Planning a visit to Toronto? Whether you’re coming with kids, travelling on a budget, or looking to explore the off-the-beaten-path attractions, there’s plenty for everyone to do in Ontario’s capital, and Canada’s largest city. This guide will take you through everything you should know before your trip to Toronto.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Toronto?
When is the best time to plan a visit to Toronto? There are fun and affordable things to do every season. See the cherry blossoms in High Park in the spring, visit an outdoor festival in the summer, do some celeb sighting at the Toronto International Film Festival in the fall, or in the winter, skate at Nathan Phillips Square or visit Toronto’s Christmas Markets.
Summer months tend to be the busiest, so book your hotel in advance, especially if you plan to visit between June and August.
How to Budget Your Visit to Toronto
Toronto may seem like a pricy destination, but the city can be surprisingly budget-friendly if you plan right. Here are a few tips and tricks:
Buy the Toronto CityPASS
The Toronto CityPASS grants admission to the city’s top attractions for a single, budget-friendly price. The attractions included are:
- CN Tower
- Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
- Casa Loma
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Ontario Science Centre
Regular admission price for all of these attractions works out to $139.60, but with the Toronto CityPASS you pay $88 + tax. Make sure to plan accordingly, as the pass is only valid for nine consecutive days.
Visit museums for free
Many of Toronto’s museums and galleries allow free visits on specific days at certain hours. The Art Gallery of Ontario welcomes visitors to its collection galleries for free Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the Aga Khan Museum is also free Wednesday evenings from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Thursday nights from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. the Bata Shoe Museum opens its doors to visitors for a suggested donation of $5.
What Are the Top Things to Do in Toronto?
These are the main attractions to see on your visit to Toronto:
Go up the CN Tower
No visit to Toronto is complete without a trip up the CN Tower. At 553 metres high, it’s one of the tallest buildings in the world. Also, thanks to a recent renovation, visitors can now climb 33-storeys higher to the SkyPod observation level.
Spend a day at Toronto Museums
Canada’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, opens its doors to more than one million visitors every year. With 800 lifelike bats, The Bat Cave is always a favourite among kids. For a more offbeat experience, visit the Bata Shoe Museum, only footsteps from the ROM. Its 13,000-piece collection of fancy footwear is worth adding to your itinerary.
Meanwhile, art lovers should set aside time for the Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario. History buffs will enjoy the artistic, scientific, and intellectual treasures of Islamic and Persian (Iranian) civilizations at the Aga Khan Museum. And sports fans can’t miss the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Nab tickets for a show in Toronto’s entertainment district
Nab tickets for a musical at the Princess of Wales Theatre, or see The Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform at Roy Thompson Hall. The Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre boasts a full program from the National Ballet of Canada, and the world’s largest free-span glass staircase.
Catch the action at a sports game
As the only city north of the border with teams in nearly every professional sport, Toronto has bragging rights for being Canada’s sportiest city. The 6ix, as some locals call the city, is also known for its loyal fandom. From Drake’s front-row devotion to the Raptors to diehards in the nosebleeds at a Maple Leafs game, any seat is a good place to catch the action.
What Are Some Unique Things to Do in Toronto?
For those looking for less-touristy activities, these options will take you off the beaten path on your visit to Toronto.
Visit the historic Distillery District
The pedestrian-only Distillery District is one of the best preserved historic areas in Toronto. Heritage buildings dating to the 19th-century now house boutiques, galleries, and of course, breweries. While best enjoyed by those of legal drinking age (19 and up), sweets from Soma Chocolate, Greg’s Ice Cream, and The Sweet Escape offer something for the younger crowd, too.
Explore Kensington Market
This pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood market is home to vintage thrift shops, craft coffeehouses, indie restaurants, specialty vendors, and Instagram-worthy urban art. Read our guide to Kensington Market here.
Get to know Toronto’s food scene
Toronto’s internationally renowned food scene offers something to appeal to everyone’s tastes. For a sampling of local produce, start at St. Lawrence Market. Then venture out into the neighbourhoods to explore the diverse cuisine on offer, like kimchi in K-Town or dim sum in Chinatown. If you prefer dining on-the-go, use the Toronto Food Trucks app to find the closest meal-on-wheels to you. From RaviSoups to Mustache Burger, there’s a truck for every craving.
Make like a royal at Casa Loma
Three subways stops north from the ROM stands Casa Loma, Toronto’s castle on a hill. Once one of the largest private residences in Canada, the 98-room, Gothic Revival-style mansion features secret passageways, ornately furnished rooms, and the recently opened BlueBlood steakhouse.
What Is There to Do in Toronto with Kids?
Visiting Toronto with kids? Most tourist sites are kid-friendly, but these attractions will win the youngsters over.
Check out Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
At the base of the CN Tower sits Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. The aquarium is home to more than 20,000 aquatic creatures, as well as North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel.
Discover the Ontario Science Centre
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Ontario Science Centre is an ideal destination for anyone who’s curious at heart. With 10 exhibition halls featuring live demos, films, interactive learning activities and even shows at the IMAX Dome Theatre on-site, the Science Centre has hundreds of activities to keep everyone engaged for an entire afternoon.
The Toronto Zoo
Home to more than 5,000 animals – including a newly born zebra nicknamed Baby Stripe, the Toronto Zoo is a perennial favourite for kids. Located on the eastern outskirts of the city and spanning 780 acres, it’s one of the largest zoos in the world. Therefore it’s a good idea to set aside at least half a day for the visit.
How to Get Around Toronto
Car rental in the Greater Toronto Area is an accessible option. But if you’d rather avoid parking fees and dealing with traffic, try public transportation, taxi, rideshare, or Bike Share.
Public transportation is inexpensive and readily available. A single fare for the TTC costs $3.25 and grants you access to the city’s network of subways, buses and streetcars. Meanwhile, for days with multiple stops, consider the day pass which costs $12.50.
Taxi or Rideshare
There are number of taxi companies you can call or hail in Toronto, including Diamond Taxi and Royal Taxi. Taxi fares are metered and non-negotiable, and a 10 to 15 percent tip is customary. Lyft and Uber are also available, and can be reserved using your mobile app.
Bike Share Toronto
At just $3.25 for a single trip, Bike Share Toronto is an budget-friendly way to get around. For longer visits to Toronto, the day pass or three-day pass are a good deal.
Getting to the Airport
With two busy international airports, there are several cheap flights to Toronto.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is Canada’s largest and busiest airport. The airport is roughly 30-minutes by car from downtown. But make sure to budget time for traffic and security lines. Here’s how to travel from the airport:
- Hail a taxi, limousine, or rideshare service.
- Use the UP Express for a 25-minute train ride to Union Station.
- Take TTC public transportation. This is the cheapest option, however it does require multiple transfers.
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) is located on an island across from the downtown core. Here’s how to get travel from the airport:
- Go for the world’s shortest ferry ride. The ferry is free for pedestrians and leaves every 15 minutes.
- Walk the 853-foot pedestrian tunnel from the foot of Bathurst Street.
- Take the complimentary express shuttle bus from Union Station.
- Hop on the TTC 511 Bathurst streetcar or the 509 Harbourfront.
- Hail a taxi, limousine, and rideshare service.