Toronto is a modern, bustling city with a wide range of modern attractions and sights including museums, galleries, sports venues and shopping malls. But if you know where to look, you can enjoy some only-in-Toronto activities.
Take the World’s Shortest Ferry Ride
If you have flown into the Billy Bishop Toronto Island Airport, you can take the world’s shortest ferry ride to the mainland. The ferry crosses the 121 metre lick of harbor and the ride takes just a couple of minutes. The time to load and unload the passengers is longer than the ride itself. Yes, there is now an underground walkway, but the ferry keeps you above ground and it is rather fun to watch the business travelers whip out their phones and tap away on tiny keypads, oblivious to the Toronto skyline and the bustle of boat activity on the harbor.
Dig Your Toes into the Sand
Did you know that Toronto has two man-made beaches built beside the harbor? The first, HTO, located at the foot of Spadina Street, features white muskoka chairs and yellow beach umbrellas. It is the perfect place to watch planes take off and land at the Island airport, as well as take in the flotilla of sailboats, kayaks and party boats that cruise along the harbor. The second beach, Sugar Beach, is located at the foot of Jarvis Street. It too features muskoka chairs and pink umbrellas. It is so named because it is located next door to Redpath Sugar Refinery, the last industrial complex on the waterfront. You can relax in a chair and watch raw sugar being scooped out of a ship’s hold while the sweet aroma of sugar wafts through the air.
Strip off at Toronto’s Only “Clothing Optional” Beach
Since you can’t swim at HTO and Sugar Beach, you could always take the ferry to the Toronto Islands and take a dip at one of several beaches on the islands, or, if you are particularly adventurous, you can try the City’s only “clothing optional” beach at Hanlan’s Point. Participants only; voyeurs are discouraged. This beach is a mark of how far the city has come from its “Toronto the Good” days in the 1960s when it was illegal for a man to go bare-chested in public parks.
Walk on the Glass Floor at the CN Tower
Did you know that the CN Tower has a glass floor on a section of the Observation Deck? The glass is more than a foot thick, but standing on it can still cause your stomach to drop to your toes. If you are particularly mischievous you can back your friends onto the floor and tell them to look down. Their response will be delightful! If you still have friends after this, you can enjoy a coffee or a stiff drink in the café.
Take a Walk on the Edge
If the glass floor is too tame, you could put on an orange jumpsuit, strap on a harness and walk around the outside edge of the CN Tower – 1168 feet above the ground. This is not for the faint of heart, but imagine the bragging points you’ll earn.
Take a Ghost Walk
Toronto has many old buildings, houses, and graveyards, and apparently, plenty of spooks and spirits too. Haunted Walk Toronto runs ghost walks through downtown Toronto and the Historic Distillery District. Will you see a ghost? Maybe. Will you get a taste of Toronto’s past and hear spine-tingling stories? Yes.
Shop at Kensington Market
Kensington Market is a warren of narrow streets south-west of College and Spadina and is home to a wild mix of shops, cafes and restaurants. I first shopped here when I was a university student in the 90s – then it was more grotty cheap than hipster chic – but it is still a fun area to spend an afternoon. You can enjoy a burrito, buy letterpress cards, nibble on Belgium frites and sip a latte all in one tiny area. Or you can sit back and people watch as the Market attracts all sorts of weird and wonderful locals.
Browse at Honest Ed’s
Honest Ed’s glows in all its neon glory from the corner of Bloor and Bathurst. Opened in 1948, this is where generations of Torontonians shop to outfit their first homes with cheap dishes, lamps and throw rugs, not to mention picking up Elvis busts, toothpaste and candles. The store is the definition of kitsch and is decorated from floor to ceiling in mirrors, flashing lights and wacky signs. Don’t delay your visit though, as the store is scheduled to close at the end of 2016.
Hang Out with Mummies
If you prefer more traditional tourist destinations, than you will want to visit the Royal Ontario Museum, where amongst thousands of ancient artifacts and paintings, you can visit the Egyptian mummies, including humans, falcons and cats. Creepy or cool? You decide.