Toronto has occupied a top spot on my to-visit list for some time now. Bigger than Canada’s Western utopia Vancouver, Anglophone unlike Montreal, Toronto has intrigued me. A few months ago, I checked my daily email from Exitfares and found a great flight deal from Boston to Toronto, so my dad and I leapt on the opportunity and booked a weekend trip for June. The city is only an hour and a half flight from Boston, so you can leave midmorning and be there for lunch, barring infamous Toronto traffic.
1.) Toronto Islands–On our first day in the city, my dad and I took the ferry out to the Toronto Islands. I’d read about the ferry as something better and cheaper to do than to ascend the famous CN Tower, and my dad and I were more than pleased with what we found. It’s easy to take a stroll around the island and enjoy views of Lake Ontario or rent a bike and see the island from end to end. Plus, from both the island and the ferry, we got some incredible views of Toronto’s skyline. Ferry tickets: $5/student, $7.50/adult
2.) Harbord Room–For dinner our last night in the city, we went out to eat at the Harbord Room. This place is a bit of a splurge, but everything we ate was fantastic: fresh burrata with focaccia and tomato confit, dry aged beef burger with caramelized onions, lemon aioli, and fresh fries, plus a fluffy, warm, and light cheesecake for dessert.
In general, my dad and I were impressed with all the food we ate in Toronto, from sushi to dumplings to elk sliders, but the Harbord Room was a definite standout. Plus, there’s a quiet outdoor patio under a tree for some good al fresco summer dining. 89 Harbord St., $$$
3.) Kensington Market–On our last day in the city, my dad and I wandered around the Kensington Market area, an alternative neighborhood with restaurants, thrift shops, and the kinds of shops and oddities you’d expect of a neighborhood like this.
Toronto is a city with vibrant neighborhoods: its Chinatown is one of North America’s biggest and most bustling with Koreatown, Little Italy, and Little Portugal right around the corner. Kensington Market offers a flavor of something becoming of Portland, Oregon without overdoing it.
4.) Royal Ontario Museum–The ROM is ranked among the 1000 places to see before you die. It takes a long time to get through the entire collections, and my dad and I started to move through more quickly in the exhibits we visited later in our day. As big museums go, it’s a good idea to pick a few exhibits to focus on in detail and then walk through others at a faster pace if you feel inclined.
We started with the First Peoples exhibit, which I think was the right choice both for how it offers something hard to find elsewhere and how it does a good job combatting stereotypes and romanticization of Canada’s First People. In one part of the exhibit, they take a classic First Peoples diorama but put in items from everyday use today to open a discussion of how First People aren’t something to gawk at and are people in the 21st century too. 100 Queen’s Park, $15.50/student, $17/ adult
5.) Coffee at FIKA–I feel like my lists are never complete without at least one coffee recommendation, and FIKA is a good one (although Fahrenheit was a close second). In Kensington Market, FIKA is a somewhat typical hip coffee shop aesthetically that serves untypical coffee. Their FIKA iced coffee mixes cardamom bitters, espresso, milk, and mint for a refreshing and complex drink perfect for a walk around this odd neighborhood. 28 Kensington Ave, $$
Here are some of my other picks:
- Nami–good sushi downtown
- Mother’s Dumplings–cheap hole-in-the-wall dumpling place in Chinatown
- Union–in a busy neighborhood, elk sliders!
- Aunties and Uncles–cozy restaurant with good sandwiches
- Dineen–fancy coffee shop
- Fahrenheit–small coffee shop with good espresso
- Clockwork–coffee shop, underwhelming
- St. Lawrence Market–a classic, free to look around, and some of the food isn’t that expensive
- CN Tower–very expensive to go up, but good views of the city
- University of Toronto
- Old Toronto
- The Lockhart–the famous Harry Potter bar
- Metro/streetcars–easy to use, frequent service