Toronto is likely the first place you thought of.
That’s not actually that surprising – it’s the biggest city in Canada, it’s referenced all the time in movies and songs, and it’s the travel hub for the entire country.
Here is a look at some of the best things to see in Toronto and how you can spend your time most effectively during your visit.
The Best Things To Do in Toronto
The CN Tower
Standing over 550m tall at the heart of the city is the CN Tower.
It’s one of the tallest free-standing structures in the entire world and an unmistakeable feature on the Toronto skyline.
No matter where you are in the city or surrounding area you can see the CN Tower scraping the clouds as it towers over the downtown core and Lake Ontario.
At the top of the tower is a revolving restaurant that gives you an incredible birds-eye view of the city.
You can also check out an observation deck and even participate in an “Edge Walk” – an activity where you’re strapped to the tower itself and you walk around the circular piece near the top.
The CN Tower is, by far, one of best tourist attractions in Toronto.
It’s a globally-recognized landmark of the city and if you only have time to check out one thing this should be it.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Built in 2013 the Ripley’s Aquarium downtown is one of newest and most exciting things to do in Toronto.
It’s a bit expensive, at around $35 per ticket (see pricing), but it’s definitely worth it since you get to spend a few hours in one of Canada’s top aquariums.
The Aquarium is only a few blocks away from the CN Tower and it’s a good idea to combine them both into one little excursion if it’s your first time visiting Toronto.
At Ripley’s you’ll be pleased to find a walk-through aquarium where you can interact with the fish up close and personal and the chance to see nearly 500 different species of sea and freshwater creatures.
From stingray feedings to hands-on underwater viewing bubbles there’s a wide range of activities at the Ripley’s Aquarium that provide countless hours of fun and entertainment.
You better believe it – there’s a castle in the middle of Canada’s biggest city.
Yep, you heard that right.
A short TTC subway ride away from downtown is Casa Loma, a large home built in Gothic Revival style that looks just like a castle.
When you walk by you’ll be surprised to see such a regal structure so close to downtown Toronto and it’s definitely one of the most interesting things to see in Toronto.
Completed by 1914 Casa Loma has stood as a home or museum for over 100 years.
It started out as the living space for Sir Henry Pellatt, a successful Canadian financier, and today is owned both by the city and a private entertainment company.
Casa Loma is a well-known icon in Toronto pop-culture and has been used as a set for many movies and TV shows.
On the inside you’ll find an array of completely restored rooms and even a vintage car exhibition. Don’t forget to check out the 3rd floor for the unique view of the CN Tower!
The Distillery District
Just east of the downtown core is the Distillery District of Toronto, a historical neighbourhood that has become a popular entertainment and drinking locale over the past few years.
In the Distillery District you can wander around through 40 different heritage buildings laid out across 10 streets.
It’s the biggest collection of Victorian-era Industrial architecture in all of North America and is one of the most unique parts of the city.
Since the mid-1800s the Distillery District was the center of alcohol production and exports in Toronto.
It had easy access to the waterfront and was well connected to the surrounding area.
Since the 1990s the area has seen a blooming revitalization and today is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
The area is dotted with art exhibits, breweries, funky shops, and a whole bunch of different informative rooms dedicated to preserving the history of the Distillery District.
If you’re looking for a few hours to relax and wander around a cool area of the city you’re going to want to check out the Distillery District.
Hop on a ferry down at the waterfront and in a short while you’ll reach the Toronto Islands.
These are the only islands in the Western portion of Lake Ontario and a popular getaway from the hustle of downtown.
A few people actually live on the Islands but it’s mostly popular entertainment for tourists during the warm summer months.
A fun thing to do when you visit the Toronto Islands is to rent a bike and cycle around for a few hours.
There aren’t many crowds and you’ll find some of the best views of downtown Toronto here.
If the weather is nice you can also go swimming at one of the beaches on the island such as Hanlan’s Point Beach, Centre Island Beach, or Ward’s Island Beach.
If you’re into quirky and multicultural neighbourhood’s then you’ll love the Kensington Market.
It’s one of the off-the-beaten-path things to do in Toronto and it’s a fun place to wander through and experience.
In the area you’ll find many different locally owned shops, cafe’s, and restaurants.
The alleyways are lined with impressive and inspiring graffiti which make an ideal spot for photos or video.
It’s a great place to stop for a bite to eat or browse through one of the many different second-hand clothing shops for something new and exciting to wear.
The Kensington Market is easy to reach on foot from downtown and is just a few steps away from the bustling Toronto Chinatown.
Since the 1890’s with the influx of Chinese immigrants to Canada the Toronto Chinatown has grown into one of the largest and busiest in all of North America.
It rivals those in NYC and San Francisco with the authenticity and wide range of foreign foods and products that are made available.
You’ll find some of the best Chinese and Asian food in Toronto when you’re wandering through Chinatown and there are many different interesting shops that sell all types of trinkets imaginable.
For a little bit of excitement head into one of the Asian markets and take a look at all the different types of food they have available.
When you reach the Toronto Chinatown neighborhood start at the intersections of Dundas and Spadina and start exploring from there.
The intersection is connected to the streetcar and subway line which give you quick access to the rest of the city and is easy to find if you happen to get lost.
Ontario Science Centre
A little bit of a trek from the downtown core is the Ontario Science Centre.
There are hundreds of different interactive exhibits and a feature exhibit which is always changing.
In 2010 there was a Harry Potter exhibit and more recently a Lego exhibit.
It’s always different so you can expect to discover something new and exciting if you make it to the Science Centre.
If you have kids or you’re just looking for somewhere to have some fun then you’ll want to check out the Science Centre.
It’s one of the more fun things to check out in Toronto and it makes for a great day-trip if you’re looking for something different than the busy downtown.
There’s an enormous IMAX screen as well which will give you an even more interactive and experience.
The Eaton Center
One of the busiest and most interesting things to do in Toronto, more than 1 million people walk through the Eaton Centre every week and it’s worth a visit during your trip to Ontario’s capital.
Located at the busiest intersection in Toronto, Yonge and Dundas, the Eaton Centre is an enormous mall complex with more than 300 stores, 3 different office buildings, and even a Ryerson campus building located on the grounds.
The largest store in Canada, the Hudson’s Bay flagship store, dominates one end of the Eaton Centre and while the prices are expensive it’s fun to wander around and check out all the different clothes and services being offered.
The Eaton Centre is connected by underground passage to Union Station and is a great place to go shopping or grab a bite to eat.
Even the interior is interesting with a handful of fountains, pieces of artwork, and different exhibits through the space.
Considering its location in one of the busiest areas of the city the Eaton Centre it’s a good idea to spend some time check out the Eaton Centre and enjoying yourself in one of North America’s biggest malls.
Want to venture into some beautiful natural areas? Consider a trip up to Algonquin Park!
Yearning for a small town experience? Make the drive to the lovely town of Guelph!
Check out my post on the best day trips from Toronto for some more ideas.