Guest post by Debabrata Bhattacherya on 16 Fascinating Things to do in Toronto, Canada.
It was summer of 2018 when I came for a vacation in Toronto. It's then when I decided to stay back in this amazing city. I wanted to know the city better and eventually belong there. The interesting part is I am still exploring the city. Today I want to share my experiences on the numerous things to do in Toronto.
Few Interesting Facts
The name Toronto is likely to have been derived from the Iroquoian word “Tkaronto” meaning “Place where trees stand in the water.” It seems that the word “Toronto” also means “plenty” in some other Iroquoian language. Unfortunately, other than Cherokee, the Iroquoian language family is extinct but Toronto has eventually become one of the pillars of North America. Even though Ottawa is the capital of Canada, Toronto is the business capital. It is the capital of the Province of Ontario.
Many call this city when they look at it superficially as the next NYC in making but there's a lot beyond NYC. I have come to understand that over a period of time, here the city just doesn't have a method in the madness but also a soul of respecting every opinion. The city believes in complete freedom with responsibility where believers preach the Bible and Korantogether; an Asian family runs a pizza joint or a South Asian is the mascot of the city's NBA team.
Geographically the city is not just one municipal corporation. It consists of many regions together and it is called the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). There's Scarborough and Durham region in the east. North York, Markham and Vaughan lie in the north. There's Etobicoke, Mississauga and Brampton in the West and the Lake Ontario in the south. Right in the middle is Downtown Toronto. Might seem a little confusing to the readers but all these cities together make what we know as Toronto. I planned to divide the places of interest. I segregated as per the time it takes to visit and the days to be spent. There are plenty of things to do in Toronto.
Niagara Falls, Niagara by the Lake and its Winery
Visiting the Niagara is the first thing that comes to mind even if there are plenty of things to do in Toronto city. If renting a car is not an option for you (that is the cheapest and most independent option), you can book a seat in guided bus tours. It generally starts from downtown Toronto that takes you to Niagara Falls (130 kilometres and takes about 1:30 hrs). Spend about three hours there. The view of the falls is something that's beyond imagination unless you experience it from the “Horn Blower” ride. It takes you right in front of the horse-shoe of the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. It's amazing to get drenched by the gush of water droplets. The sound of the gushing water is hypnotic.
After the wonderful ride, you can choose to zip line or walk behind the fall. You can just take a walk on Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill has a 24×7 carnival with lights, music, food and games. If you have time get on the Niagara Sky Wheel. You can enjoy the bird's eye view of the falls and Rainbow Bridge (Bridge connecting Canada & US). If you plan to stay overnight, I must recommend you to visit Casino Niagara. May you try your luck at the casino and enjoy a hearty dinner with a view of the mesmerising waterfalls. The lights and the weekend fireworks at the falls are beyond comparison.
On your way back visit the small town called Niagara-By-The-Lake. It is a beautiful town that looks like a painting from your favourite fairy-tale. You can also spend the night at one of the cottages and wake up to your own private backyard lake. Also, visit the local wineries of this area as here you find one of the best wines. If you want to pick up a few bottles I would recommend trying the specialities of this region – ice wines, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
Things to do in Toronto: Downtown
This is the terminal station of the city. One can find all the means of transportation from here to get connected to any part of the GTA. Be it through express trains, buses, streetcars, subways, shuttle to the Billy Bishop Airport as well as a quick transit to the biggest airport of the city Toronto Pearson Airport in Mississauga. If you are exploring the city well you can't avoid the Union Station. Note the great architecture of the terminal – a blend of Victorian as well as the modern. I must also point out that if you are trying to explore Downtown Toronto on foot you should consider this place as the nucleus.
Right at the south end of Downtown is the Waterfront or Harbourfront where you can take a stroll while enjoying the beautiful Lake Ontario, view of the small planes flying from the Billy Bishop Airport, CN Tower and the skyscrapers of the financial district. If you have time, visit the pubs here while enjoying a pint with the refreshing view and breeze.
CN Tower & Ripley's Aquarium
You can not miss the CN Tower in Toronto; it sets the unique skyline. This iconic tower, once the tallest, in the world, has a round disc-like structure which offers stunning 360 degrees view with a fascinating culinary experience. If you have the nerve you should try the skywalk on CN Tower where you get to walk on the edges on top of the tower while hanging on a sling. The Ripley's Aquarium is like walking into a fairy tale. Here you walk through underwater to see the awestruck beauty and learn more about aquatic lives.
