Toronto, Canada is often overlooked by many tourists. The thunder of Niagara Falls draws them away from this city, and the beauty of Montreal’s old town attracts visitors by the thousands each year. It’s unfortunate that people often skip over this vibrant and colourful city.
Toronto is a mishmash of architecture, culture, and attractions and has so much to offer from cultural celebrations and quiet moments in beautiful parks. And considering that it has recently placed in 9th place on the North American Green City Index, it’s a destination with lots to offer to the eco-conscious traveler.
Best Time to Visit Toronto
The great thing about Toronto is the variety of events that occur throughout the year – there’s always something to do, regardless of the season.
December through March are the coldest months. Some may find the temperatures downright frigid, but most Canadians will joke about the mild weather Toronto experiences during the winter months. Temperature varies from -20 degrees Celsius to 0 degrees Celsius. If you can handle the colder temperature then Winter is a great time to visit.
Shoulder Season (Spring and Fall) is a beautiful time to visit. Temperatures are cooler, but the sun is warm, and the crowds are much smaller.
Summertime in the busiest season in Toronto, The weather can be pleasant, but with heat and humidity temperatures can also rise 35 degrees Celsius. The city is busier in the summer, and line-ups can be overwhelming.
Top Things to Do in Toronto
The CN Tower may be Toronto’s biggest tourist attraction, but if you want to explore the city beyond that, consider visiting some spots loved by locals.
Visit Kensington Market on pedestrian Sundays, when this Business Improvement Area closes the streets to motor traffic and shops spill into the streets with their wares. Musicians and artists fill the streets and perform for the crowds. It’s loud; it’s vibrant, and there are often impromptu parades with drummers and performers.
The St. Lawrence Market is a unique indoor market located in downtown Toronto. Stroll through the aisles, pick up a Canadian peameal bacon sandwich (a Canadian favourite!) and purchase delicious local produce. The market is filled with lots of artisan food vendors, sample cheeses and a variety of ethnic foods. It’s a perfect place to get a taste of local flavours!
Pack a lunch and head to Trinity Bellwoods Park. The park has a greenhouse, lots of sustainable programming for families, and offers movie nights during the summer. The friends of Trinity Bellwoods have also created some fun self-guided tours to help you learn about the variety of tree species located within the park.
If you are visiting Toronto, it’s worth strolling through the Distillery District. This unique area is filled with art galleries, artisan stores, and beautiful patios where you can sample different types of beers.The area is full of interesting architecture as the old distilleries and factories have been converted into studios and shops. It’s a popular location for weddings and other cultural events. In November and December, the Distillery District also plays host to Toronto Christmas Market.
Toronto is filled with beautiful natural areas. Rouge National Urban Park is a relatively new space, but one that’s worth a visit. Stroll through this park and feel like you are miles from the hustle and bustle of an urban centre. There’s a free shuttle bus to take you into the park. This unique park allows visitors to camp right within the city. That’s right! Pack your tent and book a campsite in the city of Toronto. In September, Rouge Park hosts, “Art Day in the Rouge”, where you can join guided photography walks and other events that connect visitors to the natural area.
If you are into movies, then visit Toronto in September and be a part of the Toronto International Film Festival. Rub shoulders with celebrities and check out some truly unique movies you won’t find in the mainstream theatres.
Where to Stay in Toronto
The great thing about Toronto is the city’s respect for the environment. Lots of businesses are ecologically-minded and make an effort to maintain sustainable practices. Some of the best hotels in Toronto are apart of the Green Key Global Eco-Rating Program, a program that identifies hotels and accommodation options with eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable solutions. Many of the well-known brands of hotels, like the Radisson, Best Western, Shangri-la, Delta, Sheraton, and many others have earned 4-5 Green Keys for their sustainability practices.
The Gladstone Hotel is another green property, located in a beautiful historic building in the heart of the city. This boutique hotel offers beautiful artist-designed rooms and serves locally sourced food and organic coffee. It composts, uses non-toxic cleaners and mostly natural, Ontario-made bath products. Its green roof helps cools the building and clean the air, which minimizes its energy footprint.
The Planet Traveler, located on College Street in the Annex, boasts to be the greenest hostel in Toronto. Rooms are clean and offer all the amenities you would expect in a hostel. The building takes advantage of green energies like geothermal heat to maintain a small eco-footprint.
Where to Eat & Drink in Toronto
It’s never hard to find delicious food in Toronto. The city is filled with a plethora of restaurants ranging from artisan burger joints to vegan, organic and locally-sourced menus. You can dine on Mexican for lunch and then hop over to a delicious vegetarian Indian restaurant for dinner. The multitude of cultures existing within the city make food options incredibly varied.
Canada’s Indigenous people are beginning to bring their culture and cuisine to the city. New restaurants that feature indigenous recipes are popping up throughout the core and many are catching on..Make sure to check out Powwow Cafe for delicious Anishnaabe Tacos. Chef Shawn Adler takes a classic “rez” food and plunks it right in the middle of Kensington Market. This tiny little restaurant features a handful of tables so get there early to grab a spot. The fry bread is fresh and delicious. It’s one of my personal favourites in the city.
Nish Dish, located on Bloor is another example of the resurgence of indigenous culture within Canada. This restaurant offers a variety of spiced traditional Anishnaabe recipes including “Three Sisters soup”, which features the three basic staples of Anishinaabe cuisine: corn, beans, and squash.
If you’re into vegan fare, you can visit Doug McNish Public Kitchen. He offers up an amazing vegan fare and runs a successful catering business. Make sure you visit in the summer when he operates a patio in the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market.
For more vegan and vegetarian restaurant ideas, check out Happy Cow’s list of 200+ Vegan/Vegetarian friendly restaurants in the city.
If you are looking for a place to drink in Toronto, there are lots of hip bars and pubs around the city. Toronto boasts a variety of different nightlife options. It ranges from small clubs and pubs featuring craft beers and organic food to huge nightclubs with lots of space for dancing. Check out the Horseshoe Tavern, C’est What, and The Gladstone Hotel.
How much time should you spend in Toronto?
There’s an awful lot to explore in Toronto. The amount of time you spend here depends on how deep you want to dig into this city. If you want to check out the local hangouts as well as the touristy sites like the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame and Toronto Waterfront, then you should consider staying in town for 2 to 3 days.
A day trip to Niagara Falls is easily achievable but be aware of rush hour traffic as it can affect your trip and turn an hour drive into 2 or 3-hour ordeal. If you want to explore other areas of southern Ontario, like Algonquin Park or the Bruce Peninsula, it’s advisable to rent a car and book yourself into a bed and breakfast in the area. Distances in Canada are fairly large and while you can explore some destinations on day trips, some of the most beautiful nature and hiking is found a 3-hour drive from the city.
Need a little more information about this dynamic city? Check out these additional links that will have you booking your next trip to “The Six”.
- See Toronto Now – The Toronto Tourism site
- Nuit Blanche – An all-night art festival
- Caribana Toronto – A summer parade celebrating Toronto’s Caribbean community
- Gay Pride Parade – An amazing and highly popular parade celebrating the LGBTQ community
And just before you go, check out these 10 Secret Things You Might Not Know Existing in Toronto.
Author’s Bio: Erin Fitzgibbon is a freelance photographer, writer, and teacher, from Ontario, Canada. She specialises in travel portrait and fine art photography. In her free time, she escapes to the backcountry or the beach with her family. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter.
Have you ever been to Toronto? What are some of your favourite spots, restaurants, and things to do in the city?