Is Toronto worth visiting? Can-a-duhhhhh!
Take a leaf out of our books (make sure it’s maple!) and head onto the Hollywood of the North. Known for its unique architecture (hello, the CN Tower looks like a space tree), diverse population, ice hockey, and scenic parks, it can be tricky trying to put together a to-do list. Well, we got ya covered!
The first thing to note is that Toronto is super gay-friendly (not surprising, given it is in one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world). We spotted numerous same-sex couples holding hands, which made us feel perfectly at ease to do the same, and there were tons of queer spaces for us to visit.
Read on for our list of the best things to do, including a visit to the hipster Distillery District, what to expect during Gay Pride in Toronto, a trip to the iconic Niagara Falls, and a spooky adventure to Casa Loma.
Gay Pride In Toronto: The Top 10 Things To Do In Toronto
Visit the CN Tower
You can’t help but feel a buzz of excitement as the CN Tower appears on the horizon as you approach Toronto. Standing at over 550 metres, it was once the tallest building in the world until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was constructed in 2007.
A visit to the tower involves flying up 346 metres in a glass-enclosed elevator to the LookOut floor, which gives you a panoramic view of Toronto. Travel up even further to the Sky Pod, where you’ll be able to see all the way to Niagara Falls!
If you are a bit of a daredevil, you’ll want to try the Edgewalk – an adrenaline-pumping experience where you’ll be strapped into a harness 116 stories high and step around the outside of the tower on a narrow ledge.
We stayed inside and tucked into a delicious meal at the 360 Restaurant, which revolves around as you are eating so you can catch all the stunning sights Toronto has to offer.
Ward Island for sunset
Maybe it sounds cheesy, but we love a good sunset. And Ward Island is worth the ferry ride over to watch the sun disappear behind the stunning Toronto skyline.
Ward Island is part of a group of 15 small islands located south of the city. It is much quieter than its connected islands, Hanlan’s Point and Centre Island, which make it a great spot for when you want to escape the crowds.
There is a small beach, where you can curl up with a loved one on the sand, for sunset spotting and an unbeatable view of Lake Ontario, with its brilliant blue waters and seawater scent. There is also the charming Rectory Café, which serves an assortment of teas, coffees, and delicious baked goods.
There are ferries departing roughly every 30-60 minutes depending on the season, and cost $5-$9.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
“Darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter”, Sebastian sang as we walked into Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. No, not the crab, from, The Little Mermaid (although sometimes my hubby can be as naggy as Disney’s favourite crustacean).
Home to over 450 species, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has so many fish, you’d think you were at a Drag Race convention.
From American lobsters, wolf eels, octopi, and rockfishes, you can easily spend hours roaming around discovering all of the ocean’s critters.
There are several exhibitions, including the aptly named Rainbow Reef, featuring animals from the Indo-Pacific region, which is easily the most colourful gallery in the aquarium.
Looking for something more daring? Venture on down to the Dangerous Lagoon, an underwater tunnel with a moving conveyor belt, that takes you beneath the swimming trails of sand tiger sharks, rough tail stingrays, and green sea turtles.
Gay Pride In Toronto
Spread across the entire month of June, Pride Toronto is one of the largest Pride events in the world. It attracts crowds of up to 2 million people each year from all across the globe!
And whilst many world leaders barely acknowledge Pride at all, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau always gets involved – usually leading the Pride march procession.
Events typically take place in the Church and Wellesley village (aka the Gay Village), which is the beating heart and soul of the gay Toronto, with music performances, drag shows, workshops, and panel talks filling up the schedule.
Pride caps off with a giant parade, which usually works its way around Yonge Street, Gerrard Street and Bloor Street. The parade is the must-see event of the whole festival, as people of all genders and sexualities come out to celebrate the joys of being queer, whilst also drawing attention to the steps we still need to take to full equality.
The Distillery District
Echoing Greenwich Village in Manhattan or Camden in London, the Distillery District is the place to go for art lovers, music enthusiasts, and theatre obsessives.
It’s a pedestrianized area, full of cobblestone streets and 19th-century buildings, with tons of galleries, bars, restaurants, cafes, and boutiques to wander between. It is the location of the winter Christmas Markets, so if you happen to be there during the holiday period, swing by for photos with Santa, admire the lights, enjoy candy and snacks from the food vendors, and take a ride on the Ferris wheel.
Once the home of a whisky distillery known as the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, it used to provide over 2 million gallons of whisky for the world market, until it was bought out by a rival distiller. When the area began to undergo deindustrialization, the district was mostly left abandoned, until 90s developers saw the potential in the area, and built it into what it is today.
