This blog was also published by GotSaga.
Sometimes it’s refreshing to feel like a tourist in your own city, so when my boyfriend came to visit I was faced with the daunting task of ensuring he saw the sights that would make him fall in love with my hometown.
Toronto is a great metropolis, filled with multiculturalism and rich history. The challenge is to find places (and deals) that will give a visitor a feel for the city. Toronto is home to some great hostels and a hidden backpacker culture filled with travelers that never left. Lonely Planet claims that 1 in 2 Torontonians was born elsewhere, and the multiculturalism of the city’s different areas – from the Danforth to Chinatown – drives that statistic home.
Although I’ve chosen some pretty cliché locales, I find these destinations create a foreground for exploring the hidden treasures Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have to offer.
In the city
1. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
Although I may be a huge nerd, the ROM has been one of my favourite Toronto destinations since before I can remember. Although it’s considered an eyesore by many Torontonians, the newly redesigned “Crystal” entrance, by architect Daniel Libeskind, has given the museum a facelift in recent years. For its architecture both inside and out and the largest museum in Canada for world culture and natural history. If you’re on a budget, be sure to check out the museum’s website – admission is free on Wednesday afternoons.
2. The Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
For art and architecture lovers, OCAD and the AGO could provide a days’ worth of entertainment. With a few galleries, including one that exhibits student art, the young OCAD has become a trendy downtown destination. Located just behind the school is the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the 10th largest in North America and houses more than 68,000 works. Although visiting both could be expensive for the budget traveler, some exhibitions can be free but operating hours are sparing, so be sure to check out the deals.
3. The CN Tower
It may be cheesy and a bit pricy at $34.99, but the revolving CN Tower is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is a must-see for travelers to Toronto. The view of the harbour, Lake Ontario and the city are spectacular and if you wish to splurge, the tower houses the award-winning 360 Restaurant.
Uniquely operated by community-based volunteers, Toronto’s Harbourfront is bustling with festivals and events throughout the year. Although it’s a much better attraction in the summer months, visitors can walk along the boardwalk, participate in an art workshop or attend the International Festival of Authors in October.
5. Distillery District
In the east end of Toronto (if you want to take the walk down Front Street from Union Station, the St. Lawrence Market is well worth a stop), the historic Distillery District offers everything from theatre to quaint cafes. The old cobblestone streets combined with the refurbished buildings that house businesses including Balzac’s Coffee make for a great atmosphere. Although isolated from the rest of the city, it provides a great escape for an afternoon lunch or evening of theatre-going.
Outside the downtown core
1. Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake
2. Casa Loma
3. Science Centre
4. Toronto Zoo
5. High Park
6. Blue Mountain Ski Resort
7. Haunted Walk of Kingston, Ontario
8. Stratford Festival
9. Canada’s Wonderland
10. Explore the Toronto Islands