Toronto City Guide


Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Toronto
©2006 Tourism Toronto Rogers Center, home of baseball's Blue Jays, is an attraction in itself with its retractable roof and views of the CN Tower.

As you've learned, there are tons of things to do in Toronto. We've put together some suggested itineraries to help ensure that you see the best of Toronto during your visit, whether your interests are special events and attractions, arts and culture, architecture and landmarks, shopping, nightlife and entertainment, or relaxing and unwinding.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Toronto

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Toronto

Sure, you have to visit the CN Tower while you're in Toronto, but what are the other must-see attractions? The following suggested itineraries will answer that question.

1 day: Start at the symbolic heart of Toronto, the CN Tower (301 Front St W). Still the world's tallest freestanding structure 30 years after its construction, it's a thrill to enter its glass-fronted elevators and zoom to the top in an incredible 58 seconds. Make sure to step onto the tower's glass floor, where you can gaze down at the sidewalk, more than 1,136 feet below. Kids and parents alike can't resist sprawling across the glass floor and taking the ultimate prank photo of themselves in an apparent free fall.

Next-door is the Rogers Centre, (1 Blue Jays Way), formerly the Sky Dome. You can try to get tickets to a Blue Jays game, but if you strike out, take a one-hour tour of this amazing landmark, with its retractable roof. It's an awesome sensation to stand in the middle of the field, with the roof open and the CN Tower looming right above you. If a roof tour is available, you'll experience the regular tour plus another half hour up on the network of catwalks, 36 stories above home plate.

If it's time for lunch, head east along Front Street to one of Toronto's classic delis, Shopsy's (33 Yonge St). Try a Montreal smoked meat sandwich and a house dill pickle, then head across the street to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As exciting and loud as the game it celebrates, the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge St) combines memorabilia with cutting-edge exhibits and interactive technology. Make sure to visit the Hall of Fame awards and the original Stanley Cup on display in the ornate bank vault.

2 days: Spend the next day exploring Toronto's lakeshore, with its many points of interest stretched out along Queen's Quay. Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen's Quay West) is the heart of the district, and provides an almost continuous array of cultural programming throughout the year. Summertime brings a whole roster of themed weekends under the banner "World Routes." To the constant rhythms of world music beats, kids and grown-ups alike can join craft workshops, or take in street performers and kid's concerts, festivals, and international food fairs. And the best part is it's free.

Watch the glass blowers, jewelry makers, and ceramists practice their craft in York Quay's open studios, and then shop for an affordable piece of artwork in Bounty, the craft shop on the premises. Take a stroll up Queen's Quay and visit the local fire hall's fireboat.

Just beyond it is the inspiring Toronto Music Garden, (475 Queen's Quay West), a project of cellist Yo Yo Ma. The garden's beautiful plantings and distinct landscapes are based on the moods and sounds evoked by Bach's first Suite for Unaccompanied Cello. Free concerts are held on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons in the band shell, drawing music lovers and boaters, who drop anchor to enjoy the magical summer evenings.

From the lakeshore take the 15-minute ferry trip to the Toronto Islands, where generations of Torontonians have come for a day of swimming and sports. A series of bridges connects the islands, making it an ideal place to explore by bike. On Centre Island, an old-fashioned amusement park called Centreville has an elaborately carved turn-of-the-century carousel and rides geared to little tykes, aged 2 to 12. Ward's Island, the easternmost, is where all the island residents live today, in about 100 small cottages surrounded by lovely, whimsical gardens.

There's also a great place to eat on Ward's Island. The Rectory Cafe (416-203-2152) is just a short walk from the Ward's Island Ferry. If you rent a bicycle, you can go farther afield and explore Hanlan's Point. Once a bustling summer resort with vaudeville theatres, hotels, and a baseball stadium where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run, today it's a quiet nature preserve and popular beach.

3 days: For a theme park experience five minutes from downtown Toronto, head to Ontario Place (955 Lake Shore Blvd W), a futuristic entertainment complex on the waterfront of Lake Ontario. Spend time on the bumper and pedal boats, the motion simulator ride, and in the waterpark. You can easily spend several hours here.

If you want to contrast it with a little history, Fort York (100 Garrison Rd) is five minutes away and offers the story of Toronto's founding in 1793 and the Battle of York in 1813. Guided tours are offered daily in summer, and on special occasions, like Canada Day observed July 1, there are military re-enactments with musket drills and much marching about.

