You'd better put on your walking shoes: Seeing the best of Toronto in a day means covering a lot of territory. This itinerary explores the city's colonial origins before whisking you up to Toronto's highest point (the CN Tower). You'll then follow the waterfront to Old Town. Take comfort: There is plenty of refreshing green space along the way.
Start: Bathurst Station and a streetcar south to Fort York Boulevard
1. Fort York
Today, Toronto is the fourth-largest city in North America, with a skyline growing ever higher. Two hundred years ago it wasn’t much more than a muddy outpost. Tucked behind Fort York’s defensive walls sits Canada’s largest collection of War of 1812 buildings, which now houses interactive, historic exhibits. The lush, 7-acre site is animated by costumed historians keen to talk about everything from the Napoleonic Wars to fur trade routes. Make sure to stop by the mess kitchen, where you can taste the past: Darby Cakes, warm off the hearth, are baked in the working ovens from a recipe that dates to 1831. The place is most lively in summertime when the Fort York Guard marches the premises, firing cannons.
Getting to the waterfront may be no joy, but it’s entirely worth it when you reach this lovely and tranquil green space flanked by boardwalks, parks, and beaches. The Toronto Music Garden, also reached by a comfortable streetcar ride, 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 the grounds, it’s simply serene.
The domed multi-use stadium formerly known as the SkyDome is the home of MLB's Toronto Blue Jays. The formal tour is for sports fans only; otherwise, just idly appreciate Michael Snow’s massive statues of cheering (and jeering) spectators on the facade. If you want to see a Blue Jays game, come back later in the day.
4. CN Tower
Taking the glass elevator up to the top of the Tower gives you a bird's-eye perspective on the city’s general layout, even if the view from the heights makes it all seem on a model scale. Getting your bearings is made easy by downloading the CN Tower’s Viewfinder app, which helps identify landmarks and neighborhoods. If it’s a clear day, you might be able to see all the way to Niagara Falls or even across the border to New York. But even if it’s overcast, 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. Up the adrenaline ante by strapping on an EdgeWalk harness and circumnavigating the Tower’s perimeter, some 1,136 feet above the ground. Don’t bother paying extra to visit the SkyPod, though—it might be an additional 33 stories higher than the LookOut level, but that just makes the landmarks even tinier. Pro tip: Skip the admission fees and soak in the view by booking a table at the Tower’s rotating Restaurant 360.
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. Watch glassblowers, potters, jewelry makers, and other artisans at their work in the Craft Studio. In winter, you can skate on the lakeside rink; in summer it becomes a charming pond animated by kids bobbing around in mini paddleboats while parents relax at the dockside restaurant The Slip. The Centre has excellent theater and concerts, as well the Power Plant Contemporary Art Museum, housed in a decommissioned powerhouse.
6. Scotiabank Arena
One nice thing about walking back to the downtown core this way is that you can cross through the Scotiabank Arena, a much more pleasant alternative to other busy and often traffic-congested routes. This sports complex is not only home to both the Raptors basketball team and the Maple Leafs hockey team, but it also hosts blockbuster music concerts; check out the photos of some of the famous acts who've played here as you walk through the passageway.
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. You’ve probably seen Union Station before, too—it’s starred in heaps of cameos in big-box flicks, including Chicago and Suicide Squad. Head down to the Front Street Promenade, below street level, for affordable eats, including handmade pasta and pastries at Amano and gourmet sausages at Wvrst.
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.