Destination guide: Toronto, Canada

Toronto is one of the most important cities in Canada and has one of the best standards of living in North America. Among its main attractions are James Garden, the Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Chinatown, Yorkville, the Town Hall, the CN Tower, Queen Street West, Niagara Fallsand a wide range of bars, pubs, nightclubs, theatres and casinos.

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  • Toronto - Things to do

    Sights

    Amsterdam Brewing Co.

    Steam Whistle Brewing's poor relation hangs out in a seedy redbrick building under the Gardiner Expwy. But without Amsterdam, Toronto's first microbrewery (1986), the local microbrew scene would never have scaled such light-headed heights! House specials include a Dutch Amber Lager, a seasonal Spring Bock brew, a lighter Summer Wheat Beer and a British-style Nut Brown Ale. Tour reservations essential; pay an extra $2 and get a pint glass to take home and enshrine.

    Latitude: 43.6385132728943 / Longitude: -79.4001030921936
    Sub-Type: Brewery
    Telephone Number:+1 416 504 6886
    Opening hours: tours 1:30pm daily, 5pm Mon-Sat.
    Pricing: 30min tour $6.
    Address: 21 Bathurst St.
    Transportation Type: tram. Details: 511.
    Website: www.amsterdambeer.com

    Hockey Arena

    This hallowed hockey arena was built in an astoundingly quick five months during the Great Depression, and was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs for over 50 years. The Leafs lost their first game to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1931, but went on to win 13 Stanley Cups before relocating to the Air Canada Centre in 1999. Over the years, Elvis, Sinatra and the Beatles have all belted out tunes at the Gardens.

    Address: 60 Carlton St.

    Exhibition Place

    Every August, historic Exhibition Place is revived for its original purpose, the Canadian National Exhibition. During ‘The Ex’, millions of visitors flood the midway for carnival rides, lumberjack competitions and more good, honest, homegrown fun than a Sunday-school picnic in June. The beaux arts Victory statue over Princes’ Gate has stood proud since 1927, when Canada celebrated its 60th birthday. Other events held at Exhibition Place throughout the year include the Grand Prix of Toronto in July and a slew of spectator sports and indie design shows. At other times the grounds are often spookily bereft of visitors. Parking costs $12 (after 6pm it will set you back back $9).

    Latitude: 43.6329784439000 / Longitude: -79.4180058600000
    Sub-Type: Landmark
    Telephone Number: +1 416 263 3600
    Opening Hours: hours vary.
    Extras: off Lake Shore Blvd W, btwn Strachan Ave & Dufferin St.
    Transportation Type: tram Details: 511.
    Website: www.explace.on.ca

    Fort York

    Established by the British in 1793 to defend the town of York (as Toronto was then known), Fort York was almost entirely destroyed during the War of 1812 when a small band of Ojibwe warriors and British troops couldn’t stop US troops. Today, a handful of the original log, stone and brick buildings have been restored. In summer, men decked out in 19th-century British military uniforms carry out preposterous marches and drills, firing musket volleys into the sky. Kids feign interest or run around the fort’s embankments with wooden rifles. Tours run hourly from May to September, and a fancy new visitor’s centre was being planned when we visited. It’s, off Fleet St W, east of Strachan Ave.

    Latitude: 43.6390257307492 / Longitude: -79.4032144546509
    Sub-Type: Historical Site.
    Opening Hours: 10am-5pm May-Sep, closed mid-Dec–early Jan.
    Pricing: admission & tour adult/child/concession $6/3/3.25.
    Telephone number:+1 416 392 6907.
    Address: 100 Garrison Rd.
    TransportationType: tram Details: 509, 511.
    Type: secondary rail Details: Montgomery St Muni.
    Website: www.toronto.ca/culture/fort_york.htm

    CN Tower

    Though it’s been around for more than 30 years, the funky CN Tower still warrants ‘icon’ status. Its primary function is as a radio and TV communications tower, but relieving tourists of as much cash as possible seems to be the second order of business. It’s expensive, but riding the great glass elevators up the highest freestanding structure in the world (553m) is one of those things in life you just have to do. On a clear day, the views from the Observation Deck are astounding; if it’s hazy, you won’t be able to see a thing. Beware: two million visitors every year means summer queues for the elevator can be up to two hours long – going up and coming back down. For those with reservations and sacks full of cash, the award-winning revolving restaurant 360° awaits (with ‘the world’s highest wine cellar’). Elevator price is waived for diners.

