City Guide

Toronto Area Guide

There is lots to do in Toronto and the surrounding area. As one of the world’s great cities, Toronto is home to the CN Tower and close to the world-famous Niagara Falls. Now that we have moved one week earlier, we are on the same week as the primary events of Caribana, a major Toronto cultural festival that draws over a million people to the city. Here’s a convenient guide to things you can enjoy during your stay.

Caribana

Toronto Caribana’s signature event is the parade itself being held Saturday, August 4 at Exhibition Place & Lakeshore Boulevard (10am – 6pm). Over 10,000 masquerades will participate as they strut and dance down the 3.6 km Toronto stretch in elaborate costumes, set to the vibrant Caribbean beats of the famed mas bands. It wouldn’t be a well rounded Caribana experience if you didn’t hit a Caribana party or two… or ten! This year, over 30 Caribana-nightlife events will take place during the parade weekend alone. From August 1 – 4, get your drink and dance on as top North American DJ’s spin at exclusive club events, eat and dance aboard Festival Boat Cruises, check out live Soca, Calypso, dancehall, reggae and be sure to find one of several pumping street parties, sure to kick your Caribana weekend into high gear.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is much more than a world-famous waterfall. Packed with electrifying attractions, eclectic restaurants, contemporary hotels, and more, this is a true vacation destination for all ages. You’ll find everything from casinos, nightlife, fine dining, golf courses, and spas, and Ontario’s wine country is just down the road.

Let’s not forget the Falls. From the Maid of the Mist to Journey Behind the Falls, there are plenty of ways to experience this great wonder of the world. Expect to drive about 1–2 hours, depending on the time of day, to get there from downtown. It’s an easy freeway drive with lots of signage.

City Hall

An architectural spectacle, Toronto’s city hall was boldly designed in the late 1950s by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. It consists of a low podium topped by the flying-saucer-shaped Council Chamber, enfolded between two curved towers. Its interior is as dramatic as its exterior. You can sit and contemplate the flower gardens, fountains, and reflecting pool (which doubles as a skating rink in winter), as well as listen to concerts.

100 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON 416–338-0338

Toronto Islands

A great getaway, especially for families. In only 7 minutes, an 800-passenger ferry takes you to 245 hectares (605 acres) of island parkland crisscrossed by shaded paths and quiet waterways. It’s a wonderful spot to walk, play tennis, bike, feed the ducks, putter around in boats, picnic, or soak up the sun. Of the 14 islands, the two major ones are Centre Island and Ward’s Island. The first is the most popular.

On Centre Island, enjoy Centreville (www.centreisland.ca), an old-fashioned amusement park that’s been in business since 1966. You’ll find a turn-of-the-20th-century village complete with a Main Street; tiny shops; a firehouse; and the Far Enough Farm, perfect for kids.

Ferries 416–392-8193, Centreville 416–203-0405

Eaton Centre

This urban shopping center stretches from Dundas Street south along Yonge Street to Queen Street (557,418 sq. m/6 million sq. ft.). An unusually upscale Sears department store anchors the north sections, and more than 285 stores and restaurants and two garages fill the rest. Twenty million people shop here annually.

Inside, the structure opens into the impressive Galleria, a 264m-long (866-ft.) glass-domed arcade dotted with benches, orchids, palm trees, and fountains; it’s further adorned by Michael Snow’s 60 soaring Canada geese, titled Step Flight, made from black-and-white photos mounted on cast fiberglass frames.

City Centre, 416–598-8700

Canada’s Wonderland

Thirty minutes north of Toronto lies Canada’s answer to Disneyland. The 120-hectare (300-acre) park features more than 200 attractions, including 65 rides, a water park, a play area for tiny tots (KidZville), and live shows. The roller coasters range from the looping, inverted Top Gun to the track-free suspended Vortex. There are a number of world-class rides.

The Splash Works water park offers a huge wave pool and 16 water rides, from speed slides and tube rides to special scaled-down slides and a kids’ play area. Additional attractions include Wonder Mountain and its high divers (they take the 20m/66-ft. plunge down Victoria Falls to the mountain’s base), restaurants, and shops.

