20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Toronto
An increasingly cosmopolitan city in North America, Toronto's fast-growing economy and increasingly high quality of life has also attracted people from all over the world. With world-renowned attractions like the CN Tower, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Art, and the International Centre for Bowhunting, Toronto has everything a fun-seeking tourist could want in a vacation.
Canada's largest city offers the excitement of the downtown area, a clean and safe environment, and great entertainment including a big-screen cinema with an ever-expanding selection of movies, and more than 100 theaters. And don't forget to visit one of the many historical sites in and around downtown. Whatever your interests, Toronto's just the place to satisfy them.
Canadian National is the world's third tallest free-standing building (after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Taipei 101 in Taiwan) and offers sweeping views of the city and Lake Ontario in the background. It houses a shopping mall, office tower and observation deck, along with a couple of restaurants. The tower's attractions are the view and the experience, not the space itself. There's a lot to see and do inside as well, including a museum, shops, a casino, a restaurant, a lounge, and, if you're lucky, an upper-level "Garden of Eden" with a gourmet restaurant, including the Canadian wing of Philippe Paradis' renowned Brasserie Le Ca't, one of the city's better eateries.
Canadian wildlife fanatic David Attenborough is famous for his series of nature documentaries in which he travels the globe to view species as diverse as lions, elephants, penguins, rhinos and butterflies. The Attenborough's Toronto Zoo is his personal favorite, and one of the oldest in North America. The zoo is home to over 700 animals of more than 100 different species, including great apes, elephants, rhinos, sea lions, penguins, owls, otters, and reptiles. Don't miss the daily shows at 11 am, noon, 2 pm, and 3 pm.
Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame was founded in 1958 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Winter Olympic Games. It became an integral part of Toronto's centennial celebrations in 1967 and is now located on Yonge Street at the eastern end of the Entertainment District. Located in the Toronto Star building, the Hall of Fame is a museum which contains one of the world's largest collection of hockey and sports memorabilia. Outside, the garden is a focal point for hockey fans where numerous legends can be seen playing the game. It also features a mini ice rink, historic plaques and a sports memorabilia store.
Toronto's islands and waterfront offer respite from the bustle of city life and are an excellent place to watch the sunset while taking in the scenic landscape. The islands are connected to Toronto by a double row of piers, where you can catch the ferry for Toronto Island. The two islands are connected by Toronto's famous waterfront, home to the CN Tower and the Air Canada Centre, plus dozens of shops and restaurants. There's also a train station at Toronto Island Station. Toronto's islands are split between the Toronto Islands and Osgoode Hall Park; the latter includes a number of things to do, such as the Oak Ridges Trail, Rouge River Park, and the Lost Lagoon.
The Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum, formerly the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, is one of Canada's most famous and well-respected institutions. It is located in the heritage Toronto neighborhood of the Queen's Park, where the Ontario legislature is located, and is the location of the Museum's world-famous dinosaur fossils, including a beautiful plesiosaur. The museum began collecting its own natural history specimens as early as 1887. In 1953, this collection was given to the University of Toronto, where it remained until 1957, when it was moved to the RONA museum in Toronto. In 1994, the museum moved again to its current location, a 34-hectare (84-acre) piece of land in the Junction Triangle neighborhood. Exhibits on display today include the Natural History Collection, including specimens from across the globe. An especially popular exhibit is the current skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, as well as its latest theories on what dinosaurs looked like. The museum offers a number of daily and weekly programs, as well as festivals and special events. Admission to the museum is free.
Yonge-Dundas Square is one of Toronto's most significant historical landmarks. Situated just south of the Lake Ontario waterfront on Toronto's traditional political and commercial heart, Yonge-Dundas Square is the site of the first inauguration of George Brown, Sir Donald Campbell, William Lyon Mackenzie, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Sir Edward Blake, and Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, among others. What originally began as the triangular plaza to the rear of City Hall in 1832 grew into the heart of Toronto as the city and surrounding neighbourhoods grew. You can get a good feel for the Square on foot. Make sure to visit the D'Artagnan Musée. You may also want to take a tour of the City Hall.