    Alternative Name: Canadian National Tower.
    Latitude
    : 43.6426982174725 / Longitude: -79.3871426582336
    Sub-Type: Notable Building.
    Address: 301 Front St W. Extras: La Tour CN.
    Pricing: adult/child $23/15.
    Telephone Number: +1 416 868 6937.
    Opening Hours: 9am-10pm Sun-Thu, to 10:30 Fri & Sat, to 11pm summer.
    Transportation type: underground rail. Details: Union.
    Website: www.cntower.ca

    Eat

    Spring Rolls

    One of five Spring Rolls around town, the Old York version is a cool, mod room casting a culinary net from Vietnam to China. Bowls of Vietnamese pho (noodle soup) mingle with spicy Szechuan wok dishes, classic pad thai (stir-fried noodles), curries and banana fritters. Energetic after-workers unwind at sidewalk tables.

    Latitude: 43.6487615995570 / Longitude: -79.3724012374878
    Sub-Type: Pan-Asian.
    Telephone Number:+1 415 861 5555
    Opening Hours: 11am-11pm.
    Price Range: Moderate.
    Pricing:mains $8-16.
    Address: 85 Front St E, streetcar 503, 504.
    Transportation Type: tram Details: 503, 504.
    Website: www.springrolls.ca

    Cyrano's

    Follow your nose in Cyrano's, an enduring (since 1959) downtown bistro with red leather seats and a portrait of the nasally well-endowed Monsieur de Bergerac on the wall. Order reliably good salads, ribs or seafood offerings, or launch into the signature 16oz rib steak. If you're in a hurry, sit at the bar and graze through a quick-fire menu of burgers, wings and oysters, washed down with Creemore Springs on tap.

    Latitude: 43.6495689691774 / Longitude: -79.3755340576172
    Sub-Type: Steakhouse.
    Telephone Number:+1 416 362 4342.
    Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Fri, from 5pm Sat.
    Price Range: Low.
    Pricing: mains $12-27.
    Address: 73 King St E.
    Transportation Type: underground rail Details: King.

    Canoe

    Toronto's definitive dining space may still be Canoe, and what a space it is! Sweeping views of choppy Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands extend from the dining room, about half-mast to the CN Tower. Intriguing regional Canadian haute cuisine is on offer here. Find your sea legs after the elevator ride then tuck into a plate of pan-seared Yarmouth scallops ($23) or Nunavut caribou hind ($44). Reservations essential.

    Latitude: 43.6477508544922 / Longitude: -79.3807220458984
    Sub-Type: Canadian.
    Telephone Number: +1 416 364 0054.
    Opening Hours: 11:45am-2:30pm Mon-Fri, 5-10:30pm daily.
    Price Range: High.
    Pricing: mains $36-42.
    Address: 66 Wellington St W. Extras: 54th fl, Toronto-Dominion Centre.
    TransportationType: underground rail. Details: St Andrew.

    Entertainment

    Brass Taps

    This atmospheric, split-level pub is the kind of place where you can read a book over a slow pint during the day, then whoop-it-up at night with a crankin' jukebox, pool tables and an eclectic crowd of after-workers, students and locals. It has Creemore Springs on tap, and the food is top-notch – try the 'Brass Taps Deluxe' pizza.

    Latitude: 43.6639212577631 / Longitude: -79.3691289424896
    Sub-Type: Bar.
    Telephone Number: Number: +1 416 966 9440
    Address: 221 Carlton St, Cabbagetown.
    Transportation Type: tram Details: 506.

