Canada’s largest city hones in on fun, interesting and out-of-this-world attractions. There’s plenty to do in Toronto for everyone in any season. Toronto boasts a list of places that could satisfy even the most discerning traveller. The city hosts many crowd-pleasing annual events in an impressive line-up and if you’re visiting with the family, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of things to do in Toronto for kids too.
Toronto’s attractions range from historic places to festivals and there’s no shortage of cool things to do in Toronto at night either.
In the early days, Toronto was known as York and nicknamed “Muddy York” for its muddy streets but later got a name change to Toronto in 1834.
These days, tourists can visit some of those old neighbourhoods to discover many surprises.
As a local, I love to neighbourhood hop and wander through the shops and trendy restaurants then drop by a local watering hole to rub shoulders with friends and fellow Torontonians (that’s what locals are called).
- 10 Things to do in Toronto with kids
- 1- Explore CN Tower
- 2- Visit Toronto Zoo
- 3- Learn about science at the Ontario Science Centre
- 4- Watch an ice hockey game
- 5- Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame
- 6- Spend the day at the Canadian National Exhibition
- 7- Take a fun history tour of Toronto
- 8- Hunt for artifacts at the Royal Ontario Museum
- 9- Explore Cabbagetown
- 10- Visit Ripley’s Aquarium
- 5 Unique things to do in Toronto
- Things to do in Toronto at night
- Things to do in Toronto in winter
- Toronto skyline timelapse video
- Best places to stay in Toronto
10 Things to do in Toronto with kids
If you’re visiting Toronto with kids you might want to visit several Toronto attractions and avoid the queues by using a Toronto City Pass, which gets you admission into Toronto’s top five attractions.
Toronto is easily one of the best Canadian cities for kids. Here’s where to catch the Toronto vibe year-round.
1- Explore CN Tower
A speedy elevator ride isn’t for the faint of heart but then again reaching the observatory atop of the iconic CN Tower is a treat any day.
Test your nerves with a walk on the Glass Floor and gaze down then head to the SkyTerrace observation area for fabulous panoramas.
On sunny, seasonal days there’s another treat in store.
Atop the CN Tower, there is also The EdgeWalk, which is one of the most popular things to do in Canada for daredevils.
Until recently the CN Tower was pegged as the world’s tallest freestanding structure but it now has a new title as “World’s highest external walk on a building” by Guinness World Record.
Nowhere else in the world can you head up 116 storeys alfresco-style harnessed to an overhead rail to walk around the 5ft (1.5m) wide ledge circling the top of the CN Tower’s main pod.
2- Visit Toronto Zoo
Nothing beats animal spotting than a trip to the Toronto Zoo.
Have a wild time observing some extraordinary mammals, birds and cold-blooded reptiles at play.
Ensure your zoo visit includes seeing the polar bears, African penguins, Western lowland gorillas and tigers.
There are only 500 Amur tigers left in the world and two of them are at Toronto Zoo.
There are knowledgeable volunteers stationed at a lot of animal look-outs through the zoo.
3- Learn about science at the Ontario Science Centre
Convince the kids to boost their brain power at the hands-on, interactive discoveries at the Ontario Science centre.
Ever since first opening in the sixties, this Raymond Moriyama masterpiece of design erected along the Don River Valley ravine has attracted up and coming scientists.
While built mainly for kids in mind, parents too will have fun exploring the exhibits.
My favourite is the gravity-defying electricity demo that gets your hair to literally stand on end.
Beats saying you have a bad hair day.
4- Watch an ice hockey game
Despite having not won the Stanley Cup since 1967 Toronto remains one great hockey town and the Maple Leaf fans make no mistake in letting visitors know.
During hockey season crowds who weren’t able to snag a game ticket, like to gather at the Maple Leaf Square located next to the arena at the Air Canada Centre to watch the game on a jumbo outdoor Videotron.
By the way, if you’re planning on flying Air Canada read our review.
Afterwards, many hockey fans huddle inside to the Maple Leaf Sports Bar and Grill to continue revelling or in most cases drowning their sorrow over a good pint of beer.
5- Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame
Off-season true fans hibernate in the inner sanctum of Hockeydom, the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The mecca of all NHL greats, this is where you’ll find original team jerseys, autographed pictures, and all matters of hockey memorabilia.
But the cherry on top is to sneak beside the shiny Stanley Cup to pose for selfies beside the prized trophy.
The HhoF is home turf for the Stanley Cup after it goes through the rounds of staying with the winning NHL hockey team.
Every season each member of the winning NHL hockey team gets a chance to take the Stanley Cup to their home.
