Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
For those who live there and those of us who are fortunate to cross it off our must-visit bucket lists, the city of Toronto has a kinetic energy and vibe that simply goes unmatched. Sights catering to nature lovers as well as thrill seekers, soul connections with the land and history and a thriving Black culture in Toronto make it a travel destination you’ll want to visit again and again.
“As a resident of the Greater Toronto Area for nearly four decades, I certainly look forward to sharing this wonderful city with friends and family whenever they visit. As a multicultural city with people from around the world, there is a diversity of cultures, food and other experiences for everyone,” says Guyanese writer Ron Fanfair, whose site follows Black culture in Toronto.
If you’re on the fence, hopefully, we can push you over to book that flight and begin planning if not now (as the cold weather sets in) but sometime in 2024. Fanfair shares, “Best time of the year to visit is during the summer when you can relish the outdoors and myriad activities. You can spend a day at Toronto Islands or on a beach, attend a cultural festival or just sit in a backyard or on a patio with friends and family.”
With so much to do, see and of course eat (I am saving that for another article), here is a list of experiences curated with for timers in mind.
Getting There From Anywhere
Getting to Toronto is as easy as booking a flight, grabbing your passport and packing your bags. If flying, you’ll want to land at Toronto Pearson Airport. However, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport may also be an option for anyone looking for a less commercial experience with air connections to regional Canadian and U.S. destinations.
For road trippers, Toronto is very drivable for those coming from the Midwest and East Coast. You’re looking at a 5-6 hour drive from Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C. or Atlantic City and just under two hours from Buffalo, New York.
Once there, if wanderlust continues to take over, you can head to Niagara Falls within three hours and Montreal within six. Other travel options for getting to Toronto include the train via VIA Rail Canada and Amtrak.
Getting from the airport and into the city to get your visit going is as simple as riding the Up Express train. After you grab your bag, follow the signs and head to Terminal 1. Purchase your ticket at the kiosk, wait for the next train and your Toronto adventure is about to begin.
Where to Stay While You Play
Accommodation options are plenty in Toronto and it comes down to budget and location. I stayed at the historic Fairmont Royal York during my visit earlier this fall. Designated as a landmark in 1929, this 4-star hotel is located in the heart of the city and is just a quick 25-minute train ride on the Up Express and conveniently located right across from Union Station.
Luxury is the thread that weaves each experience together, starting with the rooms that offer elegant comfort, followed by the hotel’s restaurant, Reign Restaurant + Bar + Bakery and CLOCKWORK Champagne and Cocktails.
Enjoy a full breakfast in the morning and elevated fine dining during the evening at Reign. In addition, the Fairmont is quite the social spot for both guests and locals as food and drinks flow while a DJ spins at CLOCKWORK, perfectly centered in the hotel across from Reign.
- Designing in Style with Canada’s Joan Pierre
- Janice Bartley Creates Path for Women to Follow Their Culinary Dreams
Renovations wrapped not too long ago for The Library Bar, another gathering spot for Toronto’s in-crowd. On any night, you will catch the co-mingling of guests and professionals after work and during the season, Blue Jays fans before or after the game, as the Rogers Centre is a quick four-minute walk away.
Whether your visit is personal or business related, Toronto has a wide range of accommodations to fit your lifestyle, budget and location preference. A detailed Google search will populate several options, including international properties such as the Four Seasons, Hilton Toronto, W Toronto, Hyatt Regency Toronto and Kimpton Saint George (an IHG Hotel).
Smaller and more Toronto-centric hotels also have their books open to reservations. For those who want an even more personal experience, a rental through Airbnb, Vrbo and Bluepillow is also a great option to explore.
11 Sights, Art and Cultural Connections
As you plan your trip, one thing to remember is that there is absolutely no way you’ll be able to see everything the first time unless you are there for an extended period of time. We’re talking more than a month and even then, it may be hard.
Nevertheless, the key is to plan wisely. If you are a “go with the flow” type of person, having an informal itinerary with so much you can do also works.
“I find people are always surprised by how diverse it is. As a born and bred Torontonian, it’s something I’m so proud of! Growing up amongst so many different cultures and religions has helped educate me and expand my knowledge,” says Vanessa Somarriba, senior media director for Destination Toronto.
As one of the most diverse cities in the world, Toronto is home to more than 260 ethnicities and 180 spoken languages. With this in mind, city sights, art and culture all make for a pretty amazing trip.
