Planning a long weekend in Toronto, Canada? This guide will take you through the TOP 10 things to do in Toronto. These sights and activities can easily fit into a weekend itinerary.
Toronto’s global reputation has been growing steadily in recent years for many reasons, one being that it's such an incredible city to visit. It’s rarely left out of a Central Canada trip, and you’ll struggle to find someone who visited and didn't enjoy their time there. Toronto is an incredibly diverse city that makes up the business hub of Canada and a fantastic long weekend destination.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada with 3 million people living in the city, and an additional 3+ million in the Greater Toronto Area. It's the Financial hub of Canada and the most recognizable city in the country. Many people compare it to a smaller NYC, but regardless of your impression of Toronto, it's a must visit city for anyone going to Canada.
Toronto has plenty to do any time of year but to get the most out of your time we recommend going in the summer. Even though Toronto doesn't get much snow it can get extremely cold in the winter with the proximity to Lake Ontario.
A long weekend in Toronto will give you just enough time to see the main sights, though it really is a great destination for any length of time. It's convenient to fly to with direct flights from most major US cities. Once there, the downtown core is extremely walkable. All the streets are laid out in a grid like NYC and if you ever get turned around just spot the CN Tower to your south.
Even though locals love to complain about it, the public transportation (Toronto Transit Commission) is extensive and easy to figure out. There’s a huge variety of different neighborhoods in Toronto that can suit any traveler style from the bustling financial district, the nightlife inducing entertainment district, the artsy Annex, or the family friendly Beaches. No matter what part of the city you stay in, or your preferences for a fun long weekend in a new city, you’ll find plenty to love in Toronto.
Here’s our list of the top ten must do’s for your long weekend in Toronto.
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1. Distillery District
Many tourists and locals would point to the Distillery District as their favorite area in Toronto. This is a really cool, revitalized area of the city that's a must visit. It's pedestrian only and full of renovated 19th century whiskey distilleries.
Distillery District also takes the win for one of the most romantic, date night destinations in Toronto. Awesome bars, amazing restaurants, and cool shops fill the space. Go early in your trip because this is an area you will want to return to during your long weekend in Toronto.
First time in Canada? Joining a tour is a fun way to start your long weekend in Toronto!
2. Catch a game
Toronto is home to sports teams in all (most) of the major leagues - and Toronto locals love their teams.
If you’re there during hockey season, it doesn't get more Canadian than catching a Leafs game, especially if you’ve never experienced the atmosphere of a Canadian hockey game.
The Raptors, current NBA reigning champs, always offer a lively and exciting game experience. Tickets are much more affordable than high priced hockey tickets.
The Blue Jays (Yes, Toronto has an MLB team) play right beside the CN tower in a stadium with a retractable roof. Tickets are cheap and it's a perfect afternoon activity on a beautiful summer day.
The Argonauts - Another unique to Canada experience, check out Toronto’s Canadian Football League team during their season between June and November.
Toronto FC has taken off as one of the top MLS teams and an unrivaled fan base. It’s regularly said that Toronto FC provides the most energetic in game atmosphere in the city.
Toronto is a huge sports city and home to some of the most recognizable sport franchises in Canada. The city loves their teams and no matter which sport you attend; you’re guaranteed an enjoyable atmosphere.
3. Queen West/ Entertainment District
Montreal might take the reputation for best nightlife in Canada but Toronto’s Queen West/ Entertainment District is a close second. There’s every variety of restaurant, bar, or club you could want in this neighborhood that can only be described as eclectic.
You can easily find your favorite cuisine here so head over for dinner and then go exploring to find a cool bar.
Some of our favorites are:
- Khao San Road for Thai food
- Parlour for classic cocktails
- Cibo for Italian dinner
- The Burger’s Priest for some of the most famous burgers in the city
- Spin for beer and ping pong
- Baro for South American bites
4. CN tower
Your point of reference when exploring, the tower will generally always be to your south. The most iconic building in Canada and a must see for any first time visitor to Toronto. Is it touristy? Yes. But is it worth doing? Definitely.
Located south of downtown near the Blue Jays baseball stadium and the newly built Ripley’s Aquarium, this part of the city is always bustling with activity.
You can take an elevator up the 114 stories with tickets starting at $39 CAD for adults. We recommend timing your visit with sunset for some truly amazing views. The official CN Tower website lists sunset each day.
Bonus: If you’re feeling extra adventurous, check out the CN Tower edge walk, where you get strapped in with a harness and get to walk on the OUTSIDE of the tower, 114 stories up! There’s no better way to see the city - but this might not be for everyone!