Enjoy sushi, sashimi, and teriyaki dishes at Guirei Japanese Restaurant (600 Queen's Quay West, 416-977-6111). This is a great place to order Japanese specialties like donburi, udon noodles, and tempura.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Toronto

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Toronto

Toronto is home to some of North America's finest museums. By using these itineraries, you can be sure you get to most of them during your visit to Toronto.

©2006 Tourism Toronto Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario houses Canada's largest art collection.

1 day: Start the day at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St W), where you can view Canada's largest art collection, including the Henry Moore Collection.

Nearby is Baldwin Street, a kind of mini-Greenwich Village, whose two shady blocks are lined with good restaurants -- many with outdoor tables. Grab a few steamed buns at Yung Sing Pastry Shop (22 Baldwin St), try upscale pan-Asian fare at Mata Hari (39 Baldwin St), or opt for the city's best tiramisu at John's Italian Cafe (27 Baldwin St).

Later, look at some of the hippest Canadian artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen St W, 416-395-0067). You can browse through the more than 400 pieces, most made after 1985. Look for two-dimensional pieces created from Betty Goodwin or Roland Poulin sculptures. You can easily spend the afternoon here--its works on display are diverse.

In the evening, catch a performance of the Canadian Opera Company at the

Hummingbird Centre For The Performing Arts (1 Front St, 416-393-7469).

2 days: Explore the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park) for a morning and you'll see just a fraction of the suits of armor, Victorian lamps, carved crest poles, and massive dinosaurs on display.

Cross the street for lunch at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (111 Queen's Park), where chef Jamie Kennedy's rooftop eatery boasts spectacular views of the city. After sampling his seasonal tapas-style lunch menu (try his elevated version of Yukon Gold fries), have a wander through the Gardiner's impressive collection of ceramics.

A three-block stroll along Bloor Street brings you to the delightfully quirky Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor St W). Definitely one of Toronto's quirkier spots, this museum has amassed more than 10,000 pairs of footwear and related artifacts from 2,500 BC to the present day.

In the evening, catch an orchestral ensemble or headliner like Aretha Franklin or Sarah McLachlan at Massey Hall (178 Victoria, 416-872-4255). This hall is considered the grande old dame of Toronto's classical music halls. You can easily catch a quality performance here, mainly because more than 100 events are held here each year.

For dinner, head to the Superior Restaurant (253 Yonge St, 416-214-0416) to try the dry-aged prime beef or seasoned chicken over pasta.

3 days: Have a leisurely breakfast before heading west along Queen Street to The Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen St W) and the Angell Gallery (890 Queen St W) for insight into the lively Toronto art scene.

Have lunch at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St W), a bohemian arts and culture mecca in the midst of the city's recently revived gallery district. Try the new-wave sushi rolls and ceviche shooters in the raw bar, or opt for an organic burger in the corner cafe.

End the day at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (231 Queen's Quay W), which is Canada's leading public gallery devoted to contemporary art. The gallery makes a point of presenting leading-edge contemporary art. Artist talks, panels, and other events are held here weekends and evenings. Wednesday evenings are free from 5 to 8 pm.

End the day with cool drinks and a glorious sunset at Spinnakers in Queen's Quay Terminal (207 Queen St W).

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Toronto

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Toronto

When it comes to modern architecture, Toronto is where it's at. Use these suggested itineraries to see Toronto structures that were designed by some of the brightest stars on the architecture scene.

1 day: Toronto financier, Sir Henry Pellat, wanted a European castle so badly he hired 300 craftsmen to build one, perched high on a hill overlooking the city. The result is an eye-popping replica of a medieval castle called Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace), built between 1911 and 1913. Come for High Tea at 1 pm and savor pinwheel, finger, and tea sandwiches, fresh fruit tartlets, petit fours, chocolate dipped strawberries, and of course, tea.

Next door is Spadina House (285 Spadina Rd), an elegant Edwardian mansion that was home to four successive generations of the Austin family, from the 1880s to the 1980s. You can explore a billiards room and conservatory and other rooms that look like they're from a movie set.

Then take a tour of the Ontario Parliament Buildings (111 Weseley St W, 416-325-7500) to explore its grand structure's vaulted ceilings, marble floors, and dramatic lighting as well as the well-manicured grounds.

©2006 Tourism Toronto Toronto's Old City Hall, designed by Edward James Lennox, was built in a Romanesque Revival style.

To continue with the government theme, head over to Toronto's Old City Hall (100 Queen St), which was designed by architect Edward James Lennox, whose later projects included Casa Roma. You can see its Romanesque Revival style in its castle-like corner pavilions, round-arch openings, and interior courtyard.

