25+ Amazing Toronto Tourist Attractions that Aren’t Just for Tourists!
By Ana Bilokin on July 9th, 2018
These are not just tourist attractions, but some of the best parts of daily life in the city! With so much diversity in one place, taking the subway across town can be just as enriching as a trip overseas, even if you’ve lived here your whole life. Discover the beauty of Toronto at these top destinations!
18+ Best Downtown Toronto Restaurants To Dine At
‘Toronto tourist attractions’ can just mean the best parts of town!
In a big city like Toronto, there’s always so much going on! If you’re visiting, it can be hard to know where to start, but if you’re living there it’s easy to fall into the same old routines… keep reading for all of our tips on what to see and things to do, whoever you are. From the mightiest of Toronto tourist attractions, to the smallest hidden gems, get out there and see the city in a new light!
Not looking to travel far? Here’s what’s best, right in the heart of Downtown Toronto!
1. Try the Peameal Bacon Sandwich at the St. Lawrence Market
The St. Lawrence Market is one of the best closed markets in North America, and it’s a total foodie haven full of fresh produce, artisanal cheese, and so much more – both edible and not! Make sure you stop by Carousel Bakery to get a taste of Toronto’s iconic Peameal Bacon Sandwich, a can’t-miss stop on any Toronto bucket list. website
2. Head over to the historic Distillery District
Not too far from the market, you’ll find the city’s single pedestrian-only neighbourhood, the Distillery District. Cobblestone streets wind through Victorian industrial buildings but inside them you’ll find many of the city’s artists and artisans, infusing the area with culture and creativity. It’s also a hub for Toronto’s performing arts scene and home to the spectacular Christmas Market that takes over and fills the district with holiday cheer every December. website or check out our guide
3. See a movie at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
While it’s a destination for celebrities, and their fans, during festival season, the TIFF Bell Lightbox is a cultural hub for the rest of us year-round. They’re always screening a mixture of the best new releases from around the world as well as some older cinematic favourites. Check out their listings and discover some motion picture masterpieces. website
4. See the cherry blossoms at High Park
The crown jewel of Toronto’s parks springs into bloom for about a week in the spring with a spectacular canopy of cherry blossoms that draws in locals and tourists alike. If you can’t make it out that week, don’t worry. High Park won’t disappoint year round with a pool, skating rink, stunning pond, countless trails, enchanting playgrounds, off-leash dog parks and even a zoo. website
5. Participate in a street festival
Summer in Toronto is chock full of festival programming. First off, there’s Pride every June, a spectacular celebration for LGBT+ community members and allies alike. Then, there’s Taste of the Danforth for delicious greek eats, The Beaches Jazz Fest for jazz music and to party in the streets, and a festival for just about every neighbourhood or prominent cultural group. On any given weekend, there’s an excuse somewhere to hit the streets and probably eat a lot of delicious food, too. Check out a list here.
6. Go thrifting in Kensington Market
This pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood is diverse, multicultural, full or art and always exciting. It’s the best place in town to find some unique pieces at a thrift store or try a diverse range of ethnic street foods while supporting independent business owners. Come on Pedestrian Sundays, the last Sunday of every month, to take over the streets and see the Kensington Market Art Fair. Here’s our full guide to the area, so you can really make the most of your visit.
7. Pretend you’re royalty at Casa Loma
Built by Sir Henry Pellatt as a private estate, and completed in 1914, Casa Loma is the only structure of its kind in the city. Step inside and be transported back in time by its Gothic Revival architecture and ornate Victorian-era decor. The building is full of hidden doorways and secret passages, has 98 rooms, a ton of rich history to learn about and… ghosts? website
8. Try a tasting menu as part of Summerlicious
Or Winterlicious, depending on the season. 200 of the top restaurants around the city participate in these festivals, offering three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at three different price points, making Toronto’s incredible dining scene all the more accessible. See how many menus you can try, and get a real taste of the city’s diversity. summer/ winter
9. Check out the programming at the Harbourfront Centre
This cultural hub on the water does it all; boat rentals, food festivals, concerts, summer camps, skating, art exhibitions and so much more. If you want to relax, head over to the urban beach over at nearby HTO Park. If you’re feeling adventurous though, see what’s scheduled at this centre – we’re sure there’s something for everyone. website
10. Simply relax at Trinity Bellwoods Park
This park is a go-to for lounging in the grass and having a picnic. Pack a couple cold ones (discreetly), some food, a blanket, your closest friends and head out for a wonderful day of not doing anything in the sun. Watch dogs run around at the dog bowl or join into one of the impromptu jam sessions that are always popping up around the park, thanks to the hip youth that seem to never leave in the summer months.
11. Eat your way through the Ossington strip
Right by Trinity Bellwoods Park you’ll find Ossington Avenue, a primary artery for Toronto’s food and drink scene. You’ll find one of the best bowls of pho in the city at Pho Tien Thanh, amazing Pressed Cubano sandwiches at La Cubana, upscale dishes inspired by Canadian heritage at Boralia, and so much more. Plus, it’s a good place for a bar crawl. Find more recommendations for food, drink and things to do in the area here.
12. Watch a movie in the fresh air
Summer in Toronto is short, so you better make the most of it. Instead of staying home to watch Netflix, make your way over to your local park and watch a movie together with film buffs and park aficionados from around town. Christie Pits Film Festival is playing movies on Sunday nights all summer long and Yonge-Dundas Square will screen “Rockumentaries” on Tuesdays. Open Roof Festival (Wednesday nights) charges admission but brings serious game by bringing in local indie musicians, beer and catering.
