A few years ago I worked at a summer camp in Calgary and did a big road trip through the northeast of the USA, Ontario and Quebec. Toronto was a major stop on this trip, my crew and I spent 3 days there catching up with other camp friends from the summer just past. Toronto is a great city in which to live – It’s often voted as one of the world’s most livable cities – but some people argue that there’s not a great deal to see as a visitor. This notwithstanding, here are some of the things I spent my time doing.
Whenever I visit a city, I always check if there’s a tower so I can get a feel for the lay of the land. This was easy to find in Toronto, as I’d seen in many global tall building comparison pictures and it always featured towards to right. In fact, it was the world’s tallest tower until 2007. It was so high up that the ground seemed hazy due to the small clouds below us. It even has a glass floor so you can see down 550 metres to the ground. Unfortunately, all we could see at the time was a drab worksite.
Dundas Square is Canada’s answer to Time Square. While Time Square will always wear the crown for the most billboards on a single block, Dundas Square has done a commendable effort. The square is full of restaurants, cafes and bars and is a centre for the arts with a couple of theatres and cinemas nearby. You probably wouldn’t come here for the sake of it, but it’s a good place to go for a meal or a few drinks.
“I LOVE POUTINE”. This was the catch cry of one of the young guys at the camp I worked at over the summer. He’s Canadian and clearly passionate. I can’t say I blame him though, as far as food inventions go, it’s up there with the buffalo wings, the Philly cheese steak, and the burger.
For the deprived, poutine is hot chips/fries with cheese curds and gravy. It’s so simple, and oh so delectable. It should be the first thing you order when you arrive in Canada.
Related: How much does it cost to visit Toronto?
It might be 90 minutes away, but Niagara Falls absolutely should be on your Toronto list. It’s just spectacular to see 600,000 gallons of water per second thundering over the edge down to the Niagara River 57 metres below.
My crew and I took a day trip, but you could easily spend a night out there to maximise your time. There are plenty of places to stay, but the Marriott is the closest and many of the rooms allow you to wake up to views of the falls. For information, see niagarafallsmarriott.com.
If watching the falls from the edge isn’t close enough for you, the Maid of the Mist cruise takes you as close as possible by boat. Prepare to get wet though, as the body-sized condom they provide doesn’t do a whole lot!
Further reading: an alternative list of things to do in Toronto.
Depending on your age, this one might seem serious, or could be a joke. I am told that kids all over Canada grow up to MuchMusic, it’s like the Canadian MTV. MuchMusic is filmed at a studio in Toronto and I worked out that Foster the People, one of my favourite bands then and now, were performing on the show while we were there, so we thought we’d try and get in.
We lined up for about 15 minutes before long it dawned on us: all the other people in the line were teenage girls. We quickly bailed and went and did something adult-like. Thankfully I was able to see them play a full set later that month in Los Angeles.
Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM is one of those buildings where you’ll walk past it a dozen times, and every time you get a little more intrigued as to what is inside the doors. An ingenious design completed in 2007, combines the original 1914 building with a jagged, modern crystal-shaped building. Without saying a word it expresses the essence of the museum: everything from history, nature, arts and culture, all combined under one roof.
Casa Loma is a large stone castle built in the early 20th Century. It has served as a residence, luxury hotel, war-time research facility, and museum. Now it serves as a tourist attraction where visitors can explore the great hall, secret tunnels, grand suites, towers, and the expansive castle grounds. The entry fee is pretty steep, but it’ll give you insight to how to absurdly wealthy lived 100 years ago.
Toronto is billed as one of the world’s most liveable cities. In my experience, this means that there isn’t a whole lot for tourists to do. I could argue similarly – that it’s not bursting with tourist attractions – however, I had a really fun 3 days there and if you scratch a little deeper than what Lonely Planet tells you and get amongst the local culture, you’ll find plenty of things to do to fill up 3 days.
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