When I made my inaugural visit to Canada in the summer of 2016, I chose the city of Toronto as my first stop before heading east to the city of Montréal. I decided that I was going to spend a long four-day weekend in the city exploring everything that it had to offer and eating as much food as humanly possible within that time frame.
The Art Gallery of Toronto
After dropping off my bags at the cozy Avalon Tourist Suites, I made my way over to the Art Gallery of Toronto. Featuring works spanning over 20 centuries, the Art Gallery of Toronto has such a wide collection of pieces that it is considered to be one of the largest art galleries in all of North America.
One of the most interesting and thought-provoking pieces that I saw on display at the museum was a nine-panel piece called ‘The Shirt’ by Shelly Niro, a member of the indigenous Mohawk Nation. The piece explored how the colonization of North America robbed the indigenous people of so many things.
After wandering around the museum for a few hours, I built up quite an appetite. I turned to Foursquare for recommendations of places to eat in the area and stumbled upon a restaurant in the Financial District called Bannock, which is known for their creative Canadian-inspired dishes.
I was really curious to try Canadian comfort food and so I ordered the Fogo Island Wild Cod Chowder with Klondike potatoes, celery, and a warm cheddar biscuit. It was magnificent and I would definitely return to the restaurant to try out other Canadian comfort foods.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
The following day, my boyfriend H arrived in Toronto and was eager to hit the ground running. He is a huge animal lover so we decided to visit the famous Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which boasts over 13,000 exotic sea and freshwater specimens.
The Aquarium in Toronto is quite a sight to see; it is massive and has a wide selection of fish. If you find yourself in Toronto with children, on a rainy day, or near the CN Tower, I would definitely not skip visiting the aquarium.
My favorite parts of the aquarium included seeing the (overly Instagrammed) massive jellyfish as they changed colors, watching sharks swim over my head while I traveled on the moving walkway through an underwater tunnel and petting stingrays as they glided past me in a tank of water.
The excitement of the day did not end at the aquarium. After leaving the fish behind, we decided to board a ferry and make our way over to Centre Island, a small island directly across from downtown Toronto.
The first hour on the island consisted of H and I hanging out on the pier and frolicking on the beach. After wandering around, we decided to rent bikes to explore the entire island.
We cycled out bikes along Lakeshore Avenue to the western edge of the island and were rewarded with amazing views of the Toronto skyline that I could not resist photographing.
After cycling around for a few hours we were famished. We walked over to the Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co. for poutine, beer, and waterfront views of downtown Toronto.
If you do not have a lot of time to visit Toronto, I highly recommend at least making your way over to the Toronto’s Centre Island (weather permitting) and spending the day there soaking up the sun, cycling around the island, and eating poutine.
The Distillery District
The following morning after paying a visit to the local Salsa on St. Clair festival, H and I decided to head over to the popular Distillery District, which contains a number of shops, restaurants, and cafes.
One of the reasons that H and I were so eager to get to the Distillery District is because we wanted to visit a brewery, and the area houses the famous Mill Street Brewery that a couple of friends had recommended that I visit.
H and I decided to get the full experience of the Mill Street Brewery by taking a tour, which not only provided us with information on the beer making process of the brewery, but we also got to taste a large range of their beers.
City of Toronto Sign
After leaving the Distillery District, we made our way over to the famous 3D Toronto Sign (aka Toronto Sign) near City Hall to snap a few photos and people watch.
As the night drew to an end, H and I decided that we wanted to watch the sunset over the city from the top of the CN Tower, so we made our way back over to the Entertainment District, passed the people crowding around the windows, and peered out over the city from the 360 Restaurant. The view of the city made me reminisce about the city views that I had seen from the Willis Tower in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
If you decide to visit the CN Tower while you are in Toronto, the city is much less obstructed from the 360 Restaurant, so grab a drink and enjoy the view.
The following day, H and I made our way over to the hip Kensington Market area, which is a quirky little neighborhood filled with independent shops and cafes.
The neighborhood is great for people watching and has some wonderful places to eat too! For a quick bite, I recommend grabbing a torta at Torteria San Cosme.
If you have been reading this blog for some time, you will know that I LOVE street art, and my first visit to Toronto would have felt incomplete if I did not get a chance to stop by Graffiti Alley. The three block alley between Queen and Richmond Streets in Chinatown has several colorful murals that are fun to take pictures in front of.
The afternoon ended with H and I eating gelato from Death in Venice under the shade of trees at Trinity Bellwoods Park before parting ways for him to return to New York and me to head on my next adventure to Montreal.
Practical Tips for Your Trip to Toronto
Arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
- Immigration: Upon arrival to the Toronto Pearson International Airport from an international destination, you will pass through a computerized automated border clearance immigration system. Curious about how it works before your arrival? Check out this video.
- Getting to Toronto: When departing the immigration hall, head to Terminal 1, where you can board the UP (Union Pearson) Express train. A one-way ticket will cost $12 CAD from YYZ airport to Union Station
Luggage Storage in Toronto
- Toronto Coach Terminal: If you are looking for a place to store your luggage while you are in transit, the Toronto Coach Terminal has lockers located in the rear hallway on the main floor of the station. The cost of the lockers is $5 CAD for 24 hours.
FTC Disclosure: Tourism Toronto provided admission to a majority of the activities listed above, however all opinions about my trip are entirely my own.