Toronto Travel Guide
Last updated July 7th, 2020
Travel to Toronto | Toronto Canada Attractions
Introducing the city of Toronto
Toronto is large, vibrant, multi-cultural with a renowned food scene, urban yet eco-friendly, culturally thriving with urban pleasures and plenty of parks that provide green spaces throughout the city.
It is Canada’s largest city and has a friendly population which makes the city easy to like.
What is Toronto known for?
It’s a great place for dining, shopping, relaxing and exploring its many attractions including Toronto Islands, CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The seasons also play an important role in the lives of locals.The weather changes are dramatic. Windy April is hardly a spring that the locals head out to enjoy.
July however is a lively month, though humid, with overflowing patios, packed pubs and parks filled with locals who enjoy the warm weather along the lake shore late into the night. While the red maples of October lend the city a festive air, though locals don’t particularly look forward to the winter.
The peak of winter in February sees the city covered in inhospitable snow, and locals taking the underground pathways, or hiding in cozy pubs and coffee shops.
That is, if they’re not enjoying a game of hockey.
Plan Your Trip: Getting in and Around
- By plane: There are several airports that cater to international and regional travelers in the Toronto region.
The two terminals of the Toronto Pearson International Airport service most major international flight carriers. From the airport, the downtown is reachable with a 30 to 50 minute drive.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the Pacific Western Airport Express provide express bus services to downtown locations from the airport. GO Transit provides buses from the airport to destinations outside of the Toronto downtown.
For regional flights, ‘Island Airport’ or the Billy Bishop Toronto City Center Airport provides services to several cities of eastern Canada and the northeast US.
Another airport for regional travel is the Hamilton International Airport, which is located 80 km from the Toronto Downtown and is particularly convenient for visits to the Niagara Falls.
A combination of services by the Hamilton Street Railway and the GO commuter bus can take passengers to the core downtown of Toronto.
The Buffalo-Niagara International Airport provides low-cost flight services between Toronto and the United States.
It is possible to take a 3-hour Megabus ride from the airport to downtown. Travelers can also hire a car at the airport if they want to drive.
- By bus: There are plenty of intercity buses run by Greyhound, New York Trailways, Coach Canada, Shuttle, Ontario Northland, Megabus and Greyhound Quicklink. Of these, Greyhound provides links between New York City and Toronto with Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo on the way.
The service also provides bus links to Chicago with the cities of Detroit, Windsor and London on the way. Coach Canada provides links to Montreal, New York City, Kingston and Buffalo.
- By train: Toronto’s impressive Union Station is one of the main hubs of VIA Rail, which provides intercity train travel in Canada. The principal VIA Rail lines include Corridor (to Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and other stations in between) and Maple Leaf (run jointly with Amtrak to New York City with Buffalo and Albany on the way).
The Canadian rail route operates a few weekly trains to Vancouver. Ontario Northland is a subsidized service to Cochrane, Ontario.
GO Transit also operates several commuter train services from Union Station to locations around the Greater Toronto Area.
How can I explore Toronto?
Distances in Toronto are large, and a combination of efficient and clean subway rail, streetcar, buses and intercity trains can take you around the downtown area and even the Greater Toronto Area without a car.
There are a few caveats against driving – the expensive downtown parking garages and the rush hours between 7 am and 10 am, and in the evening between 4 pm and 7 pm, when the highways backup on a regular basis.
- By Subway and LRT: The subway is the fastest and most efficient way to get around the city as well as to get to more far-flung neighborhoods. With monthly, weekly and day passes, passengers can avail of many discounts on the three subway and one RT lines. Streetcar: Toronto’s streetcar system is one of the few remaining ones in North America.
They can offer tourists a unique transit experience, though waiting times can be high.
Streetcars are available through the Financial District, Chinatown, Downtown, Little Italy, Kensington Market, the Queen West shopping district and the Theater District for the convenience of tourists.
Note that you should only board streetcars when the traffic has stopped next to them.
- By GO Transit: GO Transit’s system of buses and regional trains provide transport between the city and the surrounding areas. Trains are comfortable and large. Discounted fares are available from GO transit stations.
- By Taxi: There are plenty of taxis you can flag down, but they can be expensive. Taxis are a good mode of travel in places not near subway lines.
- By Bike: Toronto is not a particularly bike-friendly city, with many bike-paths being removed. However that doesn’t deter cyclists from hitting the road along with automobiles.
- By Ferry: You can visit the Toronto islands with a pleasant fifteen-minute ferry ride from the piers of Queen’s Quay and Bay Street in the downtown core. This ride offers some of the most picturesque views of the skyline of the city.
