One of the most diverse cities in the world, Toronto is a booming cultural metropolis. With scores of languages, foods, customs and celebrations, it’s no wonder this urban marvel draws visitors from across the globe. The ten days of the Toronto International Film Festival are a great time to chart your own path and see what this global city has to offer.
These nine must-do’s go beyond the routine tourist stops and give you a richer experience of this great city.
Kensington Market Jazz Festival: Celebrate Canada’s vibrant jazz scene during TIFF’s closing weekend. This volunteer-driven, three-day festival showcases more than 300 established musicians, who perform 150-plus shows across 23 venues in one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Sept. 13–15, Kensington Market.
Bloor West Village Toronto Ukrainian Festival: Discover Ukrainians’ lively spirit, culture and hospitality at North America’s largest Ukrainian street festival. Enjoy non-stop entertainment across two stages, with dancers, singers and musicians. Join the dancing at the evening zabava (street dance) on Friday and Saturday, and check out authentic cuisine, crafts, a parade, art exhibit, films and more. Sept. 13–15, Bloor West Village.
Toronto Islands: Take a scenic 15-minute ferry cruise from Queen’s Quay Terminal across Toronto’s panoramic harbor on Lake Ontario for a delightful day of swimming, sipping coconut water and soaking up the sun on a sandy beach. There are also plenty of opportunities for rowing, sailing and swimming, plus a stunning view of the Toronto skyline. The Islands are sacred to the indigenous Ojibwe people, and the environment is still renowned for its healing qualities.
Graffiti Alley: Capture the city’s vibe for your Instagram at Graffiti Alley, home to some of Toronto’s most iconic—and most photographed—street art. It’s also always changing, just like the artsy Queen West atmosphere it captures so well. Snap your selfie in painted doorways and windows. The beginning of Graffiti Alley starts at the corner of Rush Lane and Portland Street; then walk east.
The Gold Standard, Glittering Footwear from Around the Globe: Check out some of the Bata Shoe Museum’s most impressive and precious artifacts at this exhibition running through the end of 2019 — from ancient Egyptian golden funerary sandals to rare 16th-century Italian chopines and contemporary gleaming gold sneakers. Together, the objects tell the story of the ongoing popularity of golden footwear and the complex history behind it.
High Park: Spend hours at Toronto’s largest public park, a 400-acre property full of gardens and tree-lined paths. Enjoy a quiet walk on the long, winding network of trails, or take loads of IG snaps at the spectacular Hillside Gardens, full of waterfalls, flowers, and scenic little paths. Find (or look hard for) inner peace at The Labyrinth, a circular meditation space that acts as a sort of therapeutic/spiritual presence in the park. On Sept. 23, celebrate the autumnal equinox with the Harvest Moon Candlelight Labyrinth Walk.
The Distillery District: Return to the early days of Toronto, complete with original buildings. Now a hotspot among artists and young professionals, this neighborhood is filled with creative boutiques and one-of-a-kind shops, from forward-trending fashions and galleries featuring up-and-coming artists to artisanal treats. Check out the Distillery Sunday Market, Sept. 15, featuring curated delicacies including empanadas, maple syrup, preserves, honey, sausages, cheeses and more.
Entertainment District: Join the thousands who descend on the Entertainment District for its nightlife and live shows, including musicals, concerts and other performing arts. It’s also home to the iconic CN Tower and the must-do EdgeWalk experience, which puts you a dizzying 1,168 feet in the air, on a ledge, hands-free, for about 30 minutes. After that death-defying adventure, take in a show at Second City Toronto and enjoy its trademark smart, politically charged humor.
Greektown on the Danforth: Explore this thriving cosmopolitan neighborhood, the second-largest Greek community outside of Greece and the largest in North America. Stroll buzzing streets lined with blue and white Greek flags and chat with the warm, welcoming vendors. Find a sidewalk café where you can people-watch, drink a traditional Greek coffee, and feast on Mediterranean delights like souvlaki, gyros, mezes (appetizers), addictive Feta fries. Stop in one of the many family-run bakeries for decadent treats like loukoumades, spanakopita and prasopita.