After following our 3-day itinerary, top things off with this exploration of the best that Toronto's east end has to offer. This tour will take you through some of the oldest areas, which keep evolving in new ways, and to one of the city's most dynamic, reinvented destinations that combines environmental rehabilitation with great food, superb events, and lush parkland.
Start: Sherbourne Station, and then walk 1 block south, left on Parliament
1. Casa Loma
This kitschy castle on a hill offers an inspiring view of the city. But while you can admire the panorama for free, the castle is worth a visit, too. The elegant rooms and period furniture are appropriately grand, though most interesting is perhaps a tower climb to explore the secret passages (including an 800-ft. underground tunnel that had a cameo in X-Men). Admission-averse visitors can opt to peer inside by playing "Escape from the Tower," an escape room that puts riddle-solvers in a WWII scenario where the Casa Loma stables function as an undercover research center for sonar detection technology.
This mansion and its spectacular seasonal gardens reopened in 2010 after an extensive and expensive renovation. The result is worth a visit year-round: Now a museum run by the City of Toronto, it offers a sense of domestic life in Toronto in the 1920s and ’30s. The garden is also themed: It’s a Victorian-Edwardian masterpiece.
Once the home of the city’s founding brick factory, this sprawling 19th-century structure has been reinvented by the dynamic Canadian Evergreen foundation (national in scope, its business is to “green” cities) to include a Saturday-morning farmer's market that runs year-round, a cafe and restaurant featuring local goods under the Cafe Belong moniker, marshlands, a beautiful park, and thoughtful exhibits that take advantage of the unique setting, including age-old kilns where Toronto’s signature red bricks were once formed. A taste of past and present, the Brick Works is proving to be one of the city’s most attractive locales for brilliant events, offering programs for families, parties for grown-ups, and more.
At its peak, Gooderham & Worts was the largest distillery in the British Empire and, for a brief moment, in the world. Today, this multifaceted complex has something for everyone. The redbrick architecture—a signature of Toronto’s red-clay brickworks (see above)—is a Victorian wonder, but the art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques are all completely modern. You might want to stay well into the evening: Performing-arts troupe Soulpepper is based here, as is the city’s annual Christmas market (visit on a weekday morning; the crowds suck the yuletide joy out of the experience). Restaurants worth sampling include Cluny, for fancy French fare, and Madrina, for New World twists on tapas. There’s great chocolate and gelato, too, at SOMA.
5. Old Town
The city was born from these 10 square blocks. This is still home to some of Toronto’s most coveted heritage buildings, including Toronto’s first City Hall, police station, and post office. Some of the most important structures are now no more than plaques. The original parliament buildings once stood at the corner of Parliament and Front. They were burned down by the Americans in 1813, then rebuilt only to burn down again in 1824 (an accident, not arson, this time). Focus on the area around the St. Lawrence Market. From there it’s an easy stroll to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Gooderham Building (the town’s only flatiron), and Berczy Park (a charming little park where you can relax by the dog-themed fountain while snacking on treats picked up at the nearby St. Lawrence Market). Those on a budget will appreciate the free concerts in St. James Park, a stunning Victorian garden (next to an equally stunning cathedral) that’s worth a visit, even without a complimentary soundtrack.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.