A good start to your Toronto holiday can be to get on the streetcar and tour the galleries, boutiques and restaurants of West Queen West. And for a bird’s eye view over the city, the 553 m high iconic CN Tower’s glass elevator to the top and revolving restaurant can be a great place to catch spectacular sunsets.
Things to See & Do
What are the top attractions to visit in Toronto?
There are too many things to do in Toronto for a single visit. The Art Gallery of Ontario is Canada’s largest art gallery which is a must-visit for art aficionados. For history buffs, the Royal Ontario Museum is a great place to delve into historic exhibits.
What is Tourism Toronto?
Walking in Toronto’s eclectic neighborhoods starting at Downtown, signing up for Discovery Walks, and exploring the green, park-filled areas of North York, Garrison Creek, Belt line and Humber River can be very pleasant. Walking and biking trails abound in the Harbourfront and Lakefront districts of Downtown.
Art and culture vultures can head to the pedestrian-only Distillery District for its festivals, art galleries and restaurants.
Beach lovers can head to the three main sections of beach that lie along Lake Ontario in the Beaches neighborhood.
Chinatown, Little India, Korea town and Little Italy provide a look at the way Toronto’s many ethnic populations live and offer plenty of excellent eateries and coffee shops. The Toronto Islands offer leafy green alternatives to urban sprawl, where visitors can bike, walk, enjoy a picnic or simply relax.
Is Toronto a good vacation spot?
Canada Wonderland is one of the must-visit places that offer a wide range of fun activities for the whole family. It is the country’s first and largest theme park that is in North Toronto.
It is home more than 200 attractions among them roller coasters, a collection or rides and a water parks. Canada’s Wonderland seats on 330-acre and is owned by Cedar Fair.
This park is the second most visited within the Cedar Fair Chain and receives millions of visitors every year, with the number standing at 3.58 million in 2013.
The best time to visit this park is between September and May when it is opens its doors daily. In November, this family park only opens on weekends.
Things to Do
Canada’s Wonderland comprises of various themed areas even though the original ones are the International Street, Action Zone, Medieval faire, International Festival, White Water Canyon, Splash Works as well as the Children’s areas namely Planet snoopy, and KidZville.
As such, you may be overwhelmed and lost for choice when you visit this park. Here are exciting things to do that you can include in your itinerary:
- Enjoy an exhilarating ride – There is a diverse collection of roller coasters and rides in this park that include Leviathan, the world’s fastest and tallest coaster, Wonder Mountain’s Guardian that offers a 4D immersive experience that will thrill people of all ages.
Other favorite rides include Flight Deck, Behemoth and Backlot Stunt. You can be sure to find a ride that is just right for you or every member of your family regardless of age.
- Spend time at KidZville with the kids – If you are in the company of kids then KidZville and Planet Snoopy is the place to be. These areas promise to thrill little riders as they get to dive, whirl, fly and whoop through the attractions all day. Other attractions that are also new include Snoopy’s Revolution, Peanuts 500 and Lucy’s Tugboat among others.
They can also have a memorable meet and greet experience featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy. The environment around KidZville is truly appealing to the kids as the buildings are brightly colored while the restaurants are a true representation of KidZville.
- Engage in Water fun at the Splash Works Water Park – This is perhaps the splash headquarters for anyone that loves water fun during summer. This 20 acre water park holds over 7 million liters of heated water fun that is divided in different areas that accommodate different ages.
Some of the main attractions in this park include a quarter mile Lazy River, Barracuda Blaster, Body Blast, Riptide racer, Super Soaker, Pump House, Black Hole, The Plunge and The White Water Bay that is Canada’s largest wave pools among others. At the Splash Works Water Park, there is something for everyone.
- Step back with Dinosaurs Alive – This animatronic dinosaur park will take you back to between 65 million and 245 million years ago when dinosaurs lived as it features over 40 life sized dinosaurs within a 7 acre park that has a Jurassic theme. It is a perfect face to face experience as the dinosaurs are breathing and moving.
There are those that you can control and even take up the role of a paleontologist at the dig site. This park is not only designed to thrill guests of all ages but also offer a unique educational and interactive experience.
- Relish Live Entertainment – Canada’s Wonderland fun does not stop at the rides and water fun alone. You can also enjoy live entertainment at the Playhouse theatre like Charlie Brown’s Pirate Adventure.
There are usually five performances daily. This swashbuckling show will particularly usher children on a high seas adventure. You can also meet the Peanuts characters in Planet Snoopy.
