Toronto is the fourth-largest city in North America and one of the most multicultural cities in the world. That means there are several reasons to visit Toronto. But for the purposes of this helpful guide, we’ve narrowed it down to eight key reasons.
8 Reasons to Visit Toronto
1. Skyline views from the CN Tower
No Toronto travel guide is complete without the CN Tower. At 553 meters high, its one of the tallest buildings in the world. And, thanks to a recent renovation, visitors can now climb 33-storeys higher to the SkyPod observation level.
But there’s more to do than marvel at the views. Epicureans can enjoy a panoramic dining experience from the rotating 360 Restaurant. Meanwhile, daredevils can suit-up for EdgeWalk, a hair-raising outdoor promenade along the pod’s top ledge.
2. Renowned museums and art galleries
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. But there are treasures for everyone. For example, dinosaur skeletons and ancient artifacts will delight archeology buffs. Meanwhile, galleries of Chinese and Middle Eastern art will appeal to even the most-seasoned art fiends.
The Art Gallery of Ontario boasts close to 95,000 works. In addition to its expansive selection of Canadian art, the gallery regularly hosts exhibitions from acclaimed international artists. New acquisitions are also added on a regular basis. For instance, plans permanently install an Infinity Mirror Room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama are already in full swing.
For a more offbeat experience, visit the Bata Shoe Museum. Its 13,000-piece collection of fancy footwear is worth adding to your itinerary. And it’s only footsteps from the ROM.
3. Toronto Pride and summer festivals
Torontonians know how to make the most of every season. But open-air festivals make the summer one of the best reasons to visit Toronto. From the Toronto Jazz Festival to the Caribbean Carnival, there are events to check out every weekend.
Pride Toronto celebrates the LGBT community and diversity every year in June. A rainbow-flag parade dances its way down Yonge Street and finishes in the village with a street fair and parties. In July, the Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival—formerly known as Caribana—takes over the streets with vibrant and over-the-top carnival costumes, steel drums, and food.
The Canadian National Exhibition runs from mid-August to Labour Day weekend and closes each summer with a bang. Known as The Ex, the end-of-season fair features fun for the whole family. Visit the Food Building for gut-busting concoctions, or, give midway rides and carnival games a whirl. There’s also a stellar lineup of musical acts and the eardrum-rattling air show.
Just before the leaves change colour, Toronto International Film Festival descends on Toronto. Because of the city’s reputation for being the Hollywood of the North, the festival attracts big talent to talent, making it prime time for star-spotting.
4. A spicy global food scene
Ask any foodie and they’ll tell you that food is the best reason to visit Toronto. And with more than 7,500 diverse restaurants, there’s ample variety to appeal to everyone’s tastes.
Those hungry for budget-friendly eats can chow down on kimchi and spicy rice cakes at The Owl of Minerva in Koreatown. Or pop into Mother’s Dumplings and then grab a treat to eat at Mashion Bakery in Chinatown.
Be sure to indulge in a decadent brunch, too. Many restaurants offer a sweet and savoury service on the weekend. Try Smith’s in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood for spicy brisket and hash or salted espresso caramel doughnuts.
5. Buzzworthy theatre and nightlife
From musicals to nightclubs and bars, there are more than a few reasons to visit Toronto after dark. 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.
For clubs, pubs, and bars, the best streets for night crawlers are Adelaide and King Street West. Those interested in a less central night out can venture along Dundas Street West, Ossington, College or Danforth to find local hangouts. And for live music and salsa dancing, Lula Lounge is a standout choice – just look for its iconic bright-light marquee.
6. Action-packed sports events
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 Leafs game, any seat is a good seat to catch the action.
In the summer, take in a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre, or head to the BMO Field for a Toronto FC soccer match or Toronto Argonauts football game. Come winter, hockey and basketball take over the city. The recently renamed Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) is where all the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs action happens.
Another popular sports destination is the Hockey Hall of Fame. Home to the coveted Stanley Cup, the museum showcases a vast assortment of hockey artifacts and memorabilia.
7. Outdoor parks and recreation activities
Toronto may be a concrete jungle, but it has a surprising amount of green space, too. In fact, Toronto is one of the greenest cities in North America.
Often overlooked by tourists, the Toronto Islands are just a ferry ride from the city’s centre. You can spend the day at Centreville Amusement Park, or sun bathing on the beaches. The best view of Toronto can be found on Olympic Island, which also happens to be a great place for picnic.
Toronto’s mainland parks are also ideal for picnics and nature hikes. High Park, the city’s largest parkland, has everything from a zoo to a pond with boats for rent. In the spring, the park’s gardens and trails showcase Cherry Blossom trees in full bloom.
8. Local farmer and antique markets
One of the best reasons to visit Toronto is the variety of markets you can find across the city.
Near the downtown core, St. Lawrence Market houses more than 100 stands for bakers, butchers, and other artisans. Next door, Ontario’s farm fresh produce shines in a tent filled with local producers and vendors. Plan to visit when you’re feeling peckish. That way you can taste-test your way through the market aisles.
Food lovers will also enjoy Kensington Market. More of a neighbourhood than a market in the traditional sense, the area’s pedestrian-friendly streets are lined with artisanal shops and independent eateries. Meanwhile, thrifters will also enjoy hunting through shop racks for vintage clothing finds.
Transportation within Toronto
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. For days with multiple stops, consider the day pass which costs $12.50.
Other transportation options include Bike Share Toronto, ride-share services from Lyft and Uber, taxis, and car rentals.
When to Go
There are reasons to visit Toronto in every season. Summer months tend to be the busiest, so book your hotel in advance, especially if you plan to visit between June and August.
Flying to Toronto
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.