There’s never a bad time of year to visit High Park.
In early spring, the cherry blossoms start to bloom and paint the park in blushful pinks. In the summer, people come to sunbathe, play sports, hike along the walking trails, and enjoy a Shakespearean play, performed every year by the Canadian Stage Company.
Even in winter, the bare trees and icy weather give off such a festive holiday atmosphere that you can’t help but feel merry.
Colborne Lodge, a tiny history museum, is one of the key sights in the park. It features furnishings of the 1800s and artworks that once belonged to the first architect of Toronto, John George Howard.
There is also a nature centre, which provides courses for those who want to learn about gardening/nature. And a mini zoo, which mainly features animals native to Canada, and a café, where you can enjoy a delicious cake and coffee.
Royal Ontario Museum
You’ll want to leave a full day to explore the Royal Ontario Museum – as it is one of the largest museums in North America, after all.
There are several galleries, each one focusing on a variety of subjects, like Ancient Egypt, the age of dinosaurs, the study of birds, the Bronze Age, and way, way more!
A highlight is the Eaton Gallery of Rome, which features over 500 objects from Ancient Rome, including painted portraits of historical figures and jewellery.
There are always special exhibitions happening at any one time. In the past, they’ve run galleries of photography that changed the world, horror and sci-fi artworks, and portraits of birds from around the globe.
It is typically open from 10 am to 5.30 pm. General admission tickets for an adult cost $23, with discounts for kids, senior citizens, and students. You can also add admission for any special exhibitions when booking at an extra cost.
Niagara Falls day trip
You’ve heard the name. You’ve seen it in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean. And now it’s time to see it in person.
Escape the city for the day to the iconic Niagara Falls. There are plenty of bus tours, which pick you up from Toronto, to take you around the stunning waterfall and surrounding regions. The drive to the Falls takes about 90-minutes, with drivers sharing fascinating knowledge of the local sights and scenery.
Highlights in the area include the historic town of Niagara on the Lake, known for its epic-sized house, which are worth millions. In the nearby parks, there is a beautifully decorated floral clock and gardens. And don’t miss the whirlpools, which can be seen in the giant gorge downstream of the Falls.
Summertime is the most popular tourist period and the best time for going ziplining or on a boat tour to the base of the waterfalls.
Visit Casa Loma
What do Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast, X-Men, and the 2018 horror-comedy Ready or Not have in common? They all have had scenes filmed at Casa Loma…
And who can blame them? The gothic style architecture, ornamental furnishings, and lavish décor are a film producer’s dream location. It’s full of hidden passages, spiralling towers, and underground tunnels…creepy!
There are several exhibits featured throughout the castle, including a photo gallery detailing the darkest secrets of Toronto’s past, such as Prohibition, The Depression, The Plague, and the Great Toronto Fire.
They also have a display of all of the famous films and TV shows that have been filmed there.
After you’ve finished investigating the mysteries of 20th-century Canada, drop by the Blueblood Steakhouse for a refined dining experience. The restaurant serves fresh seafood, mouth-watering steaks, and an extensive wine list, and is adorned with unique heirloom antiques and original Andy Warhol art pieces.
Spotting the local bears, cubs, and otters was a high priority on our list….and for once, we aren’t referring to our fellow gay men.
Toronto Zoo is home to over 5,000 animals across 500 species and is visited by over 1.3 million people a year. It is divided into seven different zones, each one based on a region/climate: Indo-Malaya, Africa, Americas, Tundra Trek, Australasia, Eurasia, and the Canadian Domain.
Visitors can spend hours weaving between the various indoor pavilions and outdoor walkways, discovering the animals lounging in their various naturalistic environments. Oh, to be a lion cub rolling around in the sun…
A highlight of the year is the Serengeti Bush Camp, which takes place during the summer. Guests can spend the night in authentic African tents, toast marshmallows over a campfire, and whiz through the African Savana on a zoo mobile, taking a peek behind the scenes of the conservation practices.
We are a gay French/Greek couple, Stefan and Sebastien. We have been travelling the world together since 2014 after quitting our jobs and living in London. We created our Nomadic Boys gay travel blog as a platform to record our romantic adventures, write about the different gay scenes and of course, our culinary discoveries. Our mission is to inspire and show gay travellers that they can visit more places in the world than they thought possible, by providing a first-hand account of our travel adventures, which will help them plan a fun and safe trip.