12. See the masterpieces at the Art Gallery of Ontario
The gallery has a spectacular permanent collection and features an even more exciting roster of world-class temporary exhibitions. If you’re one of those people that thinks galleries can be boring and stuffy (and you’re over 19), try coming to First Thursdays, on the first Thursday of every month, for food, music, drinks and the biggest art party in the city. website
13. Spot the city’s public art… everywhere
Not into paying museum fees (although, BTW, entry to the AGO is free on Wednesday nights after 6pm)? Luckily, the streets of Toronto are a gallery, too. Check out the Sculpture Garden over by the St. James Cathedral, walk down Graffiti Alley just off Queen Street West, discover the works in West Don Lands such as “The Water Guardians” or spot pieces that aren’t exactly sponsored by the city such as the ‘redesigned’ Community Watch signs all over the West End.
14. Go cafe hopping around the city
A favourite past time of Torontonians both young and old is settling in at their favourite cafe’s with a laptop, book or a couple friends. In a city where people are always complaining about the weather, cafes present a sure-fire way to cool off in the summer and warm up in the winter. Check out Dineen in the heart of downtown for some old-school glamour, or a cup from one of the Jimmy’s Coffee locations for a real taste of Toronto.
15. Bike along Toronto’s waterfront
When you’re in the middle of the city, it’s easy to forget the shoreline even exists, but it does, and its perfect for cycling. The Martin Goodman Trail extends from east to west. It crosses the Humber river, passes by waterfront parks, cuts through downtown and zips past Cherry beach. From there, you can head over to the Leslieville Spit, a man made park that has been reclaimed by nature and is now a cyclist and bird-watcher’s paradise, or continue on past the impressive and bustling Woodbine Beach.
16. Ferry over to the Toronto Islands
If the bike path isn’t adventurous enough, head over to Ward’s Island to kick off your cycling adventure. Or, check out the attractions of Centre Island such as the hedge maze, Center Island Beach, Centreville amusement park or Far Enough Farm. From Hanlan’s Point you can access the clothing optional beach, and one of the oldest structures in the city: Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, which is, of course, haunted. website
17. Dive into Ripley’s Aquarium
Oh, so you wanted to go underwater? Toronto will take you there at Ripley’s Aquarium. It’s a bonafide tourist attraction, but well worth the trip. Walking through the Dangerous Lagoon with sharks swimming over your head is an experience even locals can enjoy. website
18. Take in the vibrancy of Chinatown
Colourful, bustling, and full of exciting smells, sights and tastes. Toronto’s uniquely big Chinatown, centred on the intersection of Dundas and Spadina, is a treat for all the senses. Get real idea for the city’s diversity by picking up some groceries, herbal remedies and trying out some authentic Chinese restaurants and bakeries, all without crossing the Pacific.
19. Discover culture at the Royal Ontario Museum
You might think that the museum is just full of dinosaur bones, but it’s so much more. Featuring artifacts of cultures from around the globe, both past and present, galleries dedicated to the diversity of today’s wildlifeand its prehistoric counterparts, the ROM shows us what life on this planet looks like. website
20. Shop around for souvenirs at the Cheese Boutique
It’s called Cheese Boutique, but not only do have an incredible selection of specialty cheeses, they also have a vast grocery section. Prosciutto, numerous olive oils, specialty jams, truffles, foie gras, confectionary and so much more, this specialty grocer deals in the finer things in life – which make for perfect gifts that you can’t get anywhere else. website
21. Warm up at the Allan Gardens
Toronto’s long, cold winter getting you down? Not to fear! Allan Gardens is a tropical oasis waiting for you in the heart of the city. It’s a multi-pavilion greenhouse growing tropical trees, a whole lot of cacti, orchids, turtles, and a whole range of lush greenery, year round! Entry is always free, plus, nearby Cabbagetown is full of design stores, making it another prime specialty gift shopping destination. website
22. Learn an unusual history at the Bata Shoe Museum
Who would have thought the history of footwear would be so fascinating? Between manufacturing methods, their relationship to class, gender, commerce and their symbolism, the shoe is a rich way to trace the changing modes of human history! website
23. Explore the Evergreen Brick Works and Toronto’s ravine system
At the Brick Works, you’ll find an emphasis on sustainability in everything they do, from the on-site cafe and restaurant, to the trails, and of course the amazing farmers’ market that pops up every weekend. After getting your fill of crepes and fresh produce on Saturday morning, head out back for a walk, and follow trails connecting to the stunning ravine system and urban forest that snakes through the city. Dirt paths, shady creeks and tall trees make for a real breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle! website
24. Go shopping on Queen Street West
Queen West is known for its abundance of shops, and it’s got a lot of variety in store! Near Spadina Ave you’ll find major brand name retailers such as Urban Outfitters, as well as iconic vintage store Black Market, full of $10 deals. As you continue west towards Trinity Bellwoods, you’ll find more local boutiques selling everything from clothes to books, records and home decor.
25. Rise to the top at the CN Tower
Whether you’re from out of town or live in town, you have to go at least once and see the stand-out of all Toronto tourist attractions. When you do, make sure you check out the glass floor, test yourself on the Edge Walk and maybe even dine at the rotating restaurant, 360. website
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Life in Trinity Bellwoods revolves around the area’s gorgeous park, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is… check out our recommendations for places to eat, drink, and see all the art made by local creatives