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5. Toronto Plane Tour
If seeing the city from the CN Tower isn't enough, you can also take a plane tour. On a recent visit we did just this in a small 8 seat plane. You take off from the city airport (Billy Bishop Airport) on a manmade island just off the waterfront. We spent about 40 minutes circling and criss-crossing the city. At some points it felt like we were so low we could look across to the tallest towers instead of down!
We took our flight at sunset and seeing the city from above was spectacular. At the end of the flight you also get an incredible view of the financial district from the island airport, all while enjoying a glass of champagne and some sweets. Fitting for a date night or special occasion.
6. Craft Breweries
The craft breweries have taken off in Toronto and there are plenty of great ones to choose from. Two of the larger & most popular ones are Mill Street & Steamwhistle.
Mill Street Beer Hall, located in Distillery District, is great for a casual lunch and to try some unique beers (their best known, Mill Street Organic, is a personal favorite).
Steamwhistle is located in an old train roundhouse right downtown by the CN tower. Steamwhistle has an extensive tour available (From $12 CAD) and a very unique setting which is popular for events and weddings.
Bellwoods, Amsterdam Brew House, and Goose Island are other popular options, and there’s definitely something available for every beer drinker’s preference.
Prefer to join a tour? Check out these Toronto brewery tours!
7. The Islands
It feels good to get out of the concrete jungle - and the Toronto islands make it very easy! A short ferry right from the south waterfront, the Toronto islands are a fantastic stop on hot summer days (Yes, it gets hot in Toronto in the summer). There’s walking/bike trails, parks, beaches, and plenty to do.
There are restaurants and bars there, but we recommend packing a lunch, finding a great spot on the beach or in one of the parks, and relaxing for an afternoon.
If it's a particularly busy weekend, the ferry can get pretty backed up, so head west on the waterfront to find the water taxis. For $10 CAD they’ll get you across in a few minutes saving a long line at the ferry. At the end of the day you can take the ferry back for free.
Toronto features some of the best museums in Canada, far too many than you could see in one visit - but here are our favorites:
Casa Loma: Originally built in 1911 as the largest private residence in Canada, Casa Loma is truly a castle in the middle of the city. Check it out for a self-guided tour. There’s towers, underground tunnels, and beautifully decorated rooms fit for royalty.
ROM: The largest museum in Canada, it includes an extensive collection of art, culture, and natural history. The ROM features a unique, once a month, After Dark experience; a 19+ event where they open the museum in the evening and serve food & drinks, and features music and entertainment.
Bata Shoe Museum: “For every shoe there is a story”; it's a museum with a collection made up entirely of shoes! Yes, you should absolutely check it out.
9. Second City
Unique to only two other cities (Chicago where it started & LA), the Second City is an improvisational comedy troupe that has trained well known comedy and film legends like Mike Meyers, Steve Carrel, Tina Fey and Dan Akroyd. They offer a range of live shows that change every couple months. Always an incredible live performance, it's the perfect way to catch rising comedy stars up close.
We regularly attend the main stage production of Second City when we’re in Chicago or Toronto, and have yet to not be entertained!
We can’t write about visiting Canada and leave out a winter activity, so if you’re in Toronto in the winter add outdoor skating to your list. Toronto has a number of outdoor skating rinks in the city. Two of the most popular ones are Nathan Phillips Square, at the city’s town hall, and the Harbourfront Centre Natrel Rink, at the waterfront. Bundle up, rent some skates, sip some hot chocolate, and finish it off with a Beaver Tail for the ultimate Canadian experience.
We also recommend checking out the newly opened Bentway, a skating trail that runs under an overpass in the west end of the downtown.
Regardless of time of year or whether you have a long weekend in Toronto or an entire week, you’re sure to have an amazing time. A diverse and lively city, Toronto can offer something for every traveler. Being so convenient to fly into makes it a perfect long weekend destination and our list of top 10 activities will guarantee you get to experience one of the best cities in Canada to its fullest.
See my other Canada blog posts!
Written by Jason Kraemer
Jason is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co, a lifestyle brand aimed at helping the growing number of global flashpackers get the most out of their adventures. They do this by leveraging experience and resources to create high quality advice and curate a collection of high value travel products so that flashpackers around the world can create a new type of travel - experiencing more by sacrificing less. Follow Flashpacker on Instagram @FlashpackerCo and their website, flashpackerco.com