Toronto is a major world city and a leading cultural centre in the western hemisphere- accordingly, it offers a world of attractions and events to fascinate, entertain and inspire you.
A good starting point for any visitor to Toronto is “tourism Toronto”, located both online in its virtual form, and also at Queen’s Quay West on the city’s harbour front. The can help you plan your vacation, or re-familiarise locals with the best the city has to offer, including the dates of cultural events like one of the many festivals being hosted at any point in the year.
In addition, thoroughly worthy of a browse are guidebooks such as “lonely Planet Canada” or the “Rough Guide to Toronto”; a similar and equally useful, up-to-date, publication is the ubiquitous Time Out magazine, available virtually everywhere in the centre of the city and most newsagents.
As a contender for the world’s most ethnically diverse city (approximately 50% of the population are non-Canadian) besides the many varied festivals Toronto also has distinctive shopping districts, restaurants and markets that offer a truly global range of unique gastronomic and / or shopping experiences. These vibrant areas include Queen Street West, Kensington Market, St. Lawrence Market, any of the five Chinatowns, Little Italy along St. Clair West, the Greek community along “The Danforth,” Little Portugal at Dundas and Bathurst Streets, and Gerrard India Bazaar at Gerrard and Greenwood.
In contrast, for fans of big name stores and bright lights, Toronto’s most exclusive retail district is located in the Bloor/Yorkville area. International retailers offering high fashion designs, eclectic boutiques, fine crystal and china shops, art galleries, and superb restaurants are all available in the village-like atmosphere of Yorkville and Hazelton Lanes. For those who prefer the most full-valve form of retail therapy, there is the prestigious Eaton Centre, a multi-levelled, glass-roofed galleria comprising more than 320 shops and restaurants, 17 cinemas, and a 400-room Marriott hotel.
Built in 1979, the Eaton Centre boasts the highest level of sales per square foot of retail space in North America and is the number one tourist attraction in Toronto with one million visitors a week. Modelled after the Galleria in Milan, Italy, the Eaton Centre was among the first major downtown shopping centres constructed in North America.
In sharp contrast, for those who prefer the famous Canadian great outdoors to modern day meccas of commerce, there are the nearby Toronto islands to visit: a handful of green placid islets in Lake Ontario where one can enjoy a carefree, and indeed car-free, day out (all motor large vehicles are banned).
Coming back to the city, downtown Toronto offers museums and art galleries in plentiful display including The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Canada’s largest museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Canada’s oldest art gallery and home to more than 15,000 paintings; and the Ontario Science Centre, which entertains and educates 800,000 visitors a year.
At the northeast end of the city, Canada’s largest zoo, the Toronto Zoo, features more than 5,000 animals in their natural environment. Just north of the City, Canada’s largest theme park, “Canada’s Wonderland”, features more than 200 attractions and more than 65 rides in a family-friendly environment.
Throughout the city – from Scarborough to Etobicoke, North York to the waterfront – you will find Toronto’s Historic Sites. Visit a War of 1812 fort, a Victorian mansion that interprets and “brings to life” the inter-war years, the last home of Toronto’s first mayor (Mackenzie House) and much more. There’s something for everyone at these interesting places and each one shares a different story from Toronto’s dense history. From drop-in family educational fun and hands-on craft workshops to March Break and summer camps for children, the historic sites offer engaging entertainment and an absorbing taste of Toronto’s past.
A more modern, yet quintessentially Ontarian, spectacle is the unavoidable CN tower. Recently nominated one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Modern World’, the famous CN Tower features glass floor observation decks, a revolving restaurant, and a Simulator Theatre. Known as Toronto’s “Eiffel Tower”, both a marvel of construction and a favourite tourist destination, it is Toronto’s most recognizable landmark and as such, it receives almost two million visitors annually. If you do choose to visit, you may have to appreciate its views whilst being realistic about the human traffic you may have to negotiate!
After a day’s exploration of the attractions of Canada’s biggest city, one can step into Toronto’s exciting nightlife, which is unrivalled in all of Canada and a key feature of its appeal for many visitors.
The enormous and very popular XS club is a favourite, centred in the club-laden “entertainment” district of the city- it hosts big dance music nights with laser shows and a heaving crowd most weekends and Fridays, if not weeknights. Then there is “CiRCA” (correct capitalisation), a critically acclaimed venue nearby, famed for hard-out dance events and for hosting good quality DJs, having many fans from the world of pop, such as former attendee, Lady Gaga. For a taste of the Latino, and in contrast to the big noise of CiRCA, Cervejaria downtown bar and grill on College street offers both a recommended night out for fans of beer halls, dance and something salsa on the music front.
There are enormous range of other nightclubs to choose from, and also every “pub”, bar or winery you could hope for, largely based around the city centre; for more details you could do worse than to look up the details in Toronto’s Time Out, as the list is too long to be fully explored here.
Last but not least, the awe-inspiring Niagara falls is close enough to the city to be visited easily by bus, car or train. It is 121 kilometres south-south east of the city and one can find transport to the world-famous venue easily from the city centre.
Whether one is visiting Toronto for a day of tourist exploration, appreciating nature nearby, visiting the cultural assets of the city, or enjoying the lively nightlife, it offers a myriad of attractions that make the city worthy of multiple visits or, at least, an extended stay.