For dinner, carry through the elegance theme by reserving a table at Mobil Three-Star Lai Wah Heen (108 Chestnut St), which has a two-level dining room with black granite, 12-foot ceilings and a solarium-style glass wall. The menu, written in English and traditional Chinese characters, offers such delights as wok-fried pork chops and steamed eggplant in soy sauce.

2 days: For a look back at 19th century Toronto, start at the Distillery District, (55 Mill St). Its 19 Victorian-era brick buildings once housed the industrial works of Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillers. More recently it became a prime location for Hollywood movies shot in Toronto. Today the complex houses galleries, boutiques, artist studios, and sidewalk cafes. Jazz, circus arts, and modern dance festivals fill its cobblestone alleyways and venues, and the new Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill St) fills the theater void.

Stop and admire large-scale works in glass at the Sandra Ainsley Gallery (55 Mill St, Building 32), where pieces by glass superstars like Dale Chihuly can be admired and purchased.

Grab an organic meat pie, sandwich, or dessert at the popular Brick Street Bakery (55 Mill St, Building 45A). Or pop into Mill St. Brewery (55 Mill St, Building 32), for a taste of Tankhouse Ale, and return for an evening performance by Soulpepper Theatre Company, one of Toronto's finest companies, in the Young Centre for Performing Arts (55 Mill St, Buildings 49 & 50).

Just east of the Distillery District is the St. Lawrence area. Go up to the second floor in the St. Lawrence Market, (92 Front St East), where artifacts and photographs from Toronto's past are displayed in a galley, and a wonderful bird's-eye view of the market can be had. The buildings located in the market have the original architecture to make you feel as though the old city is alive and well. Even the area's wide streets are reminiscent of European cities.

Take a photo of the handsome Flatiron Building (49 Wellington St E), and write a letter with a quill pen in Toronto's First Post Office (260 Adelaide St E), which dates to 1833. See a topographic model of 1830s Toronto, period furniture, and buy a 19th century reproduction ink well and sealing wax and bring old-fashioned letter writing back into fashion.

3 days: Tour Toronto's financial district to look at some fine architecture, but keep an eye out for two special properties. BCE Place (181 Bay St) is a soaring glass-and-steel structure with a stunning galleria designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Mies van der Rohe's Toronto Dominion Centre (66 Wellington St W) is a marvelous black modernist complex made up of six grand towers.

Nearby is Nathan Phillips Square, a civic gathering place for art shows, festivals, summer farmer's markets, and the occasional demonstration. Here too, is Toronto City Hall (100 Queen St W), which Torontonians have come to love, but which was highly controversial when it was first built in 1965. In the intervening years Finnish architect Viljo Revell's two curving towers and squat spaceship-like building has become as potent a symbol of Toronto as the CN Tower.

Just down Bay Street is The Design Exchange (234 Bay St), a resource center and gallery exhibiting the latest in industrial and graphic design, fashion design, and ergonomics. It's located in the former Toronto Stock Exchange, where you can see the original trading floor with its art moderne murals still intact.

For dinner, grab a table at Mobil Three-Star Pangaea (1221 Bay St). Its industrial facade is a contrast to its interior's vaulted ceiling and exotic floral arrangements. The chef creates a new sophisticated continental menu daily using seasonal fruits and vegetables and quality meats.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Toronto

Whether you prefer upscale shopping or out-of-the-norm boutiques (or a little of both), Toronto's shopping scene has it covered. These suggested itineraries will be of help when you try to plan your shopping excursions.

1 day: Head to the Bloor/Yorkville District for the city's most upscale shopping. Dubbed the "mink mile," this stretch of Bloor Street is lined with all the usual suspects -- Escada, Prada, Gucci, Max Mara. Pop into Holt Renfrew, (50 Bloor St West), Canada's most exclusive department store, which prides itself on its personalized service and must-have labels.

Along Yorkville and Cumberland streets you'll encounter smaller one-off boutiques in Victorian-era houses, like antique silver specialists Louis Wine (140 Yorkville Ave) and Elizabeth Legge (37 Hazelton Ave), whose antique prints are sought after by collectors and decorators from around the world.

While in Yorkville, grab a latte-to-go at Lettieri's, (94 Cumberland Ave), and soak up the atmosphere of one of the city's most ingenious greenspaces, Yorkville Park. Long ago, a row of 19th century Victorian rowhouses lined this block until they were demolished to make way for the subway. After many years as a parking lot, the city decided to create a new park.

The winners of the design competition decided to reflect the Victorian art of collecting in the design, by 'collecting' and arranging the many landscapes of Canada -- pine forest, prairie, marsh, orchard, rock outcropping and birch grove. Arranged row by row, the 13 distinctive sections merge into an imaginative garden that showcases the majesty and diversity of the Canadian landscape.

