The capital of the Ontario province, Toronto is Canada’s largest and most well known city, its number-one tourist destination, and its largest financial center. It holds title as the fifth-largest city in North America, and boasts a population of over 5.5 million people.
Toronto has historically been a melting pot, serving as a main welcoming hub for immigrants in the 19th century. Today, half the city’s population was born outside of Canada, and 30 percent of residents speak a language other than English or French in their homes.
Toronto is a cosmopolitan, contemporary city with much to offer tourists. It’s a cultural hub, featuring numerous museums, galleries, theaters and architectural attraction, and boasting the only real castle in North America. It’s also a food-lover’s paradise; the city has over 8,000 restaurants of all types, many of which are 5-star establishments headed by prominent chefs. The city comes alive after dark: From cozy pubs to swanky clubs, great nightlife hot spots pop up on nearly every corner. What’s more, Toronto is just a relatively short drive from Niagara Falls, and from the state of New York, and it’s a gateway to a visit to the Great Lakes.
Royal Ontario Museum: This comprehensive national history and world culture museum is beautiful inside and out, and offers a comprehensive collection that spans many countries and cultures. There is something here for every age—the second level is dedicated entirely to kids, and offers hands-on interactive exhibits that teach them about animal and plant life. Tours of the museum are free with the price of admission.
Hockey Hall of Fame: This is Canada, after all, so it stands to reason that you’d find a Hockey Hall of Fame. This is a perfect stop for hockey fans of any age and any enthusiasm level. Some of the more obscure artifacts and exhibits will appeal to die-hard, knowledgeable fans, but the game and its history are explored in a way that’s accessible and fun for those who don’t know as much about the game. Highlights include the life-size statues and the replica dressing room.
Ontario Science Centre: This museum is fun for all ages, with exciting interactive exhibits that challenge and educate. There are eclectic exhibits you won’t find anywhere else, special adults-only events, and areas created specifically for kids.
Art Gallery of Ontario: Beautifully renovated in 2008, the Art Gallery of Ontario, or AGO offers a thoughtful and comprehensive series of collections sure to inspire and challenge the art lover, as well as a number of temporary exhibits by celebrated artists. Enjoy collections from Africa, Oceania, Canada and Europe, as well as photography, print and drawing and contemporary and modern art collections.
Museum of Inuit Art: This small, yet wonderfully curated museum celebrates the fascinating artwork of the Inuit, featuring sculptures in bone, stone, antler and ivory, as well as textiles, prints and ceramics. There are many pieces for sale, but they will mostly appeal to true collectors.
St. Lawrence Market: Once the location of City Hall, this beautiful Victorian building now houses a market filled with the tempting sights, sounds and smells of freshly prepared local foods. This is a great spot to have a stroll, take in the scenery and enjoy a tasty lunch.
Royal Conservatory of Music: This recently renovated, world-class modern conservatory is superbly beautiful and features exceptional acoustics. This is a brilliant venue for experiencing the great classical artists, and learning something new about classical music.
Distillery Historic District: If you’re looking to experience the best of Toronto culture and history, the Distillery Historic District is not to be missed. The beautifully restored commercial Victorian buildings are a delight to look at, but the real draw is the wealth of things to see and do, from catching a live theater performance, to visiting a chic gallery, to dining in a one-of-a-kind, award-winning restaurant. The area is closed off to traffic, so pedestrians are free to amble and enjoy.
Kensington Market and Spadina Avenue: Colorful and lively, yet laid-back, this market is the picture of Bohemian charm, and highlights Toronto’s multicultural spirit. While it only extends a few blocks, there is much to see and do. Browse quirky shops, enjoy a street festival, and sample any type of food imaginable. There is no parking, and traffic makes it difficult to reach the Market by car, so public transportation is your best option.
Black Creek Pioneer Village: If you’ve ever wished you could step back in time to experience pioneer life, this is your chance. Black Creek Pioneer Village doesn’t just show you some neat artifacts; it recreates life as it was in mid-19th-century Ontario. From the beautifully preserved heritage buildings, to the characters in authentic dress, you’ll feel part of the scene, and feel connected to the past in a truly unique way.
Toronto Island Park: Set on the shores of Lake Ontario, this park is the ideal escape from the city. A short ferry ride will have you relaxing on the beach with a picnic, hiking or biking the trails, or taking a kayak ride on the lake. There’s even an amusement park for the kids to enjoy, making it easy to spend a whole day here with the family.
Allen Gardens Conservatory: Located right near downtown Toronto, these tranquil gardens are the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in a beautiful natural setting, any time of year. Wander through six greenhouses, which feature 16,000 square feet of seasonal plants.
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