    Graffiti's

    This diverse bohemian bar has credible acoustic rock, roots, blues and jazz acts, as well as open-mic nights and 'cabarets' that could (and usually do) embrace any subject. There's Sleeman Cream Ale on tap, jazzy murals, Persian rugs and beautifully painted marble tabletops.

    Latitude: 43.6549485684922 / Longitude: -79.4002962112427
    Sub-Type: Live Music.
    Telephone Number:+1 416 506 6699
    Opening hours:
    11am-2pm.
    Pricing: admission free.
    Address: 170 Baldwin St, Kensington Market.
    Transportation Type: tram Details: 510.

    Docks Drive-in Theatre

    A drive-in in downtown Toronto? Cool! Double bills of first-run blockbusters start around dusk at this lakeside yard; the usual fast-food suspects are on hand.

    Latitude: 43.6416811241758 / Longitude: -79.3527889251709
    Sub-type: Cinema.
    Telephone Number: +1 416 461 3625.
    Opening Hours:from 8:30pm Fri-Sun Apr-Oct.
    Pricing: adult/child $12/3.50 Fri & Sat, per car $15 Sun.
    Address: 11 Polson St.
    Website: www.thedocks.com

    Shop

    Toronto Antique Centre

    A stroll through the well laid out Antique Centre is a welcome respite from the busy streets. From low-end collectibles to high-end valuables, connoisseurs have been known to locate some very undervalued treasures from other parts of the world amid the stalls, booths and showcases of this treasure trove. If you have the time, this place is well worth a visit.

    Latitude: 43.6470769568450 / Longitude: -79.3883121013641
    Sub-Type: Antiques.
    Telephone Number: +1 416 345 9941
    Opening Hours: 10am-6pm Tue-Sun.
    Address: 276 King St W.
    Transportation Type: tram. Details: 504.

    Show Room

    Five thousand pairs of jeans are housed on both levels of this lofty space, many of which can be seen on the finely toned rears of LA and European hipsters. Show Room's fitting rooms are bar none and pretty much any cut or size of denim is on site.

    Latitude: 43.6496698896168 / Longitude: -79.3925178050995
    Sub-Type
    : Fashion.
    Opening Hours: 10am-8pm Mon-Thu, 11am-9pm Fri, noon-7pm Sat & Sun.
    Telephone Number: +1 416 977 3888
    Address: 278B Queen St W.
    TransportationType: tram. Details: 501.
    Website: www.theshow-room.com

    Cabaret

    Retrophiles should be sure not to miss this exquisite shop, which features an impressive selection of vintage wear. A fanfare of lace, brocade, tulle and top hats is organized by color and, given the mint condition of each piece, up for grabs at very reasonable prices.

    Latitude: 43.6467431280259/ Longitude: -79.4067978858948
    Sub-Type
    : Vintage.
    Opening Hours: 11am-6pm Mon-Sat, to 7pm Thu & Fri, 1-5pm Sun.
    Telephone Number: +1 416 504 7126.
    Address: 672 Queen St W.
    Transportation Type: tram Details:501.

    Events Overviews

    January-February

    WinterCity Festival
    Toronto breaks the late-January winter shackles with this city-wide celebration of culture, cuisine and the arts. Many events are free.
    www.toronto.ca/special_events

    April

    Hot Docs
    North America’s largest documentary film festival screens more than 100 docos from around the globe.
    www.hotdocs.ca

    May

    Doors Open Toronto
    Architectural treasures creak open their doors and let the public sneak a peek.
    www.toronto.ca/doorsopen

    June

    North by Northeast (NXNE)
    An affordable wristband gets you into 400 new music and film shows at over 30 clubs, all squeezed into one long, boozy weekend in mid-June.
    www.nxne.com

    Pride Toronto
    Toronto’s most flamboyant event celebrates all kinds of sexuality, climaxing with an out-of-the-closet Dyke March and the outrageous Pride Parade. Pride’s G-spot is in the Church-Wellesley Village; most events are free. Late June.
    www.pridetoronto.com

