Toronto, the capital of Ontario and the country’s largest city, is home to a dynamic mix of tourist attractions, from museums and galleries to the world famous CN Tower and, just off shore, Toronto Islands. The city also offers a vibrant Entertainment District, featuring the latest musicals and other performing arts, and the historic Distillery District. The city center is still relatively easy to navigate, with many of the top attractions within walking distance of each other and a subway system to cover longer distances.
1. CN Tower
The highest viewing area on the CN Tower is from the Sky Pod at 447 meters above the city with views that, on clear days, extend to Niagara Falls and New York State. To get here requires taking two elevators. Below this, at the top of the main elevator is the LookOut at 346 meters where the Horizons Restaurant is located. One floor below this is the Glass Floor and the Outdoor Sky Terrace. As the name suggests, the Glass Floor offers a bird’s eye view directly down over the city as visitors stand on a glass floor.
For those looking for a little more adventure, or perhaps a lot more adventure, there is the “Edge Walk.” This involves a hands-free walk on a 1.5-meter wide ledge around the outside edge of the main pod, at an elevation of 365 meters. Participants are attached to a safety harness and rope.
Located at 351 meters is the revolving 360 Restaurant, featuring fine dining and some of the best views from a table anywhere in the Toronto. 360 is open for lunch and dinner, and visitors who dine here also receive complimentary access to the Lookout and Glass Floor levels of the tower.
Horizons Restaurant, on the Lookout Level, offers a more casual dining experience and is open throughout the day from lunch until dinner.
Address: 301 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario
Address: 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto
Address: 1 Blue Jays Way, Toronto
Address: 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
5. Casa Loma
Standing in beautifully kept grounds, Casa Loma is an extraordinary building somewhat reminiscent of a medieval castle. It was originally constructed for Sir Henry Pellatt, an eccentric Canadian multi-millionaire who was among the first to recognize and exploit the money-making potential of Niagara Falls. With close to 100 rooms, including three dozen bathrooms, the house is now a museum. Visitors can take a look back in time to a period of European elegance and splendor. Canada’s foremost castle is complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and five acres of estate gardens.
Address: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto
6. Toronto Zoo
Toronto’s huge zoo, with its collection of several thousand animals, lies on the Red River some 40 kilometers northeast of the city center. One of the major attractions is the panda exhibit, which opened in Toronto in 2013. The zoo is divided into several sections, each representing a major region of the globe. The North American section is unique with its spacious grizzly bear enclosure, vast bison park, and impressive polarium. Some of the other highlights at the Toronto Zoo include the African Savanna and Great Barrier Reef.
Address: 361A Old Finch Road, Toronto
The St. Lawrence Market houses a variety of vendors selling various food products, flowers, and specialty items. The St. Lawrence Hall was built in Toronto in 1850 and served as a public meeting place and a concert venue. The hall was restored in 1967, but has retained much of its old charm. The building provides a unique atmosphere for the market and is also occasionally used for film and television shoots. The interior features a grand staircase and a gas-lit chandelier.
Address: 92 Front Street East, Toronto
8. Entertainment District
Toronto’s answer to New York’s Broadway, the Toronto Entertainment District comes to life in the evenings. This is the place to come to see major theater productions with the latest shows and musicals, concerts, and other performing arts. There are also all kinds of restaurants and places for socializing, as well as hotels and shops. The main center of activity in the Entertainment District is along King Street.
9. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
One of Toronto’s newest attractions is the Ripley’s Aquarium near the base of the CN Tower. This fabulous facility displays all kinds of marine life but the most impressive feature is the huge underwater tunnel with a moving sidewalk. Visitors can watch the ocean world go by all around them as sharks glide past and sawfish linger on the tunnel roof above. This is a truly serene experience for all ages. Another unexpected highlight is the jellyfish display, accented with creative lighting. Further on, touch tanks with stingrays and small sharks allow for a hands-on experience. And for the engineering minded, the building’s open concept also allows for a look at the Life Support System and filtration equipment operating the facility.
Address: 288 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto
10. City Hall
Dominating the spacious Nathan Philips Square with its bronze sculpture, “The Archer,” by Henry Moore, is the still highly acclaimed new City Hall. It was designed by the gifted Finnish architect Viljo Revell and built in 1965. City Hall consists of two arc-shaped high-rise blocks, 20 and 27 stories high respectively, wrapped around a lower central building topped by a flattened cupola. Out front in the square is a manmade pond, which becomes a popular skating rink in winter. This area is beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays.
Address: 100 Queen Street West, Toronto
11. Eaton Center
The huge Eaton Center is located at the north end of the Central Business District. With its own subway station, this ultra-modern shopping complex extends over several blocks and is continually being renovated and enlarged. Strangers can quite easily lose their way in the bewildering maze of department stores, specialty shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafeterias, and snack bars, which crowd the different levels above and below ground. The original Eaton department store opened in Toronto in 1869 and grew into an enormous retail business.
12. Distillery District
Toronto’s Distillery District is a restored historic area that has been turned into a trendy entertainment and shopping district. Visitors will find charming boutiques, galleries, artists’ studios, and restaurants. The Distillery District also hosts a variety of entertainment events and is home to numerous performing arts venues and schools. This is an interesting place to come during the day or evening.
13. High Park
High Park is a huge green space with sunken gardens, hanging basket gardens, nature trails, natural ponds, and streams. The 165-acre country property, originally owned by the Howards, was deeded to the City of Toronto in 1873. This deed included the fact that the park was to remain “for the free use, benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of Toronto and it be called High Park.” Animal paddocks, swimming and wading pools, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a scenic train tour are highlights. The grounds also include 19th-century recreated gardens, a Coach House, and the Howards’ Tomb.
Annually, the Canadian Stage Company puts on a performance at the open-air theater in Toronto’s High Park during the months of July and August, known as “Shakespeare in the Park”.
14. Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Science Center is a family oriented attraction with many interesting exhibits to entertain children. It occupies a site overlooking the Don Valley, about ten kilometers northeast of the city center. Designed by the virtuoso architect Raymond Moriyama, this modern building was completed in 1969. Visitors to the center are brought face to face with the latest developments in technology, telecommunications, optics, biology, physics, space travel and meteorology, and much more, all presented in an absorbing and imaginative way. The emphasis is very much on visitor participation, with many interactive displays and widespread use of suitably installed computing and other equipment.
Address: 770 Don Mills Road, Toronto
15. Toronto Islands
The ferry trip from Queen’s Quay Terminal to the Toronto Islands, about a kilometer offshore, is the prelude to a thoroughly enjoyable outing. There are lovely walks on the islands as well as the opportunity for rowing, sailing, swimming, and other outdoor activities. Marinas and the odd cluster of weekend homes bring a touch of variety to the scene. In summer, the islands are the venue for numerous open-air events. In favorable visibility, there is a stunning view of the Toronto skyline. The Centreville Amusement Park is located on Centre Island, one of the Toronto Islands, and features a variety of children’s rides. The Toronto Islands Ferry Service runs from Queen’s Quay and travels to each of the main Toronto Islands.