- Dine at the park – After all the fun on the roller coasters and the water park. You can settle down for a light snack or fulfilling meal to boost your energy levels for the next adventure.
There are numerous food options at Canada’s Wonderland from snack carts, sit down restaurants as well as special dietary needs.
In conclusion, Canada’s Wonderland lives up to its promise of being a unique theme park that caters for people of all ages. You only need to ensure that you plan your visit at the right time of the year to avoid being disappointed.
All you need to Know about CN Tower Toronto (Canada)
The CN Tower is one of the major attractions that define Toronto hence a must visit. This magnificent architectural landmark is also referred to as Canada’s Wonder of the World. Standing at 550 meters into the sky, it is the tallest building with numerous unforgettable features that make for the best memories for every visitor.
Visiting the Tower
Although a visit to this building offers one of the experiences that you can ever enjoy, it is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. An ideal visit includes a stop at the observation deck where you will be treated to breathtaking views of the city. Be sure to take note of the elephant proof glass floor that is located inside and lets you see through to the street level. Generally, taking the first step on this floor is a little scary
Dining at the 360 restaurant is not only rewarding but also awe inspiring because this restaurant rotates once every 72 minutes giving visitors an all-round view of the city. This restaurant offers sophisticated ambience that make it ideal for dates as well as small intimate gatherings.
Even then, you will be required to book early to host your party at the city’s highest point.Sitting at 447 meters, the SkyPod is yet another observation deck that you need to see while visiting this building as it lets you enjoy an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario, Toronto city as well as the surrounding region.
On a clear day, you can be able to see Niagara Falls or Rochester, New York. The LookOut level also offers spectacular views of the city stretching over 160 kilometers. SkyPod can be accessed using the elevator, as it is 33 storeys high.
What are the best outdoor activities in Toronto?
Getting to the top of this tower is not a problem as you can use the high speed elevators that will see you get at the top of the world in a matter of seconds. The glass-fronted elevators also let you enjoy great views as they race you up. If you are looking for a more thrilling experience then you can attempt the Edgewalk where you get to walk on the main pod at 356 meters. However, you can lean over the edge of the pod.
The CN tower is particularly busy during holidays with a number of events lined up for people of all ages. This is because this tower provides a versatile and unique backdrop for any holiday event that you can think about. From an exquisite reception to leisurely lunch and spectacular dinner dance, this tower has plenty of activities to look out for. You can purchase the CN tower family pass that consists of four tickets and offers admission for your thrills of choice.
Canada’s national tower also offers an opportunity for team building activities in partnership with Eagle’s flight, a world leader in experiential team building. This is a memorable experience of that offers inspiration to apply back at work. Most importantly, the sessions motivate people around communication, trust and teamwork. Should you have any questions as you tour this tower, you can always speak to the staff that have all the information you may want.
Exploring The City Of Toronto pic.twitter.com/lyb0wF8aVj
— VR Experts (@VRPExperts) May 7, 2019
The Islands of Toronto
Across the water of Lake Ontario I see the massive skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, and yet, I feel like I’m on a deserted island. My first visit was in the colder months when no one other than the residents of the islands is here. For this reason, it gave off an eerie feel, almost like I had stepped into a place where life once existed, but no longer.
The houses seem so quaint, and the surroundings made me feel like this had all been built as part of a movie set, because it all looks so perfect. There is also a noticeable lack of automobiles here. This is in fact North America’s largest car free urban community.
While the rest of Toronto head to and from work via the congested streetcars and subways, residents of the islands are catching the ferry home. Once they are dropped off, they simply hop on their bicycles and ride home, without any fear of being hit by a car. They are no doubt looking back across Lake Ontario in pity, feeling sorry for the rest of us who have to take part in the daily rat race. Or maybe they are enjoying the peace and quiet too much to even care.
Things to do
The residential parts of the islands are situated predominantly on the eastern side (Wards Island). As a traveller, if you want to visit the islands, you are most likely going to want to visit Centre Island. Although you can walk there from Wards Island, you are better off taking the Centre Island ferry. In the colder months, out of the 3 ferries, only Wards Island operates.
In the summertime the ferries transport hundreds of people per trip to Centre Island. It will cost $7 for a return trip and takes around 10 minutes. During this period of the year however, Centre Island looks anything but deserted.
There are several beaches on the islands, with the main ones being Wards Island beach, Centre Island beach and Hanlan’s Point Beach. The latter has a clothing optional section, so if you fancy letting it all show, then you can get there by taking the third ferry (Hanlan’s Point Ferry).
