toronto Eaton Centre, that spans an entire block from Dundas Street to Queen Street. It's the major hub for these two transit stops and has three floors as well as a beautiful sculpture of Canada Geese on the upper level. The mall has recently seen major renovations and the addition of several major brands such as Victoria Secret, Kate Spade and Wilfrid and Mac. The Indigo Chapters bookstore is the largest location in Toronto and the mall's lowest level features a modern and sleek "Urban Eatery" with several premium fast food options. Those looking to spend the day shopping better bring some comfy shoes because once you're done you can head out the Dundas Street entrance right onto Dundas Square.
Summertime in Toronto kicks off in May. June spells the beginning of Luminato, two-week art and literary festival held at various venues around the city, such as the beautiful Gladstone Library, outdoor Dundas Square, and historical University of Toronto buildings. Smells of food festivals waft through the air through Summerlicious. You won't want to miss the essential Taste of the Danforth, which is a massive block party geared towards all things Greek and Mediterranean. Travelers can experience the Pride march and the Beaches Jazz Festival or any number of outdoor, weekend-long concerts at the Molson Amphitheatre and Fort Garrison. In the fall, High Park, Riverdale, and the Don Valley trail boast spectacular views of the changing fall leaves, and winter brings great activities like the Much Music Video Awards, the New Year’s Eve bash and skating at Mel Lastman Square and City Hall downtown.
Besides regional flights and smaller local centers like Buttonville Airport, Toronto has two international airports. There is the Toronto Pearson International for all international and long-haul flights as well as domestic and continental travel. The majority of airlines have direct flights to and from Pearson such as Lufthansa, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, British Airways, etc. Flights also take off on a daily basis from Toronto’s downtown airport terminal, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Flights from there are domestic as well as continental and it is the main hub for Porter airline flights. Pearson is about 20 to 25 minutes by car from the city center, depending on traffic. It has all the major car rental services on site that you would expect, as well as public transit and speciality inter-town buses such as GO bus services. Billy Bishop is located right downtown and is a mere 5 to 10 minutes from the city’s center, with plenty of parking available on site.
Travelers moving across Canada use the national train/railroad brand VIA Rail which hosts last minute deals every Tuesday for one-way and round-trip fares from Ottawa, Montreal, and even Moncton, New Brunswick. Deals, when you can snag them, can go as low as C$39 for a one-way ticket between Toronto to Montreal or $112 for round trips. You can take the train out west for a good three to four-day journey in VIA Rail’s stunning overnight cabins for approximately C$1000. Enjoy the scenic view as you travel, both in winter and summer. For travelers crossing the border, Amtrak’s service departs throughout the week to destinations like New York City and the total trip takes anywhere from 10 to 12 hours, depending on border crossing and customs. Trains arrive at Toronto’s main station, Union Station
The best way to travel to and from Toronto, especially if you’re in neighboring cities like Ottawa, Montreal, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C., is by car. The I-80 and I-90 are en route to Toronto. Within the city itself, traveling east and west is the major national highway, the 401, as well as the QEW, the 427 and the 410. Going north, the Gardiner Expressway turns into the Don Valley Parkway until the exit at Sheppard, at which point, the 404 begins. Traveling north of the city towards Barrie and Algonquin National Park is the 400 and there are plenty of smaller highways that connect at this point. The fastest way to travel from east to west is to take the 407, which is a tolled highway.
When traveling to and from Toronto by bus, there are several options, depending on your point of origin and destination. If you’re coming from the United States, the Greyhound or Megabus is your best option for travel. Some Coach Canada buses will travel to destinations on the Eastern seaboard such as New York City and Boston. Megabus is also a comfortable and cost-effective way to travel across Ontario and through to Quebec with tickets as low as C$30 when booked at least a week in advance. There are multiple journeys throughout the day and over the week, as well as express services that make fewer stops moving south through the States and eastward, across Ontario. All buses arrive at the Bay & Dundas Street Bus terminal. If you’re traveling from Toronto to one of the smaller cities, such as Kitchener, Guelph, Waterloo, or London, the GO bus service is unparalleled in its speed and cost per ride, which can be as low as C$20. GO buses collect at Toronto’s Union Station but often have stops throughout the city at major terminals.
Based on your tastes, the city has boutique hotels that are chic and upscale, located in Yorkville that usually cost anywhere from C$150-$250 a night. There are also standard luxury accommodations in the financial district such as the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, all priced similarly, starting at about C$500 and all with stunning views of the CN tower.
