Canada´s most populous city (around 2.8 million, metro area 6.7 million) as well as the fourth largest by population in North America is wonderfully diverse and offers visitors a wide and varied menu. There are far more than eight great things to see and do in Toronto, but these are the absolute musts:
One of the symbols of Canada and built in 1976 as the world's tallest freestanding structure (553 meters/1,815 feet), this iconic architectural wonder offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city., attracting some two million visitors a year. It´s home to several observation decks, a revolving restaurant serving (fashionably sustainable) Canadian fare; an entertainment complex (at the base); and an EdgeWalk that allows (securely harnessed!) people to stroll around an outdoor platform. (And by the way, the CN refers to Canadian National, the railroad which had it built.)
At this amazing institution - marking one century next year - dive into a remarkable collection of more than 13 million artifacts, from mummies to dinosaur skeletons, and explore the world's cultures through extensive displays of art and artifacts, spread across 40 galleries. Other highlights include superb collections of minerals and meteorites; Art Deco décor, design, and clothing; the largest collection of Chinese architectural artifacts outside China; a cool "bat cave," and myriad interactive and hands-on exhibits and activities.
Founded in 1876, Toronto´s largest public park spans 161 mostly but not entirely hilly hectares (400 acres) west of downtown. Highlights include serene ponds and lakes; meandering trails; ornamental gardens; picnic areas; a zoo; three eateries including the Grenadier Café, an amphitheatre; tennis courts; a pool; playgrounds; a wintertime skating rink; a "trackless train" running tours through the grounds; and 187-year-old Colborne Lodge, a Regency cottage now a museum with period furnishings. High Park is lovely all year round, but particularly comes alive in late April and early May, thanks to its stunning Japanese cherry blossoms.
"Hill House" (so named because it´s perched on an escarpment), located in the neighborhood of the same name, is an atmospheric Gothic-revival pile built in 1912 for financier Sir Henry Pellatt and these days much used as a setting for flims and TV shows. Its opulent rooms, secret passageways, and exhibits are open to visitors, and the estate also hosts a variety of concerts and other events. You can get a bite here, too, from simple café fare to more elaborate meals at the Blueblood Steakhouse; in addition, casual dining in its gardens is available from June through August.
Just west of downtown, one of Toronto´s older neighborhoods - dating back to the early 19th century - is today vibrant, hip and very walkable, with an eclectic blend of Victorian architecture; vintage and food shops; boutiques; arts spaces and galleries; market stalls; bars; cafés; and international restaurants (take a food tour!). Plus on Sundays (except in winter) part of it is closed to car traffic, making for an especially delightful roaming and browsing experience.
For a serene and spiritual experience, explore another Gothic-revival landmark, which opened its doors in 1848 in downtown´s Garden District. This Roman Catholic minor basilica features intricate woodwork and awe-inspiring stained-glass windows, and even if you don´t attend a service, you can enjoy a moment of quiet reflection in this beautiful sanctuary.
A chain of small, car-free islands in Lake Ontario south of town makes a great escape, and just a 13-minute ferry ride away to the largest, Centre Island, where in addition to shops, amusements, and dining spots you can enjoy sandy beaches, lush parks, and scenic walking/biking trails. We'll guide you on the best ways to experience this oasis and avoid crowds during your visit.
Just an hour-and-a-half drive away, this spectacular natural wonder is rightly one of North America´s oldest tourism meccas, and the Canadian side is widely agreed to be more interesting to visit than the U.S. side. In addition to witnessing the power and beauty of Horseshoe Falls and others; taking the boat excursion right up to it; getting a bird´s-eye view from the Whirlpool Aero Car; and checking out the Niagara Falls History Museum to learning more about perhaps the world´s most famous waterfalls. Naturally there are plenty of fine places to eat, shop, play, and (should you care to overnight) stay.
Have you been to Toronto and seen any of these fantastic places? Leave us your thoughts and suggestion in the comments section. And if you haven´t been, go ahead and book your flight to Toronto for a memorable journey to a remarkable destination! And for more information, check out DestinationToronto.com.