Toronto is a year-round destination, with some favoring the summer and early fall over the winter and spring, which is very understandable. Sometimes it’s when things are happening such as events, art exhibits, etc. that may dictate the timing of your arrival. Whatever the day, these 11 experiences will happily await you.
1. The Canadian National Tower -The CN Tower is what you commonly hear for this structure built in the 1970s, which was once the tallest man-made structure in the world. Well, not anymore. Regardless, the views will leave you breathless.
2. Toronto Islands – The only thing between you and Toronto Islands is a 13-minute ferry ride on Lake Ontario. The 15 islands, interconnected by pathways and bridges, are the perfect day getaway to hang out and have a picnic, go biking, hike, swim, or hang out for an afternoon lunch.
3. Art Gallery of Toronto – Block 2 – 3 hours in your day to walk around and appreciate artists’ commitment to imagination and creativity. Admission is free for visitors 25 years old and under and Indigenous people. AGO welcomed Brooklyn artist Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, this September for his first Canadian museum exhibition. His larger-than-life sculptures, wall murals and paintings are a must-see through March 31, 2024.
4. City Seeing Toronto – Chances are you have seen this double-decker tour bus in a major U.S. city as well as other countries. It is one of the best ways to get an introduction to Toronto to mark your spots for a later return.
5. Kensington Market – Locals and tourists love coming to Kensington Market for its diversity and energy that captures what the city is all about. Shop for food, products and crafts, eat, drink and just be merry.
6. Yonge-Dundas Square – A walk or drive down Dundas Street East may have you thinking you’re in New York’s Times Square with its bright lights and digital displays, street entertainment, events and more. It’s a great way to experience Toronto’s nightlife for sure.
7. High Park – As Toronto’s largest public park, it is highly recommended to carve out a couple of hours one afternoon for a walk along the lakefront as you enjoy views of the water. There are also hiking trails, sports facilities, a dog park, picnic areas and playgrounds. You can also get a preview of the route used along the lakefront each year for the Toronto Caribbean Festival, formerly known as Caribana, Grande Parade.
8. St. Lawrence Market – Spend some time glazing through the two floors and talking with merchants selling artisan foods, wines, handcrafted goods and more. If you’re renting a home or apartment, the one of their farmer’s markets is a great way to really taste what’s local and in season.
9. Helicopter Tour – See views of the city in ways only this helicopter can provide. Taking off from Billy Bishop Airport, you’re lifted up, up and away to see Toronto’s tallest buildings and major attractions. When booking, be sure to keep an eye on the weather, as flight tours may change due to excessive fog, etc.
10. The Distillery District – Regarded as Canada’s premier arts, culture and entertainment destination, The Distillery District prides itself on the hip vibes and gathering of artists, artisans and businesspeople. From quaint walkways to stroll, cafes, studios and restaurants to theaters and boutique shops, it provides the perfect backdrop for photos and a great time.
11. History – Toronto’s favorite rapper Drake has partnered with Live Nation two years ago to design and open one of the city’s hottest venues for music and more in the east-end Beaches neighborhood. It was recently the setting for Michelin’s 2023 Toronto award stop in September with musical shows to include Teyanna Taylor, Kaytranada and Wiz Kid. Bryson Tiller is set to perform in December.
Celebrating Black Culture in Toronto
I personally couldn’t plan a visit without getting a pulse on the Black culture in Toronto. For years, I have only heard about the diversity of Black cultures that call Toronto home, so seeing it live and in action was incredible.
Although Black culture in Toronto is present throughout the city, here are a few specific neighborhoods to add to your itinerary.
Little Jamaica – Walking down Eglington Avenue is just a vibe as folks carry out their everyday routines that include working, shopping, playing music, getting one’s hair down and of course, grabbing a bite from some of the tried and true spots for jerk chicken such as Raps and Reidies Patties.
Little Ethiopia – This neighborhood stretches down Danforth East and is the predominant home of Toronto’s Ethiopian community. Banchi Kinde is a voice you will often hear as she owns and operates Rendez-Vous, the city’s first Ethiopian restaurant. In addition to restaurants, other Ethiopian businesses make this neighborhood what it is today.
If one event name has traveled around the world, it is Caribana, now called Toronto Caribbean Festival. As North America’s largest cultural festival, the Toronto Caribbean Festival welcomes over one million festival goers annually. 2024 dates are set for August 1 – August 5, with the last day hosting the Grande Parade which is not to be missed.
Whether it is your first time or you’re planning another visit, you are more than on your way to having a good time in Toronto again and again.