Centre Island also plays host to Centreville. This is a children’s amusement park, so maybe not very interesting for anyone reading this (unless you have kids of course). However, I remember thinking to myself, that if my nephews were in Toronto, this is exactly where I would want to take them. It was really cool to walk through this park, as the setup is pretty awesome, and reminded me of illustrations you would find in a children’s story book.
If the beach is not your thing, there are restaurants and cafes around, or better yet find a nice patch of grass for a picnic overlooking a sweet view of the Toronto skyline. There are also boat rentals allowing you to roam around Lake Ontario and bike rentals for exploring the islands.
There is a lot to see and do in Toronto, but if you are here when it’s warm and have the time, this is definitely worth the visit. In a city which is becoming more and more urbanised, the Islands are a welcome relief.
Porter Airlines – My New Discovery
Last Christmas I had the chance to fly with Porter airlines. I reckon it was an all around great experience. Having never flown with them before, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I will say that I have heard a lot of good things about Porter from other people. After flying with them I would say that Porter Airlines lives up to their slogan on its website “Worlds best small airline”.
The company isn’t that Large yet, mainly flying routes within Ontario, Quebec, and Eastern USA, only going as far south as Myrtle Beach. This is mainly due to the lack of them being able to fly anything larger than a Bombardier Q-400 out of Toronto’s island airport.
The airport there has a noise restriction which will not allow them currently to fly jets out, and they need a longer runway, both of which they are working on getting approval for. I personally really hope that they get the approvals soon. I love the fact as well that they are a Canadian company, and they are using Canadian airplanes, The Bombardier Q-400 is proudly made in Montreal.
I must say as well, their lounge at Toronto’s airport, which is open to anyone flying with Porter, is quite incredible. Like a business class lounge for economy class passengers. There are Soft drinks, or water, and snacks to your heart’s content. The people at check in are friendly and don’t treat you like you are bonkers for asking for a window seat. They had comfortable seating as well, it was really easy to talk to other traveler’s and make some new friends. There were even places for the kids and babies to play.
Once you are actually on the plane as well it’s incredible. The snacks do not taste like paper, and you even get included in your ticket price Alcoholic beverages, Toronto’s Steam Whistle beer, or your choice of red or white wine. Which as far as I know, and economy class tickets, that doesn’t happen too often. It wasn’t just because it was Christmas time either.
The flight attendants were very friendly to talk to and gave me and my brother on the way back to Toronto a free upgrade to extra leg room. Which I must say was excellent to be able to stretch out and not have a seat in front of me, especially with my tall Dutch genes.
They friendly and accommodating airline they are they even provide free shuttle bus transportation from union station to the airport. Who could ask for much more?
Porter I will fly with you again when and if I can. I hope you can expand bigger as I’m tired of flying Air Canada. So please grow exponentially, as I would personally love to see more of this company. I’ll give it to them to that they are generally cheaper than their rivals for the destinations served by both. I paid 412$ CAD round trip for a 2 hour flight. This is very expensive, but for Canada is not bad, especially around Christmas.
Cheers all, and if you’re flying to a destination they serve, give Porter a try.
Disclaimer – All opinions expressed are our own. This is not an advertorial nor did we received any compensation from Porter for publishing this article – we just like to give credit where credit is due
Maple Syrup- Tasting Canadian Gold
April going in May is the time of year in Canada where things are starting to warm up, which means Canadian gold is flowing (Maple Syrup). The snow and ice are melting slowly, we are getting more rain, and the temperatures are actually half decent. One of my favorite things to do during the Maple Syrup season is the long tradition of pouring heated syrup onto the snow and rolling it onto a Popsicle stick.
It’s so good and literally melts in your mouth. You know your close by as you drive into the Sugar Bush and can smell the delicious scent of maple coming from the boiling ovens in the sugar shacks ahead.
The Sugar Bush
Well this past weekend I made a trip to Sandy Flat’s Sugar Bush, located in Warkworth, Ontario about 135Km from downtown Toronto. This Sugar Bush is not too far to find off the main road. From the Sugar Shacks I have visited, this one seems to be the best.
They have plenty of activities for the kids to partake in: breakfast is served with fresh Maple Syrup, wagon rides, taffy making, a snow hill, and plenty of historic tools needed for making Maple Syrup. At Sandy Flat’s you can walk right into a building and see where the Maple Syrup is being boiled and the process it takes. There is a huge amount of work that goes into making just 1 litre of Syrup. It takes approximately 40 litres of sap to produce 1 litre of golden syrup.