6- Spend the day at the Canadian National Exhibition
Discover your inner kid or better yet take your family to the Canadian National Exhibition.
The Exhibition or the ‘Ex’ to locals has always been a fixture of the final days of summer, ending its glorious three weeks of thrills on Labour Day.
The Ex is Canada’s largest and oldest annual fair held in August/September.
Spending time there is one of the ultimate things to do in Toronto for families.
I love the midway, the zillion rides, the cotton candy, and hearing the infectious laughter.
You can’t help but put a huge grin on your face for this one.
7- Take a fun history tour of Toronto
Let a Toronto tour guide bring history alive with a guided tour to see sites as Toronto’s first jail, first farmers market and other Toronto firsts.
The King Edward Hotel is a historic property, which was at one time the most lavish hotel and had a newly installed invention called the automatic elevator.
Luxe guests couldn’t get over pushing the button to go up and down, and they did, over and over again.
8- Hunt for artifacts at the Royal Ontario Museum
Behind the doors of the Royal Ontario Museum, which is a national landmark, lies some of the country’s (and the world’s) most esoteric, rare artifacts.
The building itself is an example of Toronto’s bravado.
A renovation and expansion designed by the renowned architect Daniel Libeskind resulted in the museum expanding its public display space allowing more collections to be viewed.
I love hanging around the Egyptian area and watching the bats flutter at the bat cave.
The ROM hosts evening events and has a busy schedule of guest speakers who lecture on themed topics throughout the year.
9- Explore Cabbagetown
With all the city’s new attractions it’s nice to see some old Toronto.
For a look at some of the city’s earliest residences, visit pretty Cabbagetown in the east end.
This patch of gingerbread gabled 19th-century Victorian houses offers a glimpse into Toronto’s past.
The miniature front yards, the size of postage stamps have become a heavenly showcase for urban gardeners.
Many homeowners sweetly display ornamental cabbages as cool topiaries or in artistic clusters.
10- Visit Ripley’s Aquarium
The largest Aquarium in Canada, Ripley’s Aquarium, is home to over 15,000 creatures from the ocean.
The kids will love seeing sharks, jellyfish, sea turtles and all kinds of rays.
Don’t miss the Canadian Waters gallery, which features the diverse habitats across Canada including the Great Lakes and three oceans.
See Giant Pacific Octopus, American Lobster and Wolf Eels and listen to talks about the areas they come from.
5 Unique things to do in Toronto
11- Admire art at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Any time of year is a good time to drop into the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The permanent exhibition boasts an extraordinary collection from the world’s largest public collection of Henry Moore sculptures to the rare ivory maquettes donated by media baron Ken Thomson.
Amble through the Frank Gehry-designed addition to see streaming natural light filter into the Galleria Italia.
If you’re feeling famished sneak into the gallery restaurant Frank for delicious lunch entrees.
12- Taste Toronto at Summerlicious
We love food so much Toronto fetes two annual foodie festivals.
This is when high-end restaurants pledge lunch and dinner prix-fixed menus giving culinary lovers who might not ordinarily have a chance to sample the fare of some of the city’s most prolific chefs.
I made reservations at Momofuku’s Noodle Bar, the foodie institution helmed by chef David Chang, and went straight for the highly lauded ramen soup.
In summer the whole city turns up to taste delicious cuisine at Summerlicoius.
13- Spot the stars at the Toronto International Film Festival
This list would be remiss if the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was missed.
The little indie film festival that grew has now become the second most important film festival in the world.
TIFF showcases movies from every corner of the world.
Attend the gala festival opening night when King Street is closed and the signature orange ball pop-up art pieces line the roadways.
The sea of movie fans lines the streets aching to get a glimpse of glamours Hollywood stars.
14- Listen to music at the Beaches International Jazz Festival
On the music festival scene, Toronto’s got this beat covered too.
The city’s biggest, free street music festival is the Beaches International Jazz Festival.
Each summer this music street party takes over the east end in the Beach for 16 music-filled days.
Celebrating world music, R&B, Rock’n’Roll, fusion, jazz you name it you can thank the founders and artistic director Bill King at the helm.
The accomplished artist who’s been the music director for greats like Janis Joplin, Linda Rondstadt and the Pointer Sisters – to namedrop a few – is already planning for another huge mega music celebration.
15- Watch the stunts at the Canadian International Air Show
The Canadian International Air Show. Planes from around the world come to show off.
But the real favourite is the squadron of Snowbirds from the Canadian Air Force as they perform amazing aerial stunts.
Basically, it’s the last big hurrah before the new school year.
Things to do in Toronto at night
16- See a show at the Princess of Wales Theatre
Toronto’s theatre district packs in the night owls and matinee lovers.