Queen West – this hip and happening neighborhood is alive and thriving in the summer as well as in the winters. Queen West has some of the trendiest fashion outlets, art galleries, and gorgeous underground venues with interesting, one-of-a-kind music and cocktails. It also features tons of cute, artisanal shops, such as the Drake General Store and outdoor patios such as the Sky Yard.
Danforth – this neighborhood is in Toronto’s East End and has a cozy, urban feel as it is home to many young families. The Danforth, as it is called, is famous for its Mediterranean population and rich cuisine and has a whole range of juice bars and restaurants such as Mother’s Dumplings.
Riverdale – a mixed-income and reviving neighborhood, Riverdale features beautiful outdoor parks and skate parks, high and middle-rise housing, as well as trendy coffee shops and co-working spaces.
Roncesvalles – lovingly called “The Roncy”, this Toronto neighborhood is as authentic as it gets. Between Bloor and Queen is where Roncy begins and it hosts a whole score of creative spaces, cute cinemas, and grungy but charming restaurants and bars such as the infamous Round The Horn.
The Core – essentially the hub of Toronto right at its city center, "The Core", as you can well imagine, is jam-packed with the trendiest nightclubs and entertainment. It also features Toronto’s booming financial and tech district.
Toronto’s transit system is known as the TTC and is well-connected both internally as well as to external public transportation. Single tokens are C$3.25 and are good for one ride. For visitors looking to get around, you can purchase a day token for C$12 that also has unlimited use on the weekends. Or, you can opt to grab a week pass for C$42.25. GO Transit accepts an easy-load “PRESTO” card, which means that ticket prices are calculated based on a "tap-in-tap-out" from the point of origin to the point of arrival. Many of the subway stations now feature payment by debit so you don’t always have to have cash on hand for tokens and passes.
Getting around Toronto by taxi is convenient when you’re in the core but can get pricey if you choose to travel farther out, whether west, east, or north of the city’s center. Within the city, fares start at a base rate of C$4.50 and go up by distance and time from there. A ride to the international airport from downtown is about C$30-C$50, depending on the taxi company.
Rental cars are readily available within the city from the regular vendors. Parking is usually metered on the street and will cost you around C$5 for an hour's worth of parking. There are plenty of paid lots that will charge you about C$15 for a whole day's parking. The easiest way to find parking in the city is to look for the signature “Green P” which denotes a parking lot. Watch out for signs that have zoned parking during specific times and restrictions on length of time. The city also has a car-share program, ZipCar, which makes it easy to rent, drop off and pick up a car from the city center. This car-share service can run anywhere from C$9.25 to C$79 per day and also has monthly membership options.
Within the city center, the best place to shop is undoubtedly the famous Eaton Center. This iconic mall is an entire block long, spanning from Dundas Street south to Queen Street, and features all the big name fashion and clothing brands such as Sak's and Holt Renfrew, as well as a massive luxury food court known as the Urban Eatery. It costs around C$12 for a filling meal at the Urban Eatery. Big names such as L’Occitane and Chanel also can be found on Bloor Street. Shopping in Toronto can be as cheap or expensive as you’d like it to be. There are plenty of thrift and consignment stores peppered throughout the city for brand name finds at affordable prices, like Burberry trenches for C$400.
Major supermarkets in Toronto include No Frills, Food Basics, Loblaws, Longo’s, and Rabba Fine Foods. A very popular, upscale Italian grocery store is Pusateri’s, which is worth checking out if you’re a fan of fresh Italian food. Of course, there are plenty of neighborhood delis and niche, ethnic groceries available throughout the city.
Food in Toronto is simply unparalleled. In the city, there is literally every kind of cuisine you could hope for including Persian, Indian, Ethiopian, and Chinese – you simply have to imagine it, and it’s present. If you have a refined palate and a flare for the theatrics, you’ll want to try Bucca, Enoteca Sociale, or Bent, the restaurant owned by celebrity chef Susur Lee. For a more farm-to-table ethic coupled with an upscale dining experience, Montecito is the city’s newest hotspot.
Downtown Toronto hosts a ton of great food with little neighborhoods featuring their own ethnic cuisines. Gerrard Street East is a great hub for Indian food while Spadina and Bloor hosts a wide variety of Asian cuisine. For homemade Italian eats, Little Italy on College West is best.