Toronto's High Park has a lot to offer. It's the perfect place for you to run, to relax, to enjoy nature or to simply sit and enjoy the serene, open-air atmosphere of the park. Surrounded by parks and museums, High Park is in the heart of the city, making it one of the best-connected green spaces. Although a number of events and activities are held throughout the year, summer is the best time to visit.
Art Gallery of Ontario
With nearly 1 million visitors per year, the Art Gallery of Ontario is Canada's largest art museum. The collection is a broad spectrum of styles from Canada and the world, with paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th century to the present, along with several special exhibitions per year. The building itself is an excellent example of the architectural philosophy known as New Ontarian, with modern lines and a location in the middle of downtown Toronto. Inside the building, there is an atrium with a glass roof that's open to the outdoors. The gallery's multimedia center, with its original glass dome and space-age interior design, is a focal point of the museum. Don't miss the special exhibitions, including the recent "Frederick McCubbin: The Art of the Work of Art" show, which examined the work of Canada's best-known Canadian abstract artist, born in Toronto in 1924.
Ripley's Aquarium, a local favorite, is a must-see attraction when in Toronto. Open seven days a week, it's the best spot in the city to view marine life with large tanks and interactive exhibits, including a tropical ocean habitat and a shark-infested deep sea habitat. The Aquarium's so-called "Aquarium Time" offer early-morning and after-work hours as well as some days during the school year, but is open to the public the rest of the time. Family admission is $13 for adults and $11 for kids, while seniors and student ID card holders pay $9 and $7 respectively.
Royal Botanical Gardens
In a part of the city not often visited, the Royal Botanical Gardens sit on 10 acres of tranquil grounds with ponds, flower gardens, and a greenhouse. Its collection includes about 9,000 plant species, and more than 100,000 species of plants have been identified here. The museum houses 10,000 plant specimens and other specimens from all over the world. The gardens host a number of flower shows, including the famous "Flower Show" in May and June.
Bata Shoe Museum
The Bata Shoe Museum is an impressive museum housing more than 500,000 shoes, including more than 500 examples from some of the world's most celebrated designers, like Miuccia Prada and Gianfranco Ferré. It's housed in a domed structure, called a glass house, with a glass ceiling to allow visitors a unique view of the shoes. After touring the museum, try one of Toronto's favorite pastimes: shopping. The Bata Shoe Museum is home to some of the most coveted shoes in the world. After examining each shoe in the museum, visit the Fifth Avenue Shoe Store for a selection of the latest styles. You'll also find a branch of the Third Avenue Shoe store, which sells small brands of Italian footwear.
Toronto City Hall
Crowned a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1984, the magnificent Canadian city of Toronto is packed with attractions. A great array of museums, including the Royal Ontario Museum and the impressive Ontario Science Centre, among many others, add to the city's cultural appeal. The city's centrepiece, City Hall, is a red sandstone building that is said to resemble a giant wedding cake. Among the tour highlights are the world's largest collection of Tiffany glass, the magnificent mosaic work in the Council Chamber, and the Central Library. For an innovative experience, the David Vaughan Canadian Tulip and Rose Garden has 17,000 varieties of the blossoming beauties. A popular lunch stop is Toronto's most famous restaurant, the venerable Stratford Gate, situated in the heart of the Entertainment District. Located in a renovated 19th-century church, the 18-course tasting menu is reputed to be one of the world's most expensive.
Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Ontario, was founded in 1903 as the Canadian Museum of Human History by noted archaeologist, Major-General Dr. Joseph Tyrwhitt Wilson (1857-1918) as a memorial to the Canadian soldiers who served in the Boer War. The museum was first housed in a structure on Queen's Park Hill and later moved to the Masonic Temple (1907-1913). In 1915 the museum was reopened in its current location with much of the present collection. The museum's collection focuses on cultural history from the past one million years. Highlights include the dinosaur footprint gallery, minerals and gemstone gallery, and an extensive exhibit on North American Indian art and artifacts.