    National Aboriginal Day
    Canada’s heritage of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures is celebrated on the summer solstice (June 21), with events leading up to it the week before.
    www.toronto.ca/diversity/events-aboriginal-day.htm

    Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival
    For 10 days in late June/early July, jazz, blues and world beats blaze in the city’s streets, nightclubs and concert halls, with musical workshops, film screenings and harbor cruises.
    www.tojazz.com

    July

    Toronto Fringe Festival
    Over two weeks in early July, dozens of stages host dozens of plays ranging from utterly offbeat to deadly serious, plus a program of kids’ plays too.
    www.fringetoronto.com

    Honda Indy Toronto
    Drivers from the international circuit compete in front of massive crowds; engine noise abounds as cars top 300km/h along Lakeshore Blvd.
    www.hondaindyoronto.com

    Beaches International Jazz Festival
    Going strong for almost 20 years, this high-caliber, free three-day jazz fest in late July fills stages along Queen St E, at Kew Gardens and in the Distillery District. [tel] 416-698-2152.
    www.beachesjazz.com

    August

    Caribana
    North America’s largest Caribbean festival, from late July into early August. The carnival parade, featuring florid and almost-not-there costumes, takes five hours to gyrate past.
    www.caribana.com

    Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)
    Dating from 1879, ‘The Ex’ features over 700 exhibitors, agricultural shows, lumberjack competitions, outdoor concerts and carnivalia at Exhibition Place. The air show and Labour Day fireworks take the cake.
    www.theex.com

    Scotiabank Buskerfest
    For three days in late August, a ragtag troupe of Canadian and international buskers descends on St Lawrence Market: expect sword-swallowers, jugglers and musicians of unpredictable merit.
    www.torontobuskerfest.com

    September

    Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
    Toronto’s prestigious 10-day celebration is one of the world’s best film festivals and a major cinematic event. Films of all lengths and styles are screened in late September, as celebs shimmy between gala events and the gorgeous new Bell Lightbox. Buy tickets well in advance.
    www.torontointernationalfilmfestival.ca

    Nuit Blanche
    Over 130 overnight urban art experiences, all over town. Contrived ‘chance encounters, ’ interactive dance pieces, and an all-night street market are part of the fun. Late September.
    www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

    October

    International Festival of Authors
    Bookish, mid-October festival corralling acclaimed authors from Canada and abroad at the Harbourfront Centre. Readings, discussions, lectures, awards and book signings. Kid-friend events, too.
    www.readings.org

    November

    Canadian Aboriginal Festival
    A multiday late-November celebration at the Rogers Centre involving dancing, drumming, crafts, films, traditional teachings and a lacrosse competition. Canada’s biggest aboriginal festival.
    www.canab.com

    Activity Overviews

    They’re often mummified in winter layers, but Torontonians still like to stay in shape. Outdoor activities abound, with folks cycling, blading and running along the lakeshore, hiking up the city’s ravines and paddling on Lake Ontario during summer. Ice-skating and hockey are winter faves, but don’t be surprised if you see hard-core cyclists on icy streets, or hockey players skating on artificial ice in mid-July.

    Cycling & In-Line Skating
    For cyclists and in-line skaters, the Martin Goodman Trail is the place to go. This paved recreational trail stretches from The Beaches through Harbourfront to the Humber River in the west – head for the lake and you’ll find it. On the way you can connect to the Don Valley mountain-bike trails at Cherry St. On the Toronto Islands, the south-shore boardwalk and the interconnecting paved paths are car-free. You can also cycle or skate around High Park. If you fancy a longer trek, the Martin Goodman Trail is part of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail (www.waterfronttrail.org), stretching 450km from east of Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you pick up the paved recreational trail on the Niagara Parkway.
    Recommended maps for cyclists include MapArt’s Toronto with Bicycle Routes ($3.95) and the Official Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail Mapbook ($9.95).

