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5 Things To Do in Downtown Toronto

November 27, 2023 By CityPASS

Toronto, Canada's largest city, is a bustling metropolis filled with a vibrant culture, diverse population, and an array of activities and attractions that appeal to visitors of all ages. The downtown area, in particular, is teeming with excitement and energy, offering an eclectic mix of experiences that seamlessly blend the modern with the historic and the artistic with the commercial. If you're wondering about the top things to do in downtown Toronto, we've curated a list that will guide you to the city's gems.

Where Is Downtown Toronto Located?

Bordered by Bloor Street to the north, Lake Ontario to the south, Bathurst Street to the west, and the Don River to the east, downtown Toronto is a compact and walkable area of about 5 square kilometers.

It's a melting pot of culture, characterized by iconic skyscrapers like the CN Tower, historic buildings such as the Gooderham Building in the popular St. Lawrence Market District, thriving parks including the lovely Allan Gardens, and scenic waterfront vistas along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Each neighborhood, from the entertainment district to charming Old Town Toronto, presents unique offerings and atmosphere.

The city's subway, streetcars, and buses make getting around downtown easy and convenient. Major routes like Yonge Street, Bay Street, and University Avenue are the arteries of the city core, home to corporate offices, shopping, entertainment, landmarks, and cultural institutions. Bay Street, in particular, is Toronto's center of finance and commerce. Leafy residential streets with rows of Victorian homes provide glimpses into downtown living.

The Financial District's soaring skyscrapers evoke images of New York, while the Distillery District transports you to industrial-era architecture. Quaint cafes, trendy restaurants, and lively markets line the streets, beckoning foodies and culture enthusiasts. Performers and buskers add music and color to street corners and public spaces. An air of vibrancy and energy pervades downtown, making it the heartbeat of North America's fourth-largest city.

5 Fun Things To Do in Downtown Toronto

Let's explore the top five things to do in downtown Toronto, where culture, art, history, and modernity converge to create an unforgettable experience.

1. Check Out Must-See Exhibitions at the Royal Ontario Museum

One of North America's most renowned cultural institutions, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), beckons art lovers and curious minds with its vast collection spanning world cultures and natural history. As Canada's largest museum, the ROM contains over 13 million objects and specimens in its 40 galleries and exhibition spaces. Marvel at intricate artifacts like ancient Egyptian mummies, timeless artworks including rare ceramics from the Ming Dynasty, and dynamic special exhibitions that narrate fascinating stories of the past and present.

The museum's impressive architecture is a striking blend of the historic and contemporary, featuring a soaring crystal-like structure juxtaposed against the stately 19th-century heritage building. This unique design is a masterpiece in its own right, promising a visual and intellectual feast both inside and out. Don't miss the scenic Philosopher's Walk behind the museum, a tranquil footpath perfect for a stroll.

2. Gaze at Street Art Masterpieces in Graffiti Alley

For a colorful and edgy exploration off the beaten path, Graffiti Alley offers an open-air gallery showcasing local and international artists' talent. Nestled between Queen Street West and Richmond Street, this urban canvas bursts with vibrant murals, imaginative street art, and stunning graffiti along its 250-meter length. Take your time strolling down this alley, which immerses you in artistic expressions as diverse and vibrant as Toronto itself.

Snap some Instagram-worthy photos and selfies against the most eye-catching backdrops. Look out for works by top street artists like Uber5000, Elicser, and Poser as their signature styles shine through. The art changes constantly, so there's always something new to view. The juxtaposition of brightly-hued art against the alley's worn brick walls is part of its charm. Be sure to pop into the cool cafes and shops tucked within the laneway, too.

3. Discover Toronto's Heritage in the Distillery District

Step back in time in the Distillery District, a historic precinct and pedestrian-only village where Victorian-era architecture meets contemporary living. Originally an alcohol distillery, the district comprises over 40 heritage buildings that exude industrial charm with their exposed brickwork, soaring smokestacks, and ornate glass windows.

Cobbled streets lend old-world appeal, while modern art galleries, quaint indie stores, chocolate shops, microbreweries, and restaurants create a nostalgic atmosphere with new energy. Live music, festivals, and a Christmas market add to the vibrancy of this unique historic district. On weekends, young families flock here to unwind and experience Toronto's past while enjoying the conveniences of the present.

4. Sail the Harbour With City Cruises Toronto

Embrace the aquatic allure of Toronto by setting sail with City Cruises Toronto into the sparkling blue waters of Lake Ontario. Enjoy views of the Toronto skyline as you breeze by landmarks like the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, and Harbourfront Centre from the deck of a smooth-sailing cruise ship. Pass charming Inner Harbour islands and gaze at the cityscape from fresh perspectives out in the open water.

City Cruises offers sightseeing tours, lunch and dinner cruises, weekend brunch cruises, and even live entertainment cruises so you can experience Toronto's nautical side in style. The fresh, breezy ambiance on deck makes it a relaxing way to soak in scenic vistas and create picturesque memories on the water. Look out for special cruise events like sunset tours and holiday cruises.

5. Get to Unimagined Heights at the CN Tower

No visit to Toronto is complete without ascending the iconic CN Tower, one of the world's tallest freestanding structures, measuring 553 meters high. This architectural wonder offers plenty of thrills and one-of-a-kind views. 360 Restaurant revolves as you dine, treating you to a lavish meal with panoramic vistas. At the LookOut Level, outdoor walkways and floor-to-ceiling windows give you a bird's eye perspective of Toronto and Lake Ontario from 346 meters up. For the brave, EdgeWalk is Canada's highest external walk, encircling the main pod of the Tower from 116 stories up.

Whether you dine in the skies, gaze at sprawling cityscapes from the observation decks, or push your limits with an exhilarating outdoor walk, CN Tower promises unique experiences and perspectives you'll never forget. Don't leave without checking out the glass floor or the SkyPod, the highest observation platform in the Western Hemisphere. And for a dose of history, exhibits on the Tower's construction provide insights into this engineering marvel.

Unlock the Best Toronto Experiences With Toronto CityPASS® Tickets

We've painted a captivating picture of downtown Toronto, but words and images only scratch the surface. The true essence of this lively city is best experienced firsthand. With Toronto CityPASS® tickets, you gain access to these iconic attractions and many more at a fraction of the regular price.

A CityPASS® ticket is your golden key to an immersive experience in Toronto, offering you a curated journey through its cultural richness, artistic diversity, historical treasures, and modern wonders. Embrace the energy, the vibrancy, and the charm of a city where every street, corner, and structure tells a story. Make those stories a part of your narrative and create memories as enduring as the city's iconic skyline.

Lodging in Toronto

Need lodging for your trip to Toronto? Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

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