How is Maple Syrup Made?
Making Maple Syrup is actually a lot of work, a lot more than Aunt Jemima makes it out to be. If you are boiling with a pot, it can take several days to get a couple of litres. I personally like the boiled pot way as it’s the original way. There is nothing like syrup that was cooked over an open fire pit (my parents have friends who do this each year). If you are doing massive amounts though, this way does not make sense. In which case they have boiling ovens for that.
Sandy flats maple syrup
Sandy Flat’s Sugar Bush reportedly has around 24 km of lines running through the woods to all the maple trees to collect the Maple Syrup. The lines also need to be replaced every 4-5 years. I can’t imagine the cost of replacing 24 km of tubing running through the forest.
That is also why Maple Syrup is so expensive. $35 per litre is not bad when you think about it. The weather for Maple Syrup needs to be perfect as well; it has to be below freezing at night and just above freezing during the day. So there is only a small window of opportunity to having a successful season.
The original way of tapping trees used to be the use of spigots (the metal part that goes in the tree) and pails, which would be emptied into a large pot on a sled or wagon that was then taken by horse to the fire. The Native American Indians were the first to discover Maple Syrup, and I reckon they would be shocked to see how it has developed. Sugar Maple trees also need be 40 years old or have a 25 centimeter diameter, before they can have 1 spigot.
Luckily for anyone in North America, the trees needed to make Maple Syrup can only be found on the North American continent. This makes sense why the Indians would have found it.
The Best Part: The Taffy
As a kid I remember going to Sandy Flat’s Sugar Bush and making taffy on the snow. If you were a kid it was free, adults would have to pay $2. My brothers and I were always very eager to roll the taffy onto the stick and eat it. My mom was even reflecting the other day of when the family first visited Sandy Flat’s Sugar Bush.
She was sharing with the family what my brother first experience of taffy on the snow was like, “He loved it so much, one could tell by his face and how he kept saying it tasted like heaven” Supposedly another father who was videotaping his own kids trying the taffy, stopped to record him instead because his face was far more expressive.
For those who don’t know the process of “taffy on the snow” one has to have pitcher of heated syrup and a raised table (this used to be a log with a groove cut into it). They pour a line of Maple Syrup on the snow, and give you a Popsicle stick. You then wait 10 seconds and slowly start to roll the Popsicle stick along the line of Maple Syrup, until it is all on the stick. After which you enjoy, with a face of nothing but pure joy of course.
Another great memory of going to get Maple Syrup was, we always got to go on a sleigh ride (technically wagon), however it did used to be a sleigh. The Belgian horses pulling the wagon are beautiful and going through the forest, seeing all the maple trees, and the snow is really an amazing sight.
We do have a lot of nature here in Canada that is for sure. It was the snow that led me to a more northern Sugar Bush such as Sandy Flats, as it was really nice to be able to enjoy a snowy landscape in the woods. Children absolutely love the sleigh ride as the owner of the sugar bush will let the kids ride up front with him and take the reins to drive the horses.
Of course after all the outdoor activities you are going to be hungry, so why not head into the restaurant where you can get a fresh made breakfast with Grade A Canadian Maple Syrup. You can get almost anything you would normally get for breakfast, except no eggs (who puts Maple Syrup on eggs anyways?). This is a great way to end a good morning or afternoon, and I reckon a great day trip for anyone in the area this time of year.
I will say if you are heading out here on a weekend, expect it to be busy. They say on some weekends they can expect to put 3-4000 people through. This is a lot of people for a small area. Thankfully this year I picked a slower weekend.
Shopping & Dining
What food is Toronto famous for?
Tourists to Toronto will enjoy wine from Niagara wineries, and plenty of local and international fare in new and old bistros, burger joints and fusion restaurants. Yorkville, the University District and Chinatown are among some of the most interesting districts to enjoy food in.
There are also several farmer’s markets in the area, and the two most popular of these are the St Lawrence Market and Riverdale Farm.
Shopping can be done in almost every district, but the best places to shop are at Yonge Street, Bloor Street, Yorkville, Kensington Market, Chinatown, Pacific Mall, Scarborough and the underground PATH system.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Like most big cities, Toronto has plenty of touring musicals and hit shows at the Four Seasons Center for Performing Arts and the Roy Thomson Hall. Independent troops also perform at the Factory Theatre, the Canadian Stage, Soulpepper and the Shaw Festival
Toronto Travel Guide https://t.co/jQqzoixUdt
— VR Experts (@VRPExperts) May 19, 2018
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