    • Community Bicycle Network ([tel] 416-504-2918; www.communitybicyclenetwork.org; 761 Queen St W; rental 1st day/2nd day/week $25/10/50; [hrs] noon-6pm Mon-Sat; [tram] 501) What used to be a bike-share program is now strictly rentals, though staff can help with repairs and information.
    • Europe Bound Outfitters ([tel] 416-601-1990; 47 Front St; [hrs] 10am-7pm Mon-Fri, to 6pm Sat, 11am-5pm Sun; [tram] 503) Mountain bikes and tandems with helmets from $30 per day.
    • Toronto Bicycling Network ([tel] 416-760-4191; www.tbn.on.ca) This recreational cycling club is an excellent resource, with organized rides open to nonmembers for a $5 fee.
    • Toronto Islands Bicycle Rental ([tel] 416-203-0009; bicycles/tandems per hr $7/14, 2-/4-seat quadricycles $16/40; [hrs] 10am-5pm Jun-Aug, Sat & Sun only May & Sep; [ferry] Centre Island)
    • Wheel Excitement ([tel] 416-260-9000; www.wheelexcitement.ca; 249 Queens Quay W; bicycles & in-line skates per hr/day $15/30; [hrs] 10am-6pm; [tram] 509, 510) Close to ferries for Toronto Islands; take a bike.

    Hiking
    Feel like stretching your legs? Delve into Toronto’s city parks, nature reserves or ravines. Alternatively, hook up with a group such as Hike Ontario ([tel] 905-277-4453, 800-894-7249; www.hikeontario.com) or Toronto Bruce Trail Club ([tel] 416-763-9061; www.torontobrucetrailclub.org) for hardy day hikes.

    Ice-Skating
    In winter there are some cool (literally) places to ice-skate downtown, including Nathan Phillips Square outside City Hall and at the Harbourfront Centre. These artificial rinks are open daily (weather permitting) from 10am to 10pm, mid-November to March. Admission is free; skate rental costs $7. Contact Toronto Parks & Recreation ([tel] 416-397-2628; www.toronto.ca/parks) for information on other rinks around town, including those at Kew Gardens near Kew Beach and Trinity Bellwoods Park in West Toronto. If it’s been really cold, you can skate on Grenadier Pondin High Park.

    Swimming
    Torontonians don’t like swimming in Lake Ontario, despite the presence of a dozen city beaches tended by lifeguards from July to August. Water quality can be lousy, especially after rain; check with Toronto’s Beach Water Quality Hotline ([tel] 416-392-7161; www.city.toronto.on.ca/beach).
    The City of Toronto operates more than a dozen Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pools, open dawn-to-dusk during summer. Check www.toronto.ca/parks/opening pools2005.htm for hours and locations.

    Water Sports
    Choose from sailboat, kayak, canoe and windsurfer rentals and lessons.

    • Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre ([tel] 416-203-2277, 800-960-8886; www.paddletoronto.com; 283a Queen’s Quay W; canoes per hr/day $30/60, kayaks $20/50, tandem kayaks $30/65; [hrs] noon-6pm Mon-Fri, from 10am Sat-Sun; [tram] 509, 510; [parking]) Offers lake paddles and lessons. Parking costs $7.
    • Queens Quay Sailing & Powerboating ([tel] 416-203-3000; www.qqy.ca; 275 Queens Quay W; sailboats per 3hr from $75, power boats per hr from $65; [hrs] 9am-9pm May-Sep, to 5pm Mon-Fri Oct-Apr; [tram] 509, 510; [parking]) Sail and power-boat rentals and lessons. Parking costs $5 to $8.
    • Toronto Windsurfing Club ([tel] 416-461-7078; www.torontowindsurfingclub.com; 2 Regatta Rd; rental per hr $30; [parking]) Windsurfing rental and lessons at Cherry Beach. Get off the 172 bus at Commissioners St and walk 10 minutes south.