Top Things to Do in Toronto
Since it opened as a communications tower in 1976, the CN Tower has defined Toronto's skyline and is the city's most iconic structure. Everyone has to step onto the glass floor, hovering more than 1,000 feet above the ground, at least once. You can sometimes see Niagara Falls from the Sky Pod. At nearly 1,500 feet it was the highest observation deck in the world for more than 30 years, until the Guangzhou TV & Sightseeing Tower in China crushed its record in 2009.
Historic Distillery District
The 1832 Gooderham and Worts distillery was restored and revitalized in 2003 to create a pedestrian-only mini-village of cobblestone streets and brick buildings housing restaurants, shops, galleries, and theaters. The design perfectly incorporates the original Victorian industrial architecture, and the Distillery District is a great place to while away an afternoon or evening. Concerts and other events take place outdoors in summer.
To truly experience Canadian culture you should school yourself at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Its prized possession is the original 1892 Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs are Toronto's National Hockey League team, and though they haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1967, fans are loyal and tickets are notoriously tough to get. If you can’t nab a Leafs ticket, head to the Ricoh Coliseum to catch the Marlies, Toronto’s AHL team.
St. Lawrence Market is as much a destination for its brick 1844 exterior as for its city block of meats, cheeses, produce, and prepared foods inside. It's the quintessential place to grab one of the city's famed peameal bacon sandwiches (we said "famed," not "gourmet"). Kensington Market is an entirely different beast: several blocks square of used-clothing stores, head shops, cheap ethnic and vegetarian eats, and shops selling spices, fish, and baked goods. Streets teem with browsers, buskers, and bicycles. The best—albeit busiest—time to go is when cars are prohibited, the last Sunday of every month between May and October.
A short ferry ride from Harbourfront, the car-free islands are a relaxing respite from the concrete jungle. Take a picnic, lie on the beach, or ride a bicycle on the boardwalk. The kiddie amusement park on Centre Island attracts families. Don't forget your camera: the view of Toronto's skyline from here is unparalleled.
Your first stop should be the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), with its collection of nearly 80,000 works spanning almost 2,000 years of art. Then hit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) with a world-class Age of Dinosaurs gallery. And don’t miss the changing exhibitions at the Design Exchange and the Bata Shoe Museum’s staggering collection of footwear. And opening in 2014, the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre, a ground-breaking, expansive cultural center dedicated to the Muslim world.
Many a visitor falls in love with Toronto after a foray to historically bohemian Queen Street West. Though the entire strip has spirit, the ragtag artist-forged businesses keep moving west. Begin with the spiffy chain stores near Spadina and see how the record shops, boutiques, cafés, bookstores, bars, and galleries change as you head west.