The Princess of Wales Theatre, an Ed and David Mirvish-created theatre house, is a new build that has a renowned collection of abstract art.
Son David who now oversees the Mirvish theatre empire is an avid art collector and when you walk inside this stage it shows.
17- See an exhibition at Tiff Bell Lightbox
Just a block west is HQ of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Tiff Bell Lightbox houses five public cinemas and two galleries that feature temporary art and film exhibitions.
18- See a performance at the Elgin and Winter
Toronto also boasts the world’s last operating double-decker theatre, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre.
When The Elgin debuted on December 15, 1913 vaudeville was the rage and fans couldn’t be more tickled to walk through this theatre palace decked in Tiffany-style chandeliers and the works.
Concerts and theatre productions are regularly scheduled and guided tours are available.
19- Go on a Jazz Club crawl
Toronto is home to the late jazz legend Oscar Peterson, the Toronto Jazz Festival and Canda’s top jazz training institutions like the University of Toronto.
So it’s not surprising the city has a vibrant jazz scene and there are enough jazz clubs in Toronto to get your fill of good jazz.
Start at The Rex, a historic club that’s open seven nights week, the uber-hip Reservoir Lounge on Wellington Street and the contemporary Jazz Bistro on Victoria Street.
20- See the bright city lights
A great spot to see the lights of Toronto at night is at CN Tower, which is open until 1030pm. Head to the Lookout, Glass Floor or Skypad to see Toronto spread beneath your feet.
If you’re not keen on heights, ride the Toronto Islands ferry for a view of the bright lights of the city from the water.
Things to do in Toronto in winter
21- Shop at Toronto’s Christmas markets
Sip mulled wine, hot chocolate or a Christmas cocktail while you wander around a Christmas market.
There’s an enchanting Christmas Market in Toronto’s Distillery District where you can soak up the festive atmosphere as you shop for hand-made crafts, food and Christmas decorations.
The European-style market is an enchanting place to explore in winter in Toronto.
22- Go ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square
Pull on some skates and go ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square.
If you’re not an ice skater, hang around the square to lap up the winter wonderland atmosphere while you watch the skaters glide across the ice.
23- Explore the Toronto underground
Keep warm while exploring the Toronto underground.
The Guinness World Records has Toronto’s PATH listed as the largest underground shopping complex.
With 30 km (19 miles) and 1200 arcades, shops and eateries, PATH is a wonder to see.
24- Eat a treat at the St Lawrence Market
For eats and treats, the St. Lawrence Market is a gastronomic haven.
Spot butchers, fishmongers, bakers, farmers, and cheese purveyors assemble their prized goods for sale at Toronto’s oldest market.
Still, the news gets better. In early September an archaeologist unearthed foundations dating to the 1831 market located at the north market building.
I was there to view the three trenches that have opened a whole new window on this city’s past. The finds also confirm what many suspected: the oldest city market.
25- Explore the Distillery District
After some nibbles at the St. Lawrence Market, head eastward to Mill Street, home of the historic Distillery District.
In its heydays, this was the Gooderham and Worts whisky empire, the largest distillery operation in the British Empire and a major supplier to the dry Americans.
Today, the old buildings have a collection of artsy tenants, indie studios, and shops and restaurants.
Theatre goers also enjoy the nightly shows at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, home of Soulpepper Theatre Company, Canada’s largest urban theatre.
Toronto skyline timelapse video
Best places to stay in Toronto
You know Toronto’s all grown up when a new crop of luxury hotels open.
In the past few years, the city’s accommodations scene has seen a collection of the finest brands enter the fold.
Featured Toronto Hotels
One of them is the Shangri-la Toronto.
A beacon of luxe the glassy skyscraper is ideally located at the crossroads of Toronto’s financial and entertainment district so there’s a big appeal for the suits and theatre crowd (a.k.a. corporate and leisure travellers).
Hang out in the spacious lobby decked out in haute-style.
Lavish dove grey seating areas overlook the busy streetscape or choose a cozy spot by the two-sided fireplace, order a cocktail or a high-tea and then head to the anchor restaurant Bosk for yummy Asian-inspired eats.
Conde Nast Traveler rated the pool as one of the world’s most beautiful.
Another cool crash pad, lauded as Canada’s first condo hotel is the SoHo Metropolitan that has its own cachet.
Guests enjoy the facilities like the fitness centre where a former Mr Universe is the hotel’s fitness trainer or the Scandinavian-inspired room interiors with its heated bathroom floors.
Wahlburgers is a fun diner from the Wahlburg Brothers (Mark, Donnie and Paul) which is attached to the hotel.