2 days: Toronto's multicultural mix finds its fullest expression in Kensington Market (just west of Chinatown, between Dundas and College Sts), where Jamaican patty shops, Portuguese fishmongers, and Chilean empanada stalls contribute to a moveable feast of global cuisines. Come on a Saturday to see it at its liveliest, with music blaring and people meeting up and enjoying the scene.

On the corner of Baldwin and Augusta streets you'll find Casa Acoreana (235 Augusta Ave), which sells every spice known to man, along with bulk foods, nuts, coffee, and old-fashioned candies like barley sugar whistles and saltwater taffy. Another popular stop is Cheese Magic, (182 Baldwin St) where servers are happy to share their impressive knowledge of regional cheeses (like maple cheddar), along with a nice little slab for tasting.

Fashion mavens head to the market's second-hand stores amassed along Kensington Street. Don't miss Courage My Love (14 Kensington St), famed for its African beads, vintage lingerie, old leather jackets, and Bakelite bangles. You could spend an afternoon rummaging through their drawers, racks, and bins. Leave some time to poke into Exile (20 Kensington Ave), Dancin' Days (17 Kensington Ave), and Asylum (42 Kensington Ave) too. Toronto's top stylists are regular clients, snapping up wide belts, platform shoes, and other vintage accessories.

While there's no shortage of snackables in the market, for an authentic French bistro meal try La Palette (256 Augusta St), or assemble an innovative design-your-own rice bowl across the street at Rice Bar (319 Augusta St).

©2006 Tourism Toronto Toronto residents love to get lost in Honest Ed's while looking for retail bargains.

A ten-minute walk up Bathurst Street brings you to Honest Ed's (581 Bloor St W), a landmark discount store named for its proprietor, theater impresario Ed Mirvish. Covered in thousands of light bulbs and corny slogans ("Only the floors are crooked") on the outside, and decorated with hundreds of autographed theater posters on the inside, this bargain emporium is a throwback to a simpler time when discount stores ruled retail. Inside, displays of low-priced merchandise -- everything from clothing to soup to appliances -- are marked with hand-painted signs still created in-house by a traditional sign painter. The store sprawls across an entire city block, so it's easy to do as the sign says: "Come in and get lost."

3 days: Queen Street West (between University Ave and Spadina Ave) is a nice mix of home decor and fashion boutiques with a few chains you'll recognize (The Gap, Guess) and others you won't -- Le Chateau (336 Queen St West), Aritzia (280 Queen St W) and Caban (262 Queen St W). Locals might miss the old days when this was the stomping ground of artists, hipsters, and other boulevardiers, but it's a sure bet for any fashionistas in search of a fix.

If you'd like a taste of the out-of-the ordinary, head further west to the area fittingly called West Queen West. This is where you'll find a mash-up of galleries, fashion boutiques, and hip watering holes lining Queen Street from Bathurst St to Gladstone St. Torontonians come here to check out whatever's on the cusp of cool -- be it a hot young chef cooking in a tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe, an artist making a much talked-about debut, or a brand new fashion label launching its first line of clothing.

Comrags (654 Queen St W) is a much-loved local fashion label, and Style Garage (938 Queen St W) offers custom furniture and home accessories by Canadian designers. Galleries are probably the biggest draw though, and Angell Gallery (890 Queen St W) and Edward Day (952 Queen St W) are two well worth exploring.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Toronto

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Toronto

Toronto's after-hours scene has undergone a renaissance in recent years, giving visitors to the city plenty of clubs, bars, restaurants, and music venues to chose from. These suggested itineraries will help you plan trips to the hippest spots in town.

1 day: The Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St W) is a Toronto landmark where The Stones once kicked off a tour and The Police played to an almost empty house on their first North American tour. Now past its 50th birthday, the legendary bar is still showcasing 'roots, rock and alt nu music', and is always worth checking out.

Next door the Rivoli Cafe (334 Queen St W) serves global comfort food, and books top alternative bands and comedy acts.

Due south is the Entertainment District, which has restaurants and nightclubs, plus Wayne Gretzky's (99 Blue Jays Way) sports bar and restaurant, and comedy group The Second City's northern outpost (51 Mercer St).

