Monday, July 23, 2012

Things to Do In and Around Toronto

For me summer means travelling and exploring new places. Every summer I like to plan on doing a few new things or visiting some place I haven't been to before.  Some summers we have grand trips - like last summer - and some summers we stick closer to home.  When we aren't going on a big vacation, I like to be a tourist in my own city and go on day trips to see local attractions. If you are traveling this summer and your travel plans happen to include Toronto - or even if you live in Toronto and are planning a staycation this year, then I have a few suggestions of fun things to do and places to visit. I've written many blog posts over the past couple of years highlighting trips in and around Toronto so I thought it would be fun to pull them together into one post.  

I'll start my list with things to do and see in Toronto itself and then I'll share some places and activities that make good day trips from Toronto. I have put a link back to my original post (you can find the link by clicking on the titles) as well as the official website so you can find more information.

1. Chinatown - Toronto, being very ethnically diverse, has become a city of neighbourhoods. In the area around Dundas Street West and Spadina there is a high concentration of Chinese residents, businesses, and restaurants.  It is always fun to wander through the shops looking at the interesting food and bargain items and naturally there is fantastic Chinese food to be had.  

2.  Kensington Market - This is one of the oldest and most ethnically diverse areas of Toronto and has been declared a National Historic Site. It is a great area to browse through some unusual shops and walk around admiring the historic, the beautiful, and the quirky - all within feet of each other.  Kensington Market is located at Spadina and College and is a short walk from Chinatown so the two can easily be seen in a single day. (Kensington Market website)

3.  Distillery District - The historic buildings and the cobblestone streets of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery are the setting for boutique shops, independent art galleries, cafes, and festivals. The Distillery District is located at Parliament and Front Street. (Distillery District website)

4.  Evergreen Brick Works - This is an environmentally-focused community and cultural centre located on the site of the former Don Valley Brick Works. There are walking trails, art installations, workshops, and an organic restaurant among other things. In 2010 National Geographic named Evergreen Brick Works one of the top ten geotourism destinations in the world. (Evergreen Brick Works website)

5. Fort York - Being the bicentennial of the War of 1812 it is a good year to visit Fort York and find out more about our history.  You can discover how soldiers lived 200 years ago and watch a demonstration of muskets and cannons being fired.  Fort York is located at Bathurst Street and Fort York Boulevard. (Fort York website)

5.  McMichael Gallery - The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is located about 45 minutes north of Toronto in the quaint little town of Kleinburg.  Not only is the gallery packed full of Canadian art treasures, but the building is a massive gorgeous log cabin built on the edge of a ravine. (McMichael website)

6.  Royal Botanical Gardens - The Royal Botanical Gardens are about an hour's drive west of Toronto along Lake Ontario. The gardens are located over several sites each with their own charm and attractions depending on the time of year you visit. (Royal Botanical Gardens website)

7.  Dundurn Castle - This beautiful grand regency style house built in 1835 is located in the city of Hamilton (about an hour's drive west of Toronto and just minutes from the Royal Botanical Gardens).  There are over forty rooms on display along with a kitchen garden and a military museum. (Dundurn Castle website)

8.  Crawford Lake - This reconstructed 15th Century Huron village is one of my favourite places to take visitors to see. Not only is the village interesting and you learn a lot about how native people lived, but there are also some pretty hiking trails around Crawford Lake and through the forest so it makes for a fun day's outing.  Crawford Lake is about an hour's drive west from Toronto. (Crawford Lake website)

9.  St. Jacobs - About an hour and a half west of Toronto is an area where many old order Mennonites live.  St. Jacobs is a small community that serves as the shopping and market centre for many of the Mennonites in the area.  It is a charming area to visit and you can often see horses and buggies, quilts for sale, and homemade kielbasa, breads, and pickles at the market. (St Jacobs website)

10. Niagara Falls - Niagara Falls is a spectacular place to visit at any time of the year (and yes, the snow and ice can only be seen in the winter). There are several ways to experience the falls from different points of view. You can go down a tunnel called Journey Behind the Falls and feel and hear the roar of water as it thunders past you. You can take a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist and see the falls from the base. Or you can go up to the top of the Skylon tower and see the falls from the air. They are all fun, but our personal favourite is Journey Behind the Falls. Niagara Falls is about a two hour drive from Toronto, west around the end of Lake Ontario. (Niagara Falls website)

11. Niagara-on-the-Lake - everyone knows about and loves visiting Niagara Falls, but downriver is a gem of a historic town with lots of quaint shops, restaurants, the Shaw Festival Theatre, and Fort George.  In addition there are many wineries in the area offering tours and wine tastings.  Niagara-on-the-Lake is about a thirty minute drive from Niagara Falls along the scenic Niagara Parkway. (Niagara-on-the-Lake website)

12. Stratford - About two hour's drive west from Toronto is the pretty town of Stratford.  Not only is Stratford loaded with gorgeous Victorian homes, but there are pleasant parks, great antique shops, fantastic restaurants, and more particularly the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.  If you like world-class theatre then this is the place to go.  Every year the Stratford Shakespeare Festival puts on several Shakespearean plays as well as other more contemporary plays to appeal to a wider audience. (Stratford Shakespeare Festival website)

There are so many places to visit and things to do in and around Toronto that I have only begun the list.  I plan to continue adding as I visit new places.  Do you like to play tourist in your own city?  

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  1. I will get there eventually! I have wanted to visit Niagara Falls for years. My friend posted on FB today that she is taking her mother there tomorrow, she knows I am now green with envy!

  2. Great list. I am glad to say that I had explored all but 2 of these places (some of them countless times!) Still on my "to do" list are Fort York and the Distillery District. I think the kids would love the Fort so maybe we'll take them before the summer is over. I hear the Distillery area is lovely at Christmas - I'll visit it then!!

  3. This is a great round up of to-dos in Toronto! I love all the history and different things that we can explore around here. One of our favorite has to be Niagara-on-the-lake....vineyards, fresh local food and fresh pie!? Theres nothing better than that! We were just in Niagara on the lake on Saturday to do a was fantastic!

  4. Hi, great things to see. I've been to most (a month ago was at Niagara-on-the-Lake and stayed right where your photo shows) because I was born in Hamilton but some I haven't even heard of! I now live near North Bay, and I'm glad to find another Ontario blogger.

  5. Love this list! I've found list upon list of things to do for kids (which is great!) but I was pleased to see that you focused on things that adults might like to do. Thanks!