Yonge & Dundas Square
The unmatched buzz of the square round the clock, makes this place appear partying all the time. It is surrounded by the gigantic colourful billboards and fountains. There's always so much happening here. In summer the square also hosts a lot of music festivals. You can also find tickets for the Downtown Hop-on Hop-off buses from here.
Nathan Philip Square
It's the forecourt to Toronto City Hall, named after the mayor of Toronto (1955-1962) Nathan Phillip. This is the place where you click the “Toronto” glow sign in the background. You just come here to celebrate all the major events of the city.
This area is just for soaking up an experience that's pretty similar to Wall Street (only it's slightly cleaner). The skyscrapers, the rushing people always in a hurry and the chilled wind gushing through the massive buildings weave the magic here. Do not miss the short walk that begins from the Union Station and ends by Nathan Phillip Square.
This part of the city works hard but parties harder. The entertainment district offers the best restaurants and night clubs of the city. The lights are so bright that you will not mind dancing with a stranger.
This Gothic-style mansion and garden is slightly away from the core downtown and somewhat in the midtown Toronto but offers you to learn a lot of history from the museum. You can also take a walk around the neighbourhood to just check out Toronto's one of the most luxurious neighbourhoods.
Bata Shoe Museum
A 40000 sq ft of modern architecture that hosts the personal footwear collections of Sonja Bata. It has over 13,000 shoes and other footwear related items dating back over 4500 years; making it the World's largest collection of footwear.
St. Lawrence Market
Check out Toronto's oldest organized market under the same roof. Established in 1803, the St. Lawrence Market still hosts a variety of farm-fresh products, especially during the summer weekend.
The present-day hub of art and entertainment area of east downtown was actually a Victorian-era distillery hub spread across 13 acres of land close to Lake Ontario. It is said that during the 19th Century this place exported about 7.6 mil litres of finest Canadian whisky. The present day you can enjoy a short brunch with a few drinks while sitting inside the various units of the distillery that has turned into pubs but have kept the old-world charm. This area also hosts one of the brightest Christmas markets marking the beginning of the Holidays.
If you are still in Toronto for a few more days, recommend you to spend days doing day/weekend trips to the following places around Toronto. I told you the list of thing to do in Toronto doesn't end.
The Blue Mountain Resort and Wasaga Beach
Southern Ontario doesn't have tall mountains but this place in Collingwood (162 kilometres and about two hours from Toronto) has beautiful snowy slopes just beside the Georgian Bay and a major destination for tourists and ski enthusiasts. You can try skiing by renting gears at the stores there. Just about 40 minutes drive from the Blue Mountains you can enjoy yourself at the Wasaga beach. Do apply sunscreen as the tan is inevitable.
Muskoka (165 kilometres and about two hours from Toronto) – I strongly recommend visiting this place if you are here during the fall season. People visit this place just to enjoy the fall colours. It is a small hamlet where you can spend a great time with your friends, family or even alone enjoying nature's bliss.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park (about 2 hours from Toronto) – If you want to spot a random moose or a bear or fill in your lungs with fresh oxygen, you must drive to this place. The 7653 sq. km hosts both the coniferous and deciduous forests and a lot of species of birds and animals. There are multiple trails that you can walk around, canoe or even camp. If you are spending an evening in summer, be sure to carry mosquito repellant cream and bear sprays (just in case). This is the oldest park in Canada.
African Lion Safari, Hamilton
African Lion Safari, Hamilton (100 kilometres and about 1.5 hours from Toronto) – For an African safari experience spend a day at this Safari. It is wonderful to see lions, giraffes, emus and ostriches from so close by, without having to visit Africa.
There are a whole lot of places to visit within and around Toronto. In this blog, I just mentioned some of the most significant things to do in Toronto. The above mentioned places of interest can be accessed easily. If you actually visit this city and can feel its soul, Toronto will welcome you with open arms. Who knows you can too stay back like me to explore more and more places of interest beyond your numbered vacation days. Toronto truly stands by its car registration plates – yours to explore.
About the Author
Debabrata is a marketing professional. He is very passionate about life as a whole and he loves travelling. Travel to him is an intense understanding of the place and developing a sense of belonging.