2 days: If you'd like to experience Toronto's avant-garde party salon of the moment, head over to The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St W), where eclectic art-inspired events (and straight-ahead music sets) happen nightly in the Underground Bar. A sampling of Underground events might include a Super 8 film festival, a night of Weimar cabaret tunes, a video release party, and an Improv comedy night. Every Monday, the Drake hosts Elvis Mondays, a free night of music featuring emerging Toronto indie bands. Wander upstairs for a cocktail under the stars in the Sky Yard rooftop patio -- a homage to 1930s-era Miami Beach -- and if the night drags on, get a Crash Pad (Drake lingo for a hotel room) for the night and see how the other half lives.

3 days: Small wonder that the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was shot in Toronto. Greek culture is alive and well and stretches for blocks and blocks on The Danforth, where you can start eating in the late afternoon and still be noshing into the wee hours of the morning. The Friendly Greek (551 Danforth Ave), Astoria (390 Danforth Ave), and Pappas Grill (440 Danforth Ave) all serve great home-style food, but for a more elevated take on souvlaki and spanakopita, plus a long stylish bar, try Myth (417 Danforth Ave).

If after filling up on Greek food you'd like a change of scenery and a spot of Guinness, head to Allen's (143 Danforth Ave), an Irish-American pub where Celtic bands play on weekends and the beer and whiskey lists are legion.

Afterward, catch a rare movie classic at The Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor St W), a vintage movie house in the middle of the Annex neighborhood.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Toronto

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Toronto

Toronto has a reputation as a city with a strong work ethic, but the locals know how to kick back and relax, too. Follow these suggestions for relaxing and unwinding in Toronto.

1 day: The Distillery District's complex of brick and stone industrial buildings is like a theme park for adults, with more than a dozen architecturally significant structures built between 1857 and 1900. Used as a whiskey distillery until the 1960s, it ranks among the finest examples of Victorian Industrial Design in existence. After years of use as a film set, today it's a thriving urban village, filled with independent artists, designer shops, restaurants, galleries, and home to Soulpepper Theatre Company (55 Mill St, Bldg 49), one of Toronto's finest.

Wander from funky space to space, engage the artists in conversation about their work, and don't miss out on Toronto's best cup of coffee, roasted, ground and brewed for your pleasure at Balzac's (55 Mill St, Bldg 60).

©2006 Tourism Toronto Toronto's High Park, with 121 acres of nature, offers activities for all seasons.

2 days: Head to High Park (1873 Bloor St W), in the west end of town, for a pleasant hike, where you might encounter rare flora and wildlife indigenous to the area. Its 121 acres are crisscrossed with paths and nature trails, which are used for cross-country skiing in the winter, and biking and jogging paths the rest of the year. The park's active committee holds informative walks during the summer months, which depart from the Grenadier Restaurant, in the center of the park.

Families enjoy the Nature Centre's drop-in programs and the Children's Garden where green-thumb activities get kids excited about community gardening and growing their own food. There's a swimming pool and tennis courts, and a nice collection of sculpture that dots the hills. Most peculiar of all are the animal paddocks, which date back to 1890 when deer were kept in High Park. Today you'll find domestic and exotic species including bison, Tibetan yaks, llamas, deer, Scottish Highland cattle, peacocks and sheep.

From June to August, the venerable Canadian Stage Company (26 Berkeley St) mounts its annual Dream in High Park production on High Park's amphitheatre. It's especially magical when they do Midsummer Night's Dream, but always a high-quality show featuring some of Toronto's finest classical actors. Assemble a picnic at one of the Eastern European delis on nearby Bloor Street West, and enjoy one of Toronto's most delightful summer outings.

3 days: The far eastern end of Queen Street is where you find The Beaches, a neighborhood beloved by dog-owners, journalists, and other creative types. Hop on the Queen Streetcar heading east until you come to the end of the line. You'll be in the middle of The Beaches, close to the Kew Beach with its nostalgic bandstand and lifeguard station, and a short stroll from the boardwalk that winds along the beach and joins up with the Martin Goodman Trail.

Poke around in some of the clothing boutique and home decor shops, and stop in Book City (1950 Queen St E), a popular independent bookstore. If it's time for a bite, stop in at Lick's (1962A Queen St E), for one of Toronto's best burgers.

Toronto is no longer just a straight-laced, mild-mannered town. Visitors can have a good time experiencing the city's dining, nightlife, attractions, and wild architecture. Come see Toronto for yourself -- you'll be pleasantly surprised.

© Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Illona Biro is a Canadian freelance writer and editor who has traveled the world looking for fascinating people and unique stories. She trained as a journalist in London and worked on a newspaper in Mexico City before settling in Toronto in 1993. Since then, Illona has contributed to dozens of newspapers and magazines, writing on everything from parenting to politics.

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