You'd better put on your walking shoes because seeing the best of Toronto in a day means covering a lot of territory. This itinerary explores the city's most famous attractions, including the ones everyone back home will ask you about (like the CN Tower). It's a downtown walk that will take you from the city's highest point to highlights along the waterfront, from the commercial core to a handful of lofty public buildings. Take comfort: There is plenty of refreshing green space along the way.
Start: From Union Station, walk west along Front Street to Bremner Boulevard to the CN Tower.
1. CN Tower
Today, you're starting at the top. Even if the famous tower isn't the tallest in the world anymore, don't overlook Toronto's most celebrated icon (plus, the glass elevator makes the ride up even more of a thrill). Beginning your tour here will give you a perspective on Toronto, its neighborhoods and general layout, even if it all seems on a model scale from the great heights. If it's a clear day, you might be able to see all the way to Niagara Falls. But even if it isn't clear out, you can check out the stomach-churning glass floor. Lie flat, I dare you, or just jump up and down on it for a vertiginous thrill.
2. Rogers Centre
This is the domed stadium formerly known as SkyDome. The formal tour is for sports fans only; otherwise, just idly appreciate the massive statues of cheering (and jeering) spectators on the facade. If you want to see the Toronto Blue Jays play ball (or the Toronto Argonauts play football, Canadian-style), come back later in the day.
3. Toronto Music Garden
I know that getting to the waterfront is no joy, but it's entirely worth it when you reach the tranquil Toronto Music Garden. A lovely green space, it's also reached by a comfortable streetcar ride and is flanked by boardwalks and some additional, albeit less green, parks. The Music Garden was designed by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy to invoke Bach's First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello. It may sound highfalutin, but when you're wandering around the grounds, it's simply serene.
4. Harbourfront Centre
This is the kind of place where you could easily spend a day, so you may need to tear yourself away to stay on track. There are glassblowers, potters, jewelry makers, and other artisans to watch at their work in the Craft Studio; the Artists' Gardens, a series of diverse landscapes created by local talent, is another highlight. Depending on how active you feel, this is also your chance to get out on the water: The Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak School will let you rent a boat and offers instruction. There are also an excellent theater and concerts a-plenty.
5. Air Canada Centre
One nice thing about walking back to the downtown core this way is that you can cross through the Air Canada Centre, which is a lot more pleasant than the other busy and often traffic-congested options. This sports complex is home to both the Raptors basketball team and the Maple Leafs hockey team, but it also hosts blockbuster music concerts; you'll see photographs of some of the acts as you walk through the passageway. When you think sports center, fine food probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But this place prides itself on a range of tempting goods, including three fine-dining rooms, a wine cellar of more than 600 labels, and one of the country's top sommeliers. The vast kitchen feeds the teams, too. For a casual bite, there are dozens of concessions onsite, including beer and customized hot dogs at Burkie's Dog House. The Air Canada Club is the most luxurious of the three restaurants.
6. Union Station
This is one of the city's underappreciated wonders. Toronto's temple to trains is a Beaux Arts beauty, and it's worthwhile to walk through the main hall, even if you're not hopping aboard a train. Pop in to admire the tile ceiling designed by architect Rafael Guastavino. Until the age of mass air travel, Union Station was often the first place new immigrants saw upon arrival in their new home of Toronto.
7. New City Hall
It's an iconic piece in Toronto's history, plus a popular gathering place throughout the year. In warm weather, the reflecting pool and fountains create a piazza, and when the mercury drops, it's fun to visit the skating rink, complete with festive lights and music. Framing the whole scene, quite perfectly, is the modernist masterpiece of the city hall building itself; walk up toward and around it, and you'll see the Henry Moore sculpture The Archer. A walkway circumventing the towers is now open and offers great views to the streetscape below, as well as a tour around the pretty new "rooftop" gardens (which sit atop the podium roof, not the tall towers).
8. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts or Roy Thomson Hall
Toronto's stunning opera house, the Four Seasons Centre, designed by local firm Diamond and Schmitt, is home to the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. The acoustics have been described as quite perfect. Both companies are phenomenally popular, and you absolutely need to purchase tickets in advance. Roy Thomson Hall is the base of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Torontonians tend to book ahead and buy season tickets, but it's possible to get last-minute discounted "rush" seats for concerts here. There are free daytime concerts scheduled fairly frequently; visit the website before you arrive to see if your visit coincides with one of these special events. (Line-ups are long: You need to arrive well in advance.)
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.