Whether you’re visiting Canada for the first time, or you’re just looking for a great vacation in Toronto, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle when you look at all the things to do in the city. It’s a big place and one that offers a ton of activity, from skyscraper viewing decks, to river island exploration, to an increasingly well-regarded culinary scene. We’d recommend doing some thorough planning if and when you plan on visiting the city.
As is the case in most big cities bursting with activity though, some of the best things you can do are the unique ones that may not make top-10 lists, and which you can’t find in other cities. The following are some such suggestions for Toronto.
1. Tour Casa Loma
It’s not an ancient castle (as it may look like at a glance), but Casa Loma is easily one of the most striking structures in Toronto. Built in the early 1900s by Sir Henry Pellatt, whose residence ended up being too grand and extravagant for his budget, the historic mansion is now a public museum. There are a few things to know in order to ensure you get to visit – such as that the last tour begins at 4pm, as well as that you may have to walk up a small hill from where public transportation drops you off in order to reach Casa Loma. But beyond these little details, it’s a very accessible place.
Once there, it’s almost like you’re stepping into a fantasy of sorts – even though the castle, as mentioned, isn’t as ancient as it seems. You can climb the tallest tower to look out over the city; you can find hidden staircases and navigate a secret tunnel; and you can walk the exquisite grounds. Pellatt left nothing out in replicating a sort of dream vision of a castle, and the result is as impressive as you might imagine. Some even use the venue for special events, such as weddings or fashion shoots (so keep that in mind if you have a big celebration or business event on the horizon!).
2. See The Argonauts
No, we’re not referring to the Greek heroes of old, nor to the small octopus (though Ripley’s Aquarium is another great stop in Toronto!). Rather, we’re talking about the local team in the Canadian Football League. The Toronto Argonauts play in the CFL’s East Division, and have an annual schedule consisting of 18 games over a span of 21 weeks between June and November.
The CFL doesn’t get as much attention as the United States’ NFL, and it’s true that it represents a sort of second-best American football league. But it still makes for a very fun experience, and in some respects a more intimate one. For instance, BMO Field, where the Argonauts play, has a capacity of 25,000 fans for football games, compared to NFL stadiums that frequently house upwards of 60,000 or even 80,000 spectators. Additionally, the legal and available sports gambling options Canada enjoys can help participating fans feel even closer to the action; a fan with a wager placed on a game is typically that much more enthusiastic, and when you multiply this by hundreds or thousands, it can be responsible for a buzzing excitement surrounding a game. All in all this makes for a very fun experience for visitors – almost like American football with a soccer-style atmosphere.
3. Explore Little India
Now, we did stress that these are unique attractions you’ll only find in Toronto, and strictly speaking you’ll find “Little” neighborhoods in lots of big cities. These are places where the food and culture of the country at hand is brought to life, usually by way of a strong local population, and they can often be some of the most enjoyable pockets of cities to explore. We’re pointing out Toronto’s Little India because it’s just that special, and because in a city increasingly known for great food, it shouldn’t be missed by culinary tourists.
The strip of Gerrard Street that represents Little India is packed with little shops full of pretty and interesting trinkets, souvenirs, and even henna kits. And in between and all around these shops are incredible Indian (and Pakistani) restaurants. You’ll be able to enjoy authentic food preparations from different regions of India and Pakistan, and you may well try some things you’ve never tried before. If you do explore and dine for a while, you can also take advantage of the fact that Little India is quite close to the waterfront. Down a short hill (perpendicular to Gerrard and near the Old Toronto neighborhood), you can stretch your legs along the waters of the Inner Harbor, in view of the Toronto Islands.
By no means are these the only things to do in Toronto. As stated, the city is full to bursting with interesting attractions. But these are some of the ones that can help you get a feel for the specific personality, so to speak, of this wonderful Canadian city.