9580 Jane St., Vaughan, ON 905–832-7000

Transportation: Subway: Yorkdale or York Mills, then GO Express Bus to Wonderland. By car: From downtown, take Yonge St. north to Hwy. 401 and go west to Hwy. 400. Go north on Hwy. 400 to Rutherford Rd. exit and follow signs. By car from the north, exit at Major Mackenzie

Casa Loma

Sir Henry Pellatt built this between 1911 and 1914 to fulfill his lifelong fascination with castles. He had studied medieval palaces, and gathered materials and furnishings from around the world, bringing marble, glass, and paneling from Europe; teak from Asia; and oak and walnut from North America. He imported Scottish stonemasons to build the massive walls that surround the 2.5-hectare (6-acre) site. It’s now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Toronto, not to mention the venue for hundreds of weddings and other events.

Wander through the majestic Great Hall, with its 18m-high (59-ft.) hammer-beam ceiling; the Oak Room, where three artisans took 3 years to fashion the paneling; and the Conservatory, with its elegant bronze doors, stained-glass dome, and pink-and-green marble. The castle encompasses battlements and a tower; Peacock Alley, designed after Windsor Castle; and a 1,800-bottle wine cellar. A 244m (800-ft.) tunnel runs to the stables, where Spanish tile and mahogany surrounded the horses.

1 Austin Terrace, Toronto 416–923-1171

Bata Shoe Museum

Anyone obsessed with shoes will love this museum, which houses the Bata family’s 10,000-item collection. The building, designed by Raymond Moriyama, looks like a whimsical shoebox. The main gallery, “All About Shoes,” traces the history of footwear. The second-story galleries house changing exhibits, which have taken on some serious topics, such as a history of foot binding in China.

327 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON 416–979-7799

CN Tower

Glass-walled elevators glide up this 553m (1,815-ft.) tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the world. The elevators stop first at the 346m-high (1,136-ft.) Look Out level. The trip takes just 58 seconds, so expect your ears to pop. You can walk down one level to experience the Glass Floor, where you can see all the way down. The Look Out also contains broadcasting facilities, a nightclub, and the revolving 360 restaurant.

Above this level is the world’s highest public observation gallery, the Skypod, 447m (1,466 ft.) above the ground. From here, on a clear day the sweeping vista stretches to Niagara Falls, 161km (100 miles) south, and to Lake Simcoe, 193km (120 miles) north.

Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront is one of the most popular destinations for locals and visitors alike — a great place to spend time strolling, picnicking, gallery hopping, biking, shopping, and sailing. Harbourfront has several venues devoted to the arts. More than 4,000 events take place annually at Harbourfront. Other happenings include films, dance, theater, music, children’s events, multicultural festivals, and marine events.

235 Queens Quay W., Toronto ON 416–973-4000

The Distillery District

This was once the home of the Gooderham-Worts Distillery, which was Canada’s largest distilling company in the 19th century. The complex is an outstanding example of industrial design from the 19th century. Much of the construction here was done with that Victorian favorite, red brick; you’ll see it in everything from the buildings to the streets themselves. One exception is the mill building, which was built out of stone and thus managed to survive an 1869 fire.

The Distillery District has launched an ambitious program of events throughout the year, including a blues festival, a jazz festival, and an outdoor art exhibition; also, a farmers’ market takes place on summer Sundays.

55 Mill St., Toronto, ON 416–367-1800

Ontario Science Centre

Wherever you look, there are things here to touch, push, pull, or crank. Test your reflexes, balance, heart rate, and grip strength; surf the Internet; watch frozen-solid liquid nitrogen shatter into thousands of icy shards; study slides of butterfly wings, bedbugs, fish scales, or feathers under a microscope; tease your brain with a variety of optical illusions; land a spaceship on the moon; watch bees making honey; see how many lights you can light or how high you can elevate a balloon with your own pedal power. The fun goes on and on through the 10 exhibit halls and more than 800 interactive exhibits. The Tropical Oasis is a huge recreation of a rainforest environment.

Small theaters show film and slide shows, and you can see regular 20-minute demonstrations of lasers, metal casting, and high-voltage electricity (which will, literally, make your hair stand on end). More than a million people visit every year, so it’s best to arrive promptly at 10am to see everything.

770 Don Mills Rd., Toronto, ON 416–696-3127

Additional Resources

See Toronto Now
City of Toronto official visitor site
Toronto Tourism Guide
Show Me Toronto
Toronto City Pass

Leave a Comment

Let us know your thoughts.