Canadian Opera Company
In 2000 the Canadian Opera Company (COC) set about establishing a national identity for Canadian arts in the country, and it has done so through exciting productions of world-class operas and a charismatic general manager. Together with its assistant general manager, Artistic Director (and former director of the Metropolitan Opera, New York), Edward Newman, the COC is dedicated to fostering a new Canadian opera culture. The COC presents two different seasons of opera each year, one a generally popular series of four mid-range operas and the other a string of four or five more adventurous, expensive works, including internationally renowned operas such as La Boheme, The Barber of Seville, and Les Miserables. An opera recital and a ballet are also performed during the regular season. Broadcast on CBC Television, COC TV runs six COC-produced specials a year that are made available on DVD.
A 42-story art deco landmark, this was once the center of Toronto's entertainment district. It opened in 1931, and is one of the city's most popular attractions, with five floors of retail space on the ground floor. The rest is given over to auditoriums, and the top floors house galleries and museums. With the three piers built in 1929 for the transcontinental train service of the Canadian National Railways running down the center of the city, Harbourfront Centre is a unique architectural landmark and one of the city's must-see attractions.
Toronto Eaton Centre
The Toronto Eaton Centre is one of the largest shopping malls in the world, with stores ranging from small boutiques to Apple, Louis Vuitton, and Forever 21. In the largest department store is the Time Warner Centre, which includes a movie theatre. The mall also houses an IMAX movie theatre, as well as a 44-screen Scotiabank Theatre (also called Scotiabank Arena). The mall hosts many attractions, including shops, restaurants, the Eaton Centre West food court and a mall museum. The mall, as well as nearby shopping venues, such as Place d'Youville and Shops at Don Mills, are part of the "Golden Mile" of Toronto, a thriving retail district consisting of outdoor and indoor shopping destinations.
A striking Art Deco building in Canada's largest city, Toronto's "The Castle" (Casa Loma) is a magical place with ornate buildings, a lush garden and an outdoor cafe. The impressive location on the edge of downtown Toronto overlooks Lake Ontario and the city's downtown core. Opened in 1927, this property has a rich history that blends the legacy of an opulent Edwardian mansion with all the modern advances of the Art Deco style. Queen Elizabeth II came for a visit at this Canadian landmark and many heads of state have visited over the years. In the more than 10 acres of scenic gardens you can enjoy concerts during the summer, and the Water Garden features more than 250 tropical and subtropical plants in a series of exhibits, waterfalls, pools and lakes. This place is highly recommended for weddings.
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, established in 1976, is the most important facility of its kind in Canada. The center offers information on the history of Japanese immigration, its language and culture, and a large range of educational programs for children and adults. Highlights include an art gallery; a theatre with stage performances and exhibitions; performances by Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Sinfonia, one of the world's finest; and the Nishiki Gallery, featuring the works of international masters. The center hosts arts events and lectures throughout the year. The center's location is in a relatively new residential area north of the downtown core. The center's gardens are a delightful addition to the neighborhood.
Located in the heart of Canada's academic and intellectual center, Robarts Library is one of the biggest academic libraries in North America and a must-see for anyone visiting Toronto. The building is recognized as a historical monument and houses an impressive collection of over four million printed and electronic books and media, over 800,000 manuscripts and rare books, and over 400,000 maps. Be sure to stop by the library's Macdonald Campus for the café-lined Graduate Common Room, an old-fashioned library building with a plethora of books and historical artifacts, and open free to the public year round. Stop in and enjoy a snack or a meal in this casual setting while you browse the shelves of the library's history.
This small harbor just north of the hustle of downtown Toronto was for many years Canada's prime harbor on the Great Lakes. There are still a few small fishing villages around the harbor and the shoreline, where white-clay beaches and clear emerald-green water define the Bay of Quinte. An occasional ferry sails from Hamilton Harbour to the rock-bound town of Brockville, the beginning of the beautiful St. Lawrence Seaway, which will take you all the way to Montreal. Also in Hamilton Harbour, the S.S. Heron built in 1901 has been preserved as a tourist attraction, housing a number of museums. A 17-km bike path takes visitors along the harbor, passing by historic warehouses, souvenir shops and elegant restaurants.